Historic Ft. De Soto Park
Fort DeSoto Park is located off the Pinellas Bayway S (State Road 679) at the southmost end of Tierra Verde, FL. Ft. DeSoto was created in 1963 and is named for the Spanish Explorer Hernando de Soto who explored and conquered the native populations in the area of western Florida, the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and through central and South America. The Park covers over 1,100 acres and is the largest park run by Pinellas County. Made up of 5 Keys: St. Christopher Key, Madelaine Key, Bonne Fortune Key, St. Jean key and Mullet Key, the largest of the islands and where many of the attractions in Ft. DeSoto park are located. Ft. DeSoto is a County Park, managed and operated by Pinellas County Parks & Conservation Resources.
Ft. DeSoto Beaches are considered some of the top beaches in the U.S. have been ranked #1 by Trip Advisor in 2009 and previously by Dr. Beach in 2005. Other attractions on the island include fishing, two piers, trails for hiking, cycling and kayaking, the ferry to Egmont Key State Park and Shell Key, beaches, picnics, 800’ boat launch, camping, playgrounds, dog parks, the Quartermasters Museum and much more. The Ft. De Soto historical batteries have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977.
The entrance to the park is completed by crossing over Bunces Pass Bridge, at the end of the Pinellas Bayway, and coming on to Madelaine key.
Tolls and Fees on the island and for use of the Park include:
Boat launch and Trailer Parking:
Semi-annual and Annual boat and beach parking passes are available. More information is available on the Park website http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_Ft_DeSoto.htm
The 800-foot boat ramp is almost immediately to your west as you cross over the Bunce Pass Bridge. Madelaine Key, St. Christopher Key and St. Jean Key are the only camping sites in Ft. DeSoto park. Overnight accommodations are not allowed anywhere else but in these campgrounds. The Camp Office is located at the intersection of these three islands.
Park Headquarters is located across from the entrance station on Mullet Key at the intersection of the Pinellas Bayway and Anderson Blvd in the area on Madelaine Key known as East Beach. Turn left onto Anderson Blvd and you will be headed towards the section of East Beach that houses picnic Pavilions 13, 14 and 15 with restrooms and approximately 2 miles of biking trail.
Turn right on to East Beach and the first point of interest is the Barrier-Free Nature Trail, a 2,200-foot trail with wheelchair accessibility and six auditory interpretive stations for visually impaired guests. This section of East Beach is approximately 3 miles in length and contains a biking trail, the Dog Beach Area, the Dog “PAW” park, the 500’ Bay Pier along with picnic Pavilion 12.
At this point, Anderson Blvd turn to the right and North Beach begins at the ruins of Fort DeSoto and Pavilion 11. Also located at the beginning of North Beach is the 1,000’ Gulf Pier, the historical Quartermaster Storehouse Museum, Gift Shop, Bait shop, 3 miles of bike trails, the Ferries to Egmont key and Shell Key and beach parking. Farther down North Beach is located Pavilions 1 – 10, along with the Arrowhead Picnic area and the fishing area that is adjacent to the Arrowhead picnic tables and grills.
North Beach also contains the Shorebird Habitat Area. This area is well marked, and no one should enter this area without permission. Overall, the bike paths along Anderson Blvd are approximately 7 miles long with an additional 7 miles of bike paths along the Pinellas Bayway leading into the Ft. De Soto Park. Top Water Kayak rental is located near Arrowhead picnic area and there is a 2.25-mile self-guided trail through the mangroves. The Pinellas County Park provide the following diagram of Ft. De Soto Park: http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/maps/color/amenities/FortDeSoto.pdf
Important Phone numbers for Fort DeSoto are:
727-582-2100 x 0
Pinellas County Parks main menu and picnic area reservations
Gulf Pier – Bait, Tackle and snack bar
Bay Pier – Bait, Tackle and snack bar
Fort Snack Bar and Gift Shop
Pinellas County Parks – Camping reservations
Canoe and Kayak Rentals
Youth Camping (open M-F 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM)
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (Park Rangers are on duty until 11:00 PM