Florida boasts many beautiful beaches, so for one to be known as a true stand-out – it must be good! Fort de Soto Park, in Tierra Verde, certainly is. In fact, it was voted the best family beach in the United States in 2014, and simply the best beach in the country in 2009.
One of the reasons that Fort de Soto Park is so popular is that it is much more than “just” a beach, with over 1,100 acres and many other activities to enjoy.
Once you’ve had your fill of lazing on the powder white sand or swimming in the azure waters, there’s so much else to do – from kayaking to mountain biking.
About Fort De Soto Park
The stunning Fort de Soto Park is located near the southern end of St. Petersburg, down Gulf Boulevard. It’s a great bike ride from downtown St Pete’s, or there’s ample parking if you’d prefer to drive.
There is a $5 parking fee for cars, but entry to Fort de Soto Park is free. Given the wide array of things to do at the park, and the pristine condition it’s kept in, that’s pretty amazing value!
Once you’re inside the park, the first thing you’re likely to see is the spectacular beach – and there’s a lot of beach. In fact, there’s more than six miles of white sandy beaches (divided into East and West Beach), with inviting azure waters that beckon you over.
Despite Fort de Soto’s popularity and praise, the sheer amount of coastline means it’s never crowded. There’s always plenty of room for sunbathing, or even kicking a ball around. You might even feel a tad guilty about having such a spectacular slice of paradise much to yourself!
If you can draw yourself away from the beach, there is much more to be enjoyed -- Fort de Soto Park is a kind of natural playground that’s perfect for the whole family.
You’ll find over seven miles of trails that snake along the coast and through the lush trees, which are ideal for jogging, biking, walking or even rollerblading. Bikes can be hired within the park, or you can bring your own.
There are also a number of nature trails that lead you past the area’s most interesting flora – keep your eye out for interesting birds, too! Picnic tables are dotted around the trails and make the ideal spot for having a picturesque lunch.
Like all of Fort de Soto Park’s attractions, four-legged friends are most welcome, and you’ll see plenty of dogs enjoying a day out with their families! Although dogs should be on a leash on the multi-purpose and nature trails, there is a huge area on the beach where they can run free.
Another popular way to explore Fort de Soto Park is with a kayak or canoe. These can be rented from the park if you don’t have them, and there’s a marked two-and-a-half-mile trail that winds through the mangroves and the five “keys” of the park. There are lots of birds and marine life to spot as you kayak: turtles, alligators and manatees are often found along the trail.
The rich ecosystem is also perfect for fishing, and you’ll see plenty of keen anglers out on the water. There are two piers, which are open from 7am – 11pm every day, or a boat ramp where you can launch your boat and head out to catch some big fish.
Finally, it’s worth exploring the park’s namesake – the Fort de Soto. The fort was built in 1900, as the area was thought to be vulnerable being so close to Cuba. The fort was used for twenty-two years before it was closed down and the land later converted to a park.
The canon and fort remain, and it’s an interesting spot to check out, especially if you’re interested in military history.
As well as all these great things to do, Fort de Soto also has spotless amenities including bathrooms and showers. There’s also snack bars and gift shops if you need to pick anything up.
Fort de Soto is at 3500 Pinellas Bayway South, Tierra Verde, Florida 33715-2529. The park is open every day, from 7am to dusk.