Sandy beach
Yes
Hike-in Required
No
Surfing
Yes
Snorkeling / SCUBA
No
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Fort Desoto Park is one of the most popular and treasured beach spots in Florida. This county-run park stretches over the length of five islands on Florida's gulf coast, offering the best of both the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. There are enough amenities available to fill any vacation with days of fun.

Of course, the main attraction is the beach. Fort Desoto's North Beach area is an award-winning hotspot featuring white sands, lounge areas for rent, a playground, wide tidal pool, a concession area, and some of the best seashell collecting to be found. Beachside wildlife viewing abounds as well; over 300 species of birds have been documented on the islands, and if visitors are lucky, they may even see a loggerhead sea turtle pop its head up for air as it scouts for the perfect nesting beach.

The park's namesake is the historic fort, located right at the meeting point between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. Built between 1898 and 1910, the old coquina shell fort remains open for visitors to explore. Artillery guns and battery cannons line the walkways and aim over the fort's walls, offering a glimpse into the old days of the Spanish-American War. Visitors can learn more about the fort's role in history in the old postal building, which now hosts the Quartermaster's Museum.

For visitors who want to get back to the natural side of things, Fort Desoto Park offers a spectacular look at Florida's varied ecology. The five islands that the park spans are called keys, and they are home to some of the most interesting plant life to be found. Mangroves, palm hammocks and countless other native plants line the shores and help preserve the environment, as well as provide shelter for the many species that call the islands home. Visitors can walk along both paved and natural nature trails to get an up close look at these ecosystems; or for a truly unique experience, head out on the water to follow the 2-mile paddling trail. The waters around the island are full of life, from manatees and dolphins to hermit crabs and herons.

With over 1,000 acres of beach and tropical island to explore, two fishing piers, a dog park, trail system, picnic areas and playgrounds, Fort Desoto is one of Florida's best stops for a beach vacation. Fortunately, the park also offers a 238-site campground for those who want to extend their stay.

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Spring
Winter
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

Park entrance fee

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Beautiful scenery. Recreation rentals. Various day use areas. Spacious.

Cons

Biting insects after dark. Crowds on weekends.

Pets allowed

Allowed with Restrictions

Features

Fishing
Historically significant
Picnic tables
Covered picnic areas
Surfing
Marina
Tide pools
Wildlife
Bird watching
Family friendly

Location

Nearby Adventures

Greater Tampa + Central Gulf Coast, Florida
Greater Tampa + Central Gulf Coast, Florida
Greater Tampa + Central Gulf Coast, Florida

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