My husband and son and their buddies love to go down here to fish. I don't eat fish so I rarely go with them.
Equipment: The boys usually stop at a shrimp boat on the way down. The shrimpers sleep during the day and work at night. They will give you a pail of shrimp for beer or other recreational drinks or drugs.
There is no fuel sold at Ft. Jefferson so you need to bring all that you need with you.
There is a good anchorage off the fort. It used to be that you could come into it from either end, but the access from the north side has drifted shut, so you have to go all the way around the fort and come in from the south. Vessels may only anchor overnight on sandy bottom within one nautical mile of the Garden Key Harbor Light. Vessels in Garden Key Harbor may not anchor west of a line extending from SW Channel marker #12 to the westernmost tip of Bush Key
Boat permits are now required for all vessels in the park. They are free and can be obtained at Garden Key. Night activities, such as fishing and diving, will be allowed by permit only
You should have a holding tank for black water wastes and it should be possible to lock the overboard dumping facility (if any) shut. This is a no-discharge zone.
You will need a good anchoring system. Anchored vessels may not be left unattended for more than 4 hours unless the boat operator is within sight of the vessel and capable of responding to it for on board emergencies. The docks are reserved for the tourist ferries. If you drag into the coral, there will be a fine.
Equipment: There are no facilities here - no showers, no stores, no fuel docks, no place to purchase food. Nothing. Bring everything that you need. Small power boats will sometimes have to tow a dinghy with an extra fuel drum because they can't carry enough fuel to get all the way back.
You will need some kind of small boat to get from your boat to the beach. A kayak or inflatable dinghy will work.
Snorkel gear is provided as part of the price of your ticket on the boat. You will be on the island for 4 hours or so. Some of the best snorkeling is near the ruins of the piers.
Equipment: Swimsuit and Sunscreen. Snorkeling gear is provided.
You can get to the Dry Tortugas on a boat or a plane. But in order to really see the area, you need a little dinghy or kayak. With a kayak, you can get to remote beaches and keys. Sea kayaking is increasingly popular and many cruisers have kayaks which they use as dinghys to get ashore from the anchored boat.
But not all kayakers are boaters. We talked to some of the campers who had brought kayaks with them and kayaked out around to some of the other keys around Garden Key. They also kayaked out and talked to the folks on some of the boats in the anchorage.
Equipment: If you are going to bring kayaks you will probably have to come on the ferry rather than the plane. Of course there are no rental kayaks available in the Dry Tortugas.
When the birds are nesting you can't go to Bush Key, but if the weather is good you can go out to the lighthouse.
There is also a walkway around the moat enabling you to walk all the way around the fort. It is a small island so it is a short, easy walk.
Equipment: Wlking shoes, sunscreen, a hat, water.