Seventy miles west of Key West, in the emerald green and blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico lies North America’s most inaccessible National Park, the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson. We chose the most exciting and quickest way to reach the Dry Tortugas, Key West Seaplane Adventures. They offer half-day and full-day excursions. It’s expensive compared to the National Park Ferry ($317 adults, $253 12& under) but when traveling with kids the quick 35 minutes flight time each way was worth every penny. FYI, the ferry takes 2 hours and 15 minutes each way! I chose the half-day trip which was 4 hours long, giving us 2 1/2 hours of island exploring time. I also made sure to book early in order to take the 2:00 p.m flight. The ferry is on its way back to Key West at this time. This left us with the island all to ourselves…perfect for photographs and fabulous selfies!
We arrived 30 minutes before departure time. Key West Seaplane Adventures collects a $10.00 ( 17 or older, cash only) park entrance fee. We were provided with our own complimentary cooler stocked with waters, soft drinks of choice and snorkeling gear. Food is not supplied and there is none available at Dry Tortugas. I made sure to pack plenty of snacks along with towels and bathing suits. Also important to pack is sunscreen, dry clothes and a camera. Photography throughout the trip is spectacular! Once boarded everyone gets a window seat and a headset. The low altitude flying is perfect for sightseeing. We saw marine life, sunken ships, private islands and plenty of uninhabited mangrove islands.
Once we arrived my kids and husband wasted no time gearing up to go snorkeling. The water is so inviting that you just want to jump right in. The Dry Tortugas boasts some of North America’s best living coral reef. Because the areas of coral are living organisms touching is strictly prohibited. All life is protected and preserved by the National Park Service and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Snorkeling is easily accessible off the main swim beach. There is also good snorkeling along the moat wall. The water is very shallow which my kids felt comfortable with.
I decided to explore Fort Jefferson. The ferry had just left the island. Everyone in the group was snorkeling. I had the Fort all to myself. The views and scenery were magnificent. I spent a peaceful 2 hours walking the grounds, photographing and learning about the history of the fort. After snorkeling my kids decided to join me in exploring the Fort.
Nature made the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson hard to reach, but the historic fort, emerald blue waters, and spectacular views make it easy for the whole family to enjoy.