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 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.
Fort De Soto has three miles of undeveloped beaches
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.
An 800 feet boat ramp with 11 floating docks and a parking lot large enough to handle the crowd on a busy summer holiday!
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.
The campground is heavily shaded with plenty of water front sites. Clearly our favorite campground in Florida.
Plenty of fishing from right within the campground.
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.
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.
Like to kayak? Bring your own or rent one and paddle throughout the bay waters surrounding the back side of the park.
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!
They didn't forget man's best friend. A nice dog park with plenty of room to play and run.
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.
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
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!
Fort De Soto...Real Florida at it's finest
(photo courtesy of Lee Sommie)
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.
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.