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Boarding time is 7:30 right outside Turtle Kraals Restaurant, so one could pick up some Baby's Coffee from Turtle Kraals while waiting to board. TIckets can be bought the day of the trip in the slower months like September. Departure time is 8am for the approximately 2 and 1/2 hour trip to the Tortugas. The Key West Yankee Freedom ll is the largest and fastest ferry available to make the journey. Its larger size and the much larger outside seating availability are more conducive to not experiencing sea-sickness.
Once underway a good continental breakfast is provided. En route, an onboard naturalist gives an orientation of the area and the national park's surroundings. During the trip, one can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Marquesa Islands and Boca Grande and learn their historical significance. One may very well observe turtles and dolphins on the journey also. Plus the captain entertains the passengers with pirate legends. One can travel inside in air-conditioned comfort, or enjoy the trip on the observation deck instead. There are three restrooms available for use all day. There are no facilities on the island.
A good picnic-type lunch of fresh ingredients: turkey, ham, roast beef and cheeses, along with a couple of salads are provided. Upon arrival to the island there is a 45 minute tour of Fort Jefferson that is fascinating. It is optional, but don't miss it. The Captain is a well-versed and fascinating tour guide. The time flew despite the day's heat.
After the tour is over, there is plenty of time to snorkel if one so chooses. There are changing rooms available and a fresh water rinse shower. Snorkeling gear is provided or one can bring one's own. If snorkeling doesn't appeal, then swimming, sunbathing on the beach or bird watching could fill the day. If you would like to kayak, you have to rent your boat in advance from one of the kayak rental companies in Key West. There is no place to rent a kayak on the island or in conjunction with the Yankee Freedom ferry. See the Watersports Traveler Article for information about kayak rentals.
A full galley where one can purchase beer, wine or mixed drinks is available on the return trip only. The ferry arrives back in Key West in time to take advantage of the island's Happy Hours. This is a satisfying trip to set aside for one day of any Key West itinerary.