Product ReviewsSuggestions/Tips

Our #1 Destination in Florida!

Of course it's Fort De Soto!

Great beaches, fishing, camping
and much, much more

If you love beaches, water and camping, this is one place you need to visit. Fort De Soto is a huge county park that sits in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of Tampa Bay. The park comprises five islands totaling 1100 acres. If you enjoy the Florida outdoors, you are going love this place. It is really unbelievable, and is by far our favorite place to See Real Florida. Definitely a place to add to your Florida Bucket List!

The Beaches

The largest attraction within Fort De Soto Park is it's fantastic beaches. They have been recognized several times as the Best in Florida and also among the Top Beaches in the Nation.

There are two main beach areas. One is on Tampa Bay with probably the best view there is of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The other is on the Gulf of Mexico and is the perfect place to view evening sunsets.

Unlike almost all other beaches in Florida, the beaches of Fort De Soto have been preserved with their natural habitat. They have no hotels or condos like you find most everywhere else throughout the state.

If you'd like to learn more about the Fort De Soto beaches, checkout one of my favorite articles written by Bob Rountree on the Florida Rambler blog. You can access it here.

Just one of the undeveloped beaches at Fort De Soto

Fort De Soto has three miles of undeveloped beaches

Boating

If you have a boat, Fort De Soto is a great place to launch from. The boat ramp is unbelievable - 800 feet - with 11 floating docks. The parking lot is also huge with enough parking to handle all the tow vehicles on a busy holiday weekend.

This is a great place to bring any size motor boat. You can quickly get out into the Gulf of Mexico or Tampa Bay from here. If you have a smaller boat and you just want to putter around, you can stay in the backwaters of the park and even visit several small islands.

One of 11 floating docks at Fort De Soto

An 800 feet boat ramp with 11 floating docks and a parking lot large enough to handle the crowd on a busy summer holiday!

Campground

Florida has lots of great campgrounds and RV parks. In fact, we've traveled the country in our small travel trailer and have found most of the Florida State Parks to be among the best anywhere in the U.S. However, nowhere beats Fort De Soto. It is clearly our favorite campground in the state.

There are well over 200 heavily wooded campsites, about half of which are right on the water. All the sites have water and electric hookups, and there are two separate dump stations as you leave the park. For the kids, there is a playground, as well as several places they can fish right within the campground. There is also a well stocked campground store that even rents bikes that can be ridden through the entire park.

Click here to see our personal review of the Fort De Soto campground. It has a lot more details and photos.

Waterfont campsite at Fort De Soto

The campground is heavily shaded with plenty of water front sites. Clearly our favorite campground in Florida.

Campground fishing at Fort De Soto

Plenty of fishing from right within the campground.

Fishing

You can certainly fish Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico if you have a boat. If you're staying in the campground, you can also fish from the seawalls there. But the main attraction for fishing at Fort De Soto is the two large piers.

The first pier protrudes south into Tampa Bay. The second one west into the Gulf of Mexico. Both of the piers have bait and tackle shops, but they are only open during the day.

Check out this page on the Florida-Fishing-Insider website for more information about fishing from the piers.

Fishing pier at Fort De Soto

For more serious fishing, Fort De Soto has two great fishing piers.

Getting some exercise
...in the water or on the land

So when it comes to exercise, I must be honest and admit that I'm really not very good at it. I have to do something that I really enjoy and forget that I'm exercising. That's one of the many things that makes Fort De Soto Park so great for me.

If you like to kayak or canoe, as you can see from the satellite at the top of this article, this is the place. There is actually a 2.25 mile, self-guided canoe trail. You can spend hours in the backwaters observing the nature that surrounds you.

If you'd prefer to stay on land, there are 7 miles of bike trail which create a 12 mile round-trip ride. The whole route is paved and allows you to see the entire park and discover places you may wish to come back to and explore further.

For a little slower pace, there are several trails in addition to the bike path that you can walk. One of them is a 2,200 foot nature trail. You will learn about the salt-dependent plants that populate the park, see lots of beautiful birds, and maybe even get a glimpse of some dolphin swimming offshore.

