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A Piece of Heaven on Earth: ๐Ÿ๏ธ ๐Ÿšคโœจ Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

๐Ÿ๏ธ Escape to the remote charm of Dry Tortugas National Park, home to the historic Fort Jefferson and crystal-clear waters teaming with marine wonders. ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ โœจCamping under the stars on Garden Key for an unforgettable journey beyond the map! ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿ•๏ธ๐Ÿ ๐ŸšคโœจLet's dive into the journey with Haque's EYE.

This Ariel photo is taken from the NPS official website as Drone are not allowed in the park ๐Ÿ˜ข

Where is Dry Tortugas National Park?

#DryTortugasNationalPark, stretching across a total area equivalent to 101 square miles or 64,700 acres. ๐Ÿž๏ธ is a distinctive gem among U.S. national parks! ๐ŸŒŸ Nestled in the Gulf of Mexico, roughly 70 miles beyond the vibrant city of Key West.

To give you an idea about the location I have pointed out the place on Google Earth above! Middle of nowhere, right?!

Where does the name come from?

The legendary explorer Ponce de Leon first set foot on this island and saw a bountiful sea turtle population, the name "Las Islas de Tortugas" came from there, which means "The Island of Turtles". Despite the beauty, the islands faced a challengeโ€”the scarcity of fresh water. ๐Ÿ๏ธ This challenge gave rise to the name "Dry Tortugas" later.

How to Go there?

You cannot drive to Dry Tortugas! The only way to go there is by boat, seaplane or the official Ferry, operated by the "Yankee Freedom".

Assuming you do not have a private boat then you need to consider the other two options.

Seaplane Excursion Option:

For touching down at Dry Tortugas National Park, only "Seaplane Adventures" have the official authorization. ๐Ÿšคโœจ

๐Ÿ๏ธ They have two kinds of excursions to Choose from! โฐ

Half Day Excursion:

A trip just under 4 hours, granting you a solid 2.5 hours to explore Fort Jefferson/Dry Tortugas. A 40-minute journey each way ensures you get a taste of island time, available in both morning and afternoon departures. Price may vary but currently, it is 451$ per person.

Full Day Excursion:

This one is nearly 8 hours, allowing a generous 6.5 hours to soak in the beauty of Fort Jefferson/Dry Tortugas. This option is exclusively available in the morning. Currently, the price is 792$ per adult. ๐ŸŒ…๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿšค

Haque's EYE

They do not have the option to include camping time in your trip! And is very costly! In my opinion 2.5 hours is not enough to explore the Fort and the island. So think about it before booking!

Ferry Excursion Option:

Yankee Freedom is the only authorized water vessel that can take you to the Dry Tortugas National Park. They also have two options to choose from.

Day Trip

๐ŸŒŠ๐Ÿฐ ๐Ÿšค๐Ÿ’ผThis is a round-trip adventure to Dry Tortugas, offering you a generous 4 hours to discover the Fort and the island. The cost for this immersive experience is $220 per adult. ๐ŸŒด๐Ÿ—บ๏ธโœจ

Dry Tortugas Camping

โ›บ๐ŸŒŒ๐Ÿ•๏ธ Camp under the stars at Dry Tortugas for 1, 2, or 3 nights with our primitive camping option. Remember, it's a DIY experience, so pack everything you need! Return on the ferry according to your booking. ๐Ÿ๏ธ The best part? Prices remain consistent for any night you choose at $240 per adult. ๐Ÿšค๐ŸŒ…๐Ÿ”ฅ

Haque's EYE

You might have to book the Ferry Tickets at least 9-12 months agoย to get a preffered date and spot! It is that popular! I have booked a year ago, literally.

Entire Trip Plan!

In my opinion, it is not worth the trip if you are not camping for at least one night. โ›บ๐ŸŒŒ So, first of all, I booked the tickets a year ahead and planned the trip with a few of my friends Saba, Misty, Sumaiya, and my better half.

Preparing for the Trip

๐Ÿšค๐ŸŒ…Your voyage with the Yankee Freedom kicks off at the historic Key West Ferry Terminal, 100 Grinnell Street. It takes about 2 hrs 10 min each way, and the check-in time is at 7:00 AM for the day trippers. For the campers, it is at 6:30 AM. ๐ŸŒด๐Ÿšข

Make sure you are at Key West on the night before the trip day. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to be there at 6:30 AM. After you drop your camping stuff off at the terminal go find a parking spot.

Haque's EYE

Don't forget to mention your lunch protein preference at this time. Next day they will provide lunch as well! ๐ŸŒฏ๐ŸŽ Don't forget to carry some cash; it's handy for any future purchases during your delightful island stay. ๐Ÿ’ต๐Ÿ๏ธโœจ

Parking Time!

