I really don’t know who would appreciate this island more, the nature lovers or the history lovers? The island is 1.6 miles long by 1/2 mile wide, partially closed off for bird sanctuary, but still has plenty of space to roam around the interior and on the shore. There is an expansive fort which feels like a ghost town dating back to the Spanish American War. And the best part about an island adventure, the Gulf water is green, gorgeous, and inviting.
How to get there?
The ferry leaves from Hubbard’s Marina [3500 Pinellas Bayway S, St. Petersburg, FL 33715] in Fort Desoto State Park, make reservations in advance. The ride is beautiful and you will likely see dolphins frolicking in the waves.
Exploring the island
Fort Dade was constructed to protect Tampa Bay during the Spanish American War – but was used all the way through WWII. It consisted of 70 buildings, 300 residents, and was armed with 5 batteries.
Follow the red brick road and paths that lead to informational plaques and ruins which included a bowling alley, theater, and school.
You can’t miss viewing the lighthouse. The original was taken out by a hurricane the year it was made, but the one standing was reconstructed in 1858.
Aside from history, this is also a NWR and even though a portion of the island is closed off – you can spot wildlife everywhere. We saw snakes, heron, osprey, and plenty of gopher tortoises.
The beach has beautiful shells, perfect water for swimming, and you can add a snorkeling option onto your trip.
+There are some hidden costs including an unavoidable toll and a fee to enter Fort DeSoto Park (where you park your car) – but you can extend your day by exploring the park afterwards
+Pack what you want to bring: water, snacks, sunscreen, hat, bathing suit, towel
+Cash is the preferred method of payment due to the connectivity issues on the island