Just over an hour outside of Orlando, Fort De Soto Park offers a variety of activities for beach lovers, nature lovers, and anglers alike. One of my favorite things about the west coast are the spectacular sunsets. You can do everything the park has to offer in an extended weekend stay and the park itself has tent and RV campsites with water/electric hookups and full bathrooms.
Know Before You Go
The mosquitoes can get really bad since the area is surrounded by mangroves so pack extra bug spray and be liberal with the deet. We also experienced no-see-ums (aka midges, sand flies) and these pests are not deterred by regular bug spray. One of the best and only solutions is to wear long sleeves and pants to prevent exposure. Some people swear by covering exposed skin in a thin layer of deodorant to prevent them from biting. Red Tide was also a problem in this area as well. Red Tide is an algae bloom in the ocean that is deadly to fish and they should not be consumed when Red Tide is present.
Fort De Soto Beach and St. Petersburg, Fl
St. Petersburg is on the other side of the bay from Tampa and provides the only access to Fort De Soto Park. St. Pete offers a lot of good restaurants, fishing spots, and beaches as well. You must pay several tolls to drive into Fort De Soto that are a few dollars each. Everywhere you turn is a good fishing spot with people casting off the road, in the shallows, and off of piers. The park is long and narrow with the ocean visible at most times. There are quite a few amenities inside this park that made our stay convenient. Like the shops scattered throughout the park had everything from ice to bait to kayak rentals. The park has a large amount of public restrooms, picnic tables, bike trails, pavilions and two fishing piers. You can rent kayaks and bikes, take a ferry to Egmont Key, launch your own boat, and visit the historical fort.
Camping on the Beach
SOME CAMPSITES ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS! The best spots at Fort De Soto are west facing on the shore because you have spectacular sunsets without leaving your campsite. The interior sites seem smaller than the exterior ones and the east facing sites might have blocked views due to mangroves. Each site has water and electric hookups as well as a standing grill and picnic table. You can rent a fire pit at the store. Erik eagerly set up our new OuterEQ double hammock and we spent hours just swinging away. We’ve mastered the quick-camp set up like no one’s business and in half an hour we have our tent up, fire ablaze, and drink in hand (non-alcoholic of course because this park is DRY ). All of the sites are mostly shady with thick shrubbery/trees between each site so your neighbors don’t seem so close.
We decided to cook steaks for dinner one night but only brought plastic silverware which did not go so well.
Erik and I fished all over this place because every possible spot is a great cast. There’s a bridge inside the campground that’s popular with the kids but the anglers that make a living from it congregate at the 500ft and 1000ft piers. My personal favorite was casting a line right beside your campsite because most of them face the water. The stores inside the park have frozen shrimp and the bait stores outside the park have more options. Common fish here include trout, redfish, and snook.
Overall, it’s a nice campground that’s family friendly and convenient. The biggest drawbacks are the bugs and red tide. The biggest draw is the variety of activities and convenience.
Oh yeah, there’s also raccoons roaming the campground so keep your food in your car. They literally opened our cooler and ate my Risotto Scallop Rockefeller from Sea Critters Cafe.