Ft. De Soto Park in Tierra Verde, Florida; A Local Gem

Fort De Soto Park in Tierra Verde, Florida; a Local Gem

A visit to Fort De Soto in Tampa is guaranteed to replenish the soul while you immerse yourself in its natural beauty that goes as far as the eye can see.  Fort De Soto is the largest park in Pinellas County consisting of 1,136 acres spread throughout five islands or keys, with Mullet Key being the main one.  

Ft. De Soto offers 7 miles of waterfront, including three miles of gorgeous white sandy beaches.  The park offers the greatest diversity of ecological systems with over 328 species of birds.  

The beach also provides sanctuary to the loggerhead sea turtle, which nests between the months of April – September.  This pristine natural park feels like you are on a vacation getaway however not far from home.  Don’t think you’ll be bored because this park is abundant with activities.

Ft. DeSoto Attracts 2.7 Million Visitors Per Year More than Everglades National Park.

Take your Dog to the “Off-Leash Dog Beach”

Fort De Soto is only one of two beaches within Pinellas County that has an off-leash dog beach.  

Every dog is running around, tongue out, frolicking in the water, living their best life because it really is dog heaven.  

The beach also has two gated dog parks, one area for small dogs and another for larger dogs.  When the sun is beating down a little too hard you can cool your pup off in the dog shower on site or get the sand off them for a clean car ride home. 

The water at Ft. De Soto is very calm throughout the year making kayaking or paddle boarding a smooth ride for all abilities.  The kayak and paddleboard trail is a 2-3 mile estuary containing brackish water lined with red, black and white mangroves.  

Miles and Miles of Biking, Kayaking, and Paddleboarding

Fort De Soto has a 6.8 mile, 12 foot-wide asphalt recreation trail that connects the campground with the North and East Swim Centers as well as the historic fort.  Over the years I have taken my bike there several times for a leisurely ride to connect with the outdoors.

It’s a great time to see marine life; dolphins, manatees, sting rays, horseshoe crabs, seahorses, conches, and starfish.  If you see any fish jumping out of the water that would probably be mullet, a common fish in the area.

Shell Key Preserve is just north of Ft. De Soto. Shell Key Preserve is one of the county’s largest undeveloped barrier islands that contains a beach, mangroves, and expansive sea grass.  Visiting this island feels like you are in the Caribbean with its untouched beaches and turquoise waters.  You can launch a kayak or paddleboard from Madelaine Key for a quick paddle there. 

If you don’t own a bike, kayak, or paddleboard you can rent them within the park at Topwater Kayak Outpost for a nominal fee.  If you would like to launch a kayak from Madelaine Key to Shell Key there are online rental companies for that as well.  (You can also take a ferry to Shell Key)

Visit the actual Fort 

In 1849 a group of Army Engineers including Robert E. Lee surveyed the area recommending Mullet and Egmont Keys be used by the military for coastal defense.  Battery Laidley and Battery Bigelow were developed and completed.  

The only remaining four 12-inch M 1890-MI mortars in North America are located here.  In 1977, the Ft. De Soto batteries were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Go Fishing & Bird Watching

Fort De Soto has two fishing Piers the Gulf Pier and the Bay Pier.  The Gulf Pier is over 1,000 feet and located on the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  There is a strong current which means there is plenty of bait moving around to attract fish.  

There is also a shop at the entrance of the pier that sells frozen bait, tackle, food and drinks.  Anglers may catch anything from sheepshead to sharks.  It is also a great place for dolphin watching as they are on the hunt for mullet.

The Bay Pier is 500 feet and a very desirable fishing spot due to it being located on the sheltered waters of the Bay.  There is less current which allows anglers to use lighter tackle to target more inshore species like trout, redfish and snook.  You can also catch Spanish mackerel, lady fish, pompano, and on some occasions tarpon. This Pier also provides a striking view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, the longest cable-stayed concrete bridge.

