Dry Tortugas National Park is located about 70 miles from Key West in Florida. It is a group of seven small islands, which includes the Garden Key where the famous Fort Jefferson is situated. The park has a rich history that dates back to the early 1800s when it was used as a military outpost.
The most prominent feature of the Dry Tortugas is Fort Jefferson, which was built in 1846 and served as a Union military prison during the Civil War. The fort housed several prisoners, including Confederate Samuel Mudd, who was convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
The Dry Tortugas were designated as a national park in 1992 and are now a popular destination for camping, fishing, and snorkeling. We went camping on the island for 2 nights and booked it through the Yankee Freedom, Key West boat tour agency. This is the most unique national park out of all the 424 parks across the united states.
The price for the day trip verses camping is pretty much the same, so I see more value in camping. It's currently booked through April of 2024 and this is due to the fact that they only allow 10 camping reservations to be booked a night. We highly recommend you join the Dry Tortugas Campings Facebook group and look for people who need to cancel their reservation. You can purchase it from them directly or via Yankee Freedom when they release those dates. We purchased our reservation directly from someone who had to cancel. She called Yankee Freedom and changed the reservation and email to ours.
What we packed:
1. Coleman 6 person tent
2. 8 Gallons of water for the 3 of us. We probably only needed 6 because the Yankee Freedom puts out a cooler of water each day which we used. We also filled up our camp shower bag on the boat
3. Soft Engel Cooler with vacuum sealed prepped meals, eggs, bacon, fruit, nuts and packed with ice. Charcoal and fuel cells because you cannot bring compressed gas into the national park.
4. Our own snorkel gear, but if you don't have it Yankee Freedom has snorkel gear.
5. Kayak rented from Tracy's Kayaks
6. Hook 360 gear to stay cool and protected from the sun throughout the day
7. Sleeping bags and lanterns
1. Plan ahead - You need to make reservations for camping at Dry Tortugas National Park, as there are only 10 campsites available on Garden Key.
2. Pack wisely - Bring all the necessary gear like a tent, sleeping bag, cooking equipment, food, and water. Remember, there are no stores or restaurants on the island.
3. Be prepared for the weather - The park experiences high temperatures, humidity, and rainfall throughout the year. Bring appropriate clothing for the weather conditions. December through March offer the best chance for cooler weather and less rain.
4. Follow the Leave No Trace principles - Leave the campsites as you found them and dispose of waste properly. The park ranger gives you a once over and goes further into keeping your site clean.
5. Respect the wildlife - Do not disturb the animals, and keep a safe distance from them. The park does not allow drones.
1. Bring the right gear - Make sure you have the appropriate fishing gear for the type of fish you want to catch, including bait, lures, and hooks. We brought frozen shrimp and fished off the beach and off our tandem kayak. There is a ton of snapper that come in and out of the old pier pilings.
2. Know the regulations - Check with the park rangers for the fishing regulations, as some areas of the park may be off-limits for fishing.
3. Watch the currents - Be aware of the changing currents and tides that can affect your ability to catch fish.
4. Explore different fishing spots - The park offers several fishing spots, so explore different areas to find the best fishing location.
5. Practice catch-and-release - If you are not planning to eat the fish, practice catch-and-release to help preserve the fish population in the park.