Dry Tortugas National Park Ferry! The best way to get to the park!

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The official Dry Tortugas National Park ferry is the Yankee Freedom III.  The Yankee Freedom III is the only ferry that goes to Dry Tortugas.  There are 5 different ways to get to the park. You could take the Yankee Freedom III ferry, you could take a seaplane provided by Key West Seaplane Adventures, you could take a private boat, you could take a private seaplane, and finally, you could take a charter boat. The most popular way to get to the park is the Yankee Freedom III ferry.

Prices and What you get?

Adults pay $175, kids(4-16) are $125, kids under 4 are free and seniors pay $165. This will include the price to enter the park.  So that you can compare the seaplane would be $600 for adults and $480 for kids for the full day adventure.

With the Yankee Freedom III ferry, you get breakfast, lunch, complimentary snorkeling equipment, and a 45-minute professional guided tour of Fort Jefferson.

You can bring your camping gear to camp out at Garden Key. You can also bring your kayak to explore the park even more. Yankee Freedom III will charge $20 buck to transport your kayak round trip.

Timeline for the DAY!

Check-in begins at 7 am, if you are camping check-in begins at 6:30 am.  Boarding time is 7:30 am. During this time they will be serving breakfast. Departure time is 8 am. You’ll travel at a cruising speed of 30 mph arriving at Fort Jefferson around 10:15-10:30 am depending on the weather.

The ride is about 2.5 hours.  They will serve lunch between 11 am – 1 pm. Lunch will be served on the Yankee Freedom III however you can take your lunch and eat at one of the many picnic tables on Garden Key. You’ll be able to spend about 4.5 hours at the park until it is time to go. You will leave Fort Jefferson at 3 pm traveling the 2.5 hours back to Key West arriving at 5:30 pm.

Check out the National Park Services: Dry Tortugas for the latest weather conditions. Remember Dry Tortugas is subtropical meaning any time of the year is a good time to go. Of course, not during a hurricane but you know what I mean.

Where is the Yankee Freedom III Terminal?

It is really important that you know where the Yankee Freedom III ferry terminal is located before you go.  You don’t want to be lost the morning of your expedition trying to find where the departure location is.  The ticket booth, Dry Tortugas Museum, and terminal are all within the same area. You can walk the pier and eventually find them.

Below is a screenshot of Google Maps.  Click the link to view the location with Google Maps.  If you plan on walking over to the Yankee Freedom III terminal from your hotel make sure you plan accordingly. Give yourself enough time to walk over.

Try to remember key landmarks so you know where you are. For example, if you know where Mallory Square is then you can get over to the Yankee Freedom III terminal by walking the pier. If you walk the pier over you’ll be able to see the Dry Tortugas Museum. It is free to enter and it will give you some insight on what you are about to do.

You can get the tickets online or at the ticket booth. The ticket booth is around the same area as the Dry Tortugas Museum and the departure terminal. The ticket booth is at 240 Margaret St.  Just stop by the day before you go and get them.

Just make sure you know where you are going the day before your adventure. Waking up at 6 am to run around the city trying to find the departure location isn’t fun. I stayed at the Margaritaville in Key West and thought I could easily find the departure location the morning of the trip. I did get lost and barely made it in time. It was really stressful running around trying to find the departure location on a deadline. If you know where it is you’ll be less stressed and be ready to have more fun.

Going to Dry Tortugas National Park Via Yankee Freedom III

The Yankee Freedom III ferry has basically 3 areas where you can stand and or set. The top deck has an outside and inside section, the middle deck and an inside and bow section, and the stern which is the back deck is where you can stand.

The top deck has an awesome view. There are open seats where you can set and take a look at the amazing views. Also, there is an inside section on the top deck where you can set and watch a video, eat your breakfast, take a nap or whatever.

The middle deck is where they’ll serve breakfast and lunch. The middle deck has the most inside seatings.  The best thing about the middle deck is the bow of the ship. You can set out there and experience the boat ride in a really fun way. Also, the middle deck has the boat’s 3 restrooms.  Just so you know there aren’t any restrooms at Dry Tortugas National Park. Just what is on Yankee Freedom III.

The stern is where they recommend people go if they get sick. They recommend going toward the back of the boat because it has less up and down. When I went there were several people who got seasick on the way there, however, on the way back, no one got seasick. I hung out at the stern and enjoyed the waves, air, and views. It’s a great place to hang out.

The two half-hour boat ride seems to go quickly. As you go you will be able to see small little islands and sometimes nothing at all. You are free to roam around the boat as you please.  Sometimes though if the water is super choppy they won’t let you hang out on the bow of the ship.

