Made up of seven small islands, it is one of the world’s most unique eco-attractions. Its crown jewel, the historic Fort Jefferson, was once used as a prison during the Civil War. Explore and learn of its history with one of our guides and enjoy an array of activities. There’s something for everyone! Book Now and Explore Uncharted Territory at the Dry Tortugas National Park!
Yankee Freedom III passengers have the option of joining a 40-minute guided tour of the fort led by one of our expert naturalists. You’ll hear captivating stories about the fort, its remarkable history and its surroundings. As you explore the fort, imagine life here during the hectic 1860s. At its height nearly 2,000 people lived within this remote city on the sea… The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers faced many challenges during the fort’s lengthy construction. Shifting sands, storms, and harsh conditions were common obstacles. The remote location hampered the shipment of supplies and skilled workers, especially during the Civil War.
Snorkeling at Fort Jefferson
If you love Key West snorkeling, then Dry Tortugas National Park offers some of the best offshore snorkeling in North America, just 70 miles from Key West, Florida. The shallow waters (5-15 feet) make snorkeling at the Dry Tortugas fun for everyone. Whether beginner or expert, you can enjoy an abundance of colorful tropical fish and living coral among the waters. Directly accessible from the brilliant white sand beach, you’ll find the Fort Jefferson snorkeling areas. Look for majestic corals, many varieties of tropical fish, starfish, queen conchs, and much more in this protected marine sanctuary. Complementary fins, mask and snorkel are provided.
From their discovery in 1513 by Ponce de Leon, through the visit of naturalist John James Audubon in 1832, to the present, the Dry Tortugas have been known for their amazing richness in migrating land birds and vast seabird colonies. Imagine, 100,000 Sooty Terns all in one place, all at one time. That’s what you can see if you’re near Bush Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park during the nesting season each year from March through September. Though Bush Key is closed during nesting, the rookery may be observed with binoculars from Fort Jefferson on nearby Garden Key. Also seen nesting in the rookery are some 4,500 Brown Noddy Terns and occasionally Black Noddies are seen among them.
No Key West beach trip is complete without visiting the best beach in the Florida Keys: Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park, located just 70 miles west of Key West. Whether swimming, sun bathing or just plain strolling, you will enjoy the crystal blue waters, swaying palm trees and soft, powdery sand of this island paradise. These beautiful, pristine beaches are a Key West attraction not to be missed.
Where is the departure point for this tour? Detailed check-in instructions will be included in your confirmation email.
When do I need to arrive for check-in? Dry Tortugas National Park Ferry Day trip check-in at 7:00am. Campers must arrive by 6:30am to load gear. Ferry boards at 7:30am, departs at 8am, returns at 5:30 pm.
Where can I park? We recommend parking in the City Parking Garage on Grinnell Street, across the corner from the Ferry Terminal. The garage provides shaded parking for $13/day. There is no free parking available in Key West.
Do you provide a shuttle to the tour? Currently, we do not provide transportation to the tour.
Can you pick us up from the airport? Currently, we do not provide transportation from the airport.
How long is the trip from Key West to Fort Jefferson? The ride on the Yankee Freedom III usually takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes.
How much time do we spend at Fort Jefferson? You will have a little over four hours to explore and enjoy Fort Jefferson and the beaches of the Dry Tortugas.
What time will we arrive back in Key West? We usually arrive in Key West by 5:30 p.m.
Are trips available year round? The Yankee Freedom III travels to Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park year round, with the exception of Christmas Day.
What is the cancellation policy? Are refunds given if there is inclement weather? If you plan to cancel your reservation, you will need to do so by 3:00 p.m. the day before your trip and 48 hours before your camping trip departure. Trips are not cancelled due to rain. The captain may cancel the trip or issue a warning if he feels the conditions are too rough.
Are ID’s or passports necessary before boarding? While you do not yet need a passport to travel within the United States, all adults must show a photo ID at check in. Seniors, Students, and active Military personnel should also bring their proper ID if they are eligible for discounts.
