This post is part of a series on The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip, our 10-month, 15,000-mile tour of the top pet friendly attraction in each of the lower 48 states.
On Florida’s Gulf Coast, just south of the action in Tampa and St. Pete, lie five small islands where nature and history combine to provide an enchanting getaway. Fort De Soto Park preserves more than 1,100 acres of forest and beach, where people and dogs can leave the hustle behind and steep in the tranquility of the keys.
Visitors to Fort De Soto can spend their day in a variety of ways, including swimming, fishing, biking, birdwatching, canoeing, kayaking, picnicing, boating, or hiking. And, as the name implies, there is a lot of history to explore. The fort that was built here to protect Tampa Bay was completed in 1900 and named for Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. Of course, the highlight for the dogs is the 2.5-acre off-leash dog park and quarter-mile of dedicated dog beach!
Pet Rules at Fort De Soto Park
Pets are welcome to enjoy Fort De Soto park with you! Leashes are required anywhere other than the designated dog beach, and enclosed dog park, and dogs are not allowed in the buildings, on the public beaches, or on fishing piers.
Pets must be on leash outside designated dog park and dog beach areas
Leashes must be no longer than 6 feet
Pets are not allowed in buildings, on fishing piers, or on public beaches
Pet waste must be picked up and disposed of properly
The Dog Beach and Off-leash Park
Fort De Soto’s beaches are acclaimed for their soft, white sand and Caribbean blue waters … and a quarter-mile of the six miles of beachfront has been dedicated to the dogs! Pups can romp, splash, and run to their heart’s content on this lovely stretch of beach, free of their leash, as long as they are under voice control.
When it’s time to rinse off the sand, walk over to the 2.5-acre, fenced dog park, where you’ll find separate areas for large and small dogs and doggie showers.
Exploring More of the Park
There’s plenty more to do when you’re done playing on the beach or socializing in the dog park! The seven-mile multi-use trail connects all the park’s sweet spots, and bikes are available for rent at the gift shop near the fort.
If you prefer your trails more liquid, head over to the 2.25-mile canoe trail. All the canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddle boards available for rent are dog friendly, and the self-guided trails offers provides a unique perspective on the park’s scenery and wildlife … including the occasional manatee! Human life vests are available, but you should bring one along for your dog.
To appreciate the plants and animals that live on the island, check out one of the nature trails. The hike at Arrowhead is about a mile long, has lots of shade, and interpretive signs explaining the local flora and fauna. The Soldier’s Hole trail is about three-quarters of a mile long, and you can pick up a trail guide in the park headquarters for a description of each of the 15 marked stations. There’s also a barrier-free nature trail that is accessed from the park headquarters with interpretive signs.
Built between 1895 and 1900, Battery Laidley was the primate defense for Fort De Soto, and it’s still here for you to see. An interesting guide explaining the history of the area and providing a self-guided tour fort is available in the park office. Climb the steps of the battery for a great view of the beaches and beyond.
You’ll certainly have worked up an appetite by this point, and the gift shop near Battery Laidley has take out food like burgers, hot dogs, and fries. There’s a covered seating area here, or find a quite stretch of beach or one of the many picnic tables throughout the park to relax and enjoy your lunch.
We were delighted to partner with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay for the fourth of 17 meet-up and adoption events we’ve planned on our 48-state tour. The folks here are making a real difference for the animals in the Tampa area. We joined them for their annual “Photos with the Easter Bunny,” and 29 animals got adopted. There were 14 adoptions at the same event last year, and certainly the bump wasn’t all due to our being there, but I hope we helped!
Visiting these attractions with Ty and Buster is a dream come true. We’ll be blogging about each one as we go along, so fasten your seatbelt and stay tuned!
The Ultimate Pet Friendly Road Trip wouldn’t be possible without the support of our wonderful sponsors: Winnebago, 2 Hounds Design, Alcott, goDog®, PetGuide.com, Red Roof Inns, Sleepypod, The Bark, PetHub, RVPetSafety.com, and The Honest Kitchen. Please be sure to visit their websites and social media pages and thank them for their participation!
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