Kayak rental at Fort De Soto

Like to kayak? Bring your own or rent one and paddle throughout the bay waters surrounding the back side of the park.

Bicycle trail at Fort De Soto

When you want to stay on land, you can enjoy the seven mile bike trail or two nature trails.

Don't forget the dog!

Out near the bay pier, not only is there a fenced in dog park, there is also a dog beach. If you have a dog (or two!), you know they will have a great time too!

Dog Park at Fort De Soto

They didn't forget man's best friend. A nice dog park with plenty of room to play and run.

Getting there

Fort De Soto Park is at the southern most part of Pinellas County. You can take I-275 to the south end of St. Pete, then head west towards the Gulf of Mexico on the Pinellas Bayway. Just before the last bridge going over to St. Pete Beach, you will see the signs to turn left and head out to the park.

Map showing location of Fort De Soto

Fort De Soto is at the southern end of St. Pete, Florida and extends into the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

Finding your way around

The map below gives you a good idea of what you're in for. Being a string of islands, it's really easy to find your way around...you can't get lost!

Map of Fort De Soto park

Map of Fort De Soto park

See Real Florida

Florida is full of fun things for the entire family. Unfortunately, most of them are expensive, man made, and exhausting. So many people come to Florida and never relax and see the natural parts of the state.

Fort De Soto is clearly one of the best and our personal favorite. If you've never been, be sure to put it on your "must see" places to visit when you can!

Have you been to Fort De Soto? If so, please add a comment below and tell us about it!

Close to nature at Fort De Soto

Fort De Soto...Real Florida at it's finest
(photo courtesy of Lee Sommie)

More photos!
Click here to see my complete photo album with 40 more photos

There just wasn't enough room here to include all the photos I shot of Fort De Soto Park. I created a photo album on Google that has over 40 photos in total. Click the collage of photos below to check it out and see more about this great place.

Click the photos above to see my album with 40 more shots taken around Fort De Soto in St. Pete, Florida.

 

Please be sure to protect yourself from the intense Florida sun

Being a Floridian for the past 50 years, I know how easy it is to get burned up by the sun down here. Please don't ruin your time enjoying the Florida outdoors. Be sure to take some good sunscreen with you when you head to Fort De Soto.

Fay and I love to sit outdoors and found this portable umbrella to work out really well. We use it for shade beside our trailer when camping, but also take it anywhere we want to get out of the sun. It's lightweight, and perfect for the beach. Click on the photo below to read my complete review of this great product.

Click the photo above to read my review about this great portable umbrella that we use for shade.

Please Note: I am a participant in several affiliate marketing programs and may receive a commission if you use one of my links and make a purchase.
 
To Purchase or for More Info about Joe Shade...

 

38 thoughts on “Our #1 Destination in Florida!

  1. Ive lived in Florida for 20+ years and never been here. It seems like this Park has everything! I see why you like it and I’ll tell my friends who have a black Lab…

  2. Been camping in our β€˜05 Casita Freedom Deluxe for three seasons now. We have camped over130 nights in campgrounds in nearly 10 states. Fort Desoto is probably our FAVORITE campground! Book and book often! πŸ™‚

  3. Been to Fort Desoto on several occasion and this report certainly shows what a great place it is… Thanks for the great presentation Denny. Looking forward to your stopping by for a bit.

  4. Great article and beautiful photos! I spent a lot of my childhood on those beautiful beaches and I agree that Fort DeSoto Park is one of Florida’s finest places to visit!

  5. We just got back and LOVED every aspect of the park! We traveled in a big rig and fit fine in site 174. We had a water site. It was shaded and private. The bike trails are paved and fabulous! Miles and miles of untouched land. We ate out at Billys in Tierra Verde right down the riad and it was fabulous! We are Floridians and loved this beach! A manatee swam right up to us! The beach was not crowded. We WILL be back!

