Though certainly not the easiest park to get to in the United States, if you are able to arrange a night or two camping in Dry Tortugas National Park, you’ll find amazing seclusion and relaxation in one of the most beautiful beach settings around. In fact, you’ll likely feel like one of the luckiest people alive! The sky is truly dark, and you’ll get the opportunity to sleep while you hear the calming waves. There is no need for a “sleep machine” here!
With a bit of logistical planning (including getting to the park and packing for your stay), a night on the white sand beaches is within reach! Hopefully this guide on how to camp in Dry Tortugas National Park helps you accomplish your dream!
DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK CAMPGROUNDS: OVERVIEW
Camping in Dry Tortugas National Park is only available on Garden Key, which is the main island in the park. While this makes it easy to choose where you will camp, it also makes it a bit challenging as space is extremely limited. Don’t fret, though, as there is an overflow area to use, if needed. Essentially, if you get to the park to camp, you will be able to spend the night there.
Dry Tortugas is one of the least visited parks in the US National Park system and is never crowded on the island. However, you’ll still want to be sure you get a reservation to get to the park ahead of time. There are several options to get to Dry Tortugas, but only one option is really viable for campers:
- The most popular travel method is by taking the ferry. The Yankee Freedom III heads out once per day from Key West. It’s a high-speed catamaran that takes just over 2 hours. Included with the ferry ride is snorkeling gear. They limit the number of total campers that they’ll take to 10, so be sure when you make reservations (which you need to do!) that you let them know that you’ll be camping. Campers also have to arrive by 6:00 AM to have their gear loaded. All gear is searched ahead of loading it on the ferry. In addition, you are not allowed to take liquid fuel, weapons (including hatchets, hunting knives), fireworks or compressed gas.
- The fastest way to arrive is by seaplane, which is an amazing experience. The pilots will give you a rare view of Fort Jefferson. However, the seaplanes are only for daytime excursions and they won’t carry campers.
- You can also travel from Key West via private boat or charter, but this requires individual research and is quite costly, particularly for camping.
Camping on the island is first-come, first-served, but all campers are guaranteed a spot once they arrive. More will be covered on that later.
For camping supplies, if you need groceries there are several options on the Keys, including a few in Key West. If you are need of camping gear, the best option is to gather anything you need before you leave mainland Florida. Homestead, FL is the best option if you need larger superstores. Once you get on the ferry, other than the help from nearby campers, you will be on your own. This includes needing to bring your own water!
Ahead of your trip, download our guide for Dry Tortugas National Park. We include what to pack, where to stay when visiting, how to book your reservations to the island and what to see while you are in the area. Plus, you can’t plan on cell phone reception in the park, and it’ll be helpful to have this as a reference!
DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK CAMPING
Map of Dry Tortugas National Park camping area, courtesy of the National Park Service
Garden Key Walk-In Campground:
- Location: The Garden Key Campground is conveniently located just west (to the left) of the dock that is used by the Yankee Freedom III.
- Accessible via: Walking after taking the ferry. There are also carts to help you bring your camp gear to a site.
- Capacity: 8 sites plus overflow.
- Electricity / Water Hookups / Dump Station: No / No / No.
- Toilets / Showers: Composting toilets are available whenever the ferry boat is not During this time (10 am to 3 pm, approximately), use the restroom facilities located on the ferry. There are no showers available.
- Nearby: What’s great about this location is that it is in the middle of all main attractions on Garden Key. This includes Fort Jefferson, snorkeling and sunbathing locations.
- Additional details: As mentioned earlier, you need to be sure to bring everything with you that you’re going to need when camping, including water. You also need to carry all the trash that you create out of the park on your way back on the ferry. Click here for the latest information on the campground in Dry Tortugas.
DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK CAMPGROUNDS - GROUP CAMPING
Group camping is available in Dry Tortugas National Park. It has enough space for about 15 tents, several picnic tables and two grills. Be sure to book well ahead, though!
CAMPING OUTSIDE DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK
If you don’t want to camp on the island and need something with more in the way of creature comforts, there is plenty of camping in the Florida Keys, including in Key West. Be sure to book well in advance, though!
If you are up for boondocking, the Florida Keys are one of the most challenging places to find free camping. As of this writing, there are no known free campsites in the Keys.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Be sure to get your copy of our Dry Tortugas National Park Itinerary!
- For a great overview of the park, check out our extensive blog on What to See and Do in Dry Tortugas National Park.
- While you are in the area, don’t forget to visit Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park! Nearby Everglades National Park is also Big Cypress National Preserve, which is worth checking out.
- After your trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, check out how we can work with you to create a custom, vintage travel poster from a photo that you send to us! We have worked with thousands of customers and would love to work with you!