Wander along the high ramparts of Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park and look out across the sparkling blue ocean all around you. Sunbathe on the sand of this idyllic haven or snorkel with an array of tropical fish.
This archipelago of seven small islands was first documented by the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León. On arrival he was amazed to find his ship surrounded by turtles and so named the area Las Tortugas (the Turtles).
As you approach the main island, the imposing shape of Fort Jefferson will slowly begin to emerge above the waterline. Built during the middle of the 19th century, the hexagonal structure was intended to protect the lucrative trade route through the Gulf of Mexico. Notice the intricate red brickwork and the 2,000 arches that decorate the exterior.
Leave the fort’s delightful inner garden and sink your feet into the soft, warm sand that clings to the island’s eastern shores. Lie in the sun and read a good book or paddle in the gentle waves lapping against the shore.
Experience some of the best snorkeling in North America during your trip. Set off from Dingy Beach to search for angelfish and nurse sharks among the offshore ruins. Find green, hawksbill, leatherback and loggerhead turtles swimming or resting in the sun just off South Beach. Spring and fall migrations swell bird population of the park to more than 300 species.
The park is 70 miles (112 kilometers) west of Key West off the southern tip of Florida. Trips to Dry Tortugas National Park depart daily from Key West. Getting to the park by ferry takes approximately 3 hours, while going by sea plane is the faster option. Pay the admission fee to enter the park on your transport. Take everything you need with you for the day because the park has no shopping or eating facilities.
U.S. national parks offer a wide variety of exploration, relaxation and adventure opportunities for all types of travelers. Enjoy your sunny day with the turtles and other wildlife at Dry Tortugas National Park.
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