National Park Counter: 3
Ok! This was the first National Park I visited that was an official “national park,” though I still did not really know exactly what a “national park” really was! My old high school pal (who had also accompanied me to Indiana Dunes and the Gateway Arch at least once) took a road trip straight from the hometown in Indiana to New Port Richey, FL, where I was living at the time. We slept a few hours, then got up and drove down to Key West. That’s an unhappy amount of driving! The intention was just to check out Key West. While down there, though, we saw this ferry out to the Dry Tortugas and thought “Hey, that looks cool, let’s do that!” It was late December, just before New Years but we were able to get a walkup ticket for the ferry. I understand that is not really possible anymore.
So the trip was fun! This was the first time I had actually ever seen the blue waters of the Caribbean and how awesome! Key West was different for sure, but Fort Jefferson and the Tortugas was a really cool part of the trip. If you don’t know much, there is a very large brick fort out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico called Ft. Jefferson. It is one of the largest of these old forts in America and I believe it was left unfinished as well. Of note, a few men convicted of conspiracy in the assassination of Lincoln ended up spending some time detained here.
The Tortugas have some very good snorkeling and water activities as well, but I was not into that or interested. It’s definitely a neat and different spot. It is also one of the harder to get to national parks in the nation as A) Key West is still like 4 hours south of Miami through the keys and then B) a ferry or seaplane is required to get the 70 or so miles offshore of Key West, and neither are particularly cheap!
Pros include stunning water views, great snorkeling and a cool camping experience (at least that’s what I hear – I did neither of these!), not terribly crowded, neat American history, and great winter weather!
Cons: The biggest drawback by far is accessibility. You have to first get to Key West, which is a pain in itself. Then there is the pricey trip to the island and, unless you get one of the few campsites, you only have that day to visit. But that’s probably enough because there really isn’t a ton to see or do.
The Adventurer Final Word:
3 Stars. If you are in Key West and want an interesting day trip off the island this might be a good option!