I did not find the boat ride difficult at all. Although I did buy some motion sickness pill before the ride just in case. If you get motion sickness then you can buy motion sickness pills at the terminal before you take off. They sell them for $1. I bought some for the way there and the way back. I wasn’t risking it. I have been seasick before and it can ruin an entire day or vacation.

The tour guides at Yankee Freedom III are really nice people.  If you do get sick they will do everything possible to make you feel better. They are really friendly people.  They are also very happy to answer any questions you might have about the park.

They serve alcohol only on the way back to Key West. I supposed to prevent people from being drunk walking around the top level of Fort Jefferson. Good call lol.

The ride with Yankee Freedom III was fun but it had several pros and cons. Below I listed what I thought about the trip. It isn’t a list of things I founded on different blogs or websites. Just my experience.

Pros and Cons of the Yankee Freedom III Ferry

Pro:

♦ It is the cheapest way to get to the park, other than owning your own boat or seaplane.

♦ Yankee Freedom III will carry your camping equipment and kayak. The Seaplane Adventures don’t carry equipment.

♦ You also get complimentary snorkel equipment that you can use at the park. You can snorkel on the north and south swim beaches on Garden Key (island Fort Jefferson is on). There are gorgeous reefs and beautiful marine life that will certainly impress you.

♦ The ability to freely walk around the ship and park and not have to take the tours they give. There are no assigned seats so you can move around as you want.

♦ The crew of Yankee Freedom III actually tries to make it a special trip for you. You can tell they enjoy it.

Cons:

♦ The only restrooms on the island are the 3 restrooms on the Yankee Freedom III. The island is very isolated. There is no running water, store or anything. You can get souvenirs at the visitor center inside Fort Jefferson.

♦ You can’t bring scuba gear. Although complementary snorkeling equipment is provided they don’t allow scuba gear on board. You can bring your own snorkeling stuff though.

♦ The lunch isn’t that good. The lunch that is served is sandwiches, chips, drinks, and a dessert/cookie. It is very basic but should be able to hold you over until you get back to Key West at 5:30 p.m. The Yankee Freedom III does sell additional snacks such as candy, burgers, hotdogs, pizza, and pretzels if you want them.  Just wish they were included in the price.

♦ Didn’t feel like you got enough time at the park. 4.5 hours went by quick.  You’ll easily spend 2 hours exploring Fort Jefferson. Then if you go swimming or snorkeling you could easily spend 2.5 hours swimming around and looking at all the underwater wildlife. Not to mention the time it takes to eat lunch. Walking around Bush Key if it is open would take about an hour.  It just didn’t feel like enough time was spent at the park that’s all.

♦ Yankee Freedom III is the only ferry that goes to Dry Tortugas. You don’t really have much of an option. For me there was no way I could drop $600 bucks for the seaplane even thought it would be awesome, it simply wasn’t in the budget. The only option I had was the Yankee Freedom III. I researched charter boats but they were more expensive. It’s a cool idea though. Check out the National Park Service Charter Boats Dry Tortugas if you are interested.

Final Thoughts

Only about 80,000 people a year visit Dry Tortugas National Park. The 2.5-hour boat ride or the 40-minute seaplane ride might be too much for some people. Heck, I figured you only live once.  Even though it was a lot of money it was an incredible experience. You’ll enter an entirely different world especially if you take full advantage of the things to do at the park.

Snorkeling around is probably the funniest activity at the park. You will be impressed with Fort Jefferson and the incredible architecture but it’s the underwater world that is truly amazing. There isn’t enough time in the day to really enjoy the park to the fullest. Imagine kayaking out to Loggerhead Key. It’s 3.1 miles from Garden Key. Just take a look at the google map. Yeah! truly amazing!

Taking the Yankee Freedom III was an awesome part of the trip. Feeling the waves, the sun, the breeze really got me in the mood for an island adventure.  All and all I feel it was worth the price. It’s one of those things you’ll probably do only once in your life. Book your reservations here at Yankee Freedom III or just get them in Key West when you are there. The Yankee Freedom III is open all year around.

Well, thank you for reading this article. If you want to know more about Dry Tortugas you can check out the Dry Tortugas page on this site. I’m currently in the process of building out all the links. I hope you enjoy your trip to Dry Tortugas National Park. Next, I’ll be writing a blog piece about Fort Jefferson. Stay tune! you’ll really be impressed by the 16 million bricks that make up this massive man-made structure.

Please like, share, and comment. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to leave a review or let me know what you think.  Travel happy friends 🙂

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