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.
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.
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.
There’s also fishing available from the piers.
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.