Editor's note: The following is an advertiser-supported article from the Essential Park Guide, Spring 2017.
One of America’s most quintessential road trips often starts by renting a convertible or RV in South Florida and organizing a tropical journey to the southernmost point in the continental United States. Visitors to this island oasis encounter a lifetime’s worth of natural wonders preserved by our State and National Park Services, along with plenty of fun in the sun, eco-adventures, and an opportunity to disconnect from the real world.
Fun In The Sun
The Florida Keys offer some of the best weather conditions in the United States during the spring. Therefore, if you’re considering visiting during this season, take advantage of the beautiful climate by planning your trip with an emphasis on the outdoor lifestyle. Catching your dinner straight from the ocean, dining al fresco, celebrating the nightly sunsets, and bicycling around town are just a few of the traditions that locals have been enjoying for decades.
Just 70 miles west of Key West, Florida, seven small islands constitute one of the most remote national parks in the United States hosting fewer than 80,000 visitors per year. Guests can only access the park by seaplane, private charter, and once-in-a-lifetime day trips aboard the Yankee Freedom III. Upon arrival, guests experience picturesque vistas, white sandy beaches, and aquamarine water as far as the eye can see. Choosing a day trip aboard the Yankee Freedom III ferry offers the most economical and all-inclusive way to experience Dry Tortugas National Park and the historic Civil War landmark Fort Jefferson. Use the ferry as your home base while you tour the fort, walk the sandy beaches, bird watch, and snorkel the warm, clear waters.
Experiencing a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park is like a microcosm of everything that makes the Florida Keys a world-class vacation destination. You’ll learn history, unplug from the daily grind, bask in the tropical sunshine, and explore untouched eco-treasures that only a fraction of the world has encountered.
What better way to enjoy the tropical scenery that the Florida Keys are famous for than camping out among nature? Because the area is rich and diverse with so many beautiful eco-attractions, those who enjoy the great outdoors have a myriad of choices when it comes to camping. Primitive camping under the stars can be found at Dry Tortugas National Park, whereas tropical “glamping” in an RV is better suited for Bahia Honda State Park near Marathon, or John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo.
Home to the only living barrier reef in the continental United States, the Florida Keys offer unforgettable snorkeling experiences. Because the water is warm year-round and the climate is nearly perfect, you can snorkel in any season, but the spring is one of the best times to explore. For beginner snorkelers, the shallow waters of the backcountry are a great place to start. Although for any level, from novice to veteran, the variety of snorkel tour options are abundant, with tour companies offering professional instruction, top-of-the-line gear and easy ways to get in and out of the water. Once you’re in the water, the sight of the vibrant, thriving reef with its colorful inhabitants will awe you. From sea turtles, tropical fish and the coral itself, to many marine species you cannot see anywhere else on earth, snorkeling in the Florida Keys is an extraordinary eco-experience.
Living The Dream
You’ll find that residents and visitors of the Florida Keys truly embody the laid-back Caribbean lifestyle and there are few destinations in the United States that compare. Insiders tip: April and May are excellent times to visit because the snowbirds have started to migrate back north, the water is warm, and the weather is still better than 70 percent of the country.
So as you plan your next spring vacation, consider visiting the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas National Park. Whether it’s a relaxing getaway you’re seeking or a trip full of adventure, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful tropical oasis, a destination that’s truly paradise.