Dry Tortugas National Park

The Dry Tortugas are seven islands located nearly 70 miles west of Key West. You can take the official concesionare ferry (the Yankee Freedom), a seaplane or your own boat to get there. Most visitors plan a day trip by ferry. The ferry costs about $175 per person, but check during the year for coupons. They sometimes give $25-$50 off. You should know, the Yankee Freedom ferry is very fast and several people were seasick on our trip. We took Bonine just in case and were fine. We stood out in the front of the ferry for most of the trip back and forth. I saw a huge sea turtle! You can also camp for $8 per night. The Yankee Freedom ferry will carry your gear for you. The campsites were pretty nice and some were shaded by trees. They were steps from a beautiful beach.

The Island you will visit on your day trip is Garden Key. Most of the island is taken up by Fort Jefferson. This fort was built from 1846-1875. It was built to protect an important shipping channel. In 1825 a lighthouse was built to warn vessels about the dangerous reefs. There are many shipwrecks all around the islands. The fort was also used as a prison during the Civil War. Audobon loved the islands for bird watching and Hemingway for sport fishing.

There were two tours offered of the fort. A 30 minute one and one that took an hour and 1/2. Craig and I just did a self guided tour. There are apps you can download for this. We toured the fort for about half an hour-45 minutes, got our national park stamps in the visitor center and then went snorkeling with our new masks! We rinsed off, changed and had lunch on the ferry. Then we went back out to take more pictures. I also got a new t-shirt in the gift shop. It takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to Garden Key by ferry. We left at 8am from Key West and got back about 5pm. We did not feel rushed, but would love to spend more time on the islands camping for our next trip.

It was a great visit and our 18th national park! Craig and I were celebrating our 20th anniversary and we had a wonderful time in the Florida Keys and the three Florida national parks. More posts about our Florida road trip soon!

Salem Maritime NHS

The Salem Maritime NHS was the first National Historic Site in the United States (1938.) Salem is well known for the Witch Trials, but it was one of the most important seaports in American history. Salem was settled by Europeans in 1626 at the mouth of the Naumkeag river. It was the site of an ancient Native American village. By 1790, Salem had become the sixth largest city in the country, and was a world-famous seaport. There used to be 50 ports in Salem at one time. Now there are 3 remaining. Ships came back from sailing the world with sugar, rum, silks, oranges and even exotic animals. The animals were kept in the basement of the Custom House while awaiting sale to zoos, circuses and collectors.

The Visitors Center is a great place to start your visit. There are bathrooms, a film, a gift shop and lots of local info and brochures. You can also get your National Park passports stamped here! 

“The site includes the Custom House, Public Stores, Scale House, Hawkes House, Derby House, West India Goods Store, Pedricks Store House, a lighthouse and three historic wharves. The park also maintains and operates a replica tallship, the Friendship of Salem.” (NPS) There are different tours during the day, so you may want to check in before you go to see what is being offered. If you can tour the Friendship do it! You can go above and below deck and see the captain’s quarters.

If you are interested in Maritime history- Boston, the North Shore and the Cape Ann areas of Massachusetts are wonderful places to come visit! Here is a great list of maritime museums you may want to add to your trip. We have been to Boston National Historic Park, The Essex Shipbuilding Museum, Gloucester, Marblehead, Lowell’s Boat Shop, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Peabody Essex Museum many times. They all are worth seeing.  The fall is an amazing time in Salem and Labor Day weekend/September Gloucester has their beautiful Schooner Fest.