Fort De Soto Beach, Florida

By Tee1

Always ranked as one of the top, if not the best beach in the US, Fort De Soto beach in St. Petersburg just outside Tampa Bay, Florida is a wonder. Nearly three million people enjoy the fun and sun at Fort De Soto Park’s beautiful sandy beach.  This famous Fort De Soto beach is three miles of perfection. The main island in Fort De Soto Park is Mullet Key. Both the fort and the park’s main beaches are found on Mullet Key. In total the park is more than 1100 acres and is made up of 5 islands.

America’s #1 Beach

Even dogs are welcome in America’s most loved beach. Back in 2008, none other than Trip Advisor named Fort De Soto Park’s North beach, “America’s #1 Beach”. This fun beach vacation spot won again the next year in 2009. With large fenced areas and showers for puppies when the mercury soars., this is extremely pet friendly. Except on the beach, dogs (large and small) are allowed throughout the park with a leash. In the confined areas, your dog does not need the leash. Of course there is drinking water also.

While your four legged friends run wild in the Paw Playground, people tend to enjoy the parks, picnic areas, camping grounds and with an old fort to fire the imagination.

Where is Fort De Soto Beach?  27°62′N 82°74′W

From Fort De Soto’s North Beach the sunset views are amazing, possibly even better than Key West. For swimming, picnicking, and beach combing, this is the most popular beach. Fort De Soto Park beach has 238 sites on the campground. A large number of the sites are set directly on the water. Additionally, a section for tents only has been established. If you looking to camp, the East beach is more convenient as well as slightly less crowded.

Both beaches have ample parking.

Fortunately, there is parking, but be forewarned, there is a $5 parking fee at Fort De Soto. Maybe you can get that back by catching your lunch from one of the two fishing piers. There is the 500 foot Bay Pier and its big brother, the 1000 foot Gulf Pier. The larger Gulf Pier has a bait shop and is found next to the fort.

On the recommendation of none other than General Robert E. Lee (commander of the armed forces of the Confederacy), Mullet and Egmont Keys was fortified. Back in 1849, then “only” a colonel, Lee, surveyed the area along with three other US Army Engineers.  At the time, both islands were only accessible by boat. Ironically, these islands were manned by Union Troops during the Civil War to help in the blockade of Tampa Bay. After the war, the island was abandoned again. Not until the Spanish-American War of 1898 were permanent fortifications built.  Interestingly enough the materials used to build the fort were shells and concrete. The ship with the rock meant for the fort’s construction never showed up. The fort was finally completed in 1900 and named after the Spaniard Hernando de Soto.


Once again abandoned in 1910, the fort has never received much love until the people decided to enjoy its gorgeous beaches. Worse then being abandoned, nearby MacDill Air Force Base thought so little of this beach spot, they decided to use it for a bombing range.

Beach Vacation to Fort De Soto

Today all that is left from Fort De Soto is one of the mortar batteries and four of its guns.  In 1949, the fort and nearby islands were acquired by Pinellas County, being converted into a park in 1962. While this post was active, mosquitos were a constant problem. Heat was an issue for the soldiers not on a beach vacation!

For more than 400 years, the beaches of Fort De Soto have been visited by a wide variety of people. Starting with the Tocobaga Indians and then the Spaniards, the west coast of Florida and its barrier islands have always been an attraction. The European history in the region starts in 1528, as Panfilo de Narváez landed on the shores somewhere between Clearwater and St. Pete beach. De Soto and his band of men came about a decade later.

Today the Fort De Soto beach and park is open year round. A beach vacation to the best beach in the US, doesn’t sound like a horrible idea at all.