National Parks, Uncategorized

Our National Adventure at the Dry Tortugas!

The Dry Tortugas is the southern-most National Park off the continental US just a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride from Key West! We were so excited to finally visit after months of anticipation.

Camping: although you can pitch a tent outside Fort Jefferson on the main island in the national park, we opted for a day trip. In fact, we left our 5th wheel at the Miami-Everglades Thousand Trails / Encore Park ($20 per night with camping / zone pass). There are many other options closer to Key West, but still almost an hours’ drive to the harbor. With a 7am arrival time, we opted for a hotel and a 5 minute drive. Although difficult to find spots in most places around Key West, we were able to park our Ram 3500 long bed dually in the city parking garage across from the Harbor for a small day fee charge.

Yankee Freedom Ferry Fees: You must make reservations to take the Ferry to the Dry Tortugas by booking a trip on the Yankee Freedom here. The cost is $180 per adult and $125 per child over 4. If you have a National Parks Pass, be sure to bring it along because they will reimburse you $15 per adult when you checkin before boarding.

The Ride over: You board the Ferry in groups. If you are prone to being sea sick, I suggest purchasing the dramamine. The tour guides suggested one pill for kids and two for adults. I opted out and regretted it about half way through the ride!! Also, find seating on the lower deck towards the back… way less bumpy!

They do provide a nice small breakfast buffet once the boat gets rolling. No need to pack food unless you want to snack during the day, but I suggest bringing plenty of water. The main guide was very knowledgeable in his presentation during the first part of the ride. We did all get sea sick about 1/2 way through and ended up with our doggie bags sitting in the way back of the boat. The waves were about 5-6 feet and they advised it would be pretty choppy for most of the ride. It smoothed out as we got close to the park.

As you can see from our YouTube Channel video above, the experience was wonderful for adults and kids. The kids were provided snorkeling gear and spent a good hour out in the water looking at the fish. Hiking around the roof was manageable, even for someone like me who fears heights. There is plenty of history to be learned and interesting rooms to visit!

If we ever go back, we would plan to pitch a tent!

Alison’s thoughts:

The island is beautiful and so relaxing! Garden Key was amazing! The conch shells, beach and marine life are just out of this world incredible! We had fish literally swimming next to us in clear blue water and saw conch shells everywhere along the shore. Birds flew above us and out on the seaside like I’ve never seen before. Truly, this entire area is beautiful and I hope one day to come back.

National Parks

Our National Adventure through the Everglades!

Heading down from Florida’s Gulf Coast, we found a perfect spot south of Miami and 30 minutes from both the Shark Valley Visitor Center at the Everglades and Biscayne National Park. Here’s a video of our experience. Camping, tour and written experience below.

Camping: although you can camp in the Everglades, we opted out due to all the stories of Burmese Pythons and thoughts of Alligators invading our camper! We parked our 5th Wheel at the Miami Everglades Thousand Trails / Encore Park for $20 per night with our Thousand Trails Membership.

Everglades Tour: this is one of the few times we decided to book a tour instead of hiking. We’re glad we did since the tour tram goes along the same narrow path as the bikes and hikers, pushing them extremely close to the edge where they could turn into a Happy Meal for one of the several gators we passed.

Tours book-up fast and you should plan to schedule your tour a few days ahead of time during the summer. They depart every hour from the Shark Valley Visitor Center. You can make a reservations online (links at end of post). When you plan your visit, be sure to add time in case you need to walk from the main state road to the visitor center. Parking is extremely limited at the visitor center and we had to walk it in. It was fun though, since we spotted our first Alligator on that walk in!

The tour guide and driver were very friendly and full of information. They spoke about the history of the Everglades being donate as land from the Oil and Gas Industry, but also about the current issue with Exotic Animals being left there and the impact on the ecology. About half way through, you make it to the only viewing tower in the entire national park. You can see so much wildlife from there.

In all, the kids gave the experience an thumbs up. Definitely worth a day trip or 1/2 day.

Shark Valley Tram Tour

Miami Everglades Thousand Trails Encore Park