There is plenty of bird watching on the Piers.  You will likely see an American Egret sitting, waiting for a handout.

Take the Ferry to Egmont Key

Not only is Egmont Key a wildlife refuge but it is a personal refuge as you relax on this secluded island.  Egmont Key is only accessible by boat, so if you need a lift you can use the Ferry that leaves from the Bay Pier. 

If you have a boat you can launch off the boat ramp located within the park.  Half of the 280 acre island is reserved for wildlife allowing 1,000 to 1,500 gopher tortoises to roam the island.  

The Southern part of the island is a bird sanctuary giving you the opportunity to see osprey, brown pelicans, royal and sandwich terns, laughing gulls, and black simmers.  Between April and August experience a concert as all the birds roost together.

There are some historical structures on the island like Fort Dade, a military garrison built in 1889 during the Spanish-American War.  The Fort includes a carriage brick road, sidewalks, gun batteries, and guard house.  There is also a working lighthouse that’s more than 150 years old.  This lighthouse played an important role in Florida’s Seminole Indian War and as well as the Civil War.

It’s a tranquil place to sunbathe, swim, walk, search for shells, as well as a great place to take photos.  You can also snorkel around the submerged historical batteries of the fort.  There are plenty of shady places as well but I wouldn’t forget my sunscreen!

Waterfront Camping Sites for Direct Access

Fort De Soto is one of the most beautiful camping spots in the state with views of blue-green water, mangrove-lined islands, and scenic bridges. 

It offers 236 sites, with most of those sites being on the waterfront allowing you to launch your kayak or paddleboard from your own site.  

The campsites offer picnic tables, grills, water, electricity, dryers, restrooms, showers, play areas, and a campground market that sells firewood.  You don’t have to leave your pets behind on this trip as the campground has special sites for your furry friends. 

There is a full-facility boat ramp located near the entrance of the park with plenty of launch ramps and more sufficient trailer parking if you have a larger boat.  Additionally, some campsites allow you to anchor your boat off the seawall. 

Take a Fun Guided Hike

For some family fun the park offers a free one-hour guided nature walk. The walk explores one of the six different natural communities including the Arrowhead Trail, Mangrove Tour, Campground Tour, Beach Tour, Soldier’s Hole or Bird Watch. 

There is also the Barrier-Free Nature trial that offers wheelchair access with six auditory interpretive stations for the visually impaired. 

Beach, Beach and Beach…

There are several picnic areas to have a snack, throw a party, or even have a wedding.  Lounge in the calm waters as you feel sand dollars at your feet.  Don’t let the night fall without catching the gorgeous sunsets, it is pure peace. 

Walking through the seagrass as you head to the beach is grounding in and of itself.  Take a day to soak up the white sandy beach and instantly decompress.  

Fort De Soto is in Tierra Verde, a quiet waterfront community next to St. Petersburg. You won’t want to miss this gem of an attraction!  

You might just never want to leave...