๐Ÿš—๐Ÿ…ฟ๏ธ For hassle-free parking, I recommend the City Parking Garage on 300 Grinnell Street, just around the corner from the Ferry Terminal. ๐ŸŒด๐ŸšขEnjoy shaded parking at $40/day+Tax, For our 2 days parking we have paid 84$. sad but true, free parking isn't available in Key West. ๐ŸŒž๐Ÿ๏ธโœจ

Then walk into the terminal building, go to the second floor, and check in at 7:15 AM. After you show your tickets they will give you a blue wristband (for campers) which you have to keep visible all the time.

Haque's EYE

โš ๏ธ๐ŸŒŠ ๐Ÿ’Š๐ŸšขKeep in mind, that this area has witnessed around 250 shipwrecks, so the waters might not be as calm. To ensure a smooth voyage, consider taking seasickness medicine during check-in at the terminal. The cost is just a dollar, a small investment for a more comfortable and enjoyable journey! ๐ŸŒŠ๐Ÿ’™๐Ÿ‘

Ferry Experience

๐Ÿšขโฐ ๐ŸŒ…๐Ÿ˜…The ferry departs at 8:00 AM, reaching Fort Jefferson around 10:30 AM. ๐Ÿ•ฐ๏ธ

While the journey is exciting, it seems the sea had some surprises for more than half the passengers who faced a bout of seasickness. ๐Ÿ˜… Thankfully, everyone made it through and lived to tell the tale! ๐ŸŒŠ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜„

On the way to Dry Tortugas!

First look at Fort Jefferson from the ferry!

Breakfast Time with friends and a breathtaking view!

๐Ÿณโ˜•No need to rush through breakfast! ๐ŸŒž ๐Ÿšข๐ŸŒ…When you sail with #YankeeFreedom, you get a complimentary breakfast,ย nothing fancy but good enough: bagels, cream cheese, jams, yogurt, and fruits! โฐ๐Ÿด

๐ŸŒŠโ˜•Also coffee is free on board at any time!

๐Ÿน๐ŸบYou can purchase snacks and alcoholic beverages from the bar as well!

๐Ÿ•๏ธ๐Ÿ“โ›บ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธOnce the ferry docks, your priority is snagging one of the 8 private campsites at Garden Key Campground โ€” it's first come, first served! So collect your camping supplies and run ๐Ÿƒโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿ’จ ๐ŸŒ… If those are full, there's the common camping area at #DryTortugas, where sharing space becomes part of the adventure.

๐Ÿคฟ๐ŸŠโ€โ™‚๏ธ ๐Ÿ ๐ŸŒŠ If you're a skilled swimmer, don't miss out on the complimentary snorkeling gear provided by the ferry. The crystal-clear waters around might just be one of the best places for an unforgettable snorkeling experience! ๐Ÿ๏ธ๐Ÿคฟ๐Ÿ‘Œ

To help you navigate, check out the interactive map I've provided for a clearer picture of the camping zones! ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธโœจ

Though it is showing 16 minutes of walking, but trust me it is going to be much longer than that to cover the whole island!

After claiming your spot, drop the cash in an envelope into the camp fee box located near the campsite. It is 15$ per night per campsite.

๐Ÿฐ๐ŸŽค โฐ๐ŸšคCalling all day trippers! ๐ŸŒ… Don't miss the chance to explore the secrets of Fort Jefferson with a ranger-led, fully narrated tour at 11 AM. It's an enriching experience you wouldn't want to skip.

For campers, worry not! You have the opportunity to join this insightful tour the next day, as you would be busy setting up your camp at this time. ๐Ÿž๏ธ๐Ÿ”โœจ

Setting up camp was challenging due to the high wind!

After setting up the tent we started to prepare our lunch/dinner. I will write another post on the must-have camping supplies soon! Stay tuned with #haqueseye

๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿ•๏ธ ๐ŸŒณ๐Ÿ”Each campground boasts a charcoal grill setup, perfect for a cozy BBQ. Remember to pack charcoal and ignition materials, as gas canisters aren't allowed on board. ๐Ÿฅฉ๐Ÿ”ฅ๐Ÿƒ

๐Ÿฝ๏ธ๐Ÿ•๏ธAttention, day trippers! ๐ŸŒ…๐ŸฅชLunch will be served right on the spot from 11 AM till 1 PM.ย ๐Ÿ•›

For campers, a basic lunch awaits you on the return trip.ย ๐Ÿšค Bon appรฉtit! ๐Ÿฝ๏ธ

๐Ÿ•‘๐Ÿšฟ๐ŸŒŠ๐ŸšคPlanning a swim? Make a splash by 2 PM! Why? Because once the ferry departs, the chance for a refreshing freshwater shower goes with it. Seize the splash and make the most of your aquatic adventure before the waves carry you away! ๐ŸŒŠ๐Ÿ‘™๐Ÿšข๐ŸŠโ€โ™‚๏ธ South Swim Beach would be the safest option and there is no lifeguard on duty!

