Fort Desoto Park is very close to St. Pete Beach and offers boating, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, bicycling, skating, running, nature trails, historical fort, fishing piers, doggy beach, shelling, birding, camping, and swimming.
This park was voted by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach) as the number one beach in the nation in 2005. It certainly lives up to this in most areas. However, swimming is not recommended in many areas of the park. Most beaches in the park have signs posted warning against swimming because of strong water currents.
There are two designated swim areas. One is at East beach where lifeguards are present during certain hours. The other is at North Beach in a shallow, protected lagoon, and in the Gulf just past the lagoon. Swimming in the Gulf at north beach is excellent. The water is clean and calm and shallow. Lifeguards are present during posted hours. This small shortcoming is compensated for by the rest of the activities available at the park. Toll roads provide access to the park and there is currently a $5 per vehicle entrance fee as well.
The St. Pete Beaches are located 10 minutes from Fort Desoto park, so it's just a short drive to Pass A Grille, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Indian Rocks Beach and all the rest. Downtown Saint Petersburg is 15 to 20 minutes away by car.