10 Places You Should Explore Next at Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park lies in the prime location of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 68 miles (109 kilometers) southwest of Key West. 

Seven Dry Tortugas islands and Fort Jefferson are the westernmost and remotest of the Florida Keys which are preserved in this park. If you’re headed to Dry Tortugas, be sure to start with Fort Jefferson which is the park’s showpiece. 

Here are the 10 places you should explore next at Dry Tortugas.

Dry Tortuga National Park

Garden Key

Garden Key, at around 14 hectares in area, is indeed the second biggest island in all of the Dry Tortugas and also has the greatest human influence.

Historic Fort Jefferson, is among the country's biggest 19th-century garrisons and a significant cultural component of Dry Tortugas National Park, which is located in Garden Key. 

Ferry rides to the Dry Tortugas, seaplane rides to the Dry Tortugas, snorkeling, exploring Fort Jefferson, and bird watching are just a few of the activities available here.

Garden Key Lighthouse

GARDEN KEY - Lighthouse

Garden Key, lying smack dab in the middle of the Dry Tortugas, was chosen as the location for this lighthouse. The light of Garden Key could illuminate all of the islands, as well as the beautiful port immediately northwest of the island. 

A  ship transporting building materials was stranded at sea en route to Florida, preventing the commencement of installation of the lighthouse till 1825. 

The cylindrical brick tower, which rose to an elevation of 65 feet, was finished in March next year, but the assigned keeper didn't come for several more months.

Loggerhead Key

Sunset on the Loggerhead Key Lighthouse in the Dry Tortugas

Loggerhead Key is a tropical paradise in the Dry Tortugas group of islands in the Gulf of Mexico that stands alone.

It is the biggest island in the Dry Tortugas, measuring around 49 acres (19.8 hectares). The climate of Loggerhead Key is tropical grassland. Summertime is lengthy, hot, and lasts all year. 

In comparison to the majority of Florida which received little rain, here the monsoon season lasts from June to October. Geiger trees, mangroves, morning glory, coconut palms,  sea lavender, and cactus are among the vegetation found on Loggerhead Key. 

Loggerhead Lighthouse

Loggerhead Key

The Dry Tortugas Lighthouse, positioned 3 miles west of Fort Jefferson, Florida, on Loggerhead Key. In the year 2015, the lighthouse was shut down. 

It's reported that the lighthouse is "furthest away from the mainland than any other light on the planet." The first ten feet of the structure was rebuilt, and the welding rods holding the light to the base of the lighthouse were extended.

In 1931, the Dry Tortugas Lighthouse gained an electrical lamp, making it USA's most powerful lighthouse with 3 million candelas. The revolving beacon was deactivated in December 2016 after it ceased operating in March 2014.

Tortugas Laboratory

The Carnegie Marine Biological Laboratory, also known as the Tortugas Lab was a marine science laboratory that functioned from 1904 until 1939 near the northern side of Loggerhead Key.  

The Carnegie Marine Biological Laboratory conducted a few of the earliest studies on Western hemisphere coral reefs and mangroves, as well as other marine animals at the Loggerhead Key reefs and undersea black-and-white as well as color photographs.

Little Africa

This safe, shallow, and peaceful location, situated off the northern edge of Loggerhead Key, is ideal for scuba divers and, in most cases, youngsters. The reef coral, fish, and historical items are all safeguarded. 

You shouldn't be afraid of being attacked by marine creatures, but one should keep an eye out so they don't come into contact with them. Touching the coral can very certainly destroy it, but you may also come into contact with a variety of potentially hazardous critters.

Windjammer Wreck

The Windjammer Crash is by far the most intact shipwreck site in the Dry Tortugas, situated as little as a mile south of Loggerhead Key. 

A geographical miscalculation caused the huge sailing schooner Avanti to collide with the Loggerhead reef in 1907. Despite the fact that the personnel was rescued, the highly damaged ship finally broke apart and sank. 

South Coaling Dock Ruins

South Coaling Dock Ruins

The North Coaling Dock Ruins and the South Coaling Dock Ruins are 2 more places worth seeing. Aboard your journey on the incredible Yankee Freedom III, you'll pass through the Southern Coaling Dock Remains. 

You walk straight by them, and there are several seagulls and other seabirds perched on the ancient dock posts. Remains of a fuel storage pier and a great snorkeling area with plenty of aquatic life attracted to the ancient pilings.

Fort Jefferson Visitor Center

Aerial View of Fort Jefferson, Florida

The Bookstore, which is part of the Dry Tortugas Visitor Center, is situated within Fort Jefferson. It is only open for a short amount of time throughout the day. You can acquire the stamps for the Passports that they give you at each park. 

You may spend a few minutes going around the educational exhibits and view the 3D film that plays to learn about the nature reserve. Dr. Mudd's Cell, which was the former troops' dormitories, the Hotshot Furnace, and the original commanders' quarters are all marked on a chart of Fort Jefferson right outside the tourist center.

Shot Furnace

In the late nineteenth century, a masonry furnace at Fort Jefferson was used to create "hot shots" by increasing the temperature of cannonballs. The term "hot shot" actually precedes the invention of gunpowder. 

This furnace was created so the British could fight against the Romans using hot bullets for the first time in 54 BC. The cannonballs were cooked above a grate when hotshot was initially employed in artillery, but this later proved to be unsafe and ineffective. The hostile sea climate, tourists, and age eventually caused most of Fort Jefferson as well as the massive hot shot boiler to deteriorate.

Dry Tortugas is known for its tropical bird nesting sites, diverse marine life, vibrant coral reefs, as well as shipwrecks, and hidden treasure stories. If you’re a fan of any of these things; you’ll surely have a ball at the Dry Tortugas national park. Be sure to get a guide for your trip from Fort Jefferson so you can make the most out of your trip. 

Check each one of these amazing locations off of your bucket list, with our National Parks Adventure Book , Adventure Notes, or build your own adventure bundle with our Adventure Bundle Builder today. Your story starts now!
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