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History, Picnics, and a Surrey with the Fringe on Top: Fort De Soto, Florida

In between checking out of Cay Pointe Villa in Indian Rocks and checking into the Plaza Beach Hotel in St. Pete Beach, we had a few hours to kill. Most people would've headed straight to the nearest public beach access, but I'm not most people.

Instead, we headed to Fort De Soto, a park that sits at the mouth of Tampa Bay. It is the largest of the Pinellas County Parks and straddles five small islands.

When I'd written an intro about where we were going on our Superior Small Lodging road trip, I had several readers write in and tell me that Fort De Soto was not to be missed. When we had that free morning, I knew exactly where I would take Landon and Britton.

At first glance, the park was quiet with only a few bicyclists making use of the path. But as we drove further in, we began to notice all of the different things we could do. There were kayak rentals, a self-guided fort tour, six miles of beaches, a fishing pier, picnic areas and a little cafe just off the fort.

Normally, I would've headed straight to the historical stuff since that's my Achilles heel, but Landon and I had promised our toddler that she could ride a bike.

Of course, with her tiny legs and toddler coordination (or lack thereof), we didn't actually expect her to ride her own bike, but we were hoping that there would be a carry-on option for her. We lucked up and found that there were two and four person surreys, which absolutely delighted Britton to no end.

Landon and I loaded up the surrey with some snacks, drinks, and a picnic lunch, and headed out on the biking trails. Britton loved zooming along (at 5 MPH) with the wind in her face while Landon and I huffed and puffed. We needed a little exercise after all of the delicious food we'd tried on the trip.

First, we biked along the historical trails, where we saw some of the ruins from the military encampment that was once there. While the area was first scouted in the mid-1800s as a possible military defense spot, it wasn't until 1898 that the buildings and fort were constructed. Although the post house, cafeteria and barracks aren't standing any longer, there are markers outlining where each building used to be.

After we'd been doodling around in the surrey (with the fringe on top) for about an hour, Britton started hollering about lunch. We pulled into the nearest picnic area, plunked our cooler down, and enjoyed our food with only the waves and the birds as company.

Our bike rental was up after lunch, so we had to head back and return it.

Next, we headed to the fort, which (unlike the out buildings) is still is great shape. When it was being built, there was an issue with the stones that were being sent from the North down to Florida. Rather than wait for the delayed building stones, the workers decided to make use of the plentiful shells around the island to construct the walls and ceiling of the fort.

With walls that range from 8 to 20 feet deep and ceilings that are 5 feet thick, this place was built to last. Yet, the fort has never been in any battles and the weapons have never been fired! The men assigned to Fort De Soto didn't see any conflict--unless you count the hordes of mosquitos that harassed them day and night. The bugs were so bad that they even made it into the post quartermaster's report in the early 1900s. Yikes.

We perused the fort, ducking in a few of the rooms and reading the plaques that we came across. Along the way, we found this little girl had been thrown in the clinker for excessive noise, but we were feeling nice and posted bail.

It wasn't the longest trip, but we managed to pack a good bit in. I wish we'd had more time to play on the beaches or bike around more. Fort De Soto is definitely worth a stop if you're in the St. Pete area!

Do you like visiting county or national parks on your trips? Which activity would you have liked doing at Fort De Soto the most?


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