Fort De Soto Park

There are beaches, and then, there’s Fort De Soto Park. This expansive park and historic site offers one of the most stunning beaches in Florida. And, beyond the beach, there are other treasures to discover.

People camping in Fort de Soto Park with kayaks

From kayaking to waterfront camping, Fort De Soto is a nature lover's dream.

With miles of serene and sandy shoreline, this much-loved county park covers five islands and 1,136 acres on the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. That means you can explore on land or water, visit a Spanish-America War era fort, splash around with your pups at the water’s edge, or lounge on a sun-soaked beach.  

Beautiful crystal clear water at the North Beach at Fort de Soto Park in Tierra Verde, Florida

Pristine waters, tranquil sands and a mysterious fort make Fort DeSoto Park feel like a dream.

A Beach the Whole Family Will Love

For years, Parents Magazine and other national media outlets have proclaimed Fort De Soto’s North Beach as perfect for families (the adventure starts with the pirate ship playground you’ll see on the way in). The real treasure here is the beach, however, where the kiddos will have a blast splashing around in the large tidal pool and looking for colorful seashells and white sand dollars.

Fort De Soto Park’s Historic Fort and Museum

At the heart of the park lies Fort DeSoto’s namesake fort. At ground level, artillery holds and firing galleys make up the coquina shell fort’s base - here, kids of all ages can have a little fun with the echoes their voices make in these cool, mysterious rooms. Climb to the top of the fort where cannons point at Tampa Bay for sweeping views of the park and beyond. You can also visit the small Quartermaster Museum within the park.

Family riding bicycles in Fort de Soto park.

Experience Fort De Soto on two wheels. Find bicycles of every size for rent at the park.

Fort De Soto Park’s Paved and Natural Trails

The park's seven-mile paved trail draws avid runners, cyclists and strollers alike. Walk, run, push a stroller or snap on your rollerblades. Or, load up to eight people on a covered surrey bike (rent one near the concession area). On foot? Start at North Beach and make your way south, and explore the shorter nature trails that meander off the main paved one.

A kayaker paddling the waters of Fort de Soto at sunset

Whether you're on land or water, sunset at Fort DeSoto is a truly transcendent experience.

Paddling Fun at Fort De Soto

The best way to spot Florida manatees, graceful wading birds and other native creatures? Rent a canoe or kayak at the park, and explore the tidal waters that teem with wildlife. You may catch glimpses of turtles, cormorants, leaping mullet and other wildlife on this serene paddling trail in the mangroves. If you haven’t paddled a canoe or kayak before - no worries, it’s an easy paddle and no experience is necessary. 

A couple walking down the beach in shallow water with a large dog.

Your pup will have a blast exploring St. Pete/Clearwater's dog-friendly beaches.

Dog Beach & Paw Playground

Locals love Fort DeSoto because it’s one of the only places in the area where you can let your dog play off-leash at the beach - here, there’s plenty of room for them to run and splash. If your pup gets messy, the Paw Playground has hoses so you can wash the sand out of those paws on your way out.

Two girls snorkeling in the emerald waters off Egmont Key

The shallow surrounding waters of Egmont Key are perfect for snorkeling; it's an ideal place for experiencing some one-on-one time with Mother Nature.

Dogs greeting a small catamaran in the clear waters of Fort de Soto Park

Fort De Soto has one of the only spots where dogs can play in the sand off leash.

Fishing Spots 

Your toughest decision may be where to fish – Gulf-side or bay-side? Try both - starting with the fishing pier that juts out into the Gulf near the dog beach. It’s a favorite spot for locals, and there’s a bait and tackle shop right on the pier in case you run out of essentials. The pelicans that hang out here will entertain you as you wait for a bite.

Florida’ Best Waterfront Camping

If you camp anywhere in Florida, camp here at Fort De Soto Park. Easily one of the most beautiful camping spots in the state, the campsites have views of blue-green water, mangrove-lined islands and scenic bridges. All 238 sites have water, electricity, charcoal grills and picnic tables. Campsites get snapped up quickly here (particularly the prized waterfront ones), so check for availability well in advance of your visit. 

A group snorkeling in clear blue green water next to a fort.

Head to Egmont Key to snorkel the warm waters that line the shore and the sunken ruins of Fort Dade.

Explore More at Egmont Key

If you really want a beachy, “away-from-it-all” experience, catch the ferry to Egmont Key from the fishing pier at Fort De Soto. Here, a small lighthouse reaches above coastal foliage as well as the ruins of Fort Dade (built in 1899). There’s great snorkeling on the key, and plenty of nearly empty beachfront for you to enjoy. As you explore the island, look for gopher tortoises and their burrows. The ferry ride takes 20 minutes and runs multiple times a day (happy fact: dolphins are often spotted along the way).

Gift Shop & Snack Bars Have Everything You Need 

Fort De Soto’s expansive beaches and long trails can make you feel far away from civilization — and don’t we all crave that sometimes? Yet you’re never far from essentials here. Out of reef-safe sunscreen? Need a snack? Seeking a souvenir? Head to the snack bar/gift shop that sits between North Beach and the historic fort, or the bait shop on the fishing pier, which sells food and mementos.