Get up early and catch the Yankee Freedom ferry (leaves Key West about 7:45 a.m. and returns at 5:30 p.m.) for the 2.5 hour trip to this almost deserted island. The island is dominated by the large fort/prison used before during and after the Civil War. There are guided ranger tours of the fort, but the self-guided tour using the brochure available on the boat is even better. After the tour, cool off by snorkeling in the beautiful waters around the island. We saw squid, lots of colorful fish and a 4-foot barracuda right in front of us. In the moat around the fort, a 6-foot salt water crocodile has taken up residence.
The ferry provides coffee, water, soft drinks, breakfast and lunch as part of your ticket. They also provide the snorkeling gear. All you need to bring is your swimsuit, a towel, a hat (not much shade is available) and your camera. If you are prone to sea sickness, take a Bonine tablet before the trip and you'll be fine. The large ferry's ride is pretty smooth and the boat itself is new and comfortable. A bonus if you are a nature lover and go in the summer is that 100,000 sooty terns nest on Bush Island right next to the national park. It is their only nesting place in the US and they are a sight to see.