Fort Desoto Park Beaches
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
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.
- 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Above: North Beach, near the snack bar.
- 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)
North beach has special beach wheelchairs available. See the lifeguard.