Cycling one of America's most beautiful beaches: Fort De Soto Park, Florida
The big beach cruisers float and roll over the hard sand at low tide so easily. It's a funky feeling. Perched on a wide, overly soft, bouncy seat, holding on to high handlebars with all your stuff packed into a big wicker basket, you feel goofy as you pedal in bare feet or sandals. You know you look goofy, and don't care. It sets you free.
Great. It was the first week of January 2014 and we picked the coldest week of the year to visit southern Florida from Canada's deep freeze.
It was 34 degrees Fahrenheit (1 Celsius) when we woke up and looked out the patio door of a beach front rental on St. Pete's beach on the Gulf of Mexico, Florida.
By noon the temperature climbed to 58F (14 C) according to the thermostat in the rental car. The stiff blowing nor’easter made us think differently.
Let's go to Fort De Soto beach . . . in our ski jackets!
Stranger than fiction, I found a lone, rotting tree stump firmly planted in the low tide at the beach. What's your story? It was impossible to do a one-legged standing yoga pose on it and difficult to stand on it with two legs in the strong wind.
Fort De Soto Park is southwest from the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, accessed by a series of causeways and bridges from Tierra Verde. It's about a 20 minute drive (10-12 miles/16-19 kilometres) from St. Pete's Beach, or you can get there by bicycle via off-road bike trails. Entering the park by car cost $5, but no charge if you enter on foot or by bicycle.
Fort De Soto Park is the largest park within the Pinellas County Park System with 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys): the main island, Mullet Key, Madelaine Key, St. Jean Key, St. Christopher Key, and Bonne Fortune Key. All are connected by bridge or causeway. The island group is accessible by toll road from the mainland.
Fort De Soto Park is known as one of America's most beautiful beaches. It's now on my list of favorites too.
|Fort De Soto North Beach, Gulf of Mexico, Florida|
Part of the charm is that the fine sugar-white sandy beaches at Fort De Soto are within a protected park uncluttered by the incessant rows of high rise condos and resorts that line many beaches.
With over 7 miles of waterfront, 7 miles of paved walking and cycling trails, and three miles of beautiful white sandy beach, let's see what we find along the route when the wind is up and the water is wild.
Purple sea urchin
Lots of sea shells, including cockles of all sizes, fighting conchs, and white fan scallops.
The vertebrae of a large fish or animal?
Red sea sponge.
Sand dollars. Is three a lucky number?
Fort De Soto, built during the Spanish-American war in the late 1890s, is within the park. Its remnants and remains are open to the public. There is much to discover and experience beyond what you see. This is where Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico meet, which made it a naturally strategic location for a fort. You can spend hours diving into the interesting history of this location.
|12-inch seacoast mortar, Fort De Soto|
The park is dog friendly and has a specially designated section of beach where your dog can enjoy the water too.
Fort De Soto Kayak/Canoe Trail
A kayak rental company marks the spot. They also rent canoes and paddleboards. Bring your own kayak or rent one. You'll need to know the tide charts ahead of time. Avoid paddling the mangroves during low tides. You'll get stuck. The launch site here is very kayak-friendly and takes you into Soldier's Hole.
Fort De Soto Park, Pinellas County website
|Fort De Soto Park trails, Florida, Gulf of Mexico|