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Fort De Soto Florida Travel Guide

Updated on May 7, 2016
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

If you’ve ever been to the Tampa/St Petersburg area on the west coast of Florida then you may be familiar with Fort De Soto Park. This 1100-acre park stands guard to Tampa Bay and is a virtual playground for the outdoor enthusiast. You name it, and this jewel of Pinellas County has it to offer. Fishing, boat ramps, nature trails, kayak rentals, a dog park, camping facilities, ball fields, a historic fort to explore, the list is endless. And to top it all off, the beaches of Fort De Soto were named Americas Best Beach in 2009 by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest online travel community. What better way to get your fill of the great outdoors while in Florida than to visit this beautiful park located at the southern end of St Petersburg?

Fort DeSoto Beach

Fort De Soto Beach
Fort De Soto Beach

The Fort

Fort De Soto
Fort De Soto
Fort De Soto
Fort De Soto
The Big Guns
The Big Guns

A little history of the fort.

In 1898 the United States became involved in a conflict with Cuba, which led to the Spanish American War. Feeling exposed and at risk, the citizens of Tampa demanded military defenses for the bay. Due to its close proximity to Cuba and the importance of the port facilities of Tampa Bay, the Secretary of War ordered the construction of a Fort to defend the Bay. In late 1898 construction began. By April of 1900 the fort was completed and officially named Fort De Soto after the famous Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto.

Today, self or guided tours can be taken to explore the Fort. Although the huge guns placed in the Fort were never fired in defense of Tampa Bay some of them remain today for visitors to explore. By 1922 the Secretary of War announced that they would be closing Fort De Soto due to the rapid advancements in armaments and the considerable modifications that would be required at the fort. In 1923 the fort was abandoned and left with only a single caretaker. Following World War II, Pinellas county purchased the fort from the War Department. By 1962 a road was constructed to allow cars to travel to the island and a year later in 1963, Fort De Soto Park was officially dedicated.

What to do in the Park?

If exploring the history of Fort De Soto isn't your thing, head to one of the two beautiful white sand beaches, North Beach or East Beach. The beaches of Fort De Soto consistently rank among the top beaches in Florida. Or, if you love to fish, then head to one of the two piers, both of which allow fishing and have bait, tackle and food concessions.

If you’re looking for a little exercise you can take a walk, run or bike ride along the parks 7-mile multi purpose trail. Have a boat? Utilize the parks 800-foot boat ramp. If you like to kayak or canoe, rentals are available and the park has a 2-½ mile canoe trail that will take you through the five keys that make up the park. Here you can see the mangrove forests and many of the more than 290 species of birds that occupy the area. And, if all you want to do is let your dog run free and enjoy the great outdoors then head to the Dog Park where dogs are allowed on the beach in a designated area. The park also has numerous nature trails allowing you to take in the native flora and fauna of the area. When it's time to eat, grab a snack from the parks food concession or pack a lunch and have a picnic at one of the parks 15 picnic shelters. No matter what your interests, Fort De Soto truly has something for everyone.

Having family in the Tampa Bay area we have had the opportunity to make numerous trips to this wonderful park. No matter how many times we go, we never tire of this beautiful area due to the abundance of activities that the park offers. Fort De Soto is a true gem of the west central Florida coast and worthy of a visit should you find yourself in the area.

Scenes from Fort DeSoto

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Kayak RentalNorth BeachDog ParkTake a Kayak out.Fishing PierRent a Bike.Picnic TablesWildlife in Fort De SotoFort De Soto Osprey
Kayak Rental
Kayak Rental
North Beach
North Beach
Dog Park
Dog Park
Take a Kayak out.
Take a Kayak out.
Fishing Pier
Fishing Pier
Rent a Bike.
Rent a Bike.
Picnic Tables
Picnic Tables
Wildlife in Fort De Soto
Wildlife in Fort De Soto
Fort De Soto Osprey
Fort De Soto Osprey

Fort De Soto

A markerFort De Soto, Florida -
FT De Soto Park, St Petersburg, FL 33715, USA
get directions

Tampa - St Petersburg Area

show route and directions
A markerFort De Soto, Florida -
FT De Soto Park, St Petersburg, FL 33715, USA
get directions

B markerMadeira Beach -
Madeira Beach, FL, USA
get directions

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 5 years ago from the Ether

      I love fort desoto. It truly is one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida if not the entire world. Majestic place...awesome hub! Keep up the good work on the travel hubs. :)

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub and pictures. I've been to the Tampa area but didn't know about this park and all it has to offer.

      Am bookmarking this for future reference.

      Voted up across the board except for funny.

    • profile image

      iTara 5 years ago

      As I sit here in Massachusetts in the middle of the winter reading your blog, it brings me right back to being in Fort De Soto enjoying the history and the glorious views!! I highly recommend the bike rental to see the entire park you can even take them on the beach. Your pictures are just beautiful!

    • Saloca profile image

      Saloca 5 years ago from Liverpool, UK

      Great hub! Very interesting and informative!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank You. It is one of our favorite places to visit when we are in the area. A true gem.

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 5 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Beautiful, informative hub! You've done a great job describing the area and the history of Fort de Soto. It is one of my favorite places in the Tampa Bay area. It's a great place to bring an RV or camping rig. The trails are peaceful, beautiful and great for bicycling or jogging or a pleasant stroll. I love your pics, they're beautiful!

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