Fort De Soto Park & St. Pete Beach and Big Cypress National Preserve – Feb 24 – Mar 7, 2024

Fort De Soto is very popular and it is difficult to find availability. Local county residents are able to book a month earlier than anyone else. Somehow, we got lucky and found available campsites.

The campground has 238 campsites, many of which are on the water. We had two different large, pull-thru sites with water and electricity. We were not fortunate enough to book a waterfront site. The park is very popular for fishing, cycling and birding. The fort was built between 1898 and 1906 for the purpose of military defense, though was never involved in combat. It was eventually abandoned in 1923 and sold back to Pinellas County in 1948. It became a county park in 1963.

There is a paved bike path running through the park.  We rode our bikes almost every day and were able to ride around 15 miles in the park, without looping around again. Many days I walked, ran and cycled, mixing in a lot of birdwatching. Needless to say, I was really feeling great and have been, since.

We spent¬† many afternoons and evenings exploring St. Pete Beach. We met some locals who told us where to eat and where to hear good live music. Once we figured out how to deal with the lack of parking, we really enjoyed it. It’s so casual and affordable compared with Maui and even metro Detroit.

After 12 nights at Fort De Soto, we headed south toward the keys. Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve was, ironically, midway along our route to Bahia Honda State Park. The route allowed us to avoid driving through Miami, which is pretty crazy.

It was the only campground in the area with power and it also had water. The sites were level and paved, but were 90 degrees to the driveway, so it was impossible to back in without driving on the grass. It was literally in the middle of nowhere, with zero cell service. It was a really great feeling. I might have felt otherwise if severe storms were moving through, but the weather was really nice.

A spacious pull-thru site at Fort De Soto Park. We did have several sets of annoying neighbors making a lot of noise, smoking, dumping gray water on their site (all part of campground life, I guess). Our favorite neighbors were two small racoons who would sit near the campsite and watch Dave cook on the outdoor stove at night. One day, at sunset, there was a loud commotion with screeching up in a tree, then a loud thud. They were apparently fighting and one fell out of the tree. He sat there, stunned for about 20 minutes and didn’t move as we were talking to him. (site # 189)
Campsite at Fort De Soto Park (site #175)
Exploring the Old Fort De Soto
View of the beach near the old fort at Fort De Soto Park
Willy’s, St. Pete Beach’s most popular burger joint/dive bar
Dave’s “Big Gooey Burger” at Willy’s, St Pete Beach. We almost returned the next day, because the food was so good AND reasonably priced.
Seared tuna with seaweed salad at Willy’s, St. Pete Beach
The tuna was phenomenal and I haven’t had seaweed salad since my time living in Japan in 1998.
Aloha from Willy’s, St. Pete Beach
Near the campground at Fort De Soto Park
Exploring the old fort at Fort De Soto Park
A happy hour drink at Crabby Bill’s, St. Pete Beach
Near the fishing pier at Fort De Soto Park
The fishing pier and ferry dock at Fort De Soto Park
Egrets on the fishiong pier at Fort De Soto Park
Near the old fort at Fort De Soto Park
An oceanside retaurant/bar, St Pete Beach.
We discovered when we got there, that “theme” is an all-female, young staff wearing only the tiniest bikinis. The beach view was beautiful.
Cycling in Tierra Verde, FL, just outside of the park
East Beach at Fort De Soto Park
Arrowhead Fishing and Picnic Area, Fort De Soto Park
North Beach at Fort De Soto Park
We saw and/or heard flocks of Green Parakeets daily at Fort De Soto Park
Spring breakers enjoying sunset at St. Pete Beach. The beach was pretty packed with college-aged kids.
At Midway campground in Big Cypress National Preserve, just north of the Everglades. Dave is polishing the front of the RV. Site #8
Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve
Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve