All You Need to Know about Dry Tortugas National Park Day Trip

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Day Trip to Dry Tortugas National Park on Rough Seas

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This is the perfect National Park Day Trip. Accessible only by seaplane, boats, or ferry, the world renown Dry Tortugas National Park is home to Fort Jefferson. Picturesque blue water, fabulous diving, and snorkeling invite visitors to play in the ocean. Coral lines the pristine white sandy beaches washed by the gentle tide and swells of the sea. The 100 square mile park is a small group of islands located in the Gulf of Mexico about 70 miles west of Key West and about 35 miles from the Marquesas Keys.

Day Trip to Dry Tortugas National Park

On a whim, I asked my hotel if they could book a trip for me to Dry Tortugas National Park. They warned it was highly unlikely to get a seat on the ferry, the day before departure. Guess what, all of us were surprised, because space was available. Gathering my snorkeling gear, I got ready to leave my hotel at 6:30 am for a departure at 7:30 am. Walking to the ferry, the sunrise in Key West is striking if the weather is right.

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson

Rough Seas Ahead

It was a cloudy day which meant rough seas. Interestingly no rain was forecasted. However, the forecast called for very rough seas. A man set up a table in the ferry terminal. Then in a loud voice, announced Dramamine is here. Everyone should get your Dramamine. Patiently, the ferry riders line up for Dramamine.

I walk up to the man in the National Parks shirt, holding the Dramamine.

“2 dollars,” he said. “2 dollars for two pills.”

“Do you take credit cards? I didn’t bring cash.”

“Here take it. No cost.” He smiled at me. “Take it on the way over; I don’t want to clean up for you. Today, I will show you a little mercy and pity.”

“What about the ride back?”

No reply. Just a smile.

Then the man said, “Take your Dramamine now.” Everyone took medicine when the man said, now.

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson


For the record, I have never been seasick. I have done a lot of sailing and trust me when I say seasickness shows no mercy. Swallowing hard with a splash of water, I took my first Dramamine. The Dramamine made me sleepy. As I looked around the ferry, I noticed people exiting to the back of the boat to get sick.

The loudspeaker announced, “It is not allowed to go to the restrooms if seasickness strikes.”

Again, looking around the ferry at the people, I notice most of the guests look dazed and confused. Soon, the guests that stay inside the boat, start falling asleep. Even though I felt sleepy, I fought it, and stay awake by chatting with a lovely couple from Maine.

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson

National Parks Fees

This is a US National Parks, and a National Park entrance fee is required. Discounts for people 60 plus are available from the National Parks Department, Senior lifetime pass online. If you purchase a lifetime pass, the fee charged is waived. In 2018, lots of things are changing at the National Parks concerning costs. My National Parks entrance fee without the lifetime pass was $10.

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson

Total Cost

The total cost for my visit, including the ferry ride with breakfast, lunch, National Park Fee, and a tour was $160.00. It’s the same price no matter where you buy the trip.

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson


Camping is allowed and costs an additional $15.00 for each night that you camp. If the seas are going to be rough, Dry Tortugas National Park takes people back to the mainland and doesn’t allow camping that night. On my trip, the campers came back with us.

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson

Seaplanes, Private Planes, and Boats

Small seaplanes also take guests to Fort Jefferson, located on the most significant island. Seaplanes take less time to get to Fort Jefferson. Flying avoids the big waves that you may encounter on the ferry and is the fastest way to reach the main island. However, taking the Seaplane means the stay on the island is a shorter trip.

The Dry Tortugas also allows private boats and planes. Each private boat or plane pays a fee at the self-service fee area on the main dock at Garden Key. Only cash or checks accepted.

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson

The Experience

For me, this is the perfect place to visit. I love hiking and exploring, and Fort Jefferson, a civil war fort, is enormous and perfect for walking. Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the few places the Space Shuttle can see on from space. From my point of view, the well preserved Fort Jefferson and Dry Tortugas National Park is a must-see because it’s unique!

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson

Dry Tortugas National Park Day Trip Value

I loved everything about my day at Dry Tortugas National Park. I met friendly people on the ferry. The tours provided lots of history and interesting stories.  In addition to the parks tour, I loved that I could walk and explore on my self-guided tour. As for the ride back, I didn’t take the Dramamine, and didn’t get seasick! Yes, dodged that one and very glad I did.

dry tortuga national park fort jefferson

Key West – Experience Ernest Hemingway!

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Kate started traveling for work. Now with grown children, who are travelers, she travels for pleasure looking for great travel experiences. Currently, her home is in Bellevue, WA, and lives with her cat Angelina Jolie. She has a Bachelor's of Fine Arts, Studio Arts and Art History from the University of Colorado, an MBA and Master of Arts, Management. Her favorite things are exploring new cultures, traveling the world, creating a painting and sour or spicy foods.

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