Forget about Key West. To really get away from it all, Dry Tortugas National Park is where it’s at. Composed of seven islands, 100 square miles in area, and 70 miles from the country’s southernmost city, the park can only be reached via seaplane or boat. Talk about secluded! It also has plenty of historical cred, too; Ponce De Leon found the group of islets way back in 1513, and the park also played a big role in the Civil War.
Water activities are one of the most popular ways to pass time here. Snorkeling, boating, fishing … oh my! There are several beaches for sunbathers to choose from as well, with truly tropical white sand. The shallow sea (only 5 to 15 feet deep) make water sports fun for the whole family. Make sure to be on the lookout for brightly-colored fish and coral as you make your way through the picture-perfect turquoise waters.
One of the biggest attractions at Dry Tortugas, however is Fort Jefferson, which was built for the U.S. Army in the 19th century, and took almost 30 years to construct. You might be tempted to count, but we’ll save you the time: the fort is made up of 16 million red bricks! Explore it on your own, or take a 45-minute guided tour that will give you the scoop on the special place that the fort holds in U.S. history. Around the time of the Civil War, it actually served as a prison that housed Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was jailed due to his role in President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. If you want to enjoy the water views without actually dipping your toes in, check out the moat wall, which circles the fort and measures just over a half-mile.
A plethora of wildlife make the park their home, even if only for part of the year. Dry Tortugas is well-known for serving as the habitat for several species of birds, including frigatebirds and sooty terns, and you can snag a list of its frequent winged visitors from the visitors center bookstore.
There are no traditional accommodations on any of the islets. However, the onsite campground, Garden Key, accommodates 10 campsites with advance reservations. So, if you’re willing to rough it, you can make a day and night of it in the park!