Camping in Florida is a year-round affair. With a plethora of campgrounds that line the coast, it probably seems like a daunting task to choose just one. If you are looking for a campsite directly on a white sand beach with tons of outdoor activities all within proximity to your tent, then look no further. Fort De Soto has a rich history that dates back to the 1900s when the iconic fort was built to protect Tampa Bay. It was abandoned in the 1920s and by the 1960s was reintroduced as a recreational area by paving a road to the key for tourists to easily visit. The park’s amenities as well as it’s easily assessable location make it a great destination for locals and out-of-towners alike!
Getting To Fort De Soto
Only a short 30 to 45-minute drive from Tampa and just less than 2 hours from Orlando, Fort De Soto is the perfect weekend get-away. Located just south of St. Petersburg, Fort De Soto’s park and campground are just off of Interstate 275. As with every highway in central Florida, expect congestion and traffic during rush hours as well as holidays. Traveling during slower times like Friday afternoon rather than immediately after work hours could decrease your chances for any headaches or delays.
When To Visit Fort De Soto
Any time of the year is a great opportunity to visit the gulf shore! Depending on your interests, some months might be preferred over others. The winter months (November-March) offer cool nights and warm afternoons. The cooler temperatures are a perfect environment for cozy campfires in the evening and water sports throughout the day. The winter months tend to draw Florida locals for camping all over the state because of the ideal conditions. Summer months are hot and humid with daily afternoon thunderstorms. Don’t let the weather keep you away because Fort De Soto offers activities for all seasons regardless of the elements.
Overnight Camping At Fort De Soto
The daily entrance fee per vehicle is $5 for the park. If you intend to stay overnight and have obtained a campsite, that fee is included in your campsite price. Booking online is the easiest way to reserve your spot, which is essential especially during the weekends and holidays. During the booking process, you are able to choose a specific campsite location including options just off the shoreline. All sites include water and electric hookups as well as a picnic table and charcoal grill. Prices range from $30 to $45 per night depending on campsite location and time of year. Check the Pinellas County website for accurate prices and information. If you wish to enjoy a campfire, stop by the camp store just past the check-in office to rent a fire ring for $3 and purchase firewood.
Endless Activities At Fort De Soto
If Fort De Soto’s pristine white sand beaches aren’t enough to convince you to visit, maybe one of the dozens of outdoor activities available will. Two beautiful beaches both with plenty of parking, concessions, and restroom facilities are located on the key. There is even a separate area for dogs to enjoy the beach too! Two piers jut out into the gulf are a huge draw for fishing at any point in the day. Walking to the end of the pier offers great views of the coastline and the fort. Look down for a chance to catch a glimpse of some marine life like dolphins or manatees. Don’t forget to take a tour of the fort for some extra information on the history of the area.
Even More Activities At Fort De Soto
The park offers 7 miles of paved trails that connect the campground to both beaches and the fort. Many people can be seen utilizing the trail for walking, biking, and running. If you are looking to get out on the water, a boat ramp is located just before entering the park and costs $6.00 per day with a trailer or $2.00 per day for a vehicle. Aside from the boat ramp, you can also rent a kayak or paddleboard just across the street from the North Beach at Topwater Kayak Outpost. Check their website for accurate prices which range from $23 for one hour on a single kayak to $55 for the entire day. The outpost opens at 9:00 AM and last rentals are around 3-4 PM depending on the season. Keep your eyes peeled during your paddling adventure because you are sure to see tons of wildlife!
Enjoy Fort De Soto And Help Protect Our Natural Spaces By Leaving No Trace And Respecting Wildlife.
All the information above is based on my experience at Fort De Soto. Consider visiting the Pinellas County website for the most up to date information including prices, alerts or other general information. And be sure to check out my other paddling adventures throughout Florida including some of my favorite natural springs!