Fort de Soto Park and Beaches - Orlando / Florida Guide
Florida Guide > Other Florida
If you want a scenic park and beach then Fort de Soto Park is for you, providing you don’t mind driving 100 miles from the Orlando area and navigating your way around St Petersburg to the Gulf Coast. The Park was voted America’s No. 1 beach in 2005 and you can see why. It is made up of five islands or keys, covers 1300 unspoiled acres and has seven miles of beaches. It even has a Spanish/American fort there.
There is a toll at the beginning of the area of 35 cents to enter the park. There are extensive car parks throughout the park and if you proceed to the far end, i. e. North Beach there is plenty of shade with picnic tables, along with toilets and changing facilities. Just an easy stroll through trees and over sand dunes brings you to the peaceful beach, where at certain times of the year you have to be mindful of the turtles nesting. These are marked out by the wardens. There are outlets where you can stop and have home made lemonade or various freshly made sandwiches, along with needless to say, T shirts, postcards and ice creams. We can recommend the peanut butter crunch!
The park offers you the opportunity to hire bikes and has numerous trails to ride along. Some of these bikes are doubles/quads with parasols. You can walk miles along the white sands. The water always looks safe to swim in with ample opportunities to see shoals of fish. There doesn’t appear to be the same problem of undercurrents as on many other beaches around Florida and it is very shallow near the sea edge. Whilst on the subject of fish, there are piers and bait shops whereby you can do your own fishing or wade onto the mud flats or fish from the beach.
For the bird enthusiasts, they recommend that you rent a bike or a kayak to help you see some of the 296 species that are around here.
There is a museum that was opened in November 2000 as a fitting tribute to all the veterans. It was built on the site of where the army quartermaster’s store was built in 1905, and there are historical trails that you can walk or cycle round, including the gun battery.
This island area at the mouth of Tampa Bay has historical highlights dating back to 1528 when a Spanish explorer came ashore in the Tampa Bay area. In the 1900’s it had a detachment of the first artillery and 29 post buildings were constructed. Between 1921 and 1932 many storms and hurricanes hit the area reducing the value of the 26 buildings that were still standing. In 1963 the park was officially dedicated and in 1977 the batteries were placed in the National Register of Historical Places and you can still view them free of charge.
Altogether this makes for a very interesting and relaxing day out without the crowds.
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