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.
Fort De Soto will forever be one of my favorite camp grounds. The beautiful weather, the critters, the terrain…all of it. Expect a nice, calming breeze rustling through the trees whisking you off to sleep. It’s totally zen.
All sites are pretty spacious, but I highly recommend riverside if you can snag one (a tad bit pricier). Note that the dog friendly site has great spots, but a little less privacy.
The best part about this spot, hands down, is the people you’ll run into there. People from all over the US travel just to spend a few nights there, and you’ll find yourself making new acquaintances every time.
The camp store just a short walk away has all the necessities you could ask for (even a snack bar a full Icecream shop!) should you forget anything, but most things are a bit pricier as to be expected. Should you need anything, I highly suggest running down to the 711 just a few miles away from the campground. They have firewood year round, and it’s 7 dollars as compared to 10 dollars a bag at the camp shop.
Be mindful of the raccoons at this campground. They are absolutely everywhere (most likely due to people feeding them in the past) and will have their hands in your cooler the moment the sun goes down. I highly suggest keeping food in your vehicle.
Really beautiful area. Sites w/grills that can fit 2 cars. Foliage between sites so they are visually private but can get loud depending on your neighbors. Plenty of space for hammocks.
Camp store on site has firewood, bug spray, sunscreen, all the basics.
We tent camped in July and it was truly the hottest I've ever been. Character building.
Beautiful , sites nice amenities all very nice kinda crowded when I went but still nice.
Here’s a few pics of our stay.
We’ve been here numerous times whether it is just plain leisure and special holidays. Love the waterfront view. Clear view of the stars and moon at night. Any time we get, we book it here.
We had a great weekend even though it rained most of it our site was higher so we didn’t flood plenty of shade trees the facilities are clean with the beaches close by we will be looking to go camping there again
Stayed two nights here. Arrived in the afternoon and found site number (38) easily. The tent sites on the outer side of the loops are bedded in sand, and the ones on the inner side are bedded in crushed shells and are nearer the restrooms and facilities. The back side of number 38 leads to a grassy area lined by trees on the far side that block the sunset. Recommend site 30 or below so that the back side of your site leads to the water and beautiful sunsets. Be prepared to deal with mosquitoes and raccoons. On the first night, a raccoon approached the table without regard and tried to open the portable trash can! They're active and large, and can be seen at night throughout the campground raiding the trash bins. Went on a bike ride the following day, and upon returning saw that a raccoon had opened the Coleman 52-gallon cooler, taken out the carton of eggs, cracked all six eggs, and eaten each egg yolk, leaving the whites and the shells strewn about the picnic table and ground nearby. Thankful that it had not touched the Ferrero Rocher chocolates. Resolved to put the cooler inside the car when absent henceforth. There is a campground store near the entrance with everything from ice to wood to tuna, milk, fishing supplies… it's a mini-market. There is a souvenir shop and food shop near the fort part. Didn't go to the fort or museum. Had a delicious fish and chips meal at the food shop. The bike paths are wide along the main vehicular roads. The highlight of the site is the North Beach. It's ample and clean. White sands. Shallow shores. Pleasant, perfect.
Great park with days worth of activities! The historic fort, scenic beaches, trails for hiking or biking, etc made for a great visit! Tons of wildlife - we saw raccoons, dolphin, manatee, tons oftons of Birds!
I've been camping here for 30 years. Never needed a reservation. Now, it seems people plant roots down at the waterfront sites and never leave goving anyone else a chance to enjoy this beautiful campground. We were lucky enough to get a reservation during the week & had to split the qeek between 2 different sites. Packing up & moving across the campground is annoying but we did what we had to do to be able to stay here. Absolutely love this campground. Will always be my 2nd home.
Great Campsite for the Family. Nice Clean campsite. North Beach is beautiful and clean. Very spacious and quite after dark. Dumb site was clean and roomy. Playground was right across from us and had great shade. I highly recommend going to Crabby Bills for a great evening dinner on the beach about 7 miles away. We stayed in a pull through 234 which was great to get in and out without backing in. Can’t wait to go again.