Not Your Granddad’s National Park
Pack your snorkels, masks, and swimsuits because Dry Tortugas National Park is not one that you’re visiting by camper. This magnificent natural treasure is made up of seven small islands, but 98% of the park is underwater. The coral reef system is the third-largest barrier reef in the world after Australia and Belize, and it is family friendly, just steps off the brilliant white sandy beaches in only four to seven feet of water.
The islands were first discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513, and named Tortugas by the Spanish explorer because of the prevalent sea turtles in the waters. Fort Jefferson, once used to hold prisoners during the Civil War, is the largest brick building in the western hemisphere, and open to tour. The islands provide a kid-friendly sanctuary for many migrating bird species, tropical fish, coral, sea turtles, lobsters and many others. The 100 square-mile park is also home to more than 300 historic shipwrecks.
The park is located 70 miles west of Key West and is accessible by private boat, ferry or seaplane. Each has its advantages for families, and the National Park endorses specific companies on their website. Pro tip: if you book the first sea plane ride out, you’ll beat the ferry and have the whole place to yourself. Camping is available first come, first served. There is no fishing within the park, no pets are allowed, and there are no snack bars, so be sure to pack some food for the trip and be prepared to pack it all out with you for the trip home. Don’t forget the hats, sunscreen and waterproof cameras to capture what is sure to be a spectacular experience.
Once back at Parrot Key, celebrate the history of the island life with our Happy Hour beverage partner Cruzan Rum. Since 1760, the Cruzan Rum family has been crushing cane sugar in St. Croix. Toast to the island life at The Grove from 4pm – 6pm daily and on Saturdays, don’t miss live music from some of Key West’s best musicians. This month, on April 16th we’ll be celebrating Cruzan with specialty cocktails, giveaways and more. Cheers!