One of the first places my husband and I went to was the beach. We both love being by the water so when we planned our first trip as a couple to Florida we knew we had to take advantage of being that close to the water. During the time we were there us and his family all went to this park in Pinellas County called Fort De Soto Park. I was captivated by the beautiful white sand and the overabundance of seashells. There was seashells everywhere. I think I collected an entire bag to take back home.
It has turned now into a ritual that every time we visit Florida we go to Fort De Soto Park for a beach day. The park itself has a lot to offer. Not just beaches but trails, kayak rentals, fishing, camping and so much more. My two girls have been coming here since they were babies and always have a blast. It is definitely a family favorite and has been a family favorite beach spot in my husband’s family for many many years.
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HISTORY OF FORT DE SOTO PARK
Fort De Soto was being built back in 1898 and wasn’t completed till April 1900. After it was built it was named after the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto. Because of the location of Fort De Soto, it held strong security to the entrance of Tampa bay. As the years passed the fort was sold by the federal government in 1938. In 1941 it was sold back to the federal government to be used as a gunnery and bombing range during World War II according to Pinellas County website. You can learn more about the history of this fort during your visit at the Quartermaster Museum.
Did you know that this isn’t the only place named after Hernando De Soto? Yes! There is De Soto Falls trail in Cleveland, Georgia which we had the pleasure of visiting too. You can find two beautiful waterfalls on the trail. Definitely worth the trip if you are in the north Georgia mountain area.
THINGS TO DO
GOING TO THE BEACH
Fort De Soto Park has many things to do. Our favorite though is going to the beach. We love going beach combing and finding seashells to collect. We have found some live ones as well while snorkeling along with some sand dollars but we just snapped photos and put them back in the water in a safer spot so they can stay alive.
Usually we arrive early in the morning for our beach days. After setting up a canopy and blankets for the kids we then go and enjoy the day swimming, playing games, snorkeling, and enjoying the things that the beach park has to offer.
VISITING THE FORT AT FORT DE SOTO
You can’t visit Fort De Soto and not check out the fort! It is filled with canons, weapons, and a lot of history about this place. It is actually pretty interesting if you are into that sort of historical stuff. I personally just love to see the old architecture and weaponry.
The fort area also has a small souvenir shop that you can visit. They have some cool items that you can take home with you.
CAMPING AT FORT DE SOTO
I personally have never camped here but my family has. My husband actually grew up coming here all of his life and has told me many amazing stories. Even though I haven’t camped, I have gone to the campgrounds and just about everywhere in the park. My husband gave me a full tour and showed me all of his favorite spots as well.
The campgrounds are very clean and spacious. Some of them are even along the water making it easy access for you if you are planning to go kayaking. We camp at Land Between The Lakes – Piney Campground right by the water and it is my favorite. It is so relaxing to sleep with the sound of the water all night. So if you get a chance to grab yourself a spot by the water, I say take it. You won’t regret it. However, the prices will be slightly higher, but it is so worth it.
MAKING YOUR CAMPING RESERVATIONS
For making you camping reservations, it is best to make them at least 6 months ahead of time. They do book up quick and way in advance. You can make your reservations here.
FISHING AT FORT DE SOTO
Another good activity to do is fishing. I personally never gone fishing but my father-in-law and my husband go fishing every time we go to Florida. Fort De Soto is one of the places they love to go fishing at. When going fishing just make sure to stay in designated fishing areas. 😉
OTHER THINGS TO DO
The park has a lot to offer including:
- Nature trails
- Ferry to Egmont Key and Shell Key
- Visit the Quarter Master Museum
- Go biking
3500 Pinellas Bayway S.,
Tierra Verde, FL 33715
(727) 582-2100, select Option #2
WHAT TO BRING
FOR YOU AND THE FAMILY
- Swimwear: I wore this cute one piece swimsuit from Target. I love how comfortable it is.
- Sunblock: We used Raw Elements but if you are not used to the harsh sun in Florida I recommend using something with a higher SPF. You can read my Reef Safe Sunscreen guide here or even read more about Raw Elements here.
- Sunglasses: The rays reflecting off the water can be harsh on your eyes. It is important to use sunglasses for protection.
- A bag to put it all in: We use multiple bags like we have kids.
- Extra clothes: This is definitely essential for us. We like to rinse off before heading out and putting on some clean clothes. Bringing extra clothes with kids is good too like our little ones tend to be messy.
FOR THE BEACH
- Cooler: We love using our Igloo cooler. It works great for the day especially if you use these ice packs.
- Blanket: Laying down a blanket for the kids to sit, lay or even eat on is essential for us. I feel like my girls prefer to sit on the ground most times rather than their seats.
- Food, snacks and drinks: This is a must for us. I swear we go to the beach to swim and eat. We always bring fruits, drinks, snacks, and sandwiches. Need some healthy snack ideas? Check out my favorite healthy snacks for kids here.
- Canopy: We always bring a canopy. It is a great way to protect your family from the harsh sun when you are not in the water. We use a similar canopy to this one and it is very easy to set up and use.
- Wagon: These little wagons are so perfect for carrying everything you need for the day out to the beach. Depending on where you got parking at, the walk can sometimes be pretty far.
- GoPro Hero 8: This is by far my favorite. We just got a new GoPro Hero 8 right before our summer trip to Florida and I loved it. The photos above at the beach were taken with the GoPro Hero 8 and they are so clear and perfect. Even the videos were excellent quality. Don’t believe me? See my 5 reasons why you should own a GoPro here.
Related Articles: Beach Day Essentials For Families
LEAVE ONLY FOOTPRINTS
Whenever you visit any outdoor locations, or any destination period, it is important to follow Leave No Trace Principles. These principles help keep these areas clean, minimize your impact, and be properly prepared for your trip. You can read more about LNT Principles here.
SUMMARY OF FORT DE SOTO PARK
Fort De Soto will always have a special place in my heart. I feel like I have, through my family, found a precious gem in Central Florida and I couldn’t be happier about it. This place is absolutely breathtaking. Has it this park made it on to your bucketlist? I sure hope so.
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LOOKING FOR MORE FUN FLORIDA TRIPS? CHECK THESE OUT!
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- Kayaking and Paddle Boarding at Weeki Wachee
- Visiting Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- Visiting Disney Springs
Fort De Soto Park (St. Petersburg) Florida by Live Life, Be Happy
A Day at Fort De Soto County Park by Kate Pursell at Visit Florida
- Things to Do When Visiting Fort De Soto Park in St. Petersburg, Florida by Bill de Giulio at Wander Wisdom