Dry Tortugas National Park | LOGGERHEAD KEY

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse (photo by Matthew Paulson)

Loggerhead Key, which is open for day use only, is the largest of the islands at Dry Tortugas National Park. It lies three miles across open water from Garden Key and can be visited by those with their own boats or those who are willing to make the 6-mile, round-trip from Garden Key by kayak or canoe. There are no kayak rentals available at the park, so visitors must bring their own. The Yankee Freedom Ferry can transport up to three kayaks each day for a fee. If interested, you must book a reservation for your boat when you make a reservation for yourself. I do not recommend bringing a kayak unless you are staying on Garden Key for multiple days while camping. Day trippers only get four hours on the island, and there are plenty of unique things to do during this time.

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse (photo by Ciamillo Hydrotours)

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse (photo by Ciamillo Hydrotours)

There are structures on Loggerhead Key, but all are closed to the public, including the lighthouse, which is still operational. It was built in 1858. When it was damaged by a hurricane in 1873, the top nine feet had to be rebuilt. An electric lamp was installed in 1931, and it was fully automated in 1988. The only other original building still standing is the kitchen of the former lighthouse keeper’s home—the home burned down in 1945. The current lighthouse keeper’s quarters was built in the 1920s.

Lighthouse keeper's quarters

Lighthouse keeper’s quarters (photo by Don Sampson)

Loggerhead Key got its name from the abundance of Loggerhead turtles found on the island, and today it is the largest green and loggerhead turtle nesting ground in the Florida Keys. Nearly 15,000 turtles hatch each summer.

Those visiting the island must stay on designated trails. A swimming beach is located on the northwest side of the island. Only a few yards out into the water is one of the park’s best coral reefs, Little Africa Reef. About one mile off of the island’s northwest corner is the Windjammer wreck, a popular dive and snorkel site. Part of the wreck sticks out of the water, while the deepest section is 20 feet below the surface. If you plan to snorkel or dive at the wreck, you must put out a dive flag. A mooring buoy is available for boaters; be sure to bring a rope.

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Last updated on February 26, 2021
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