Dry Tortugas National Park
Finding a beach on a coral island like Key West isn't as easy as you may think. To spend the day on a quiet natural stretch of sand, locals like to hop a ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park, 70 miles from Key West. The 100-square-mile park, which encompasses seven small islands and the sea between them, is easily accessible by the Yankee Freedom, which departs from the Key West Ferry Terminal for day trips. The Dry Tortugas were discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513 and named after the large population of sea turtles (turtle is tortuga in Spanish) on the islands. The main island, Garden Key, is home to Fort Jefferson, a six-sided fortress constructed of 16 million handmade red bricks. Today you can tour the grounds and learn about the fort's history. The islands' exquisite beaches include South Swim Beach, Seaplane Beach, Dinghy Beach, and North Swim Beach. Visitors can snorkel the reefs surrounding the main island to see tropical fish, starfish, queen conchs, and, of course, turtles.
By GiAnna Wyatt, AFAR Local Expert
Unnamed Road, Key West, FL 33040, USA