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Getting to Dry Tortugas: How much does it cost

Dry Tortugas is one of the most remote National Parks in the lower 48 states. Steeped in history and surrounded by tropical wonders, this is a must do ‘bucket list’ trip! Our visit to this remote island was an amazing experience that the entire family enjoyed. A big question is how to get to Dry Tortugas since it is such a secluded place?  You have three basic options, take the public Ferry on the Yankee Freedom from Key West, a Seaplane flight or use a private boat charter. Personally, I feel the Seaplane is the best option. 

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Does it cost too much to travel to Dry Tortugas?

One major barrier for this location is the Cost. There is no doubt that getting to Dry Tortugas can be an expensive endeavor and require some budgeting to accomplish. I would argue that it is worth it! Once you know the cost, you can then set a plan to save for this bucket list item with the best option for your family.

Getting to Dry Tortugas

Driving to the remote island is not possible, as it is 70 miles west of Key West. So, you are left with three options, Ferry, Seaplane or private boat. There are pros/cons for each method. Read on to learn more so you can pick the best option for you.

Yankee Freedom Ferry boat on water at Dry Tortugas with beach in foreground on a clear blue sky day

Ferry ride on the Yankee Freedom

The first and most affordable way to get to Dry Tortugas is to take the Yankee Freedom Ferry from Key West. It is the only National Park affiliated ferry company that takes visitors to the site. Holding close to 200 people the ferry is air conditioned with bathrooms and a full galley with snacks, beverages and sandwiches. Leaving at 8am, it will take 2 -1/2 hours to arrive at the fort. You will have 4 1/2 hours on the island to explore, swim and grab sun. 

How much does the Ferry to Dry Tortugas Cost?

The Yankee Freedom Ferry Ride is by far the cheapest option at $220 per person. There also have discounts for seniors and pricing is lower for children. A family of four would expect to pay about $770.   

PROS:   Most economical, includes meals

CONS:  Takes longer to get there, potential for seasickness, will arrive with the crowd

man smiling standing in front of Seaplane parked on tarmac in Key West

Seaplane flight to Dry Tortugas National Park

The next way, and I think best way, to get to the fort is to take a Seaplane from Key West Seaplane Adventures. They are the only approved seaplane charter that can drop you off right on the island next to Fort Jefferson. They have flights going all day, and you can sign up for a half day or full day excursions. The half day will provide you 2 1/2 hours of actual island time, and the full day will give you 6 1/2 hours of island time. Plan early, as they book up months in advance!

How much does the Seaplane Flight to Dry Tortugas Cost?

The seaplane has two options, and both can be pricey. The 1/2-day cost is about $466 per person, and full day is $819 per person. Both have lower pricing for children as well. A family of four can expect the 1/2 day to run about $1,700 and the full day at $3,000.

PROS:   Fastest travel time, scenic aerial views, comes with drinks and snorkeling equipment

CONS:  Expensive, limited availability

The Seaplane adventure is a wholly unique experience.

Private Boat Charter

Another way to get to visit Fort Jefferson is to charter your own boat out of Key West. This allows you the ability to go where you would like without worrying about the schedule of a flight or Ferry boat. This can also get you some of the outer keys, such as the Lighthouse on Loggerhead key.

How much does a private boat charter to Dry Tortugas Cost?

A charter boat to Dry Tortugas can range wildly based numerous factors.  The size of your party, the boat you are chartering, the time scheduled and where, specifically you want to go.  The lowest base price I have seen is $899.

PROS:  Most Flexible itinerary, only limited by your paycheck

CONS:  Very expensive, takes longer to get there, potential to seasickness

Family of four standing on float of seaplane at Dry Tortugas

Our Dry Tortugas Transportation Recommendation

To make the most of your visit you want to schedule as much time on the island as you can. We wanted to book the full-day adventure, but they were all booked up on the days we were in Key West. Our South Florida trip Itinerary was a little inflexible due to our tight schedule, so we had to opt for the half day adventure.

We felt a little rushed on our half day visit as we tried to fully visit Fort Jefferson, enjoy the beach and also going snorkeling. From our experience, the full day would be ideal.

This highlights the importance of planning ahead. Locking in this part of your trip should be your first priority. 

If you do choose the half seaplane charter, I would recommend selecting the morning flight. This will allow you enough time to get back to your hotel/lodging and have over half a day to do other activities.

Woman looking out window of seaplane at Dry Tortugas National Park

Why is Dry Tortugas so Special?

Dry Tortugas is one of 63 National Parks in the United States; however, it is one of the most remote. It is found over 70 miles west of Key West in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. This makes it one of the least visited National Park.

The park’s history stretches back to 1513 when Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon first came upon the islands. He named them “Las Tortugas” due to the abundance of sea turtles. Later, mariners added the term “Dry” to distinguish the lack of freshwater on the island.

The first building was a lighthouse in 1825, and then followed by the construction of Fort Jefferson to protect trade to the Atlantic. This was part of a broader U.S. initiative to enhance seacoast fortifications, which included McHenry, Monroe, Pulaski, Moultrie, Sumter, Taylor and others. 

The amazing views, incredible snorkeling, secluded beaches, and with a touch of history makes this a special place. It is something that you just have to see for yourself. 

View of Bush Key, beach, clear water and blue sky looking east at Dry Tortugas National Park

Final Thoughts

I do not think you can go wrong with how you get to Dry Tortugas.  If you choose the ferry, plane or charter, you will still end up with a unique and special experience. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

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