Loggerhead Key is a small island off the coast of mainland Florida and the largest island in Dry Tortugas is home to shipwrecks and a major lighthouse installation.
“What is there to do on a snorkeling trip?” my friend asked. “Just wait and see,” I told her, “otherwise you’ll never find out.”
We were sitting around the dinner table in the Florida Keys with other friends and family when my friend brought it up again. She had been asking all week, but this time I was ready for her…
“You want me to spell it out for ya?
You’re going to be cruisin’ from Key West down South through the Dry Tortugas National Park, lookin’ at some of the most pristine reefs in North America before heading back up north where we’re going to stay overnight at a hotel.”
In the past few years, Loggerhead populations have begun to recover and Loggerheads can be found nesting on beaches all around Loggerhead Key.
It was once an important stop for loggerheads, but it has been largely diminished by human activity.
How Do You Get the Loggerhead Key?
The loggerhead key is actually a part of the island. To get to loggerhead, you have two options: by boat or kayak.
If you choose to go by boat, it’s recommended that you use one with an electric motor as there are no docking facilities on the loggerhead key itself, and getting out can be difficult at low tide.
If you choose to go by kayak, it’s recommended that you use a two-person kayak with the goal of keeping your weight centered between both sides for balance. It is also recommended that you bring along snorkeling gear and wear sunscreen.
Loggerhead Key lies only a short distance (16 miles), southeast of Key West in the southernmost part of the Florida Keys.
Does Anyone Live on Loggerhead Key?
Short Answer: No.
Loggerhead Key is a protected State Park and it has been dedicated to the loggerhead sea turtles since 1987. The island is a well-known resting spot for loggerhead turtles are considered an endangered species, which makes this area even more special for all visitors who come here every year from around the world.
The turtles come to nest and lay their eggs, so it’s also home to one of the most important turtle hatcheries in U.S waters.
Each summer, approximately 15,000 turtles hatch. All visitors to the island must follow designated trails. On the northwest side is a swimming beach.
One of the best coral reefs in the park is located just a few meters from the beach near Little Africa Reef.
Little Africa Reef, one of the best coral reefs in the park, is just a few meters from the beach.
The wreckage of the windjammer Avanti. Another fascinating area to visit is the Great Barrier Reef. An iron-hulled sailing boat, carrying a cargo of timber, sank on its journey from Pensacola, Florida, to Montevideo, Uruguay in 1907.
It is located 1 mile southwest of Loggerhead’s southwest tip.
Can You Swim on Loggerhead Key?
When visiting the island, you’ll need to follow designated trails.
On the island’s northwest side is where you can swim in the open water and enjoy the swimming beach.
The Windjammer wreck is located about one mile from the island’s northwest corner. It is a popular snorkel and dive spot. The wreck’s surface is only part of it.
The deepest section of the wreck lies 20 feet below the waterline.
You must have a dive flag if you plan on snorkeling or diving at the wreck.
If you plan on boating, you’ll need to have access to a mooring buoy; make sure you bring a rope.
Is Fort Jefferson on Loggerhead Key?
Loggerhead Key is located three miles west of Fort Jefferson, Florida.
It’s located further south in Dry Tortugas National Park, which requires a boat or seaplane to get there and has no roads leading through it.
Is Loggerhead Key Open Year Round?
Loggerhead Key is open all year round but keep in mind that certain water sports such as snorkeling are only available during warmer months (roughly May – October) because Loggerhead key can be very cold even if it is sunny outside during cooler times of the year.
You can snorkel off Fort Jefferson and Garden Island as well as dive around the reefs and shipwrecks of other small islands.
Hospital Key and Long Key are closed all year, but Loggerhead Key is open for day use.
What Happened to the Lighthouse in Loggerhead Key?
When a destructive hurricane destroyed the top nine feet of this lighthouse in 1873, it took a long wait before visitors could see again.
In 1931 they installed an electric lamp and then automated all functions with state-of-the-art technology in 1988!
In 1923, the Boat House at Dry Tortugas Lighthouse was built on Loggerhead Key’s western shore to house the personnel and equipment required to maintain this remote lighthouse.
The Boat House was specifically designed to allow safe storage and maintenance for boats that were used as a means of transport between Loggerhead Key (and Dry Tortugas).
Two and a half miles west from Garden Key, at 1 mile long and almost 30 acres, is the largest Tortuga.
This snorkeling spot will have coral heads larger than normal, made up of different species of stony coral and gorgonian coral.
There are many species of tropical fish that live in the patch reef, as well as Spiny Lobster and Juvenile Game Fish. The colorful coral heads are huge, including various species of stony and gorgonian coral.
Can you Visit the Loggerhead Key Lighthouse?
The Loggerhead Key Lighthouse tower served as a lighthouse for many decades before being decommissioned in 2015 and converted into an interpretive center to tell Stories about the pirates who called it home!
It was built to protect mariners from shipwrecks, and it still serves that purpose today!
The 1st order Fresnel lens provides ample light for navigation on dark nights; you can see clearly up close without any obstruction by ships blocking your view (unlike many other lighthouses).
This also makes leaving nighttime watch duties much easier since there won’t be anything obscuring their path ahead–saving lives both during the day/night operations as well as stormy weather conditions like hurricanes or tropical storms which might otherwise cause confusion among pilots trying to navigate unfamiliar waters.
Only the Dry Tortugas lighthouse and the Garden Key lighthouse were in operation during America’s Civil War, these two landmarks played an integral role on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Ready To Get In On the Dry Tortugas Adventure?
Loggerhead Key is a great place to visit if you are looking for snorkeling and diving opportunities. It has the Dry Tortugas lighthouse, Garden Key lighthouse, many different species of fish as well as unique coral formations that make it fun and interesting!
Although the island requires transportation via boat or seaplane, it makes up for this inconvenience with its numerous activities such as scuba diving and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters around Loggerhead Key.
The lighthouse also serves as an interpretive center telling stories about pirates who used to call loggerhead home (before they settled on Garden Island).
The view from the water is absolutely breathtaking.
The water, the waves, and the lighthouse all make for an incredible picture-perfect scene that you will not find anywhere else in such amazing detail!
Loggerhead Key is a great place to visit if you’re looking for some day-use fun in the sun!