Fort De Soto Park FL: Great Beaches, Biking, Hiking, Dog Park, and More
One of the best areas for beaches in Florida is the Tampa / St. Petersburg area on the Gulf coast… There are a multitude of fantastic beaches there with relatively clear water, much unlike the east coast at Daytona Beach or New Smyrna Beach. Fort De Soto Beach is probably one of my favorite beaches in that area, and it’s located on a spur of land right at the entrance to Tampa Bay. It’s actually a large park with many great beaches and hiking and biking trails, in addition to a dog park which is very popular.
The largest boat ramp in the whole area is located right at the entrance to the Fort De Soto Park, and you shouldn’t have any kind of wait at all if you want to launch your boat or Jet Ski from there. It has an incredibly large parking lot and several individual boat ramps with a convenient waterway access to the Gulf of Mexico and nearby Egmont Key. In fact, the whole of Fort De Soto Park is made up of a few keys, and the park is named for the famous Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto who landed here in 1539 or so…
Fort De Soto Park was named America’s Top Beach for the second consecutive year by TripAdvisor, the world’s largest online travel community. Citing a “spectacular combination of soft white sand, calm, clear water and a laid-back atmosphere,” the popular online travel network put the park’s North Beach at the top of its annual best-of list, based on TripAdvisor’s Popularity Index. This marks the second time in three years the pristine Pinellas County beach has received top honors on an annual “best-of” list.
The park also has one of the largest camp sites in the area, and it’s very popular with people. You usually have to book ahead of time here, but it’s definitely worth the wait! Bring your bikes, because there are paved trails alongside the road throughout the park, and it’s also a great way to enjoy some hiking. Watch out for the summer sun though, since it can get very hot and humid in Florida.
The beaches are controlled by lifeguards, and some of them have slightly enclosed “inlets” with sand bars semi-protecting them and are great for little children. They can protect you from heavy wave action or even the “creatures of the deep” that may be lurking around. This area has a heavy concentration of sting rays which skirt along the bottom of the water by the sand, and can sometimes be difficult to see, so make sure to watch out! The stingers can hurt if you get stung, and pouring vinegar on the wound is supposed to help the pain subside…
There are historic ruins of the famous “Fort De Soto” that was built in the 19th century in anticipation of enemy attack. It was taken out of commission with the invention of weapons that could break apart the material that the fort is made of, and is today a historical park and if you’re not careful you just may learn something about U.S. history! Fort De Soto is one of my favorite beaches, and even though it’s popular, it is not as well known by people not familiar with the area. Out of towners tend to go to nearby Clearwater Beach or St. Petersburg Beach, which are also very good and they also have large hotels and resorts located on them.
Definitely try and make it to Fort De Soto Park if you can while you are visiting the area, and bring your RV or pitch a tent if you really want to experience the full tropical flavor of this fantastic park. If you have a dog, bring him along also, because of the incredible dog park where he can run and play in the water and interact with other dogs. You can also take up windsurfing here, and they give lessons close to the entrance to the park. With lots of wind, kites are also very popular! Don’t forget to bring your bike and some good hiking shoes, but then again you may just spend all your time in the water! It’s a great place, be sure to visit!
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