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Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most remote national parks in the USA. There are two ways to get here: by boat or by seaplane. Both come with their advantages and disadvantages, and which one you choose depends on cost, how much time you have, if you plan to camp on Garden Key, and other factors such as seasickness.

In this guide, we cover everything you need to know on how to get to Dry Tortugas National Park.

 


To learn more about the park, including things to do and how to plan your time, read our article Best Things to Do in Dry Tortugas National Park.


 

Where is Dry Tortugas National Park?

Dry Tortugas National Park is located about 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. This group of islands are the last keys in the Florida Keys. They are part of one of the longest coral reefs in the world.

You can only get to Dry Tortugas National Park by boat or by seaplane and these all leave from Key West, Florida.

Dry Tortugas Location

Getting to the Dry Tortugas by Seaplane

Traveling by sea plane is the quickest way to get to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Key West Seaplane Adventures is the only company that flies to Dry Tortugas National Park. They offer flights throughout the day, and you can choose between a half day visit and a full day visit.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: The seaplane carries 10 people, and two seaplanes travel together. Seats are very limited, so if this sounds like something you would like to do, book your tickets as soon as you know your dates of travel. The seaplane can sell out months in advance.

Seaplane

When you travel by seaplane, you land in the waters just offshore from Garden Key. The plane parks at a beach on Garden Key and this is where you get off.

Half Day Trip to the Dry Tortugas

Cost: $361 per adult, $288.80 for children 12 and under
National Park Fee: $15 (this is in addition to the seaplane ticket price)
Grand Total: $376
Length of Time: 4 hours total; 40-minute flight each way and 2.5 hours at Dry Tortugas National Park

Half day trips are offered throughout the day. You can fly to the Dry Tortugas from first thing in the morning until mid-afternoon. The best flights are the first and last flights of the day, when you will visit the park with fewer people. Midday, the ferry deposits a lot of people on the island, so it is more crowded during this time.

Full Day Trip to the Dry Tortugas

Cost: $634 per adult, $507.20 for children 12 and under
National Park Fee: $15 (this is in addition to the seaplane ticket price)
Grand Total: $649
Length of Time: 8 hours total; 40-minute flight each way and 6.5 hours on the island

Key West Seaplane Adventures provides snorkel gear and coolers with ice and water or soft drinks.

We did the half day trip by seaplane. The 2.5 hours in Dry Tortugas National Park goes by extremely fast, and the entire time Tim and I felt like we were in a race. There was a snorkeling spot that we wanted to try, and we never got to it because we ran out of time.

We really enjoyed our time in the Dry Tortugas and wished we had more than two and a half hours.

However, 6.5 hours is a long time to spend here. It’s worth it, if you have that kind of money to spend, and if you want to take your time here.

For the Best Experience

 
Book the first flight of the day. We were on the first flight at 8 am. We arrived just past 8:30 and for almost two hours, it was just us, the other 18 people from the two seaplane flights, a few campers, and some park rangers. It felt like we had the place to ourselves. The ferry arrived at 10:20, and it got a lot more crowded. At that point, we only had 30 minutes left on Dry Tortugas before flying back to Key West.
 
The second-best option is to take the last flight of the day. You will have Dry Tortugas to yourself once the ferry leaves Garden Key.

Photos from the Flight to Dry Tortugas National Park

If you take the seaplane, not only do you get to Dry Tortugas National Park quickly, and have the chance to arrive before the ferry, but the flight is incredibly scenic. You will fly over the keys and the Marquesas Islands and get to see both Key West and Dry Tortugas National Park from the sky.

The plane flies low, so you can also see nurse sharks and sea turtles in the water (yes, the water is that clear!), underwater sand dunes, reefs, shipwrecks, and the keys.

On the Airplane

Inside the seaplane

 

Key West Aerial Photo

Key West

 Shipwreck

Shipwreck

 

Underwater Sand Dunes

Underwater sand dunes

 

Boca Grande Key

Boca Grande Key

 Dry Tortugas National Park

Dry Tortugas National Park from the sky.

Getting to the Dry Tortugas by Ferry

The Yankee Freedom is the ferry that connects Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park. Going by ferry turns your visit into a full day experience and most of that will be spent on board the ferry.

