Endless Summer in the National Parks: Hit the Beach

Garden Key, Dry Tortugas NP, FL
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Garden Key, Dry Tortugas NP, FL
loggerhead key

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse. (Photo by B. Altmeier/NOAA)

We’d forgive you for parking it in the sand upon arrival at the primitive Garden Key campground. For one, you’ve just reached the end of a long journey, capped by a two-hour boat ride into the Gulf of Mexico. And for two, the palm-shaded refuge in the shadows of a 19th-century military outpost is the kind of place where sunbathing, fishing for tarpon and bonefish, and snorkeling can tie up entire weeks. But you came all this way. So buck up, slide into your flip-flops, and kayak 3 miles west to Loggerhead Key, the largest of the seven Dry Tortugas islands (BYO kayak; for experienced paddlers only). Snorkel the 22,000-square-foot Little Africa Reef on the key’s western side or check out the Windjammer shipwreck off the southern tip. Return to Garden Key to camp. No kayak? Park yourself on that beach after all. Average January high/low 75°F/65°F Dry season November to May CampingFirst-come, first-serve; $3/person/night Ferry $195/person if camping/$175 for day trips; (prices are round-trip and ferry leaves from Key West; includes two meals and snorkeling gear); Permit Required for kayaking; free