Fort De Soto Park

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Just off the coast of St. Petersburg, Florida likes 5 keys (islands) that make up Fort De Soto Park.  Part of the Pinellas County park system, it covers over 1,100 acres.  The 5 keys are Madelaine Key, St. Jean Key, St. Christopher Key, Bonne Fortune Key and the main island, Mullet Key and are connected by bridges or causeways.  In order to reach the park, you have to take the Pinellas Byway, a toll road that costs $1 and then another toll of $0.75 and parking of $5 per car for the day.  There are camping facilities for those interested.

Around the time of the Civil War and into the Spanish-American War, these islands were believed to be good military outposts to protect Tampa Bay and in 1898, the actual building of Fort De Soto commenced.  After World War II, however, the islands weren’t considered necessary for national defense and sold back to Pinellas County, who in turn made the islands a county park.

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Since this is a typical summer’s day in Tampa Bay, I opted to make a quick run down to the park before the afternoon rain storms hit.  Yes, the Sunshine State often gets quick rain showers during the summer months.  But don’t worry.  Just wait 15 minutes and then you can head back outside to enjoy the beaches.

Speaking of beaches, there are several to chose from along the park.

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There is a shorebirds nesting site on the North Beach that is off limits to humans, but there’s still plenty of space for beach fun.

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There’s also fishing available from the piers.

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And if that wasn’t enough, you can purchase tickets on ferries to either Edgemont National Wildlife Refuge or Shell Island.  Also, you can rent paddleboards, kayaks and bike to ride around the islands.

With beaches and activities galore, Fort De Soto County Park is a sight that needs to be seen and experienced to be believed.

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Clearwater Beach…Take 2

After yesterday’s clear signs that I wasn’t supposed to go to Clearwater Beach that day, I decided to try again this morning.  Based on the lack of lost dogs or multiple fire trucks, I figured I was safe to head out there today.  And I was RIGHT!

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It was slightly warmer today, though not what many Floridians would consider hot, so the beach was relatively clear.  There were people there, but nothing like what it would be during Spring Break or the summer months.  And I noticed that the items washing up on shore were different from what I had been seeing on Indian Rocks beach.

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Multiple sponges and horseshoe crabs were littering the tide line, along with many fish carcasses, but since those are less than picturesque, I opted not to digitally collect those.

I parked down by Pier 60, a major landmark along Clearwater Beach.  Parking was $3 per hour, but still worth it.

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They were doing some cosmetic work up top, so I opted to get the view from below.

Before I decided to stroll along the Beach Walk, I opted to check out the different boat tours operated out of the marina.  The first one to catch my eye was The Original Pirate Cruise aboard a pirate ship.

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It has been in operation for 40 years and is one of the more recognizable in the Clearwater area.  But it isn’t the only themed ship to sail these waters.  I also checked out Mega Bite , a 40 foot dolphin sighting tour.

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There are even more than what I’ve listed here, including the Encounters with Dolphins sightseeing cruise, that also stops at Compass Island to collect seashells, snorkel and treasure hunts for the kids.  Prices vary with each tour company, so check their websites out to see which one is more in line with what you want to do.

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One great thing about the area is the Jolley Trolley, which runs from Tarpon Springs to the north down into Clearwater Beach, with stops along the way, including Dunedin (which I talked about in an earlier blog).  You can ride all day and get on and off multiple times for only $5.  Multi day tickets can be purchased from their website as well.

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With multiple hotels and restaurants dotting the main road and facing the beach, there are lots of places to stay and play along one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida.  Easy to get to even if you’re not staying right on the beach, a trip to this destination should be high on your list when you’re in the Tampa Bay area.