Ready to plan your day trip to Dry Tortugas with kids? Here are some tips gleaned from our own family’s visit, when we rode the ferry from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park. Hope they help smooth the way for a most excellent day. What a special place to visit! If you haven’t done so already, be sure to also check out the feature West of Key West: Daring the Day Trip to Dry Tortugas.
Ready your Junior Rangers.
If your kids want to earn the Junior Ranger Badge for Dry Tortugas National Park, they can pick up their booklets to complete at the ferry terminal while waiting to board (or they can even print them out ahead of time online!). Some of the activities in the booklet can be done aboard the Yankee Freedom III while traveling out to Dry Tortugas, which helps to pass some of the time. Other activities need to be done during your tour of Fort Jefferson and visit to the park. If you complete all of your required activities, you can get sworn in by the park ranger on the boat ride back to Key West. You might even get a bonus free ice cream for earning your Dry Tortugas Junior Ranger Badge!
Don’t forget the Dramamine—and use it.
If anyone in your family CAN get motion sickness, it’s a good idea for them to take Dramamine before even boarding. The water can get very choppy, but even in calm waters, kids who are not used to moving about a moving boat may be sensitive to the motion just walking around inside the ferry as it travels. And if anyone is a candidate for Dramamine, don’t forget to give it to them again before the return.
Don’t forget your waterproof camera!
If there is ever a place you’ll want your waterproof camera, Dry Tortugas National Park is it! If you’re looking for one, don’t overlook the handy & affordable Lumix I’ve been using on many water adventures and used myself on our Dry Tortugas visit. You can click here to see my full review.
Board your family ASAP.
If you board with the latter half of your shipmates, you may find it difficult or even impossible to still get the number of seats together you want. The first passengers aboard stake out their seats, load them with their gear and towels, then head to the breakfast line. If you get on too late, you may have to split up your family and wait in the longest line for food and coffee. Not my recommended way to start the day trip to Dry Tortugas with kids!
Wear swim suits under your clothes or cover-ups.
Yes, you can change on the island, but that’s what everyone else will be doing. If you and/or yours have swimwear comfortable enough to wear under your clothes or cover-ups, save some time in the shuffle when you reach Fort Jefferson, grab that snorkel gear, and hit the water. You’ll probably want a change of dry clothes for the ride back, so don’t forget to pack it if you wear swimsuits on the outbound voyage!
Bring your own snacks.
Breakfast and lunch aboard the ferry are included in your day trip fee, but the line gets long quickly and your kids may prefer a lunch you pack instead. Be sure to bring plenty of snacks for everyone—especially if you opt to skip the lunch buffet to spend more time in the water, like we did! (Once in a lifetime! Who can be stopped for pasta salad?!) 😀 Extra snacks can also be purchased on the ferry.
Make sure to sign up for a guided tour on the boat—if you want one.
You can certainly explore Fort Jefferson on your own and at your own pace, which is what we did, but history buffs may especially enjoy the guided tours included in the day trip fee. Spaces are limited, however, so make sure to get your name(s) on the sign-up sheets on board during your outbound journey.
Your time on the Dry Tortugas will go quickly! If you’d really like to spend MORE time—including hours while everyone else from the Day Trips is gone, you can camp at Dry Tortugas for up to 3 nights in the Garden Key campground beside Fort Jefferson. You’ll need to provide all of your gear and food for the trip, and there are no showers (and no convenience store if you forget anything!) but your snorkeling equipment will be included with your ferry fee to get there and back. Get all the details about camping at Dry Tortugas National Park here.
Remember, the ferry is not the only way!
While most visitors to Dry Tortugas go by ferry, there is also the option of going by seaplane. The seaplane is more expensive, but it gives you the option of going for a half day or a full day visit to Dry Tortugas. The sightseeing from the plane can also be incredible—you might even see sunken ships in the crystal waters below—and it only takes 80 minutes (approx.) each way. Better still, you can book your own custom seaplane tour with additional sightseeing ops and possible stops with your visit to Dry Tortugas. Click here for more information on traveling by seaplane to Dry Tortugas with Key West Seaplanes.
Interested in making the day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park? Be sure to see the earlier post, West of Key West: Daring the Day Trip to Dry Tortugas, and visit www.drytortugas.com. For more help planning your family’s trip to the Florida Keys and Key West, take advantage of the many free resources at www.fla-keys.com.
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