Can we bring a small cooler with water, food, and beer to enjoy at the Dry Tortugas? You may bring a small cooler with beverages to take to the beach; Remember, you cannot consume any alcohol from your cooler while aboard the Yankee Freedom III, as we have a liquor license and glass containers are forbidden. And don’t forget that the Yankee Freedom III provides you water and lunch for day trips and has a galley with drinks and snacks available for purchase!
What should I bring on my trip to the Dry Tortugas? Most passengers will spend their time exploring the beaches, sunbathing, or snorkeling along the shore. You should bring comfortable footwear, a bathing suit, towels, sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses. A change of dry clothes will come in handy after using one of Yankee Freedom III’s three fresh water rinses before the return home.
What am I not allowed to bring aboard? Pets (other than certified assistant dogs), compressed gas canisters (such as propane or scuba tanks), flammable accelerants (lighter fluid, gasoline, kerosene, etc.), firearms of any type (pellet guns, cartridge weapons, bow and arrows, etc.).
What is the weather like at the Dry Tortugas? The weather is generally beautiful at the Dry Tortugas. Although showers do occur, we suggest you bring plenty of sunscreen!
Will I get seasick during the ride on the Yankee Freedom III? Most people will not get sick, although you should take precautions if you are prone to motion sickness. There are various remedies sold at local pharmacies and in our galley which can help relieve motion sickness and will make your trip on the Yankee Freedom III more enjoyable.
Are there mosquitoes at Fort Jefferson? No, there are no mosquitoes due to the lack of standing water on the island.
I am camping at the Dry Tortugas, is there anywhere to buy ice on the island? There is nowhere to buy ice, although you can bring your own in a cooler. Remember, you cannot consume any alcohol from your cooler while aboard the Yankee Freedom III, as we have a liquor license and glass containers are forbidden.
Is fishing allowed on the island? Yes, fishing is allowed from the shores of the Dry Tortugas as long as you have a current State of Florida salt water license which must be purchased before boarding the Yankee Freedom III.
Are there restaurants and gift shops on the island? There are no restaurants at the Dry Tortugas, but there is a visitor’s center and a book store. The Yankee Freedom III will provide breakfast and lunch on all day trips. Soft drinks and snacks are available in the galley which will remain open for cash sales. Water is available all day at no extra charge.
Can we bring scuba gear to the Dry Tortugas? Scuba gear is not allowed, but we do provide you with snorkel gear and fins for snorkeling the reefs along the shores of the island.
Will there be sharks in the water surrounding the Dry Tortugas? Yes, sharks are part of the majestic ecosystem of the Caribbean, although no Yankee Freedom III passenger has ever been injured by a shark. If you happen to see one swim by, simply look, but don’t touch! Do cell phones work at Fort Jefferson? No, there are no cell phone towers in the Dry Tortugas.
Can I make bonfires on the beach, or bring lighter fluid to start my grill? Flammable liquids and bonfires are not allowed. You may use self-starting charcoal or sterno for cooking on the grills that are provided.
Can I bring my pets to Fort Jefferson? No, only assistance dogs are allowed with passengers to the island.
Is there shade on the island? Shade is very limited outside of Fort Jefferson. There is a covered area with benches on the dock where you can rest and take a break from the sun.
Are there lockers where I can store my valuables? There are no lockers on the boat or on the island. This is because no thefts have ever occurred. Additionally, all national park personnel are also police officers.
Do you have corrective lens masks for snorkeling? No, however they can be rented from our local dive shop. You will need to make arrangements for renting a corrective lens mask before your trip; please contact us for more information.
How deep is the water in which we will be snorkeling? The designated snorkel area is right off shore, and depths generally range from very shallow to 15 feet.
More questions? Please read the Inside Key West FAQs, or call +1 (866) 259-1333 for assistance with online booking.