The second national park that we planned to visit on our Florida trip was Dry Tortugas National Park! Located about 70 miles west of Key West, this national park is made up of seven different islands. The main island that we planned to visit was Garden Key, including its historic Civil War fort, Fort Jefferson. In order to get there, we first drove 3.5 hours from Miami to Key West, where we stayed for a couple of nights. (The drive down US-1 was incredibly beautiful with Caribbean blue water on both sides.) Then, early the next morning we took a 2.5 hour long ferry ride on the Yankee Freedom III to get to the island. The ferry departed from Key West at 8am and we arrived at Fort Jefferson around 10:30am. Poor Clay actually threw up since it was quite a bumpy ride. But once we reached the island, we were all very excited and eager to explore as much as we could before we had to return to the ferry at 3pm!
We first decided to sit in on a tour at 11am, so we could hear about the history of Dry Tortugas. The island's namesake comes from its green sea turtles (now endangered) and its lack of fresh water. We learned about the history of Fort Jefferson, which was originally constructed by the U.S. to control navigation to the Gulf of Mexico, as well as to protect Atlantic-bound Mississippi River trade. During the Civil War, the fort also served as a Union military prison for captured deserters. Today, Dry Tortugas National Park is a wildlife refuge where visitors can come bird watch and snorkel through live coral reefs. After the tour, we took some time to walk through/on top of the brick hexagon-shaped fort and around its surrounding moat outside. The remainder of the afternoon, we snorkeled around the perimeter of Fort Jefferson from South Swim Beach to North Swim Beach. The waters were great for snorkeling and we were able to see a variety of fish and marine life during our afternoon there!
Just capturing as I go.