We flew in and out of Ft. Lauderdale (cheapest at the time), rented a car and drove directly to Key West. We did stop at the Isla Morada Fish Company and had some fresh stone crab. Definitely worth the stop.
Of the two Hilton properties, we preferred the Reach. It was closer to Duval Street and the room was nicer. It's still in walking distance to the Casa Marina, but if you prefer the nicer hotel setting, grounds and ammenities and don't mind the extra walking to the sites, Casa Marina is nice, too.
Camping in the Tortugas is great. There are two 'shuttle' boats (1 faster catamaran shorter trip)(2 slower and more space) that go to the island daily (weather permitting) from Key West. (CAVEAT: There are rats on the island).
If you're camping, once you de-board the boat, you immediately go claim your campsite. (We got a good one!) And for most of the time, we were the only campers there. The water was a little cold the first two days, but we had no problem spending our time exploring the island and the fort. I think we walked the moat wall a dozen times.
We snorkeled a bit after it warmed up. The snorkeling is decent, but the waves occurring from the storm that had just come through made it tough to see and to swim. There are also lots of jellyfish.
Must eat - conch fritters.
Must stay - camp in the Tortugas.
Must do - Rent a pedal bike to get around. Smoke a cigar. Walk the moat wall.
Our campsite on the Tortugas
Inside Fort Jefferson.
During our stay on the island, one of the boats carried a previously injured, but now rehabilitated and healed sea turtle which they released back into the ocean. Pretty darn cool if you ask me.
The moat wall
The result of our combined silliness.
More Ft. Jefferson
Grounds around the fort.
Sunset on our last night from our campsite.
My favorite picture we've ever taken. Sunrise on the Tortugas.