  6. What a great suggestion RJ. It’s so hard to find places to stargaze in Florida without driving out into the middle of nowhere!

    1. What a great idea RJ! It so hard to find good stargazing places in Florida without driving out to the middle of nowhere! πŸ™‚

  7. It’s our fav place to stay when we visit the Mister’s sister in St. Pete.
    We’ve been several times, both before and after Miss Skye Diva Gypsy Dog began to travel with us. There are waterfront sites on the dog loop, but they fill up fast.

    I don’t know if they still do, but when we had our 16′, they allowed us to stay on the tent / pop-up loop because we were so small. You’d have to check to see if they have changed that.

    One of the things I love about this park is that you don’t have to leave your campsite to see the birds. If you are on a water site they stroll by, and even park themselves for a while, all day.

    1. Yes Josie. Last I knew they would still allow small trailers in the tent area. If you have kids, one thing that’s great about that is the big open areas by the water for them to play.

      1. Yes, they are. You feel as if you intrude less on your neighbors. I doubt our 21′ Escape will be allowed in there once Miss Skye Diva passes…she’s 14 1/2.

  8. We camped there in January 2018 and LOVED it!! Please note: Only one of the loops is pet friendly, so be sure to book the correct loop to take your pets along!! We did take our little Maltese to the doggy beach. He wasn’t too sure what to make of the waves ☺️

  9. Fort De Soto is an wonderful place to go. We loved exploring the old fort, “scouping” for live sand dollars and wading across the water cut around the bend of the park on the north end to look for shells. That little portion of beach does not get many visitors and the shells are plentiful. If you go back toward St. Petersburg, you will find the Don CeSar hotel. It is a historic pink colored hotel that looks a like a castle and was built in the 1920’s. If you like to explore, Fort De Soto is an excellent place to start.

  10. I have spent my maximum 14 days here each of the past 5 winters (MN resident). This year was the first time in my 1997 Scamp 13. One of the main reasons I bought a Scamp is to be able to camp in Area 1, as I see you do also! Favorite site is 48 but it is usually reserved by Pinellas County residents every weekend. The only place I have enjoyed more privacy at my campsite is the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.Thanks for the Florida Rambler links also!

  11. What a helpful and informative review. We are from upstate SC but travel to play pickleball in Naples. We definitely will put this place on our “must camp here” list.

  12. Fort DeSoto park is one of our favorites! Hard to believe its a county park! Our last trip there we stayed ten days. We didn’t take our kayak with us on that trip, but the next time we go we will certainly bring it with us.

    If you’re staying at Fort DeSoto Park, make sure to arrange a ferry ride over to Egmont Key State Park. We did that and spent the day exploring the ghost town and naval fort that is there. The brick-pave streets are amazing and go on and on. Wildlife is also abundant. Take plenty of water and pack a lunch (no facilities were there when we went, but that may have changed).

    1. Thanks for mentioning Egmont Key James. I thought about it, but didn’t have any photos to go along with it. It really is a great add-on to a visit to Fort De Soto!

  13. No one has to sell me on Ft DeSoto, it is my back door. I live on Tierra Verde island and you have to
    cross over our island to get to Ft DeSoto. It is one of the main reasons we built a house here and lived for 31 years! Anyone who visits me, will absolutely get side trips to Ft DeSoto, site of many picnics, fishing outings, beach days, camp outs, runs, walks, even a Boy Scout camp week.

  14. What a great article! I grew up here in St Pete in the 50’s & 60’s and can remember when the only way to get to Ft DeSoto was by boat. My parents had a motor home in the 70’s & 80’s and would camp out over Thanksgiving weekends with friends who also had motor homes. What a fabulous place!

    1. So do you remember Nancy if they had a campground back when you had to get there by boat?
      – Obviously I’m thinking tent camping here! πŸ™‚

  15. Great Article! Thank you for giving it the praise it so deserves. Sometimes we forget how much of a hidden jewel we have here, until someone like you comes along to notice the absolute true beauty Ft. DeSoto has to offer to all ages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.