S2E2, Fort Desoto County Park, St Petersburg, Fl

20140125-203626.jpg After an over-night stop at Sue’s parents we drove 90 minutes north to Fort Desoto County Park which occupies five long skinny islands at the juncture of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s literally the end of the road going south along the west side of the bay. The Pinellas County park has three miles of really nice white sand beach and 238 campsites.

20140125-205259.jpgYou can see from the Google Earth view how the park is mostly waterfront with many inlets, bays and bayous in addition to the frontage along Tampa Bay and the Gulf.

In chats with other campers last winter many said we ought to visit here and I’d read many rave reviews on the interweb so it was a priority destination this year. It is a beautiful place that feels a million miles away from the hustle of St Petersburg, but is only ten miles and three toll bridges from I275 and fifteen miles from downtown St Petersburg.

20140125-210839.jpg Like most of the state parks, Fort Desoto’s camp sites are carved out of tropical forest so are very private with dense foliage all round. But here the sites have an even more ‘surrounded by nature’ feeling as the trees form a canopy over most of the camping spots. We would have appreciated more sun on this chilly week but I’m sure the dense shade is welcome most of the year. The main campground occupies the whole of Mullet Key so more than half of the sites have a water view at the rear.

20140125-212602.jpgThe beach here is pretty special too, in fact Trip Advisor named it the Best American Beach in 2009. Florida has lots of nice beaches but most are lined with condos and beach houses. The Fort Desoto beach has none of that. It’s just as natural looking shoreward as seaward. Also, because there is no development aside from the campground there are lots of shore birds.

More beach porn:

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And some wild life pictures – first a Long Billed Curlew. Many of these were fishing in the surf with their oddly elongated bills.

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Often Herons and Egrets will wait patiently by a surf fisherman hoping for a handout but we were amazed to see this bird with weird wrinkled neck waiting too. It’s a Wood Stork.

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Here’s a double header. I was trying to photograph a porpoise swimming right along the beach and got a Sanderling going the other way.

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And Sue photographing an Osprey on its nest.

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Just like up north the weather here was unseasonably cold last week. When we arrived Monday it was OK, low 60s, sunny, not too windy, so we went for a short bike ride and then a longer beach walk.

Tuesday was even nicer so we went to the beach mid-morning, walked for a couple of hours then had a total junk food lunch at the beach snack bar. Afterward we walked some more until a storm chased us back to the car.

20140126-214800.jpgWe made it just as the first big drops hit and it was over by the time we drove the three miles back to the campground. We wasted the rest of the afternoon lounging around reading and writing.

A cold front came through in the night and Wednesday morning dawned with mid-40s temps and a strong north wind. This was clearly going to be an inside day. First came breakfast at Black Forest Cottage, a very authentic German Cafe in a little retail area just north of the park. The menu had a lot of interesting German crepes. I had one with Brie, cranberry preserves and pear slices – delicious 🙂

Then we drove about 15 minutes into downtown St Petersburg to the Museum of Fine Arts. They had a special exhibit featuring the art of New Mexico which was especially interesting as we are going to NM in April. The art is housed in a striking modern building with a large glass walled lobby connecting the permanent and special exhibition wings with a nice little cafe at the south wall overlooking the harbor.

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Of course I can’t resist posting a photo of my lunch.

20140126-222836.jpg A trio of crab cakes, each set in a different sauce. They were every bit as good as they look:)

The next day turned out just as chilly so we lazed around the trailer all morning reading, web surfing, drinking coffee and complaining about the weather. By about 12:30 we gathered enough enthusiasm get out and find somewhere for a nice lunch. That turned out to be Bill’y Seafood in the same little shopping area north of the park. We got a table against a south window in the sun. Sue had clam chowder made with Cedar Key clams and I took advantage of the 50 cent oyster special.

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By mid-afternoon it had warmed up a bit so we spent a couple of hours exploring the old Fort Desoto built for the defense of Tampa Bay around 1900. There is a recreated quartermasters office, a lot of clammy concrete mostly underground rooms and a pier that extends 1000′ into the bay. This was honestly the least interesting feature of the park. The military owned the islands but never did much with them. The Fort never saw any action and after WWII, when planes from nearby Macdill Air Force Base practiced bombing runs here, it was sold to Pinellas County.

Friday morning was even colder and windier and we had to vacate our site by 11:00 anyway so we packed up first thing and went back to Sue’s parents’ house in Port Charlotte.

We will be staying there for five nights then moving to Myakka River State Park.

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6 thoughts on “S2E2, Fort Desoto County Park, St Petersburg, Fl

  1. Hi,
    Y’all have a nice blog I have enjoyed following. It is well written with terrific photos which further describe your experiences with the camper. I wanted a Lil Snoozy soooo badly, but felt I could not haul it with my minivan so got an Aliner instead.. No comparison of course. I LOVE that Lil Snoozy though, had a Casita and to me, this Lil Snoozy runs circles around it in design and efficiency. Welcome to Florida for part of your winter season and may your weather just get better and better before you leave us this year..