Haque's EYE

๐Ÿ๏ธ๐Ÿ•’Between 10:30 AM and 3 PM, rely on the ferry's restrooms as the island facilities (no running water) remain closed, use Ferry Restrooms only. Just a heads upโ€”The fresh water shower is located behind the cabin and there is no curtains/privacy! ๐Ÿšข๐Ÿšฟ

๐Ÿšถโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐Ÿ–๏ธ๐Ÿš๐ŸŒŠFollowing our splashing sessions, we strolled along the island's north side. The sandy beach stretched out, unveiling a treasure trove of ocean gems.

๐ŸŒ…๐Ÿš Our collection grew with handfuls of shells, each boasting unique colors and shapes. Nature's artistry is on display! ๐Ÿ๏ธโœจ

Here we met some of our neighbors for that day!

๐Ÿšข๐Ÿ๏ธ ๐ŸŒด๐Ÿ‘ฅ As the ferry departed at 3 PM, we marveled at the tranquilityโ€”only 8 people on the entire island! It almost felt like our own private oasis, a rare and special moment. ๐Ÿ–๏ธ๐Ÿšคโœจ

๐ŸŒ‡๐Ÿฐ ๐Ÿšถโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐ŸŒ…Afterwards, we set out to uncover the mysteries of Fort Jefferson on our own. The best spot to catch the breathtaking sunset? ๐Ÿฐ๐ŸŒ„

Head to the top of the fort, particularly the shot furnace area, for an unparalleled view. ๐ŸŒž๐Ÿ”ญ ๐Ÿฐ

๐Ÿ”ซโณSurprisingly, ย this cannon is no replicaโ€”it has been here since its very inception. ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿ”ซ Imagine, it can cover a range of about 3 miles! ๐ŸŒ๐Ÿš€

๐Ÿšถโ€โ™‚๏ธ๐ŸŒ…๐Ÿ•๏ธ๐ŸŒŒAs the sun dips below the horizon, it's time to make our way back to camp. Walking inside the fort after sunset isn't advisable due to various broken areas that can pose risks. Your safety is paramount, and with the nearest hospital about 80 miles away, let's ensure a secure journey back to camp. ๐ŸŒ‡๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿš‘โœจ

Now it is Dinner Time!

After a yummy dinner, we whipped up some coffee โ˜• for a beach rendezvous with the full moon ๐ŸŒ•.

The sparkling waves, warm brew, and lunar vibes turned the night into pure magic โœจ!

It was a cozy, caffeine-fueled escapade, where the moonlit waves whispered tales of serenity and our hearts danced in harmony with the tranquil night ๐ŸŒŠ๐Ÿ’ซ.

We went to bed early because we needed to wake up at 3 AM to look at the stars. โฐโœจ

Haque's EYE

The restrooms, powered by solar energy, were pretty handy. They give you their own toilet paper, and there's hand sanitizer too. ๐Ÿšฝ๐ŸŒž Convenient island living!

๐ŸŒŒ Get ready for a breathtaking show if you can manage waking up that early! ๐ŸŒŒโœจ You can enjoy a crystal-clear view of the stars and even catch a glimpse of the Milky Way galaxy depending on the moon calendar. It's like nature's own dazzling light display! No lights around and only 8 of us are on the whole island! Once-in-a-lifetime experience indeed.

I am not an expert in astrophotography, if you are then don't forget your tripod!

Haque's EYE

Crucial tip: Hang your trash bag from the provided pole at night! Black rats, crabs, and even curious conch shells might come scavenging, and hanging the bag helps keep our island neighbors at bay. ๐Ÿฆ€๐ŸŒ™ Remember, leave no trace. All trash and garbage must be packed out. Let's ensure the beauty of Dry Tortugas remains untouched for the next adventurers. ๐ŸŒด๐Ÿ—‘๏ธ #LeaveNoTrace #ResponsibleTravel"

After soaking in the stars, we caught some more Zzzs and woke up just 30 minutes before sunrise. ๐Ÿ˜ด๐ŸŒ… We strolled to the North Coaling Dock Ruins area, fighting high wind, only to realize, it wasn't necessary โ€“ the sunrise view was already spectacular! ๐Ÿ˜„

For the best spot, head to the Dry Tortugas Campground area (ferry dock area) check the map I embedded at the beginning of this post for reference! ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ๐Ÿž๏ธ

We had a leisurely breakfast and took our time repacking everything since we had to be at the dock by 10 AM. โฐ๐Ÿณ๐Ÿงณ

On the famous Moat!

