Closest beach to Orlando

 

Fort Desoto Park Beaches

 Fort Desoto Beach

GPS Coordinates: 27.623648, -82.714242

Cost: $5 per car daily rate beginning January 1, 2012. There are two tolls on the way to the park: a 50 cent toll on the Pinellas Bayway and a 35 cent toll just before entering the park.

Directions: From I-4, take I-275 through St. Petersburg to the 54th Avenue South exit (Pinellas Bayway, exit #17). Follow the signs west to the beaches. After the toll booth, get in the left lane. After half a mile you’ll come to a traffic light at S.R. 679. Turn left and continue several miles to the park.

Web site for reference: http://best-of-st-pete-beach.com/fort-desoto-park.html

Official Park web site: http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

 

North Beach, Fort Desoto Park, St Petersburg, Florida

Above: North Beach, with a view of Shell Key in the distance.

This island park is much more than just a beach. It also has the following amenities, including the finest picnic facilities of any beach park in Florida:

  • Covered picnic pavilions suitable for large groups.
  • Grills
  • Restrooms with indoor showers and changing areas
  • Two fishing piers with tackle and bait shops
  • Dog park with beach access for the dogs
  • Nature trails (excellent birding)
  • Paved bike/skating/jogging path
  • Lifeguards (seasonal)
  • Kayak/canoe rentals
  • Excellent campground
  • Day trips to Egmont Key via passenger ferry
  • Beach concessions and beach shop
  • Bicycle rentals
  • Historic fort

Beaches:

Fort Desoto has very nice beaches, but swimming is not advisable at all of them. Some of the beaches have signs posted warning of strong currents, so you have to be sure you are swimming in the areas marked as safe.

Fort Desoto is on an island that is in the shape of an arrowhead. The beaches are roughly divided into the following areas:

East Beach – after entering the park and driving past the campground the road will end at the park administration building (you’ll see the American Flag flying high). Turn left to go to East Beach where you’ll find a huge picnic area with excellent covered pavilions, grills and restroom facilities. This beach is on Tampa Bay, so never gets big waves. People do swim at East Beach, but the main activities are picnicking and sunbathing. Go to north beach if swimming is your thing. There is a lifeguard stand, but lifeguard hours are limited and seasonal. The picnic area is grassy with lots of shade.

To get to the rest of the beaches at Fort Desoto, after entering the park, turn right when you get to the park administration building.

East Beach, Fort Desoto County Park, Saint Petersburg, Florida
Above: East Beach, on Tampa Bay.

Dog Beach – This beach shares a parking area with the Bay Pier. You’ll see the fenced area for the dogs, which can play either in the fenced enclosure or can be taken out onto the beach where they can swim in Tampa Bay, just west of the Bay Pier.

Dog Beach at Fort Desoto Park, Saint Petersburg, Florida
Above: Dog Beach at Fort Desoto Park.

Gulf Pier Beach – North of the Gulf Pier is a long crescent-shaped beach that is very popular. Even though you will see people swimming here, it is not recommended because of possible strong water currents. You’ll see signs to that effect. Go to north beach if you want to swim.

Gulf pier beach, Fort Desoto Park
Above: Gulf Pier Beach.

North Beach – Follow the road past the Gulf pier as it curves north. Go almost all the way to the end and you’ll see the huge paved parking areas for North Beach. There you’ll find large picnic areas with both covered and uncovered picnic tables, covered picnic pavilion for groups, a concession, lifeguards, and a great beach with soft white sand. Because of the very shallow water, North Beach does not have big waves, though it can get rough and choppy in a strong wind.

North beach is a bird nesting sanctuary, so between April and September please respect the signs and string barriers that protect the nesting areas.

North Beach, Fort Desoto Park
Above: North Beach, near the snack bar.

Rules:

  • Alcohol is not allowed in the park or on the beach.
  • Leashed dogs are allowed in the picnic area, but are not allowed out on the beach (except for the designated dog beach).
  • No glass containers
  • No littering
  • No fishing in swimming areas
  • No surfing in swimming areas
  • No firearms
  • No diving from piers or snorkeling/SCUBA near piers
  • No snatch-hooking or gigging from piers
  • Don’t feed the birds or marine mammals (dolphins)

 

ADA access

North beach has special beach wheelchairs available. See the lifeguard.

North Beach picnic area, Fort Desoto Park

Fort Desoto Picnic Pavilion

Fort Desoto Picnic pavilion

 Picnic area grills at Fort Desoto Park, East Beach.

Bay Pier, Fort Desoto Park

Camping at Fort Desoto Park, Saint Petersburg, FL

Riding bikes at Fort Desoto Park

Gulf Pier as viewed from the Fort at Ft. Desoto Park.

On Gulf Pier, Fort Desoto Park.

Gulf Pier, Fort Desoto Park.

Fort Desoto tackle shop and snack bar.

Kayak rentals at Fort Desoto Park.