The Dry Tortugas offers a a fantastic day out for all the family.
It really is a surprise package which certainly we weren't expecting a lot from, but now have visited several times.
Ponce de Leon named the seven islands "Las Tortugas" in 1513, due to we imagine the amount of sea turtles(Tortugas)that he spied swimming around the area.
It was later when it was noticed that there wasn't a great deal of fresh water that someone added the "Dry" bit.
The island is just one of a cluster of islands that can be found just off the tip of Key West, about 70 miles "Just off" but still a day trip away.
Although the islands are basically coral reefs and sand, when combined they are still given National Park status, and can be found on any map as Dry Tortugas National Park.
Nowadays it is the famous Fort Jefferson that attracts most vistors, but in the past it was a haven for the Captain Jack Sparrows of the world.
Diving and Snorkelling
If you do want to go out as far as these to dive, then you will have to charter a private boat, or travel over to the dive site on your own vessel.
Do take care though as small boats are strongly advised not to attempt the trip due to the strong tidal currents that flow against the prevailing winds between Rebecca Shoals and the Dry Tortugas Reef.
So think long and hard before doing it, as once out on the water you are very much on your own.
There are no opportunities to gain fuel, fresh water or have someone come to your aid.
But let’s not frighten you off, because if you are sensible and have travelled across safely, then the Dry Tortugas Dive Site is one to savour.
The islands (made of eight closely joined islands) is actually the southernmost national park in the United States, which makes it closely guarded environment.
The reef stretches from the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Miami in the Atlantic Ocean, so it give plenty of scope to be able to experience things on your own if you want.
The colours blow your mind as you swim around the coral reefs, but if you do fancy taking a dip then you must be aware that all the animals that swim around the sea, and believe me there are tons are strictly protected by the Florida Marine Sanctuary
The Marine Sanctuary have a list of regulations that are in place to ensure the protection of the waters around the Keys and Dry Tortugas.
So although you will be amazed at what you see under the waves, it is a strict "look but don't touch" rule.
Which as dive sites goes is just what you want.
It is like diving into the beginning bit of "Finding Nemo".
Or I suppose the worlds biggest fish tank, as the constant Gulf Stream currents keep the waters really clean.
It’s not unreasonable to be able to see up to 100 feet away, throughout the entire 100 square coral reef that surrounds Dry Tortugas.
So what can you expect (or hope) to see when you put your diving suit on a slip below the surface of the waters?
Well for a start there is a nice wreck to explore.
The French owned vessel lies on the bottom, and according to divers who have spent their time exploring the reef, there is a monster of a jewfish hiding below its 300 foot body.
The fish is estimated to be over 150 years old, or so they say.
I’m not sure how you can tell the age of a fish.
And best of all this is just one of the wrecks that you can swim around, as the Dry Tortugas reef has been nothing but efficient in bringing boats to a watery end over the centuries.
If you don’t fancy doing the diving however, but would like a bit of snorkelling then you are catered for too, as just off the beach on the west side of Loggerhead Key is the perfect place to get your flippers on and float along the top of the reef.
The waters around the area range from 5 to 15 feet in depth, which means even the most inexperienced snorkeller can dip their toes into the crystal blue waters and experience the tropical fish that swim around the coral reefs.
All in all Dry Tortugas is one the best places to visit whether, above the surface or below, but certainly the diving is world-class.
Don’t miss out.
Map Of Dry Tortugas Snorkelling Areas
The area is awash with tales and legends of pirates and sunken gold, and to be honest as you stand and look out to sea, it's not hard to imagine a few ships showing the Jolly Roger flag being moored a little further out.
The fort combines a spectacular location with heaps of exciting activites, all wrapped up in a bundle that just screams History with a capital "H"
Fort Jefferson is huge.
It is actually high on the list of the biggest coastal forts ever constructed, and although it seems a bit weird the fort is the guardian of the National Park, that sits tucked away nice and safely within its walls.
The fort is America's largest 19th century coastal fort, which was started in 1846, but never completed.
The walls are 50 feet high and 8 feet thick, so it makes the perfect location for a military prison.
It was within the walls that Dr Samuel Mudd sat.
You may not recognise the name, but I'm sure you have used the phrase "His name is mud" before.
Dr Mudd was the the medical professional who mended the leg of President Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth, and because of this was found guilty of conspiracy and convicted.
I don't know....do a good deed and what do you get!!
Camping at the site
Saltwater toilets, grills and picnic tables are provided all around the site.
If you do want to stay over for the night, there are no lodging facilities, but you can do a bit of camping if you wish.
Just imagine kipping down under the stars, on an island far away from the mainland of Florida.
The stars will feel brighter than you could imagine due to the lack of light pollution that you will obviously get on the mainland.
The warm winds blowing around the canvas that you are calling home for the evening, making a slight rustling sound as the waves gently join in out in the darkness.
It really is perfect, and with perfection comes a desire from most people to camp down at the site.
So we do strongly recommend that you do make your reservation before visiting.
The venue is free to visit, but you do need transportation and this can be substantial, especially for the campers as you will be charged for the extra stuff you are carrying too.
All in all though it is a wonderful attraction, with a great tour, and views to die for.
We certainly recommend it strongly.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Phone: (305) 242-7700