Fort Desoto is a Pinellas County park located south-southwest of St. Petersburg. The park consists of 1,136 acres and sits on five offshore keys, or islands: Madelaine Key, St. Jean Key, St. Christopher Key, Bonne Fortune Key, and the main island, Mullet Key.
The campground sits on St. Jean Key & St. Christopher key and has 236 family camping sites. The Fort Desoto campground has 7 public restroom facilities with hot showers and a washer and dryer. Each campsite has a picnic table, grill, water, and electricity (30-50 amp service). A sanitary disposal station is provided near the main entrance, as is a play area and a campground store.
The camp sites are sectioned off for particular types of campers:
- Section one – campsites 1 – 85 is designed for tent, van, pop-up camper, and trailers under 16’. Pets are not allowed in this area.
- Section two – campsites 86 – 164 includes all camping, including RV’s, and is pet friendly.
- Section three – campsites 164 – 236 includes all camping units, including RV’s – No Pets.
- Note: One boat trailer is allowed on each site
Recreation opportunities are endless
- Beachgoers – There are over 7 miles of waterfront within Fort Desoto Park. 3 of those miles are beautiful white sandy beaches located on Mullet Key. If you are spending the day on the beach, no doubt you will have beach gear you will be toting. For this reason, it is too far to walk or bike to. The North Beach, which is the beach where the fort is located, is approximately 3 to 4 miles from the campground. There is a $5 parking fee to access Mullet Key; however, Fort Desoto campers are allowed free entry. Remember to take a copy of your reservation with you and show that reservation at the gate for free access to Mullet Key.
- Walkers & Bikers – A 6.8 mile, 12-foot-wide asphalt recreation trail connects the campground with the North Beach, the East Beach, and the historic fort. In addition, at the Arrowhead picnic facility at the north end of Mullet key is a 1-mile nature trail, and at the Soldiers’ Hole area, there is a 3/4 mile nature trail which provides a glimpse of some of the native fauna and flora.
- Bikers- For those who enjoy bike riding but can’t bring one with you, bike rentals are available at the campground store and the concessions on Mullet Key
- Fishing – Fish from your campsite or from the many waterways surrounding the campground or at one of the two fishing piers located on Mullet Key – each pier has food and bait concession – Gulf & Bay Pier Hours: 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. A Florida Fishing License is required.
- For Boaters – (less than a mile) from the campground is an 800-foot-long boat launching facility with eleven floating docks.
- Kayaking/canoeing – Bring your own or rent one from the campground store. There are a few kayak vendors at Fort Desoto, and some even offer guided tours.
- Birdwatching – the park’s natural ecosystems are home to many species of birds and are an amazing place for birdwatching.
- Camping with your dog? – Fort De Soto has a dog park where dogs are allowed on the beach in a designated area. There are also 2 fenced-in areas near the beach for large and small dogs with water stations (the beach entrance is at the far southwest corner of the dog park).
Don’t Miss Watching this Video of our 3 days of Fort Desoto Fun
Things to Know about Camping at Fort Desoto
- The Raccoon population is large, and they are sneaky little devils. They can open containers, coolers, and picnic baskets and will run off with whatever food is not secured. Keep all food items in your car until you are ready to prepare or eat your meal. And even then, don’t turn your back!
- Because of the current and the sharp oyster beds, there is no swimming in the waters surrounding the campgrounds.
- Each campsite has plenty of shade trees, which is great for keeping you cooler, but…. where there are trees, there are birds and bird droppings. You might want to use extra tarps, so you are not spending hours cleaning your tent, etc., when you get home. (Learned this one from our personal experience there)
- Open fires are not allowed except for in enclosed containers. You can rent a fire container at the camp store.
- Remember to show your camping reservation at the gate for free entry to Mullet Key.
- There is a $5 per day parking fee at the boat ramp
- There is a total of $1.75 in toll roads before you get to the Campgrounds
- Wifi is available at the camp store
- There are waterfront and non-waterfront campsites, and of course, the waterfront sites book the quickest. Plan to make your reservations way in advance.
For your convenience here is a link to the official Fort Desoto Campground Reservation System
Fort Desoto Park is a stunning Island landscape chain and is home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods, and scores of native plants. A wonderful slice of paradise perfect for outdoor activity or just relaxing in the sand.
Our Personal Experience
This was John and my first-time tent camping, and we could not have asked for a better place to have our first camping experience. The campground is quiet (except for the raccoons). The camp store is well stocked and came in handy because we forgot a couple of items. The restrooms and showers were clean, and the water in the shower is hot, which felt nice after a day of playing in the outdoors. There is plenty of space between campsites, and with all the trees, you have a feeling of privacy. The sites themselves are a nice size, so you have plenty of space to spread out. We had a tent, a two-room potty/shower tent, and a screen tent over our picnic table and still had plenty of room to move around the campsite. There is more than enough space for your car, your boat trailer, kayaks, bikes, etc.
Yes, there is a Fort at Fort Desoto
In 1898, the United States became involved in a conflict in Cuba, which led to the Spanish American
War. This event prompted the citizens of Tampa to demand military defenses for Tampa Bay. Henry
B. Plant, a prominent railroad, shipping, and hotel magnate, was instrumental in convincing the
Secretary of War to order the construction of fortifications on Mullet and Egmont keys.
Be sure to walk through the Fort and visit the Fort De Soto History Quartermaster Museum. Admission is Free!
Read About a Previous Visit to Fort Desoto – Our very first adventure on the Journey
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