Dry Tortugas National Park is a sight to behold — a group of seven different islands clustered with coral reefs and sand that makes for an excellent road trip destination when you go RVing in an RV rental to cruise America.
Located in Homestead, Florida, the Dry Tortugas National Park is just 70 miles west of Key West. It’s considered a nature lover’s dream, with plenty of marine life to keep visitors captivated, birdlife to marvel at, and shipwrecks to dive. And that’s to speak nothing of the park’s focal point — a large masonry fort from the 1880s.
But more on that in a moment. In the meantime, it must be noted that you can’t actually take your RV rental directly to the Park’s doorstep. Even so, it still makes an excellent RV trip destination.
Once you drive your RV rental to Florida and enter the general vicinity, you will need to take a boat or seaplane to get into the park properly.
But let’s get specific. You do have a few options to ponder here. First up, you can take a personal boat into the park, but you will need a permit to stop anywhere inside.
You could also take the Yankee Freedom National Park Ferry to get into (and out of) the park. The ferry sets sail on a day tour from Key West to Fort Jefferson inside the park, crossing 70 miles of ocean water. The catamaran itself is large and capable of safely carrying up to 250 passengers at a time. Tours are limited to 175 passengers, however.
Even the trip to the park is a beautiful one, offering views of the Marquesa Islands and Boca Grande along the way. And if you watch the water carefully, you’re bound to see dolphins leaping and turtles bobbing along. The ferry also provides guided tours, so you’ll get your fill of local pirate legends, to boot. Check-in for the ferry is 7:00 AM; you’ll arrive at Dry Tortugas by 10:30 AM and then depart again for Key West by 3:00 PM.
If you wish to go off the beaten path a bit, you can always hire a charter boat to participate in one of the many guided tour activities available, like birdwatching, diving and snorkeling, photography, and fishing.
And still another option is to take a seaplane to take in the sights surrounding the park and hitch a ride inside. Morning, afternoon, and full-day tours are available.
Yes, the park is remote. And no, you can’t drive your RV rental directly into the park, which might sound inconvenient to some. But if you truly enjoy the outdoors, have an affinity for nature watching, and revel in historical sites, what’s an extra boat or plane ride?
But You Will Need to Plan Ahead
All visitors to the Dry Tortugas National Park are required to bring their own food, water, and supplies when visiting as a part of your cruise America trip. Goods and services in the park are extremely limited, which means you will need to provide all sustenance and water for yourself for the entire trip.
You will need to prepare ahead of time and gather supplies in Key West before boarding a ferry or plane to get to the islands. Again, you can’t drive your RV rental directly into the Park. The ferry itself does offer some concessions for sale while docked, which is good for a quick bite, but you shouldn’t rely on it to get you through your entire road trip.
Whether you plan on camping in the park, spending the night in a private boat, or even just making it a day trip, never plan to catch your food by fishing. Packing what you need to sustain yourself is key to enjoying your stay outside your RV rental, as you will not be able to buy anything once in Dry Tortugas National Park.
But if that’s not your thing…
There Are Plenty of Places to Stay Near Dry Tortugas National Park
Though there are no hotels within the park itself, you can stay in a hotel in Key West, Florida — the departure location of the Yankee Freedom ferry. And being a hot tourist spot means those who wish to go RVing will find plenty of campgrounds and resorts to stay at, including:
- Bluewater Key: This self-described luxury RV rental resort offers a convenient and upscale spot to park your RV for the night. They offer large rental spots with electricity, water, sewer, high-speed Internet, and cable TV.
- Boyd’s Key West Campground: Boyd’s provides another option for RV rental camping, right at the water’s edge.
You can camp in the park itself, too, though you will need to bring absolutely everything you’ll need for the duration of your stay. Again, there are no amenities available on the islands themselves.
Even so, you’re certain to find plenty to do within the park and…
There Are Tons of Scenic Stops Around the Dry Tortugas National Park Area to Check Out
Before you get into the Dry Tortugas National Park when you go RVing, you may wish to check out some of the surrounding areas for fun attractions and things to do. For instance, in Key West, there are tons of places to sightsee and participate in activities, like the Key West Shipwreck Museum, which showcases real artifacts alongside live actors to bring the past to life.
Once you park your RV rental, you might want to check out The Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum and get a glimpse into the famous writer’s life. The home is also currently home to several polydactyl cats — just like the six-toed cat Hemingway himself had in the 1930s.
Another delightful attraction in the surrounding area is The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. You can take a leisurely stroll through the climate-controlled park, which is home to over 60 different species of butterflies.
You Won't Want to Miss Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park
Located on Garden Key in the Dry Tortugas National Park, Fort Jefferson is one of the oldest masonry forts from the 1900s still standing. It was built to protect a strategic deepwater anchorage, and that legacy makes it an interesting place to visit.
A primitive campground is located on Garden Key and accommodates up to six people per campsite.
PS - But Don't Miss the Fun Things to Do, Either
You already know that the Dry Tortugas National Park is a fantastic location for camping, especially the primitive kind. However, it allows for a wide variety of other outdoor activities. Guided tours of the water surrounding the islands offer wildlife viewing trips to take in what nature has to offer. There are dedicated birdwatching trips, sea turtle adventures, as well as reef and fish tours.
Fishing offerings are available, as well as snorkeling along the coral reefs and shipwrecks. The Garden Key provides several locations where diving is permitted, including the moat wall surrounding Fort Jefferson, the coaling pier pilings, and the Texas Rock coral reef.
Loggerhead Key also provides a few diving or snorkeling spots for those who wish to cruise America in an RV rental, including The Windjammer shipwreck and the Little Africa Coral Reef.
The eastern section of the park has a few snorkeling spots, too, including Long Reef Key and the Pulaski Shoals area.
If you enjoy paddleboarding, you’re in luck here, too. You can participate in paddlesports and kayaking at Dry Tortugas, too. A boating permit is required for this, no matter the size of the vessel, and you will be responsible for wearing a personal floating device.
And all of this is to speak nothing of the countless guided boating tours for each aspect of life in the park, including eco-tours, fishing tours, motorized tours, and photography tours.
And should you decide to go RVing to Dry Tortugas National Park for a trip, you’ll find getting an RV rental through RVnGO to be the superior choice. You’ll find RV rental vehicles of all sizes to suit the needs of couples and families who wish to cruise America in comfort.
Use one of our RVnGO rental RVs to start out on your cross-country adventure. Take a few minutes to find the perfect RV for your journey, and then plan your trip. We’ve got lots of great ideas for what you can see and do along the way, with extraordinary and memorable destinations for you to spend your time.
We’re standing by to help you get there with the RV rentals that will take you on all those wonderful adventures.
Read more about what to pack for any road trip in our packing checklist.