Fort De Soto

Fort De Soto is a gem of the St. Pete area. While every local will have great things to say about this pristine key in the Gulf of Mexico, it is not well-known to many visitors to the area. Fort De Soto is a three mile long key, accessible by car, that has been preserved as a State Park. This natural key offers miles of walkable natural beach, two piers, basic amenities, and is the launching pad for the ferry to remote Egmont Key. Don’t forget to check out the remains of the small fort from the Spanish-American War!

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Fort De Soto was selected as a site for a military base as early as 1849 to help protect the entrance to Tampa Bay. At the time, it was only accessible by boat and had a commanding position between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. It was fortified with mortar artillery and a small fort some years later during the Spanish-American war. The island was kept as a military and later government installation until 1949 when it was converted to a Pinellas County Park.

Since Fort De Soto is a county park, there are no hotels, formal restaurants, or beach shops. But the three-mile long island is well preserved and has limitless opportunity for an unspoiled day at the beach. The key is accessible by car, and there is plenty of parking off the main road. The park also sports plenty of infrastructure for activity including two piers, picnic area, hiking trails, paved bicycling trails, kayak routes, and a ferry to nearby Egmont Key (another previously fortified island which is not accessible by car). Camping is also available. A snack bar and gift shop are also operated on the North Beach side of the key near the fort.

Fort De Soto’s beaches are beautiful and unmarred by hotels and other buildings. While the sand is a little more shell-rich and not quite as powdery as others, it is among the best for shelling and not unpleasant underfoot. The views are also magnificent from the tree-lined shore. This out-of-the-way island only 15 minutes from St. Pete Beach and Pass-a-Grille should be on any natural beach lover’s itinerary.

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