Camping with a Florida Flair: Ft. Desoto Campground and Park

I love camping and have been to several camping areas in Florida but by far the best I have visited is Ft. Desoto Campground. This St. Petersburg Florida area campground gives you a true feel for the Florida lifestyle, giving you the best combination of an award winning Florida beach, access to great views of both Tampa Bay and the Gulf, canoe, biking and running trails and amazing waterfront campsites that are surprisingly private.

There are some really nice options at the campground such as the pet friendly sites, tent and pop-up only area and RV sites. This, in my opinion, makes for a better experience when you can choose what type of “neighbors” you have. Too many campgrounds just pile people wherever and I have had my tent surrounded by RV’s and listened to dogs barking all night in other campgrounds. Campgrounds that I have never returned to.

The sites at Ft. Desoto are all surrounded on at least three sides by enough of a wooded area to give you real privacy from the campsites next to you and far enough back from the road to allow you plenty of room for all of your camping gear and vehicles. I have fit 2 large tents and a screen room with more than enough room left over for a nice fire pit and picnic area. This alone seems to be a rare feature in many Florida campgrounds and it gets better. Many of their 238 sites offer a wonderful water view and the interior sites allow for easy access so you can watch the sun rise or set over the water.

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The sites all have charcoal grills and picnic tables but no fire ring. However, you are welcome to bring a portable fire pit…just watch for the outdoor burning warnings. Firewood is a problem at times as the campstore tends to run out and in the off season local stores do not carry it. However I did manage to find a little garden shop on Hanes Rd. and 16th Ave that sells oak firewood year round. It is about 20 minutes away from the campground. You should also be aware that raccoons are all over here and they are smart. Lock your food away even if you just pop across to the restroom. My son found out how much they liked his barbeque chips when he returned from the restroom to watch as his new table mate was having a snack.

The camp store is available for those little things you need, but my advice is to make the drive up the road about 10 minutes to the nearest Walgreens or grocery store if you can. The prices at the camp store are high and they run out of the main camping necessities fast in the busier seasons.

Ft. Desoto Park as a whole gives you so many options. You can take the Ferry over to explore the beautiful nearby island or just spend a day relaxing on any part of the about 3 miles of beach. Even the beach gives you options. There is a nice water-sports area towards the east end, a pet beach and fenced in pet park toward the middle, more private beach areas also toward the middle and then the North Beach area with picnic shelters, grills, kids playground and nice family friendly beach area.

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You can enjoy a bike ride, run, walk or roller blade along the 6 mile long paved trail that winds its way from the campground to the beaches or grab the water trail and canoe or kayak through 2 miles of Florida waterways. Canoes, kayaks and bikes can all be rented at the park. My personal favorites are a nice relaxing kayak trip off the campground shore at sunset and a nice quiet run along the beach right at sunrise…nothing quite like it.

In the center of it all is the Fort itself. Self guided tours on, in and around the fort give you a taste of the parks history. Climbing to the top of the fort will give you a breathtaking view of the Gulf.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of what this park has to offer. 24 hour boat ramps, two fishing piers, boat tours and best of all the most amazing camping experience you will ever have.

Reserve your site way in advance as this park tends to stay booked pretty solid and go enjoy camping the way it should be in Florida.