Bring kayaks, bikes, coast toys and also camping gear due to the fact that Fort De Soto Park has actually it all

There are few parks in Florida v as much to offer as Pinellas County’s ft DeSoto Park at the mouth that Tampa Bay.

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And no public park in the state, not even Everglades nationwide Park, color etc as numerous visitors.

Consistently ranked as having actually the best beaches in Florida, the 5 islands of ft DeSoto Park are wrapped in 3 miles the stunning white sand, drawing an ext than 2.7 million tourists every year.

* ft DeSoto Park attractive 2.7 million tourists a year, contrasted to 1.2 million tourists to Everglades national Park, .

Source: nationwide Park service (2018); Pinellas ar (

Anchored by the key island, Mullet Key, whereby the most renowned beaches and the park’s namesake fort are found, ft DeSoto sprawls across 1,100 acres and also offers swimming, kayaking, camping, paved bicycle paths, a dog beach, picnic areas, playgrounds, shelling, a massive watercraft ramp and a background lesson or two.

Fort Desoto Park is open up every day from 7 a.m. Till sunset, or you can camp here and have the operation of the ar all night. The sunsets from phibìc Beach room truly something to behold.

Fort DeSoto hasa $5 coast parking fee in enhancement to the Pinellas Bayway tolls you salary to get out to the park.

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Fort De Soto Park. Source: Pinellas county Parks and also Recreation Department

Fort De Soto’s north Beach: many popular

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North beach lifeguard terminal at ft De Soto

North coast is more than likely the many popular, and also this is the beach that gets all the praise.

With a substantial parking lot to accommodate the crowds and 10 picnic shelters, it’s a magnet because that beachgoers, and also it have the right to be daunting to find a secluded section of beach on weekends.

A section of phibìc Beach is collection aside together a sanctuary for shorebirds, off-limits come visitors, and also the crowds tend to gravitate northward near the picnic shelters.

If friend hike south of the sanctuary, ago towards the pier, friend are an ext likely to acquire away native the crowds.

The phibìc Beach has four restrooms, including two close to the parking area, a food concession and also gift shop.

Beaches less visited at fort De Soto Park

Gulf Pier Beach

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Gulf Pier sunset at fort De Soto Park. (Photo by Captain Kimo via Flickr.

The beaches south of phibìc Beach, closer to the Fort and the Gulf Pier, are significantly less crowded yet harder come access.

Although there is parking at the fort and the pier, many a auto can be discovered parked along the main road in between the pier and also North Beach through well-worn paths through the dunes.

The beach at the pier has a gift shop, food concession, rest rooms and also a museum.

East beach at fort De Soto Park

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An east Beach picnic pavilion at fort De Soto.

Another less-crowded alternative is the East Beach, uneven there is a major event occupying that is three vast pavilions.

Besides the picnic pavilions, the east Beach recreation area uses plenty of parking, a shady picnic area, and rest rooms, but the beach itself is a little bit lackluster.

If you proceed east previous the coast park, you’ll drive the end onto a allude with a grassy beach where kite-boarders rule.

The nearest food concession for the east Beach is ago at the bay Pier, which likewise has a bait shop and also its very own beach access.

Dog beach at fort De Soto Park




If you space bringing Fido to the beach, then the dog park near the Bay Pier is whereby you want to go.

The park has actually two fenced-in areas, one for large dogs and the other for little dogs, or you can let well-behaved pets loosened to churn up part sand and swim in the bay.

Dog owners must have actually a leash handy yet they are not required to it is in attached to her pet.

If friend don’t choose dogs, then this is not your beach. 🙂

Fishing at fort De Soto Park

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View of eastern Beach indigenous the just Pier at ft De Soto Park. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

There are two fishing piers, the 1,000-foot Gulf Pier and also the 500-foot only Pier.

Both have actually bait shops and food concessions, and both room in the path of fish flow in and out of Tampa Bay.

The Gulf Pier has actually the more powerful currents, for this reason it’s likely you’ll uncover larger gamefish, also sharks, chasing mullet and also other baitfish, while the more quiet waters the the only Pier permit catches that Spanish mackerel, ladyfish, pompano, permit and the occasional tarpon.

Shore fishing is renowned in the ago bays and channels in between the islands, where the catch may encompass spotted sea trout, snook and redfish.

Kayak anglers have actually a huge advantage due to the fact that they go ideal to the source, casting plugs right into the root of mangroves because that snook, soft-bait jigs into the grass because that spotted sea trout or roughly oyster bars for redfish.

Fishing license Required

A saltwater fishing license is compelled to fish anywhere in ft De Soto Park, consisting of the piers. A coast license, i m sorry is totally free for Florida residents, have the right to be supplied on the piers, beaches and other shoreline.

A conventional saltwater fishing patent is required if you room fishing indigenous a watercraft or kayak, uneven you room 65 and also under the period of 16. (You must have actually an ID to prove her age.)

There are exceptions for world with disabilities and energetic military.

For an ext information, visit the Florida Fish and also Wildlife Commission internet site.

Fort De Soto historic site

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Fort De Soto cannon

Imagine you space stationed at the mouth the Tampa Bay, aiming the cannons in ~ the continuing line that schooners do the efforts to supply the Confederate army with provides from Caribbean countries sympathetic to their cause.

Mullet crucial had to be a military outpost because the polite War, as soon as Union troops manned the island in an effort to block pearl of the Confederacy from entering Tampa Bay.

But the ft itself wasn’t constructed until the Spanish American War. Uniquely, the ft was built out that shells and concrete due to the fact that the rock intended for its building did not arrive in time. It to be completed and also named after ~ Spanish traveler Hernando De Soto in 1900.

