Looking for things to do while in Key West, or if you live in South Florida and want to go on an adventure – check out Dry Tortugas National Park! Going to Dry Tortugas by seaplane is such a fun day trip from Key West.
Dry Tortugas National Park is located 70 miles west of Key West, FL, and is only accessible by ferry, seaplane, or private boat, making it one of the least-visited national parks. If you want to experience beautiful coral reefs, marine wildlife sightings, & historical Fort Jefferson, this remote national park should be on your bucketlist!
Dry Tortugas by Seaplane – Day Trip from Key West Overview
- PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 0-2
- Nights: 0
- Cost: $$$
SEE ALSO: 2 Days in Channel Islands National Park
How to Get to Dry Tortugas National Park
- Fly into either Miami (3 hour drive to Key West) or directly to the Key West airport.
- The only way to get to Dry Tortugas National Park is via seaplane, ferry, or private boat
- Although more expensive, going by seaplane allows you to see the park from an aerial view, and is only 40 minutes of travel time.
- The ferry takes 2.5 hours to get to the island.
If flying in a seaplane is on your bucket list, going to Dry Tortugas by seaplane is a great time to do it! We opted to splurge for the seaplane to Dry Tortugas, and it was such a cool experience. I even got to ride in the cockpit with the pilot!
Best Place to Stay in Key West
Most people visit Dry Tortugas National Park as a day trip from Key West. There are plenty of great accommodations in Key West – such as Avalon Bed & Breakfast which has great reviews and is located right on Duval Street!
There are also quite a few awesome VRBOs in Key West if you want to go that route. For instance, this cute, beachy “John Truman’s Hideaway” with a pool looks amazing, and is in a great location!
Dry Tortugas Seaplane Pricing and Options:
Key West Seaplane Charters is the only seaplane company that operates to the island
- Half Day Excursion: $342 (2.5 hours on the island)
- Full Day Excursion: $600 (6.5 hours on the island)
We did the half day excursion and felt like 2.5 hours on the island was enough time. In addition to the costs listed above, you must also pay a $10 park entrance fee.
Dry Tortugas Ferry Pricing and Options
You can book the Yankee Freedom III ferry here. It’s a 2.5-hour ferry ride to the island, and there are snack and drinks available for purchase on the boat.
- Day Trip: $175 (about 6 hours on the island)
- Overnight Camping Trip: $195 + $15 campground fee
Things to do on a Dry Tortugas Day Trip from Key West
1. Check out Fort Jefferson
Fort Jefferson is America’s largest masonry structure, with over 16 million bricks. The fort was used as a prison for criminals during the Civil War, and is most commonly known as the prison that held Dr. Samuel Mudd for assisting in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
If you arrived on the ferry, you have the option to join a 40 minute guided tour of the fort, but grabbing a map and doing as self-guided tour was sufficient for us.
Climb up the fort to the top, where you can get the best views of the island!
2. Relax at the beach and swim!
One of my favorite things we did after arriving to Dry Tortugas by seaplane was hanging at the beach! Take the trail to the right of the fort that leads to a small beach adjacent for Fort Jefferson. Pack a cooler with sandwiches and beers and enjoy the scenery!
Grab your snorkel gear and head around the corner from the beach to snorkel around the old dock pilings. The water is clear, and there are coral formations and lots of tropical fish!
If you are able to go by private boat, I imagine there are TONS of amazing, untouched reefs to snorkel in the surrounding area that we were not able to swim to from the beach. Also, if you are into scuba diving, there is the famous Windjammer Shipwreck dive in the area. However, there are only overnight dive charters available, which come with a hefty price tag.
If you choose to camp, you’ll get to spend more time on the island and pretty much have the place to yourself once the ferry and seaplane leaves!
There are 10 primitive campsites not far from the public dock area. These sites are first come, first served. The ferry will only take 10 campers each way per day. Campers cannot get to Dry Tortugas by seaplane because of the extra weight with camping gear on board, so you must arrive by ferry if you wish to camp. The campsites are primitive, meaning you must carry in everything you need (including plenty of water!)
Other Interesting Facts about Dry Tortugas National Park
- Ponce de Leon discovered Dry Tortugas in 1518, and caught over 100 sea turtles while living on the island (hence the name ‘Tortugas’)
- The word “Dry” in Dry Tortugas comes from the lack of fresh surface water
- Dry Tortugas National Park is made up of 99% water. The 1% of land is comprised of 7 islands.
- The island with Fort Jefferson (where the ferry and seaplane take you) is called Garden Key
- Over 299 bird species can be found in the park