Fort De Soto Park – Tierra Verde, FL

Yay, it’s time to write about Fort De Soto Park! We were here at the end of October for 4 days. It’s where we spent Halloween! It was easy to forget it was Halloween, though. Between the warm temperatures and lack of children, it didn’t feel like Halloween at all. I’m determined to celebrate Halloween in 2018, but in 2017, it slipped by the wayside.

One of our favorite destinations, we loved Ft. DeSoto Park so much that we sent Tim’s dad there with his travel trailer after we went there. He loved it too. Fort De Soto park is run by Pinellas county, so it’s a county park. Thus far in our travels, we have really enjoyed the natural/more rustic setting provided by state and county parks, and this was no exception. Fort De Soto is located on a little peninsula jutting out into the gulf, south of St. Petersburg FL. Technically it’s in a small town called Tierra Verde.

Fort De Soto Park Location
Sign at the Entrance to Fort De Soto Park

The Campground

The campground at Fort De Soto is made up of 3 loops. Each loop has water and electric hookups. The campsites are laid out in an oval shape, so around the outside, they all face the water. In the middle are some huge pull through campsites, but they obviously don’t have the water view. Even some of the campsites that are up against the water have the view obstructed by mangroves, so you have to choose your site wisely (and this campground is VERY booked up). The reservations website shows pictures of each individual site, so you can choose on that’s to your liking. By the way, the reservations website for this park was extremely frustrating to use. We’ve seen a lot of bad reservation websites, but this was something far worse. Even Technomadia complained about it in their post about Fort De Soto.

  • A loop of sites that allowed all different camper sizes, including some that were big enough for a motorhome like Trudy, but did not allow pets (this is the loop we stayed in)
  • A loop of sites that allowed all different camper sizes, and also allowed pets
  • A loop of sites that only allowed small campers (teardrops, popups) and tents. The best views were in this loop.

With no sewer hookups, we showered in the bathhouses, which were old but clean. Our site was pretty cool. Right behind our site there was a large grassy area where Calla could play and beyond that were some mangroves. We could see and access the water right from our campsite. One day, Tim put on his water shoes and walked into the bay and found some wildlife, including snails, sea slug, and a blue crab!  There were constantly fish jumping in the water. Tim’s dad said that from his campsite, he saw tons of oysters at low tide. The water was truly brimming with wildlife.

Fort De Soto Campsite
Our spot at Fort De Soto. The site was narrow, but long.

 

Mangroves at Fort De Soto
Behind our campsite – we could access the water through the mangroves
Treasures from the Sea
Playground at the campground
Sign warning big rigs to stay out
Sign warning big rigs to stay out

The campground is surrounded by water. Judging by the amount of people fishing (despite the fact that we were there during off-season) it seems like an angler’s paradise. Water everywhere you turn.

Camping at Fort De Soto
Admit it – you’re jealous of this camping spot. I know I am!
Fort De Soto Campground
One of the views at the campground. See the camper to the left?

The Beach

One of my favorite things about Fort De Soto is that there was so much to do within the park itself. If I can hop on my bike, strap Calla into the child seat, and bike to activities, I am happy. The park had a ton of dedicated bike trails, some of which led to the beach…or beaches, I should say.  The park has two beaches. The one that we went to most often is called North Beach. It is a fairly long (30 minute?) bike ride from the campground, but it is a stunning beach. There are also lots of playgrounds, picnic shelters, bathrooms, and a snack bar and gift shop there. There was hardly anyone there while we were there, but I can imagine how busy this facility gets during peak season. The size of the parking lot told me just how many people come!

I also went to the other beach once. It is a short (7 minute) bike ride from the campground, but it is definitely sub-par. I forget what this beach is called, but pets are allowed on this beach, and they are not allowed on North Beach.

North Beach at Fort De Soto
The white powder sand of North Beach
Sunset at North Beach
Cool trees on the beach. One morning there were tons of people taking photographs – green parrots nesting in the trees.
Calla – a true beach bum by this point

Other Things to do at Fort De Soto

Other than the 2 beaches, there are a couple other things to do within the park. First of all, there is the pier. It is gigantic and a couple boats depart from it daily – boats that will take you to Egmont key, where there is great shelling and snorkeling. Like I mentioned before, we were here in the off season, so all of these “peak tourist season” type activities were pretty dead. Calla has a thing for birds, and she loved seeing the pelicans on the pier. These pelicans were not afraid of anyone or anything, and got really close to us. I believe there is normally a fee to access the pier (it is very popular for fishing) but you get a pass and it’s included with the (not-so-cheap $45 a night) camping fee. Now that I think about it – dang, that’s expensive for an electric/water only site!

The other thing to do at Fort De Soto is to visit the fort itself! It was fun to look around the fort, but there were no tours or anything, just self-guided type of stuff. It was large but a lot of it blocked off since it is constantly open to the public.

Pelicans on one of the ferry boats at the pier
No zoom here. They were so close!
Picture at the Fort. I’m like 10 shades too tan here.

 

Cons

No big cons to Fort De Soto. We really enjoyed our stay here! For $45 a night, the sites should have a sewer hookup. Also, there are a ton of tolls to get to the park in the first place, and when you’re a motorhome towing a car, they are much more expensive. We stopped for tolls 3 times in 10 minutes. There was quite a bit of trash at the playground, which was disheartening, as the rest of the park seemed very well maintained. We noticed an abundance of raccoons (or as we jokingly started to call them “camp kitties”) around the park. If you drove your car around the campground loop at dusk you’d see at least a dozen. Then one day Tim was working and looking out the living room window, and the camp kitties were right outside the RV in broad daylight. They were relentless. They also ran across our roof constantly (one of the many sounds you can hear clear as a bell in an RV)!

Raccoons aka Camp Kitties – View from Trudy’s living room
Sunset at Fort De Soto
A beautiful Fort De Soto Sunset

2 Comments

  1. So beautiful!! I love that Calla is experiencing all of this. We just came back from California and looking back, Hank mostly enjoyed the beach and the birds!! What a blessing to be able to spend your days with nature. During your next visit in Pa we will have to take the kids somewhere where they can run with the birds! Lol

    1. Kids do seem to have an innate connection and fascination with nature. I think we lose it as we grow older, but I’m trying to rediscover it! I’m glad your CA trip went well!

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