We lucked out with beautiful weather and calm seas the first 3 days which provided us with excellent diving and snorkeling, however, the latter part of the week the wind kicked up and seas weren’t as calm. Since diving was out, we spent a couple of days snorkeling around Garden Key and exploring Fort Jefferson.
Garden Key is the main island of the Dry Tortugas in which Fort Jefferson lies. The main anchorage for boats is on the south side of the island and it’s a quick dinghy ride to get to shore. The park is open year round and you can explore Fort Jefferson during daylight hours for a $5.00 fee that is good for 7 days. You arrive at Garden Key by boat or sea plane. Those without their own boat can take the ferry out of Key West. Camping is allowed at the park for a nightly fee but beware, there is no fresh water and the grounds are primitive.
Garden Key is located 70 miles west of Key West and is the location of Fort Jefferson. Fort Jefferson was built by the U.S. in an effort to control navigation to the Gulf of Mexico. Construction began in 1846 and went on for 30 years but was never finished. The fort served as a military prison during the Civil War but was eventually abandoned in 1874. In 1908 the area was designated as a wildlife refuge for the sooty tern before becoming the Dry Tortugas National Park in 1992. The park’s natural treasures include its namesakes, the endangered green sea turtles and loggerhead sea turtles as well as a variety of birds and marine life.