If you think about attractions of Florida, probably your first thought is Miami with its white sand beaches and luxurious resorts. Well.. true… but there is so much more to see around this rich city.
Our choice turned out to be Dry Tortugas National Park, which covers a group of small islands located over 100 km west from Florida Key West.
Since hotels in this area are quite expensive, we decided to spend two nights in Homestead (a city within Miami-Dade County) and get a full one day trip to the islands.
We started the day early in the morning and after a breakfast we jumped into our van and took a long, over 200 km drive to Key West. The road leads through famous Seven Mile Bridge which stretches out in the open sea and provides amazing views. You can pull over and take a short walk on both sides of the bridge, there are some nice photo spots too.
There are three common ways to get to Dry Tortugas from Key West. You can either go by a private boat, a ferry or by a seaplane. The third option is obviously the most expensive, but you get exceptional experience in return.
There is only one plane company, Key West Seaplane Adventures, that operates to this remote national park.
We arrived in the Key West airport 30 minutes before flight time, checked in the office, got our free of charge parking permit and were ready for boarding. The pilot, who was also our guide during the trip, invited all ten passengers to the plane. Everyone got a window seat and a headset. Adam was the lucky one and sat right next to the pilot. After immediate take off the most amazing part of the trip begun. A half an hour flight over the sea was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. The area is completely uninhabited and you get to watch clear turquoise water, large coral reefs, shipwrecks, white sand dunes, you can spot different types of birds and even sea turtles! During the flight our pilot entertained us with some interesting stories about each thing we saw from the window.
After a very exciting but smooth landing on water we finally reached to the Garden Key. There is a massive fortification construction on the island, named Fort Jefferson, which was built to control southern coastline of United States. During the Civil War it was also used as a military prison for deserters and other criminals. Nowadays the fort is an excellent place from which you can spot some nest areas and marine life. There is also a nice black lighthouse with picturesque view of white sand beach, parked seaplanes and ferry.
The most unforgettable part of visiting the island was snorkeling. The guide supplied us with all the required equipment and we were ready to plunge in. There are not enough words to describe the beauty of this underwater world. We saw unique coral reefs, schools of colourful fish and many, many other sea forms and species. I just wish we had done it before we visited the fort, because in the end there was not much time to enjoy snorkeling to the full..
Dry Tortugas trip was full of new exciting experiences starting with a breathtaking seaplane flight, island exploration, history lesson and wildlife viewing. If you plan to visit the park, you should definitely consider an overnight stay – a sunrise and milky way overhead must be amazing there.