Fort De Soto Park is one of my favorite places in the Tampa Bay area because it is super pet friendly and the dog beach is absolutely beautiful. Fort De Soto is located in St. Petersburg, Florida and has three miles of gorgeous white sand beaches that are ranked among the best of Florida’s beaches.
Fort De Soto Park is made up of five islands anchored by the main island, Mullet Key, and is accessible via bridges and toll roads. Make sure you have at least $10 in cash with you as you have to pay about $1.25 in tolls and $5 for entry into the park, which covers the daily parking fee.
The old military fort in the park was named Fort De Soto after the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto and was constructed in April 1900. The United States became involved in a conflict in Cuba, which led to the Spanish American War and this led to the citizens of Tampa demanding military defenses for Tampa Bay. It was officially a subpost of Fort Dade, located on Egmont Key (where you can take a ferry to the island to see the remnants of the fort). These two forts never saw combat. Interesting fact: Fort De Soto has the last four 12-inch M 1890-MI mortars remaining in North America (the only others remaining anywhere in the world are in the Philippines).
My corgi, Kuma, and I had a fun time exploring Battery Laidley which was the primary defense fort of Fort De Soto. We went first thing in the morning while the temperatures were still cool and before all the visitors arrived. You take a self guided tour and there are some signs and pictures around the building. You can go inside some of the rooms and it gets a little eerie when you reach the rooms that are completely dark.
You can go up the stairs to the roof of the building where you’ll see a nice view of Gulf of Mexico. There are a couple of tower viewers there to see further out to the Gulf Pier. You can walk along the beach that’s in front of Battery Laidley but most visitors go to North Beach, East Beach or the Dog Beach.
Of course, me and Kuma went to the dog beach. This is one of the most beautiful dog beaches you’ll see in Florida. The water is usually bright blue and clear, the white sand is pristine and there’s plenty of room for all the visitors and fur babies. Dogs can run freely at this beach and they also provide dog waste bags.
After the beach, you can stop by the large fenced in dog park, a.k.a. Paw Playground, and rinse off your pooch. There are also dog water fountains for your thirsty pets after a fun day at the beach. I absolutely love this beach and would visit more often if it was a little closer to home.
There are plenty of other activities you can do here with your pet like kayaking and walking through the nature trails as well. I’m hoping to take Kuma kayaking with me next time, so we’ll see how that goes! If you are visiting Fort De Soto without a pet, you can also go camping, picnicking, biking, fishing, birdwatching or take a ferry to Egmont Key. So much to do at this beautiful park!