Homes for Sale Near Ft. Desoto Park

72 Properties
Page 1 of 6
$469,000
Neighborhood: Bayway Condo Ph One
2
Beds
2F11/2
Baths
1,475
Sq.Ft.
1986
Year Built
3
Days on Site
U8187743
MLS
Beautiful Tierra Verde 2 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath townhouse. Waterfront community pool. New hurricane windows, Hot water tank. Open floor plan, Popcorn ceilings have been removed. Garage and a bonus...
$1,550,000
Neighborhood: Hidden Lagoon Ii At Arrowhead Point Ii Condo Unit
3
Beds
3
Baths
2,480
Sq.Ft.
2002
Year Built
3
Days on Site
U8188794
MLS
Don't miss this RARE OPPORTUNITY to own 2480 sq ft condo with an office and 1 car oversized garage, over looking Tampa Bay in a gated Tierra Verde waterfront community! Hidden Lagoon is a hidden gem...
$800,000
Neighborhood: Hidden Lagoon At Arrowhead Point
2
Beds
2
Baths
1,450
Sq.Ft.
2000
Year Built
8
Days on Site
U8187989
MLS
Welcome to Hidden Lagoon! Situated on the stunning island of Tierra Verde this community is the closest proximity to Fort Desoto State Park. Fort De Soto park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five...
$2,995,000
Neighborhood: Tierra Verde Unit 1 4Th Rep
4
Beds
4F11/2
Baths
5,155
Sq.Ft.
1995
Year Built
8
Days on Site
U8175562
MLS
On one of the most desirable streets in the coveted Monte Cristo neighborhood on the island paradise of Tierra Verde, you'll discover in this genuinely magnificent estate-like home a rare example of...
$1,399,000
Neighborhood: Tierra Verde Unit 1 4Th Rep
4
Beds
3F11/2
Baths
2,692
Sq.Ft.
1992
Year Built
10
Days on Site
U8188319
MLS
Welcome to the premier island of Tierra Verde where everyone wants to live! This 4 bedroom, 3 and a half bath, 2,692 SF 2 car garage, POOL home with a stunning ROOF TOP DECK for watching beautiful...
Pending
604 6th Ave N Tierra Verde,  FL 33715
$1,049,000
Neighborhood: Tierra Verde Unit 1 4Th Rep
3
Beds
2
Baths
2,187
Sq.Ft.
1988
Year Built
11
Days on Site
U8176401
MLS
**Tierra Verde was named top trending travel destination by TripAdvisor, January 2023 ** No need to look any further, this thoughtful 3 bedroom, 2 bath executive POOL home is located in the highly...
$625,000
Neighborhood: Tierra I Condo
2
Beds
2
Baths
1,110
Sq.Ft.
1980
Year Built
13
Days on Site
U8188088
MLS
Welcome! From spectacular balcony sunrises to dolphin sightings, the views alone from this unit will dazzle your senses. This fully furnished, immaculate unit is turnkey and waiting for a new owner...
$625,111
Neighborhood: Tierra I Condo
2
Beds
2
Baths
1,110
Sq.Ft.
1980
Year Built
13
Days on Site
U8186251
MLS
$ 10,000 Credit to buyer for interest rate buydown, closing cost credit, or furniture purchase if closed by February 28th. Rare waterfront, one floor, updated condo on Tierra Verde. With many Boat...
$15,995,000
Neighborhood: Tierra Verde
5
Beds
5F21/2
Baths
7,719
Sq.Ft.
2010
Year Built
14
Days on Site
U8187636
MLS
For many years Tierra Verde's Oceanview Drive was a hidden secret in the Tampa Bay area, and now its the Cat's meow! If you have paid attention to real estate transactions over the past year...
$400,000
Neighborhood: Tierra I Condo
2
Beds
2
Baths
1,110
Sq.Ft.
1980
Year Built
15
Days on Site
U8187848
MLS
Tierra Verde Condo - This two bedroom, two bath, corner unit has lots of light and space. The modern open kitchen has stainless
appliances, white shaker style cabinets and a breakfast bar. The...
$550,000
Neighborhood: Sandbar Twnhms
2
Beds
2F11/2
Baths
1,600
Sq.Ft.
1989
Year Built
16
Days on Site
T3423380
MLS
Get ready to enjoy this wonderful, 2/2 townhome in beautiful Tierra Verde. The main living level gives you an open floor plan with your recently updated kitchen, white cabinets & stainless steel...
Pending
1515 Pinellas Bayway  S #22 Tierra Verde,  FL 33715
$449,000
Neighborhood: Wander Residences Of Tierra Verde
2
Beds
2
Baths
830
Sq.Ft.
1990
Year Built
17
Days on Site
T3423162
MLS
Welcome to paradise!!! Come check out this fully furnished, newly updated, 2 bedroom 2 bathroom condo located in the waterfront community of Holiday Island! Whether you're looking for a vacation home...

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