How to Choose Between the Seaplane or Ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park

Fun fact: Dry Tortugas is the most remote National Park in the United States! That makes perfect sense when you find out it’s 80-miles away from the closest city, you can only get there from one place (Key West), and that it’s kind of expensive and time-consuming to get there. Once you’ve decided to go, though, don’t let anything stop you!

Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the most beautiful places in the Gulf of Mexico, and you won’t regret your visit. To make things a little easier for you, I’ve put together a quick guide to help you figure out how to get there: seaplane or ferry? Here’s everything you need to know to make the best choice for you!

Fort Jefferson from the Air
Check out the Dry Tortugas National Park website for more!

Quick Facts

If you’re like me, you just want the facts! Here are some important ones to help you make a quick choice:

  • Want to SCUBA dive while you’re there? Take the ferry. Though the seaplane flies at a low enough altitude to allow you to safely SCUBA within 24 hours, the Seaplane cannot transport dive tanks. 
  • Short on time? Take the seaplane. The ferry is exclusively for a full day trip; the seaplane has a half day option for you. 
  • Tight budget? Take the ferry. It’s $190 for the ferry (which includes the $15, cash-only National Park Entry Fee) instead of $361 for the seaplane (which does not include the National Park fee). 
The fort ruins are hauntingly beautiful!
Related: Flying for Beginners: A Guide

Seaplane: Key West Seaplane Adventures

This is the only commercial seaplane that flies to Dry Tortugas National Park. You won’t find a cheaper flight or more convenient times–this is it! Here are the details.

Cost

Only you can decide which transportation is worth the cost to you. It will depend on your budget, time constraints, and which experience you want to have–from the air or from the sea! *Prices are from January 2021.

  • Half day: $361 per person (does NOT include $15 National Park Entry Fee).
  • Full Day: $634 per person (does NOT include $15 National Park Entry Fee).
  • FREE parking at the airport.
  • Flight cost is fully refundable up to 24 hours before departure.
Getting ready for our flight back!
More here: What to Expect Flying in a Tiny Plane

Fast Facts

  • Half day: 4 hours total; 2.5 hours on-island
  • Full day: 8 hours total; 6.5 hours on-island
  • Departure Times: 8:00am, 10:00am, 12:00pm, 2:00pm
Seaplane coming in!
More here: What to Know Before You Visit the Dry Tortugas

Pros

  • Scenic flight with view of shipwrecks, sea life, and Fort Jefferson from the air
  • Low-altitude flying means you can dive at the National Park or Key West the same day
  • Half-day option available
  • FREE parking at the airport
  • Alone time on the island—the morning flight arrives long before the ferry, and the return ferry leaves long before the late afternoon return flight (despite this, you’ll still beat the ferry back to Key West)
  • Snorkeling equipment provided
  • No TSA security
Going on an adventure!
More here: What It’s Like to Take the Seaplane to Dry Tortugas

Cons

  • Price does not include National Park Entrance Fee ($15 per person), but you will need to pay in cash when you check in for your flight.
  • Cannot carry SCUBA tanks to or from Dry Tortugas due to weight restrictions.
See the tiny airplane?
Keep reading: Why Now is the Safest Time to Fly

Ferry: Yankee Freedom III

This is the only commercial ferry that goes to Dry Tortugas National Park. You won’t find a better price or a different time that may work better for you. Here are the details!

The ferry comes in about 10:30 am.
Read on: Travel Splurges Worth the Price

Cost

The ferry is the more economical way to the island, but it still has its pros and cons! *Prices from January 2021.

  • Day Trip: $190 (includes $15 National Park Entry Fee)
  • Overnight: $210 (does NOT include $15-$30 campsite fee)
  • Parking at Ferry Terminal: $32 per day.
The Yankee Freedom III
More here: 9 Habits of Successful Travelers

Fast Facts

  • Total Time: 10 hours and 15 minutes (4 hours and 45 minutes on the island).
  • Time on the Ferry: 2 hours and 15 minutes each way (5 hours on the ferry round-trip).
  • Check in: 1 hour before departure.
  • Board: 30 minutes before departure.
Personal sea vessels are allowed to visit as well.
More here: 7 Travel Rules You Don’t Know Until Someone Tells You

Pros

  • Less expensive than the seaplane.
  • Breakfast provided.
  • Box Lunch provided.
  • Snorkeling equipment provided.
  • Includes $15 National Park Entrance Fee.
Don’t forget to walk around the top of the fort for the best views!
Read next: The Best Tips for Hiking Anywhere

Cons

  • Seas can be rough (take seasickness medication with you).
  • Longer travel time (over two hours vs. 40 minutes of flight time).
  • Day trip only (no half-day trip available).
  • No view from the air.
However you visit, a trip to Dry Tortugas National Park is worth your while!
Keep reading: What to Know Before You Visit Key West

So which one would you choose? Comment below and start planning your trip!

Want more? Check out all my Key West and Florida posts on my United States Page!

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Published by quickwhittravel

Hey there! I am an avid traveller and adventurer, and you're always welcome to join me! The things I love most are God, my husband Steve, and seeing new places! My favorite places include Sydney, Australia; Ise City, Japan; and Bergen, Norway--but there's always room for more favorite places!

6 thoughts on “How to Choose Between the Seaplane or Ferry to Dry Tortugas National Park

  1. Do they have a guide for the tour if you take the first plane ride out before the ferry arrives?

    1. Excellent question! The National Park Service no longer does guided tours of the fort (not COVID-related; this has been the case for a few years now—I asked!), but there are several informational signs and several Park Rangers to ask question while you’re there. I definitely recommend the first flight of the day so you can have some time at the fort before the ferry arrives!

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