When we arrived in Florida (Tampa Bay), we were met with less than ideal conditions. The rain was coming down heavily, the traffic was horrible, Natalie was really sick and we were planning to spend the first night in a tent. Not exactly how we had planned this trip to begin!
Thankfully we made it to Sarasota and had a nice evening with Grace.
The next day we drove down to the Florida Keys and camped just outside of Key West. It was a beautiful campground. Our tent was pitched on a peaceful lagoon and we were given passes to visit an exclusive country club that evening.
Later that evening we grabbed some dinner and bought our final supplies as we prepared to leave for Dry Tortugas very early in the morning.
Click here to see the complete Vlog for Dry Tortugas National Park:
After arriving at Key West Bight and receiving instructions from Marty for the kayak, we boarded the Yankee Freedom and arrived at Dry Tortugas, seventy miles away in roughly two and a half hours. For Natalie and I, this was our second trip to Dry Tortugas in the past two years. Last year we spent one night camping. This year we spent three nights (the maximum stay permitted) on the island.
The traditional and obligatory pose before the welcome sign!
Here’s a look at our campsite. It was the same one we had last year. However, this year we were more prepared regarding our food selection. Instead of just bagged tuna fish, we used the grill and enjoyed hamburgers and hot dogs.
We took several tours of the fort. One of our first stops was the cell that formally housed the notorious Dr. Samuel Mudd when Fort Jefferson was remade into a prison. He was the man who set John Wilkes Booth’s leg and was charged as a co-conspirator in the Lincoln assassination.
With the kayak, our first trip was to Loggerhead Key. Dry Tortugas National Park is composed of seven islands. Loggerhead Key is the largest island. It is also uninhabited. For the most past, we were the only ones on the island.
A map showing Garden Key and Loggerhead Key to the west.
Loggerhead from the sky.
Celebration is seen below after we arrived and completed our three-mile voyage over rough sees and deep waters.
The west side of Loggerhead Key has a reef called “Little Africa” which provides some of the best snorkeling in the Keys.
After snorkeling we did not cut across the skinny island to return to our kayak. Rather we walked around the top half of the island. The pictures below were taken during that journey. Most of the shots you see were taken at the very north end tip of the island.
A nice couple named Jordan and Desire landing on the island after coming over in their sailboat. Since the waves picked up due to the wind, they offered to take us back on their sailboat, towing our kayak behind. Below is Natalie as we waited in the shade for them to finish their snorkeling.
The excellent ride on their sailboat back to Garden Key.
Looking for fish late at night as we walked the moat and lunch back on the Yankee Freedom the next day. You think I piled enough food on my plate?
More shots from exploring old Fort Jefferson.
Our kayak trip to Bush and Long Key.
Evening relaxing at our campsite.
This is our favorite first mate, Jeff. Below you can see him giving us a tour of the fort. Jeff is the same guy I was doing push-ups with on the stern of the boat last year.
Packing up and bringing our supplies back to the Ferry during our fourth and final day on Garden Key.
After we returned to Key West, Natalie went out and had a nice dinner. Good food never tasted better!
Another night camping in the Keys…
…then off to Florida Everglades National Park.
Click here to see the complete Vlog for Everglades National Park:
We drove all the way to the end of the park to a location called “Flamingo.” At Flamingo, we rented a canoe.
Our first trip was the nine-mile pond canoe trail. Despite on and off rain, this was a fantastic experience. Guided by dozens of markers (which are absolutely necessary!), the trail wanders through open waters and dense mangroves. We took the “short-cut” which eliminated about three miles. I believe this was a good decision because the water in many places was very shallow and thus hard to get any movement. We did see one alligator.
Our second canoe trip was down the canal near the area where we rented the canoe. The picture below of Natalie and I by the canoes was taken at that location.
Dinner at the Gator Grill just outside the National Park.
Later in the evening we went for a hike on the Anhinga Trail that starts at the Royal Palm Visitor Center.
When it was dark we returned to our campsite and prepared to settle in as we needed to drive to Tampa Bay and depart the following day. Unfortunately, as Natalie was walking to the bathroom in the dark, she almost stepped on a snake – and he didn’t look very friendly. I have a video of the snake in the Vlog. Freaked out by the snake in the grass, she convinced me to move our tent. We spend the night on the concrete road right with the tent pitched right behind the car.