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Fort De Soto Florida Travel Guide
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?
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 DeSotoClick thumbnail to view full-size
Fort De Soto Links:
- Fort Desoto Park
Fort Desoto Park has just about everything a beach park can offer. Beaches, fishing piers, camping, kayak rentals, bike rentals, beaches, picnic tables, and much more. Check it out!
United Park Services at Fort De Soto Beach - kayak rentals, beach bike rentals, beach surrey rentals, canoe rentals, beach weddings, sunset weddings, wedding locations, receptions, banquet room, umbrella rentals, beach rentals, chair rentals
Other articles on Florida.
- Kayaking The Hillsborough River of Central Florida
Looking for an outdoor adventure on your next trip to Florida? A day of kayaking down the Hillsborough River may be just the thing for you. You'll be certain to encounter an abundant variety of wildlife including alligators, turtle, owls & hawks.
- Fossil Hunting on the Peace River in Florida
If you’re looking for an exciting and adventurous activity for your next trip to Florida consider doing some good old fashioned fossil hunting. The Peace River, located in southwestern Florida is one of the best locations for finding fossils.
Fort De Soto
Tampa - St Petersburg Area
© 2012 Bill De Giulio