2 December 2014

CAMPING REVIEW: Fort De Soto County Park, FL


CURRENT LOCATION: Fort De Soto County Park, Tierra Verde, FL, USA

We leave here in two days, so I suppose it's time for a review of the area. 

We’ve camped here a few times now, over a number of trips to Florida in the winter months ... it has a lot to offer. The community of Tierra Verde is just north of the park by a few kilometres. Tierra Verde features medium to high end condominium complexes and several residential neigbourhoods with multi-million dollar waterfront and canal homes. However, Ft De Soto CP is far enough away from these residential areas to still maintain (by Florida standards) a reasonable amount of quiet. Just north of Tierra Verde are the beachfront communities of St. Petersburg, Madeira Beach, Indian Shores, Treasure Island and Pasa Grille ... all very busy. Several local, nearby restaurants specialize in fresh-caught, local fish ... there are many, but ... food at the Salt Rock Grill is exceptional & Billy’s Stonecrab, Seafood & Steaks offers good food for reasonable prices.

We will have spent eighteen nights, at four sites by the time we leave. This is the longest we have ever been able to get continuous camping here. Sites are reasonablly private, there is electrical and water hookup with a dump station at the entrance, washroom facilities are ‘just fair’ (not terribly clean, but there are several throughout the campground). The campground is segregated into areas for campers with dogs and those without. There is a separate tenting area but tenters are also allowed to reserve in any of the other areas if they want. It gets fairly busy on weekends and holidays but noise levels die down during the week. Travellers seem to (for the most part) adhere to noise, pet and other campground regulations. In general, it’s a much quieter campground than most of the road-side, car camping locations we’ve been to in Florida.  


There is a multitude of outdoor activities that can be enjoyed here. If you bike around the complete park and to the bridge at the north end of Tierra Verde the loop is about 36 kms. The ride can be almost completely on bike path or a multi-use trail or bike lane, paved shoulder. Riding is safe, with minimal grade and drivers are courteous and aware. Wind can be a problem, often gusty and direction-changing. There are endless possibilities for kayaking around the extensive mangroves throughout Mullet and Egmont Keys. Waters are shallow and the tides are easy to handle. Fishing is extremely popular ... the locals often just wade out to the waist with a bait pail and still fish for hours or use a sit-on-top kayak anchored a couple of hundred feet out. The more serious use smaller trolling boats or sea worthy charter cruisers.  


... and then there's kite-surfing, birding, canoeing, snorkelling, SUP, photography, beach-walking, boat tours to outlying islands, fishing charters and the ruins of an old fort to investigate...


If there is a downside to the area, it’s probably the costs. Most items we need to purchase are more expensive than at home. When comparing an average grocery bag cost to a similar one in Ontario, we found, we are paying noticeably more here and campsite costs also seem higher than what we would expect. We also found there was a lack of variety and selection in most grocery stores ... some items we were used to buying at home, just weren't available. Gasoline (not diesel) is cheaper and wine is outrageously inexpensive ... OUTRAGEOUSLY INEXPENSIVE ... $3.95 USD (that's about $4.50 CDN) for a bottle of Lindeman's Merlot.

But, the most appealing aspect of this area, is that it is just not as hurried, noisy, hectic and busy as most other parts of this tourism-crazy State. 


From the Fort De Soto Park Website
Whether you are sitting on the beach or kayaking near the still water's edge at Fort De Soto, you find yourself absorbed in the abundance of natural beauty for as far as the eye can see. The complexity of the ecology is not immediately apparent, but the park offers the greatest diversity of systems just about anywhere. Emerging from the wealth of bird life, sea life, wild life and plant life is the majestic tapestry called Fort De Soto.  

The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys). These keys are home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods and scores of native plants. Each of these species plays a vital role in the preservation and protection of the natural environment. Another amazing example of the importance of the park's natural ecosystems is the more than 328 species of birds that have been documented over a 60 year period.

Paddling, cycling and fishing are all very accessible from just about any location on this map and all camping areas are reasonably segregated and separated from Tierra Verde and the mainland. The campground is situated in Mullet Key.


Fishing from piers, waist high water, bridges, sit-on-top kayaks and all manner of power boats ... here, Helen casts a big, stinky chunk of squid out ... nibbles but no luck, still a GREAT day!


Bike friendly. We followed all the paths many times, most of the way, most days.


Quiet, mangrove paddling. You really do have to slow down to enjoy this paddling style ... 


Tri-Coloured Heron (previously the Louisiana Heron)


Night Heron


 Gone Fishin' ... birds, kids, adults.


A flock of Ibis and a lone Egret ... they seem to get along.


The highest density of Osprey in North America must be present here. There's one on every bare branch, every utility pole, every artificial nesting platform and every water tower.


Kite Surfing is popular.


Old Fort De Soto


Rentals for all paddle sports ... canoe, kayak, sit-on-top, SUP.


Lunch at Billy's ... my GAWD, T H A T ...  Muriel can eat!!!!!


Empty, white sand beaches.


Beautiful sunsets and sunrises.


Crusty ... reporting.

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