Most of the fun things to do at Dry Tortugas National Park are in the water but that doesn't mean walking enthusiasts should give the park a miss. Many of the islands are just perfect for exploring on foot and small enough that you will be able to see every inch of them. Although there are no hotels near Dry Tortugas National Park, National Park camping is available and this allows for even better walking opportunities once the daytrippers have left in late afternoon.
y This is the largest of the islands, and where you will find Fort Jefferson. Choose between walking around the historic fort itself or around the defensive moat. There is beach right around the island which makes the perfect sunset walking spot for unrivalled views.
Loggerhead Key is criss-crossed by paths and walkers must stick to marked routes to avoid disturbing the island's many loggerhead turtles. Walk to the Key's lighthouse for a tropical photo opportunity not to be missed.
At low tide Bush Key is connected to Garden Key by a sand spit, so why not take the opportunity to explore them both? Bush Key is an important bird sanctuary and may be off limits at certain times of years when the local sooty terns are raising their chicks.
It's two and a half hours by boat to Dry Tortugas National Park and as National Park Cabins aren't available, make the most of your adventure by booking in advance for camping. This will allow you to enjoy the park in peace and solitude, finding your own spot under a swaying palm tree on the beach. Dry Tortugas isn't just somewhere to relax though, as active types will find a wide range of things to keep them occupied.
The seas around the Keys are rich with wildlife, from tropical fish to corals. There are also a number of shipwrecks in the area which provide unusual habitats for all types of fish and other sea creatures. You don't need to go out far from land to start seeing a wide display of colored fish and corals.
Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt, using a GPS set or your phone to find fiendishly hidden little containers to see what's inside. There are several of these in Dry Tortugas Park and this is a great way of getting kids involved in exploring.
Fishing is permitted in several locations in the park, so buy a licence and pick up some bait and tackle before leaving Key West. What could be better than catching some grey snapper and then cooking it over the campfire as you watch the sun going down over the Gulf of Mexico?
A Dry Tortugas trip gives everyone in the family the chance to experience a very different environment. One of the most popular family activities is the ride out to the park in the seaplane, which will thrill even the most reluctant child. Kids who are interested in animals will love Dry Tortugas National Park and, as National Park cabins don't exist on the islands, this makes it a quiet, unspoiled location for some great family time.
The huge Fort Jefferson is the largest brick structure in the Americas and was built in the 1820s. Take a guided tour around the fort or just explore under your own steam. There is a small museum and shop on site.
Visit the rangers in the Visitor Center in Jefferson Fort and pick up a handbook which teaches kids all about the history, wildlife and habitats on the islands. Work through the activities and once completed, your kids will be the proud owners of a Dry Tortugas Park junior ranger badge to take home. They can then go on to get additional badges with a focus on underwater wildlife or history.
The beaches around the marked swimming areas on Garden Key are gently sloping and ideal for safe family swimming. Older kids can strap on the snorkel masks and see all sorts of marine animals close to shore.