Cost: $190 per adult, $135 for children 4 to 16, $180 for students, seniors, and active military
National Park Fee: Included in the ferry ticket price
Camping trips: If you plan to camp, the fee is $210
Length of Time: 10.5 hours (4.5 hours at the Dry Tortugas, 5 hours cruising time, 1 hour for check-in and boarding in Key West)

Check-in time is at 7 am (6:30 am for campers). The ferry departs at 8:00 am and it takes 2.5 hours to get to Dry Tortugas National Park. You spend 4.5 hours in the park. At 3 pm, the ferry departs Dry Tortugas National Park, and you will arrive in Key West at 5:30 pm.

A breakfast snack, boxed lunch, and snorkeling equipment are included with the fee.

The ferry takes 175 people. At the galley, you can purchase alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, ice cream, and snacks.

During the cruise from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park, you will get to see the Marquesas Islands and lots of sea turtles during the voyage.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you plan to camp at Dry Tortugas National Park, you will have to take the ferry or a private boat to get here. You cannot bring camping equipment on the seaplane.

Ferry to Dry Tortugas

On the day we were here, Yankee Freedom must have been using a different boat, since this is not their typical boat they use to go to the Dry Tortugas. However, the boat in the photo above looks very similar to the Yankee Freedom ferry.

By Private Charter or Your Own Boat

If you have your own boat, you can visit Dry Tortugas National Park without taking the ferry or seaplane. Before your visit, you will need to get a permit. Learn more on the National Park Service website.

There are also private charters that can take you to the Dry Tortugas. We considered doing this, since we also wanted to visit Loggerhead Key, but the price tag for this is extremely high (the one we looked at was about $3000 for the day). For a list of approved private charters, visit the National Park Service website.

Seaplane vs. the Ferry vs. Private Charter: Which One is Better?

If you just look at cost, the private charter is the most expensive option. There is also a big price difference between taking the seaplane flight and the Yankee Freedom Ferry.

Half Day Seaplane + National Park Fee: $376
Yankee Freedom Ferry (includes the National Park Fee): $190
Price Difference: $186

So, it costs an additional $186 for an adult to fly to Dry Tortugas National Park than to take the ferry.

Worth it? We thought so.

The flight is awesome, getting into the park early is nice perk, and having a full afternoon in Key West after this excursion is also a big advantage.

Below I list more advantages and disadvantages for each mode of transportation.

Seaplane Advantages:

  • Fastest way to and from Dry Tortugas National Park
  • Scenic flight over the Florida Keys
  • Can visit the Dry Tortugas with low crowds before the ferry arrives or late in the date once the ferry departs

Seaplane Disadvantages:

  • Expensive
  • The half day tour is a little too short
  • The full day tour seems a little too long
  • Can’t bring camping gear or scuba equipment

Ferry Advantages:

  • Cheapest option
  • 4.5 hours on the Dry Tortugas, a nice amount of time on the islands
  • Can bring camping gear, scuba equipment, and kayaks

Ferry Disadvantages:

  • 5 hours on a ferry
  • More crowded experience on the Dry Tortugas
  • Seasickness is possible

Private Charter Advantages:

  • Private tour of Dry Tortugas National Park
  • You can customize your itinerary
  • You can visit Loggerhead Key

Private Charter Disadvantages:

  • Very expensive
  • Seasickness is possible

What We Did

We did the half day tour by seaplane and loved it, even though it went by extremely fast. By noon, we were back in Key West and had all afternoon in town. So, if you want to visit the highlights of Dry Tortugas National Park and still have plenty of time in Key West, the half day tour, particularly the first time slot of the day, is a great option.


If you have any questions about how to get to Dry Tortugas National Park, let us know in the comment section below.

More Information for Your Trip to Florida:

KEY WEST: 14 Best Things to Do in Key West National Park
KEY WEST: Best Restaurants in Key West: 20 Places to Eat & Drink
FLORIDA KEYS: Florida Keys Road Trip: 13 Awesome Things to Do between Key Largo and Key West
BISCAYNE NATIONAL PARK: Top 10 Things to Do in Biscayne National Park
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK: One Perfect Day in Everglades National Park

Read all of our articles about the United States in our United States Travel Guide.

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How to Get to Dry Tortugas NP

 

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