Of course it's Fort De Soto!
Great beaches, fishing, camping
and much, much more
If you love beaches, water and camping, this place is for you! Fort De Soto is a huge county park. It sits in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of Tampa Bay. The park has five islands with a total of 1100 acres. If you enjoy the Florida outdoors, you will love this place. It is really unbelievable. It fact it is by far our favorite place to see real Florida.
This park is all about water and nature. It has fantastic beaches. In fact, they have been recognized many times. They are listed as the Best in Florida, as well as the Top Beaches in the Nation.
There are two main beach areas. One is on Tampa Bay. It has the best land view there is of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The other is on the Gulf of Mexico. It is the perfect place to view evening sunsets.
Unlike almost all other beaches in Florida, these have been preserved. You can see what other Florida beaches used to be like. They have no hotels or condos. In other words, not like everywhere else in the state.
Three miles of undeveloped beaches in Florida
If you have a boat, this is a great place to launch from. The boat ramp is huge - 800 feet - with 11 floating docks. The parking lot has enough parking to handle all the tow vehicles on a busy weekend.
This is a great place to bring any size motor boat. You can quickly get 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. There are several small islands you can visit without getting into the larger bodies of water.
An 800 feet boat ramp with 11 floating docks and a parking lot large enough to handle the crowd on a busy weekend!
Florida has lots of great campgrounds and RV parks. In fact, we've traveled the U.S. in our small travel trailer and have found Florida State Parks to be among the best. 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 them are right on the water. All the sites have water and electric hookups. There are also two separate dump stations. For the kids, there is a playground. They can also go fishing at several places within the campground. In addition, there is a well stocked camp store. The store even rents bikes that can be ridden through the entire park.
Be sure to check out our personal review of the Fort De Soto campground too. It has more info and a lot more details and photos.
The campground is heavily shaded with plenty of waterfront 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. You can also fish from the seawalls in the campground. But the main attraction for fishing in the park are the large piers.
The first pier heads south into Tampa Bay. Another one, goes west into the Gulf of Mexico. Both of the them have bait and tackle shops.
For more serious fishing, there are two great fishing piers.
Getting some exercise
...in the water or on the land
So when it comes to exercise, I must be admit that I'm not very good at it! I have to do something that I really enjoy. In other words, something that helps me forget that I'm exercising. This is one of the many reasons I like this place so much.
For anyone that likes to kayak or canoe, this is a great place. Just look at all the water in the satellite images at the top of this article. 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 is a 7 mile bike trail. Besides providing a great view, the entire path is paved. It's a great way to see the entire park. You can discover places you may wish to come back to and explore further.
In addition to the bike path, there are several trails for you to hike or take a walk. One of them is a 2,200 foot nature trail. You will learn about the salt-dependent plants that populate the park, as well as see lots of beautiful birds. You might even get a glimpse of some dolphins swimming in the bay.
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!
Not only is there a fenced in dog park, but also a dedicated dog beach. If you have a dog (or many), they will have a great time here 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. 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 an 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 need a vacation to rest up when they get back home. They never relax and see the natural parts of the state.
Fort De Soto is clearly one of the best. It's certainly 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)
There just wasn't enough room here to include all the photos I shot of Fort De Soto Park. I created a shared photo album on Google where you can see 40 photos I shot in total.
I hope you'll add Fort De Soto to one of your future trips. And as always, drop me a note if you have any questions. - Denny
In case you don't know it, Central Florida is the lightning capital of the world. Most damage from lightning strikes are not from direct hits, but are from surges they create in the area's electrical system. Having spent most of my life living in Florida, I've lost unprotected computers and other electronic devices from these surges several times over the years.
If you are going to camp in Florida, be sure you are aware of the electrical risks for your RV or travel trailer. Especially if you camp during the summer. Check out this other article I wrote entitled Dangerous Electrical Problems when Camping. It explains the problem and how to minimize the risks. The article also discusses bad power connections at campgrounds and how to help protect against them. This is important information to understand for everywhere you camp.
Denny JohnsonAfter having spent most of our adult life in Orlando, my wife Fay and I moved to Knoxville, TN in 2020. We are loving the change of seasons and being near the mountains. Plus, this part of the country is loaded with great places to camp.
We camped years ago with a pop-up camper, but got serious about it when we purchased our Casita in 2014. There was a lot to learn as we started traveling with it, and a lot of conflicting opinions on line. That's when I decided that creating a website would be a good retirement project. I started tinyTowable.com to share things we've learned along the way that have worked well for us in hopes that the information would be of help to others.
What it is
JoeShade-Portable Sun Shade Umbrella
Why I like it
Being from Florida for most of the past 50 years, I know how easy it is to get burned up by the sun down there. (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 other places when we need to get out of the sun. It's lightweight, sets up and takes down quickly, and is perfect for the beach.
- A great, low-cost solution to some shade when we are camping
- Quick and easy to setup and take down
- Light weight and easy to store
For more information, check out this other article I wrote all about it.