The majority of people reach Dry Tortugas National Park via the Dry Tortugas ferry from Key West, which is called the Yankee Freedom III. The Yankee Freedom delivers people for camping and day trips to the island daily.
The Yankee Freedom III is a 110 foot luxury catamaran that started making trips from Key West in 2012. There is a large indoor air conditioned areas on the main level of the boat. There is also an outdoor area on the front deck of the boat and at the rear of the second level. There are three bathrooms at the rear of the boat on the main level, as well as a small gift shop and food service area. The ferry is powered by two Caterpillar 3412 engines and has a cruising speed of 27 knots. It also has a Vosper/MDI active interceptor motion-control system to automatically smooth the ride to Fort Jefferson. The ship has a passenger capacity of 250 persons although the park limit is 175 persons.
The ferry shuttles people from Key West to Garden Key. Garden Key is the largest island in Dry Tortugas National Park and the home of the famous and historic Fort Jefferson. Garden Key is currently connected by land with Bush Key and Long Key, although access to these areas may be restricted to protect important seabird nesting areas.
The Dry Tortugas ferry departs from Key West Bight, which is a historic 200 year old marina recognized by the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. The address for the Ferry Terminal is 100 Grinnell St, Key West, Fl 33040. The ferry terminal is located on the north side of Key West between Mallory Square and the US Coast Guard property. There is a parking garage across from the Ferry Terminal. The cost of the City Parking Garage is $32 for the day (2021). The address of the parking garage is 300 Grinnell Street in Key West.
How long is the boat ride from Key West?
The trip from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park is approximately two hours and fifteen minutes. Visitors to the park on day trips are able to enjoy just over four hours on the island.
Dry Tortugas Ferry Cost (updated for 2021)
The ferry is the cheapest way to get to Dry Tortugas National Park. How much is the ferry for a day trip from Key West to the Dry Tortugas? The cost for an adult is $190. There is a $10 discount for active duty members of the military, seniors ages 62 or higher, and full-time students (age 17+). Children ages 4 to 16 are $135 each. Infants 0 to 3 years of age are free. How much is the transport fee for campers? The cost for a camping trip is $210 for an adult and $155 for a child between 4 and 16 years of age.
What is included in the trip?
The fare includes the entry fee for the national park, breakfast, lunch, snorkeling gear and guided tours of the Fort. If you bring a valid annual national park pass to check in for the ferry, the entrance fee to the park included in the price of the ticket will be refunded.
How to Buy Tickets for the Ferry
Tickets for day trips from Key West to Garden Key can be booked through the online reservation system created and run by the Yankee Freedom III. It can also be purchased in person at . Advanced tickets are recommended.
If you are planning to camp on Garden Key, you must call the Yankee Freedom III staff. Reservations for transport of campers is usually made 8 to 12 months in advance to ensure availability.
Ferry Cancellation Policy
Cancellations are required 48 hours before a camping trip departure and, for day trips, 3 PM on the day before you are scheduled to depart.
Other Options for How to Get to Dry Tortugas
The other options are Seaplane and Private Transport.
The check in time at the boat dock is 7:00 AM. If you have a valid annual park pass, present it at the check in for a refund of the entrance fee that was collected when you made your reservation. There is a waiting area inside as well as restrooms. Boarding begins at 7:30 AM and depature occurs at 8 AM. The check-in for campers is earlier – 6:30 AM in the morning.
We were running late on the morning of our departure and did not have time to stop at a drug store to pick up a waterproof camera, so we had to buy one on the boat. The informational briefing before boarding provided a variety of information such as what to do if you are feeling sea sick (short version – go outside at the back of the boat on the first level where it is most stable and tell a crew member so that they can give you a package of items including a vomit bag), the details of breakfast and lunch service, and operation of the toilets in the bathroom.
Boarding started immediately following the end of the briefing in groups of 25 – those people who received the lowest numbered pass during check-in were allowed to board first. If you want to secure a good seat on the ferry, you need to get there early.
Breakfast was available immediately during boarding and is served until 8:30 so you have about thirty minutes to get food. This proved plenty of time for us to eat and make a second trip. There was an assortment of options including cereal, bagels, cream cheese, ham, cut cheeses, fruit and drinks such as milk and orange juice. Coffee and hot water (tea) are available throughout the journey. After breakfast was over, they put out items for sale in the breakfast area.
Lunch is served on the boat from 11 AM to 1 PM. It starts around thirty minutes after the boat docks. There were drinks in coolers at the front of the The lunch on our trip included three kinds of bread ready for your choice of turkey, ham, tuna salad, cheeses, lettuce and tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, peppers and pickles, and fruit salad. There was also a selection of individually bagged chips, cans of Pepsi, bottles of water and a few other drink options.
Souvenirs and Ship Store
The ferry sold a number of souvenirs and essentials including a magnet, pin, playing cards, batteries, patch, sunglasses, water bottle, coffee tumbler, hats, sunscreen, shirts, beach towel and waterproof camera. I had already bought a dose of dramamine (motion sickness medication) for $1 immediately after getting on the boat.
There were three bathrooms at the back of the boat.
During the boat ride, we also learned that they offer tours of the fort. At 11 AM, they offer a 20 minute “tour” of the fort. It is really a short history of the importance of the islands and why the United States built one of their biggest forts in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. At 11:30, they hold a longer 1.25 hour tour. The longer tour actually walks around the fort. We took the short tour and sat inside the fort at a group of benches while we listened to the guide. Each of the tours is limited to 25 people each but they promised to add another tour if there was sufficient demand. If you take the longer tour, they advise you to grab something for lunch between 11 and 11:30 AM so that you don’t miss lunch (which ends shortly after the tour, and they don’t want you to worry or go hungry!). It was recommended that you don’t do both tours (they overlap), so plan how you would prefer to spend your time.
The other thing that we learned during the boat ride was how to snorkel. They run a brief video that explains where to snorkel on the island, how to ensure that you have the right gear, putting on your equipment as well as how important it is not to touch the coral. You do not need to worry about bringing gear – the ferry provides snorkeling equipment for everyone that signs a waiver of liability. It is available starting at around 11 AM on the dock. For those that go to the beach, there is a salt water spray wash on the dock and a few fresh water open showers at the back of the boat. There are also changing rooms on the dock – there was a line for them around 2:15 PM. They request the snorkel equipment be returned by 2:30, about 15 minutes prior to the boat’s departure at 2:45pm.