Many of the United States’ great national parks served a very different purpose in their former lives, but few boast a more impressive origin story than that of Dry Tortugas National Park. Once home to the imposing and impenetrable watchtower, Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas is now one of America’s most isolated and serene national parks.
About 100 miles from the coast of Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park consists of the seven smallest and westernmost islands of the Florida Keys. Just 70 miles and a two-hour boat ride from Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park juts out of the water like a beacon of hope in the crystal blue waters of the gulf.
When you near the islands by boat, you’ll slowly make out on the horizon a towering red wall. This palisade of more than 16 million bricks is Fort Jefferson, the farthest fort from American soil. After reaching the shore and crossing a 14-foot moat, visitors will discover a great stronghold, as well as America’s version of Devil’s Island, where deserts of the Union Army were sent to consider their actions and serve their sentence.
Once you’ve toured the confines of Fort Jefferson, you can make your way out to the white beaches of the smaller isles of Dry Tortugas National Park. Here picnicking, snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities, as well as world-renowned birdwatching (peak season is spring when a wide variety of gulf birds rest on the isles during migration). Plan your trip to Dry Tortugas National Park today, and experience true serenity along with great American history!