If you love Key West snorkeling, then Dry Tortugas National Park offers some of the best offshore snorkeling in North America, just 70 miles from Key West, Florida. The shallow waters (5-15 feet) make snorkeling at the Dry Tortugas fun for everyone. Whether beginner or expert, you can enjoy an abundance of colorful tropical fish and living coral among the waters. Directly accessible from the brilliant white sand beach, you'll find the Fort Jefferson snorkeling areas. Look for majestic corals, many varieties of tropical fish, starfish, queen conchs, and much more in this protected marine sanctuary. Complementary fins, mask and snorkel are provided.
Upon arrival at Fort Jefferson, the friendly crew of the Yankee Freedom III will provide you with a snorkel, fins and mask for exploring the nearby reefs. Located just in front of the boat pier lies historic Fort Jefferson and the island’s white sandy beaches. To your left are the picnic grounds and campgrounds, and just a short walk away are the island’s many designated snorkel areas. One of the most popular snorkel areas is located approximately 75 yards from the western edge of the moat wall and is a great place to start your snorkel adventure! This area contains beautiful large coral heads, tropical fish, sea grass and various marine life that call the Dry Tortugas home. Here you will also find the South Coaling Dock Ruins, which contain the metal pilings of old coaling docks for experienced snorkelers to explore. In the shallower waters and near the shore you can also find patches of healthy coral reefs, which are havens for marine life and snorkelers of all levels alike.
About the Reefs
The Dry Tortugas is home to some of the most vibrant coral reefs in the United States, and is a snorkeler’s wonderland. The reef stretches from the Dry Tortugas in the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Miami in the Atlantic Ocean. This amazing structure is made up of layers of calcium carbonate secreted by coral polyps throughout thousands of years and is the home of hundreds of tropical fish and marine life. The corals receive their vibrant colors from polyps containing algae called zooxanthellae, which also helps to keep the corals alive. It is important for snorkelers not to touch the corals, as damaging the delicate polyps can make corals susceptible to bleaching and disease. Today’s snorkelers are cautioned to “look but not touch.”
More on Key West Snorkeling Reservations.
For your safety, you should always use the “buddy system” and swim with a friend, never alone! Please do not disturb the coral reefs you explore; it is important to remember that all coral (live and dead), shipwrecks and historic artifacts are protected by law. If you need to stand when you are out in the water, stand in the sand so that you don’t harm reefs or seagrass. You must also remember to display a dive flag outside of the designated snorkel area and to check your equipment before you begin your snorkel adventure. Keep in mind that weather can affect snorkeling conditions.
Download a map of the Fort Jefferson snorkel areas.