All that stays of ft DeSoto today is among the two original mortar battery with 4 of its guns still in place.

The fort was all yet abandoned in 1910, return a caretaker pressure was in location until human being War II, as soon as it was used as a bombing variety for adjacent MacDill Air force Base.

Pinellas ar purchased the fort and surrounding islands in 1949, and also it was established as a park in 1962.

Fort De Soto camping: several sites yet competition is stiff

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Nighttime in the time campground at fort De Soto indigenous the water. © have the right to Stock photograph / Kwiktor

This is no the most basic campground to book, in spite of its 236 campsites, at any type of time of year.

But it’s worth the effort. I regulate to book a couple of days at ft De Soto every year by watching for cancellations. Unless you’re online on the very first day that availability, it’s i can not qualify you’ll get a site for the preferably 14 days, if at all.

Pinellas ar residents acquire the first shot and are enabled to book sites increase to seven months in advance. Non-county inhabitants must wait an additional month, booking 6 months in advance.

The avenues are much better in the tent loop (Sites 1-85), whereby you deserve to generally uncover a site on brief notice.

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Fort De Soto campsite #116, which is in the pet loop. (Photo by Bob Rountree)

The element sites in the campground are in the RV loop, sites 165-236, top top the north next of the outer island.

The tent sites, web page 1-85, room on the south end of the exact same island through the finest sites (1-24) dealing with west top top a grassy beach.

Pets are minimal to the 2nd RV loop, web page 86-164, and about half of those sites room along seawalls. This is the loop whereby we usually space able to secure a reservation, if just for a few days. (See the photograph above.)

The campground has actually a kayak concession and also a little store, yet campers looking for groceries will have to go earlier to Tierra Verde, wherein there are a pair of convenience stores, or the Publix top top the Bayway.

Kayaking at fort De Soto Park

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Paddling far from campsite at fort De Soto Park. (Photo through Dave Ryan)

The beauty of the ft De Soto Park campground is the preponderance the waterfront sites wherein you can launch a kayak directly from her site.

Day visitors have the right to launch native the watercraft ramp near the park entrance, at Soldiers Hole throughout the park road from Dog Beach, or everywhere you have the right to find accessibility to water indigenous the swale follow me park roads.

Kayak and also canoe rentals are easily accessible in the campground, near the park office, and at Soldiers Hole, across from Dog Beach.

On a patience day, you have the right to paddle out into Tampa only or the end to the pristine beaches that Shell key on the Gulf side. Shell an essential is component of a preserve, which can likewise be got to by ferry native the park boat ramp.

Shell Key: Pristine island complements fort De Soto Park

Shell vital is one uninhabited barrier island the is part of a preserve north of De Soto’s phibìc Beach accessible only by water.

This pristine island is a sheller’s paradise and may be overfilled on weekends.

Overnight primitive camping is permitted but a allow is required. The permit prices is $6 every day per group of up to 6 people.

The camping allow does not cover the watercraft ramp fee. The ramp is the closest launch point.

If girlfriend don’t have your very own boat, you have the right to arrange transportation aboard the Shell crucial Ferry, which additionally departs indigenous the boat ramp.

Go come Egmont vital from fort De Soto Park

Egmont crucial is a wild island the figured right into two century of Florida background — native a lighthouse built in 1858 to a function in the Spanish American war to being the website where Seminole Indians to be held prior to they were relocated to reservations.

The stunning island, encircled by beaches, is a state park and also wildlife refuge throughout the mouth of Tampa Bay, accessible only by boat.

The ruins of the 18th century ft Dade, which once had actually 300 inhabitants, are scattered around the island.

Nearly half the island is close up door to travellers as a wildlife reserve, yet you’ll still uncover six mile of trails for hiking. The island is also a renowned snorkeling and also swimming destination.

The Egmont an essential Ferry runs daily at 10 a.m. And 11 a.m. From fort De Soto’s just Pier. Passengers are given three hrs to explore and also enjoy the island. A third ferry is offered on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m.

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Fort De Soto’s bicycle path

Fort De Soto attributes a seven-mile-long paved bike path that operation from the park entrance to all points in the park, consisting of the campground, the beaches and the fishing piers.

The trace parallels park roadways but is be separated from car traffic, making it family-safe.

Bicycle rentals are available in the park and also at the campground concession.

Linking to the famous Pinellas Trail
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The Pinellas Trail close to Dunedin. (Photo by Vicki McCash Brennan)

The 39-mile Fred Marquis Pinellas trail is a beautiful multi-purpose trail built on an abandoned railroad bed v the center of the peninsula, and while over there is no direct connect (yet) from ft De Soto, it would certainly be a natural connection.

Meantime, there’s a paved bike trail the runs five miles indigenous the park entrance with Tierra Verde to the Pinellas Bayway, connecting to another paved trail together the Bayway.

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If girlfriend turn ideal on the Bayway bike path, you have the right to reach the Pinellas follow by heading eastern to 34th Street South. Overcome the street in ~ the light and double back to 37th Street southern behind the CVS. That’s the start of the northbound Pinellas Trail, causing either downtown St. Petersburg or all the means north to Tarpon Springs.

The Pinellas trail is an adventure the its own, acquisition riders with residential neighborhoods and also multiple downtowns.

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Planning a visit to fort De Soto Park

Fort De Soto Park3500 Pinellas Bayway S.,Tierra Verde(727) 582-2267

Pinellas county Parks: ft De Soto Park

Egmont crucial State Park

Map the Shell crucial Preserve

Historic overview to ft DeSoto Park (PDF)

Downloadable Map of ft De Soto (PDF)

Experience Florida: Eco tours, island hopping and fishing with marine biologist Capt. Eric Weather (Sponsored)