Fort De Soto Park, Tierra Verde
Set on five interconnected islands extending into Tampa Bay, Fort De Soto Park’s 1,000-plus acres are filled with long beaches, multiple piers and historic sites, all linked together by an accessible long-distance trail.
The park recently went to a kiosk or app-based paid parking system, but note that visitors with disability plates or placard can park in a disability spot for free.
With its easy-to-find disability parking, accessible bathrooms, wide variety of wildlife and accessible bay and Gulf piers, this is definitely one of Beth’s favorite local parks.
She said the kayak rental area is accessible, and she has found the employees to be very accommodating. “They have helped me get in and out of the kayak and safely watched my wheelchair until I returned,” she said.
There are no Mobi-Mats on the beaches here, but there are five manual beach wheelchairs for free use. “Ask at the tollbooth, and a ranger will bring a chair for your use to the North Beach or East Beach,” she said. “Leave the chair when you’re done, and the ranger will retrieve it.”
Both piers are easily accessible, and the Gulf Pier is a great spot to see dolphins and manatees in spring and summer. Boats to Shell Key and Egmont Key leave from the Gulf Pier, but they’re not accessible via Fort De Soto Park. Take a guided tour of the fort area, which is wheelchair accessible.
- Location: 3500 Pinellas Bayway S., Tierra Verde, FL 33715
- Parking: Parking lots throughout the park have between two and six disability parking spots, each with access stripes.
- Bathrooms: All bathrooms throughout the park have wheelchair-accessible stalls with grab bars.
- Trails: A .4-mile, barrier-free loop behind the ranger station is part hard-packed dirt, part pavement. Six signs along the trail provide visual and touch-activated auditory information about the park’s plants and wildlife, although one of them wasn’t working when Beth visited. Head out to explore the nearly eight miles of paved multiuse trail that traverses the park. Beth notes that they’re also bike paths, so she suggests staying to the right and watching for e-bikes. Armadillos, osprey and gopher tortoises are among the resident wildlife you may spot in the park.
- Buildings: The visitor center, gift shop, snack bar and bait shop are all wheelchair accessible.
- Dog-friendly: Yes. Dog park with separate areas for small and large dogs. Dog beach with dog wash.