Boating

A sailboat floating on blue ocean waters

Bring Your Boat to Dry Tortugas

Bringing your own boat to Dry Tortugas National Park will provide you with the most opportunities to explore this remarkable national treasure. Situated approximately 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, with no food, water, or fuel available in the park, proper planning is a must.

Dry Tortugas National Park is filled with cultural artifacts that tell a rich and fascinating story of human exploration. Situated at the westernmost edge of the third largest coral reef system in the world, you are sure to discover some of the most pristine living coral and marine life found anywhere in the Florida Keys.

 

Plan Your Boat Trip

Bringing your own boat to Dry Tortugas National Park will provide you with the most opportunities to explore this remarkable national treasure. Situated approximately 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, with no food, water, or fuel available in the park, proper planning is a must.

Camping on Garden Key

Visit our Camping page to ensure you have everything you will need.

Required Boat Permits

Important! Boat permits are required for all vessels entering in the park before any recreational activity. Even if you are not planning on visiting Fort Jefferson, a boat permit must be filed on Garden Key.

Learn more about Boat Permits here.

 

Helpful Boating Tips

Never underestimate the weather when embarking on an open sea expedition. A sudden tropical storm can arise in the Gulf of Mexico any day of the year. Generally speaking the summer season has the calmer rainier months, and the winter season brings high winds and dry weather.

Current weather conditions.

The tidal change in South Florida may not seem like much compared to the tidal changes of New England, but they certainly make a difference in the shallow marine waters of the Dry Tortugas.

See tide charts.

Dry Tortugas National Park is remote destination, no food, water, or fuel is available in the park. You must bring all provisions you will need for your entire journey to the park, at the park, and back home from the park. Please do NOT plan on "catching" your food. While fresh caught seafood is an excellent addition, you should not count on fishing to provide you with food. In addition to planning to bring enough provisions for the entire length of your expedition, you should also plan on bringing a few extra days' worth of food and water.

The weather can change from a beautiful clam sunny day, to tropical storm wind and rain in a moment's notice. You should be prepared to spend an extra day or two in the sheltered waters of the Dry Tortugas should a storm sneak up on you. Having planned for a couple extra days of food and water will only be a little extra work if not needed, and a tremendous benefit should you need it.

Pack it in, pack it out. Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote destination with no trash or recycling facilities available to the public.

You will have to travel across open-ocean, with no land in site, in order to reach Dry Tortugas National Park. You will need NOAA nautical charts 11438 and 11434 to safely navigate to and from the park.

See NOAA navigation charts.

Planning on camping? Learn more by visiting the camping page.

Food and Water: We recommend two gallons of water per person per day (remember the heat). Bring an extra day's supply of food and water in case of ferry cancellations. Bring food items in hard-sided containers for protection from rats and crabs. Posts are available to hang food and trash.

Shelter: Tent (required), sleeping bag and pad, and strong stakes for the frequent high winds.

Cooking: Match-light charcoal for campground grills (fuel is not permitted aboard ferries), waterproof matches and lighter, cooking utensils, biodegradable soap, and trash bags.

Clothing: Cold and warm-weather clothing, rain gear, lightweight long-sleeve shirt and pants for sun and bug protection, wide-brimmed hat.

Personal Equipment: Medications, first-aid kit, knife, flashlight with spare batteries, snorkel gear, binoculars, sunglasses and sunscreen, insect repellent, and personal items. Private boaters and paddlers require additional safety gear.

Important! Boat permits are required for all vessels entering in the park before any recreational activity. Even if you are not planning on visiting Fort Jefferson, a boat permit must be filed on Garden Key.

Learn more about boat permits

Overnight anchoring is only allowed in sandy bottom within 1 nautical mile of the Garden Key lighthouse (with the exception of the Special Protection Zones, see next paragraph). There is no anchoring allowed anywhere within the Research Natural Area (RNA). Within the RNA, mooring buoys are available for day use only for a maximum of 2 hours.

For more information, visit our Mooring Buoys page.

While you are free to explore most areas of the National Park, there are a few areas with special protection status and are thus off limits to visitors. These area include the "Shark Special Protection Zone", the "Coral Special Protection Zone", Bush Key during nesting season, and East Key, Middle Key, and Long Key are closed all year round.

You must check with a Park Ranger once you arrive at Garden Key for details on the special protection zone boundaries.

No spearfishing or collecting of lobsters is allowed in the park, all spears must be dismantled and stowed away. If you have collected lobsters or speared fish outside of the National Park, you must radio in your catch to the park on channel 16 before entering National Park waters. Firearms are prohibited inside any government building.

 

Recommendations and Suggestions

  • A brick fort surrounded by sand and water

    Garden Key

    Garden Key is the second largest island of the Dry Tortugas, and home to historic Fort Jefferson.

  • A lighthouse and cottage surrounded by palm trees

    Loggerhead Key

    The largest of the 7 islands in Dry Tortugas National Park is Loggerhead Key, and should not be missed.

  • Tents are set up on Garden Key

    Camping at the Dry Tortugas

    Camping at Garden Key is an incredible experience. Amazing star gazing, snorkeling, sunsets and more!

  • A man standing on a dock by the ocean, holding a fishing pole with a fish on the line.

    Fishing

    Enjoy fishing for sport or food and be sure to bring your saltwater fishing license and follow Gulf of Mexico fishing regulations.

  • Two divers swim by the underwater Windjammer Wreck.

    Snorkeling and Diving

    Dry Tortugas National Park is home to history and natural wonders above and below the water's’ surface.

  • A baby sea turtle swims in the ocean

    Wildlife Viewing

    From birds, to sea turtles and coral reefs, the park is paradise for wildlife viewing.

Last updated: August 1, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

40001 SR-9336
Homestead , FL 33034

Phone:

305 242-7700

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