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Fort DeSoto Park

(23 miles from The Cove)
3500 Pinellas Bayway South
Tierra Verde, Florida 33715-2528
Information (727) 582-2267
Pets allowed (however, not on Egmont or Shell Key)

The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto Park consists of 1,136 acres comprised of five interconnected islands (keys). These keys are home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods, and scores of native plants. Each of these species plays a vital role in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.

Fort De Soto has been named America’s Top Beach by Tripadvisor (2009), the world’s largest online travel community. In part, because of the miles and miles of soft white sand beaches. Annual park attendance averages more than 2.7 million visitors.

Historic Fort Guide – the park covers a large area so be sure to familiarize yourself with key locations and services by accessing the informative guides below. 

A favorite place for bird watching: Over the last 60 years, ornithologists have documented over 328 species of birds with new species being added every year. The beach also provides refuge to the loggerhead sea turtle, which nests between April and September.

Park Features

Over 7 miles of waterfront, includes almost three miles of beautiful white sandy beach.

800-foot-long boat launching facility with eleven floating docks.

Primitive youth camping area for organized youth groups

15 picnic shelters

Rest rooms


Two large swim centers. There is a food concession area located at the North Beach Swim Center.

2.25 mile recreational kayak/canoe trail

2,200 foot Barrier-Free Nature Trail is a self-guided interpretive trail providing access to nature for all visitors to Fort De Soto Park, regardless of their physical abilities.

Dog Beach –  At Fort De Soto there is a designated portion of the beach that allows dogs to roam free. Remember to familiarize yourself with any park restrictions. In addition, there are 2 fenced-in areas where they can roam free as well.. While in other areas, pets must remain on a leash.

2 fishing piers – Each pier has a food and bait concession. 

  • Pier on the Gulf of Mexico: Accessible from 7 a.m. – sunset.
  • Pier on the Tampa Bay: Accessible from 7 a.m. – sunset.

A fishing license is needed throughout the park, including the fishing piers. A license can be quickly purchased online. Be sure to contact the Florida Wildlife Commission if you have questions about which license you should purchase. 

Ferry rides to and from the keys:

While at Fort Desoto State Park, take a ferry to either Egmont Key or Shell Key where you can spend a few hours or the day. These are secluded, protected islands and there is no other way to access them except by ferry. It’s a beautiful boat ride and you’ll likely be accompanied at some point by dolphins that like to swim alongside the ferry. The information below along with any links, will help you choose which key you might like to see.

Egmont Key: 30 minutes by ferry

Egmont key has clear waters which are great for SNORKELING! Historic lighthouse, history, white sandy gulf side beaches, protected natural environment, large tortoise, and wildlife haven.

Information link: https://www.hubbardsmarina.com/egmont-key-ferry-cruise/

Shell Key: 15 minutes by ferry

The beach shorelines are covered with shells of all types. That includes living shells as well! If you’d like you can even affordably purchase a permit to camp on this secluded island.

Information link: https://www.hubbardsmarina.com/shell-key-ferry/


Dog Beach at DeSoto

Most all dogs will romp and play together beautifully when there is no “territory” to protect. Seeing this fun unfold  on the white sandy beaches of Desoto makes it even more awesome to witness!  

Take the Ferry - it's the only way to access the remote beauty of Egmont and Shell Keys

Video of Egmont Key
Snorkling, old forts, history, tortoises, wildlife, soft white sand beaches!

Video of Shell Key

Shell hunting, unadulterated nature, white sand beaches. With a permit, you can also experience an overnight camping stay on this secluded island! It's a primitive experience for sure, but one you won't soon forget!

.Summary of popular activities: snorkeling (on Egmont Key), shell seeking (on Shell Key), swimming, visiting landmarks of history, picnics, kayaking, paddle boarding, hiking, biking, birdwatching,  ferry rides, primitive overnight camping, dog beach.

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