Dry Tortugas: Least Visited National Park
When you hear “least visited,” you probably think that this is going to be something to breeze past. Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the top ten least visited National Parks in the United States – but don’t let that dissuade you. Dry Tortugas is seventy miles from Key West and it’s only accessible by boat or plane – which means the park averages about 58k visitors a year. Compare that to the527k that visited the Redwoods last year and you’ve got a “least visited park.”
My Greek husband and I took our honeymoon in Key West, and after all the wedding related stress – I didn’t plan a single thing for our trip. Well, not true. I planned one thing for the last day: a boat trip to Dry Tortugas. Let’s talk about it.
What: I made a reservation from the Dry Tortugas official website – booking us two passes on the Yankee Freedom. Dry Tortugas is about two hours away by boat, so with this tour you check in at 7, depart by 8 and arrive shortly after 10. They also include breakfast and lunch, and there’s a bar that opens on your return trip. Snorkeling gear, complimentary tours and park passes were also included in the ticket cost.
Where: Like I said – Dry Tortugas is seventy miles away from Key West, smack dab in the middle of the ocean. Ponce de Leon originally discovered the island in 1513, and since then it’s been used for a number of purposes: as a naval base during the Spanish-American war, as a military prision during the late 1800s and now as a national park.
Parking: Well, the boats park at the dock and wait for you – but if you’re driving to the ferry, there are several garages where you can park. Finding free parking in Key West can be pretty tricky (most people just walk), so I’d say a garage is your best bet for shaded parking.
Crowds: No issues with crowds here! We were in a group of maybe thirty people. The Fort itself is large, so after the guided tour we were able to explore on our own without bumping into anyone. When we went snorkeling, we had a ton of space to ourselves to explore the coral and check out all the marine life. There’s also the added bonus of getting to watch the planes land on the water as they bring visitors to the park.
Yay or Nay: Of course it’s a yay, I mean, obviously. It’s an amazing opportunity to explore a place that remains largely untouched by humanity. My only advice – bring sunscreen. A ton of it. The sun down in the Keys does not mess around, and you’re going to need to reapply several times throughout the day if you don’t want to get burnt to a crisp. And if you're looking for a quick dinner when you get back to Key West - check out Bien. It's amazing.