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9 Things to Do at Fort De Soto Park in Florida

Visiting the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area and looking for a beautiful beach to spend your day? Don’t miss Fort De Soto Park, located in Tierra Verde, Florida.

Fort De Soto is a county park made up of five separate keys (small islands) and encompasses over 1,100 acres. It has been named both America’s Top Beach by Trip Advisor and the Nation’s #1 Beach by Dr. Beach. In stark contrast to nearby beaches, Fort De Soto isn’t lined with hotels and condos or houses. Instead, it offers 3 miles of unspoiled shoreline.

How Much Does it Cost to Enter Fort DeSoto?

The entrance fee to Fort De Soto is $5 per car. You’ll pay at the kiosk as you enter, but if it isn’t manned you can pay at the self pay kiosk in the parking lot. If you move your car throughout the day – no need to pay a second time. One entrance free covers your car all day – no matter which lot you park in.

What is the Address of Fort De Soto?

Fort De Soto is located at 3500 Pinellas Bayway S. Tierra Verde, FL 33715.

9 Things to Do at Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde, Florida - Fishing -
Fishing on Fort De Soto’s Gulf Pier.

10 Things to Do at Fort De Soto Park in Florida

  1. Enjoy the Beach. Fort De Soto offers two separate beach areas, North Beach and East Beach. Beachgoers can soak in the sun, play and snorkel in the water, and watch for fish and sea turtles or dolphins and manatees. North Beach is located on the Gulf of Mexico; while East Beach is on Tampa Bay.

2. Bring Your Dog. Fort De Soto has two fenced dog parks, an off leash dog beach, and fresh water available for your furry friend. (Tip: The dog beach is quieter in the morning than the afternoon.)

3. Have a Picnic. Bring a blanket and enjoy your lunch on the beach, or use one of the many picnic tables around the park. If you want to host an event, consider reserving a picnic shelter. And, if you didn’t bring food, stop by the Fort De Soto’s food concessions.

4. Fish. Fort De Soto offers two fishing piers with bait shops near each pier. However, you can also surf fish from the beach. We’ve caught everything from Spanish Mackerel to grunts, and sting rays to sharks. Don’t forget: You’ll need a valid Florida saltwater fishing license to fish anywhere at Fort De Soto. (Note: The Bay Pier is currently under renovation through Winter 2023. Use the Gulf Pier during this time.)

5. Beachcombing. There are plenty of shells to collect around Fort De Soto. While you are collecting, watch for sand dollars – but remember to only take dead sand dollars. In a recent trip, my children were able to find about 40 dead sand dollars off North Beach in about an hour.

9 Things to Do at Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde, Florida - Beachcombing and finding dead sand dollars -
Finding dead sand dollars at Fort De Soto’s North Beach.

5. Explore the Fort. Fort De Soto is a historic fort with ruins left for visitors to explore. The Fort is named after Hernando De Soto who explored the area in the 1500s. Construction on Fort De Soto was finished in 1900, however, the Fort never saw any combat. In 1923, the Fort was abandoned and in 1963 it was sold to Pinellas County to eventually become the park it is today. (Tip: There are some ruins located on the beach near the Gulf fishing pier. Grab your snorkel and explore around the rocks. Many types of small fish hide here.)

6. Ride, Skate, Bike, or Walk. Fort De Soto offers hiking nature trails as well as a paved trail that runs the length of the park. It’s perfect for bike riding, roller blading, biking, and jogging. Didn’t bring your bike? Rent one at the park. The Fort’s rental outfitter offers standard and surrey style bikes.

7. Kayak or Paddleboard. Bring your own and follow the marked paddle trail, or rent from the outfitter in the park. The outfitter rents both single and double kayaks as well as paddleboards.

8. Camping. Fort De Soto is a hotspot for camping. The campground offers both waterfront and non-waterfront sites for tents or RVs and vehicles, as well as pet friendly and no pet options. If you want to camp during a holiday period, reserve a site in advance.

9 Things to Do at Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde, Florida - Dolphin watching -
Dolphins swimming along the beach at Fort De Soto.

Explore Nearby Egmont Key State Park

Once you explored everything that Fort De Soto has to offer, hop on the ferry and head to Egmont Key State Park. There you can explore the ruins of Fort Dade, built for the Spanish American War. A ferry departs multiple times a day from the Fort De Soto boat launch to Egmont Key.