Located off the St. Petersburg coast, near the mouth of Florida’s Tampa Bay, the tiny islands that make up Fort De Soto County Park have a long and storied history. More than 1,000 years ago, the islands were home to the Tocobaga peoples, who sustained themselves on local plants and seafood. In the 1500s, Spanish conquistadors began exploring Florida’s barrier islands and mainland, among them, Hernando de Soto. From the Civil War in the 1860s until the conclusion of World War II in the 1940s, the islands were used as military emplacements, first as a Union blockade, then as coastal defensive batteries. The islands finally became a state park in 1963 as an effort to preserve their long history, and provide a recreation area for locals and visitors. The park was designated America’s Top Beach in 2009, and sees more than 2.7 million annual visitors.
Fort DeSoto County Park reservations offer 238 sites for tent and RV campers. It is located on the St. Christopher and St. Jean Keys, approximately 10 miles southwest of St. Petersburg. The campground is mostly wooded, and divided up into three areas: Area 1 for tents, vans, and small campers, and Areas 2 and 3 for larger RVs. All sites are equipped with electrical and water hookups, picnic tables and cooking grills. Comfort stations with restrooms, showers and laundry facilities are located in each area; a dump station is located near Area 2. The campground also features a small store, dayroom, two playgrounds, and Wifi service; bike and kayak rentals are available. Dogs are permitted in Area 2 and the designated dog park only. Alcoholic beverages and gas-powered generators are not permitted in the park. Reservations are recommended, and can be made up to six months in advance; seven months for locals. Campsite rates are $36–$42/night.
There are plenty of activities to enjoy on a visit to Fort DeSoto County Park, including visiting Fort DeSoto. Located on the southernmost point of Mullet Key, the historic military emplacement is open to the public for self-guided tours. Explore officers’ quarters, the bakery, the hospital and various other facilities. Look out across the Gulf of Mexico for the lighthouse, constructed in 1858, on neighboring Egmont Key. The park also features more than 7 miles of sparkling, white sand beaches, including East Beach and North Beach, for sunning and swimming. These can be reached via a paved, multi-use path from the campground. There are also boat launches, a fishing pier and a snack bar. As part of the Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge, bird watchers can scan for some of the more than 300 species of resident and migratory birds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, songbirds, woodpeckers, and raptors.
We have camped at Fort DeSoto many times with our 38” travel trailer. The campground is clean but could use some tree trimming. The spots we have rented we kind of tight for our side trailer and our large truck. The branches are low so watch out! The neighbors are very close. We are used to larger campsites where we can spread out. Overall the campground is tightly packed but clean and convenient. Fort DeSoto Park and beach are a five minute drive. Our dogs loved the dog beach and the dog park. Very nice bike trails also.
It can be difficult to get reservations here, but it’s worth it. The sites are private due to the foliage between them. I had Site 43 which was long and spacious. Watch out for raccoons who will steal any food. Restrooms are clean. Bring your bike to get to the beach and fort, as parking there is limited. Great kayaking nearby. Next time I would get a site that I can launch from, as the sea wall was between me and the water. Be aware that Area 1 can be tricky to back into if you have a camper or van. My site was easy since I had room in front of the facilities to pull forward. Good cell service with Verizon.
We’ve been here a few times now and it never disappoints. Great water access for kayaking/fishing/boating. Have tent camper and RV camped. All sites are clean and well kept. Campground is kid friendly with playgrounds and paths for them to ride bikes. Facilities always clean. Close to beautiful beaches. Has a camp store at entrance for any last minute needs.
Great spot for relaxing by the water. Highly recommend. Bring good bug spray lol.
Quite possible the best county park in the USA. This park is incredibly well run and has so much to do. This is our go to place for a close to home weekend when we are lucky enough to get a reservation. If you are a visiting from Miami or out of state you won’t be disappointed if you can get in.
What makes this park special for us is that many of the camping sites are coveted waterfront sites. The campground portion of the park is divided into three parts, one camping area that is pet friendly, one no pets and one predominantly for tents and pop ups with smaller sites.
Another bonus of Fort DeSoto in addition to the old fort is the fishing peer, great beach, cycling path and absolutely enormous parking lots so unlike many Florida locations, especially in season, parking is never really an issue.
Fort De Soto County Park is a very special place. We are lucky to have it so close to us.
This is a great place to camp with many great waterfront sites. We camp there a lot all year round. Sit your chair in the water and kick back, kayak, fish, short drive to the most beautiful beach. It's free to get on the beach it's included in your campsite fee. Nice sunsets and love watching a good storm roll in off the gulf.
Book in advance it's hard to get in this campground. Every Friday at 7 am they list 10 or 20 sites they hold back but you have to grab it quick they are gone within minutes.
There are so many shore birds, Dolphins, Manatees especially if you Kayak or Canoe and yes there are Racoon's so don't leave anything out even in the daytime. Saw a guy setting up a tent with the back of his SUV open and guess what was in there checking out his food.
We live to kayak and watch the manatee play they are curious and will cone itch their backs and bellies in your kayak. While paddling along the cormorants will follow you to catch fish when the the paddles dig in the water it stirs up the fish. So the feed. The Raccoons eat dead horseshoe crabs and dog for fiddler crabs. It’s all fun to watch
The restrooms are nice, the only problem they clean them around 8 or 9 am they close them so you may have to go to another one in the campground. There are 2 dump stations and a little camp store, you can rent a firepit or bring your own. A big boat ramp close less than a 5 minute drive.
Several restaurants with in a 5 minute drive, Tony and Nello's, Billy's stone crab, Island Grill, Marco's Pizza (they deliver to the campsite), and Sushi Rock grill maybe 10 minute drive.
Ft Desoto beach is beautiful white soft sand, 2 fishing piers, concession stands, great views and an old fort free to tour. Egmont key is off the tip of the beach well worth taking the ferry over to spend the day. Pack a cooler there isn’t anywhere on Egmont to buy anything. St. Petersburg beach, Treasure Island beach and others close by. Down town St Pete fun times and good eats, shopping and museums.
Ft Desoto is hands-down the go-to spot in my local area. The beaches are gorgeous, there are plenty of secret trails, a dog beach, general store, historic walks, boat ramps, kayak access, and much more!
I tend to go to Ft De Soto as my primary beach even when I am not camping - it's that fantastic :)
de soto is best kept secret. private clean sites, well maintained lots bike walking trails nearby. no concrete pads but dirt is level
Haven’t had the chance to camp here yet but love taking the dogs to the dog beach while we are in the area. There’s an old fort and tons of areas to walk or bike. The water is super clear with lots of wildlife and nice shells.
We can’t wait to go back again. Loved staying here and loved being able to have access to one of the best dog beaches in country. We def went here for our girl who loves chilling on the beach. Each campsite ticks away from each other. Plenty of room here. But book in advance.