To say we have been looking forward to visiting our tenth national park would be a massive understatement. Everything we’d been reading about Dry Tortugas National Park was that it was going to be absolutely magical. From having to take a ferry there, to being on a remote island, snorkeling in the crystal blue waters, and enjoying the sun on our faces. We were ready for what was sure to be a perfect day. Unlike fairy tales, things did not turn out so perfectly after all.
Taking the ferry
Dry Tortugas National Park is 70 miles west off the coast of Key West in Florida which means that you have to either get there by ferry, chartered boat, or seaplane. It’s so far west, in fact, that you actually cross back into central time zone when you’re visiting! We had opted for the ferry route since there was an easy package we could get that would get us out there, provided snorkel gear (we had our own) and access to the national park (we got $10 back for having our annual pass). Well, unfortunately, our time spent in the keys was marred by cold, high-speed winds, and extremely rough waters. Luckily we had our trusty Dramamine which kept both of us from losing our lunch on the way there and back.
Visiting the fort
The biggest physical attraction of Dry Tortugas National Park is Fort Jefferson. We took the tour that one of the guides from our boat offered and highly recommend it as you learn a lot about the fort in the process. Fort Jefferson has an incredibly rich and deep history spanning all the way back to before the Civil War and was a key location for the Union soldiers as it protected the routes up into the Mississippi River. Boasting an impressive 420+ possible cannons and the ability to fire over 100 of them at a single target, it is definitely a fearsome beast. While it was built to withstand just about any attack, it never actually saw any battles and was never even finished.
To say that the water was a beautiful crystal blue would be an injustice to the actual colors the sea produced. It was so picturesque and shows how pristine everything is when you’re far away from civilization. That’s what makes it such a shame that both the air and water temperatures were so cold that we couldn’t even get in the water to snorkel. Luckily, with the water being as clear as it was, we were able to walk along the walls of the moat and see all of the fish swimming near the rocks. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get the GoPro down in there to get any real footage, but it was still a beautiful place and we did learn a lot and got some phenomenal photos!