    Ft Desoto is a beautiful place to commune with nature. I plan to camp there Sun-Wed. coming up…My sister is coming down from Pensacola and she hasn’t seen my Aliner. She loves Ft Desoto too, we always see dolphins and sometimes paddle w the manatees out around there too at the same time. (She and former husband had a nice motorhome and went there often when she lived down near me)..I have camped over on that island (Shell Island??) across from Ft Desoto many years out of a sea kayak, but now I am just camping with the little Aliner, (it is way easier)…
    Bicycling is my favorite thing to do on those nice sidewalk/trails, besides paddling at Ft Desoto. And, exploring the little roads here and there . I love that picnic area off to the right when you get almost to the end of the T to the right which ends there at the water going into the “Pass” to the outside of the bay into the Gulf. You were fortunate to see lots of birds, and had the weather been nicer for you for longer, you would have seen lots more. Sometime when you are down, be sure and go out on that little inexpensive ferry that takes you to Egmont Key, that is a nice little hike around a beautiful island with tons of birds and wildlife. You would really enjoy that. Photo opportunities are abundant…
    Y’all should consider going over to Pine Island which is close to where you are (Port Charlotte) and taking the ferry over to Cayo Costa, which is a state park, an island 6 miles towards the Gulf. It is wonderful. It was torn up pretty badly from one of the hurricanes about 5 or 6 years ago, but hear it has come back pretty well now. I have sea kayaked from Pine Island out to Cayo Costa, maybe 5 or 6 miles off shore , paddling by many islands along the way, passing Useppa Island a very exclusive island, along with others along in the “bay” and in the intercoastal there. You would LOVE that day trip on the ferry over or maybe spend the night in one of the cabins (which dont have windows or screens, let alone bathrooms, but are interesting.
    Seems like I noticed y’all are from MI? I love MI and swear I am an honorary Yooper. I have spent the last 5 summers up in Marquette, but those days are over unfortunately. Too far for me to go alone for that distance, anymore. Tough drive by yourself, especially pulling a trailer. I have a 4×6 cargo trailer I bought in MI that I took stuff up and back each year with me.
    Have a wonderful rest of your trip.Keep writing and posting nice photos in your blog, it is very good 🙂
    Stop by the state park at Port St Joe if you can for a few days. That is a beautiful beach park. Maybe you already did that, someone did recently, whose blog I was following. (I follow two or three such as yours).. I like that park a lot.
    Toodles, and happy camping!
    Charlotte
    ( Inverness Fl about 1 1/2 hours north of Tampa area. )

    • Hi Charlotte, Thanks for all the great tips. As it happens we are going back to Ft Desoto next Sun through Wed, I believe that’s when you are going to be there. We are on site 32 – stop and by say “hi”.

  2. Just found your blog from your posting on the fiberglassrv forum. I’m considering RVing in FL next winter, so am very interested in exploring this blog and finding out more about your trip and the Lil’ Snoozy. Couldn’t resist a peak at the “About the Trailer” section and this is very close to what I want! GREAT MODS!

    What prompted me to jump in with a comment is Fort Desoto. Brings back old memories. About a dozen years ago, my wife and I bought our first used Odyssey minivan. It was Nov or Dec. and we quickly loaded our bikes inside and headed to St. Pete’s Beach where my wife’s sister had a condo at the extreme south of Pass-A-Grill Beach on the water. While there, we decide to bike at FDSP. Just a delight. Hardly anyone around and flat (which my wife likes). Beautiful beaches! But one negative I’ve never forgotten.

    I decided to stop and explore the beach, so I walked my bike from the roadway across the sand to the water. There was some low vegetation around. Next day I had a flat tire with an extremely slow leak. We took it to a bike shop in downtown St. Pete for a new tube, and the fellow informed me that I went over a plant that has extremely fine needle-like spires that punctured the tire! I learned my lesson. Now I stay off sandy vegetation in Florida.

    If from MI, you sure are fortunate to be RVing where you are. Being in Canada close to the U.S. boarder we pick up Detroit TV stations. Last week they were lamenting that this is one of the coldest Jan. on record for Mich. and already broke the record for the most snow! It has been brutal with -30s to -40s wind chill. A Lil’ Snoozy in Florida sounds real good about now. Also love AZ, and visiting NM in a trailer is on my bucket list. I’ll be watching! 🙂

    – Craig

    • Hi Craig, Yes, we are glad not to be in Michigan – this winter especially. Drifting around Florida in the winter is fun. We still get some cold weather, like today when it rained all day and the high was 47F but usually it’s in the 70s.

      We see lots of Ontario license plates here on the SW coast.

  3. Well, finally…………….., I got to read all the Wandering episodes…at once! It all seems so wonderful. Love the photos and the “tastes” of all that good, good food. You included images of flying-walking-fishing creatures I have never seen before. Thanks so much. Soak up all that goodness and beauty. Expecting 7″ of snow here today! It is beautiful and so quiet…wonderful

    • Hi Veronica, Good to hear from you. The next post will have much better wild life pictures. Sue’s expensive Nikon camera really does take better pictures than my cell phone!

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