It was a relaxed morning before heading back, soaking in the last moments of our island adventure, Couldn't miss a photo opportunity! ๐Ÿ“ธ Thank you Sumaiya for this click!

Off to the guided Fort Jefferson tour, included with the ferry ride! ๐Ÿšข

๐Ÿฐ Excited to explore and uncover the history behind this magnificent fortress. Let the adventure continue! ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ #FortJeffersonTour #IslandHistory

๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿงฑ๐ŸŒMeet Fort Jefferson, the largest brick fort in the Western Hemisphere. ๐Ÿž๏ธ Built with a whopping 16 million bricks and featuring over 2,000 arches, this massive structure is a remarkable piece of history. ๐Ÿฐโœจ

๐Ÿšจ History Time Alert! ๐Ÿšจ

Post-Louisiana Purchase, the U.S. fortified its eastern coast. In 1844, funds were set aside for Fort Jefferson at Garden Key. ๐Ÿฐ ๐ŸŒŠ๐Ÿž๏ธLed by Chief Engineer Joseph Totten, this massive all-masonry hexagon, named after Thomas Jefferson, safeguarded the Gulf entrance from 1846 to 1875. ๐Ÿšง During the Civil War, it served as a Union outpost and later as a military prison. Today, Fort Jefferson stands as a historic sentinel at the gateway to the Gulf of Mexico. ๐Ÿฐโœจ

Imagine in the 1860s, nearly 2,000 people lived in this remote city on the sea at its peak! ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿ•ฐ๏ธ

It is marked for a self-guided tour.

Every corner of the fort offers breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico. ๐ŸŒŠ๐Ÿฐ

Originally designed, this moat served as added protection for the fort. ๐Ÿฐ The beautiful moat here comes with a not-so-pleasant history โ€“ it was once used as sewage for about 2000 people! ๐Ÿ’ง๐Ÿšฝ

Due to this unhygienic condition, yellow fever once became widespread on the island. ๐Ÿฆ ๐Ÿ˜ท

Do you know who was a pioneer in combating this?

๐Ÿ‘จโ€โš•๏ธ Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, born 1833, made history in Lincoln's assassination. ๐ŸŽญ After treating John Wilkes Booth's broken leg post-assassination, he got a life sentence at Fort Jefferson. ๐Ÿฐโ›“๏ธ

Despite a failed escape, he became a hero during the yellow fever outbreak, earning a pardon from President Johnson in 1869. ๐Ÿค๐Ÿ“œ Released on March 8th, he left a lasting mark on U.S. history! ๐Ÿ” #MuddLegacy #Historyoffortjefferson

The Army enlisted a mix of skilled workers, including machinists, carpenters, blacksmiths, and laborers, alongside resident prisoners and slaves to aid in fort construction. ๐Ÿ”ง๐Ÿ› ๏ธ๐Ÿ‘ท

After the captivating fort tour, we grabbed our lunch from the Ferry and indulged in the final moments on the island.

A small visitor center housed intriguing artifacts from the Civil War period, offering a glimpse into the rich history that echoes through the isle. Savoring the last bites and historical treasures, we bid farewell to Dry Tortugas with a heart full of memories. ๐Ÿฐ๐Ÿฝ๏ธ๐Ÿ” #IslandFarewell #HistoricalTrove

Bonus Tips!

I am not sure if this phenomenon occurs or not but it was mentioned in several blogs. You can try by yourself!

The air and ocean come alive with a magical glow, thanks to the enchanting phenomenon of bioluminescence.ย ๐ŸŒŒ๐ŸŒŠ Certain plants and animals, like the phosphorescent jellyfish in South Florida waters, produce their own captivating light, adding a touch of natural wonder to the surroundings. ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŠ

๐ŸŒŠ๐ŸŒŸFor the ultimate bioluminescent spectacle, plan your visit in the warmer months between May and September.๐ŸŒŒโœจ#BioluminescenceMagic #NatureGlow ย #SummerNights

Haque's EYE

Personally, I am not going to be in Florida during the summer months. For me, December was the best time to schedule this camping. ๐Ÿ๏ธ๐ŸŒฒโ„๏ธ #WinterEscape #DryTortugasAdventure

As usual, the sea was rough but the last 20 minutes felt like a leisurely sunset cruise.

Two of my favorite sunset shots!

As the sun sets on our Dry Tortugas adventure, we carry with us the echoes of Fort Jefferson's history, and the warmth of deserted island memories. From snorkeling in crystal-clear waters to stargazing on sandy shores, every moment in this tropical paradise has been a brushstroke on the canvas of an unforgettable journey.

Until we meet again, Dry Tortugas, you've left an indelible mark on our wanderlust-filled hearts. ๐ŸŒด๐ŸŒ…โœจ #DryTortugasExperience #IslandDreams"



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