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The Dry Tortugas and Marquesas Keys

Named on Top 10 lists by USA Today, Islands Magazine and Rachael Ray Magazine, Dry Tortugas National Park is one of those must-do Key West attractions. Soft sand, turquoise toned waves and tropical fish surround this massive brick FL Keys structure of Fort Jefferson. Panoramic views can be seen from all around the historic all-brick fort, and there is a walkway around the moat at sea level.

The area around the fort was discovered in 1513 by Ponce de Leon. He named it Tortugas, which means turtles, after he caught more than 100 sea turtles. The fort and the surrounding area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Located on Garden Key, about 70 miles from Key West, Fort Jefferson was built to protect the shipping lanes in the Gulf of Mexico after the War of 1812. During the Civil War, it held prisoners and deserters. The most famous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, an American doctor who conspired with John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. The area was designated as a Florida Keys bird sanctuary in 1908, and it was transferred to the Department of Agriculture.

Fishing, swimming, snorkeling, camping, bird watching and sightseeing can all be enjoyed at the Dry Tortugas. Take a guided tour of the historic fort led by an expert naturalist. Snorkel and swim with colorful fish, or relax along secluded beaches. Bring your binoculars to catch sight of several types of terns that include sooty, brown noddy and black noddy.

Dry Tortugas Key West trips can be booked by seaplane or with the Yankee Freedom II, the park's official ferry. This state-of-the-art high-speed catamaran transports guests to and from the park in just over two hours. Breakfast, lunch and snorkel gear are provided.

Click here for a detailed history of the Dry Tortugas & Fort Jefferson.

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