Is Fort De Soto park the best beach in the country?

Fort De Soto Park is a county-owned park in Pinellas County, and as county-owned parks go, it’s one of the most spectacular.

With a beach that regularly ranks in Dr. Beach’s completely arbitrary top 10 beaches in the country, a historic fort, kayak trails, fishing piers, an amazing campground and miles of hiking and biking trails, there is no shortage of things to do at the park.

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Fort De Soto has a sentimental place in my heart – it’s where I had some of my earliest and most memorable tent camping experiences.  It was also one of the closest wilderness areas to my childhood home, presenting a drastically different beach landscape than the nearby tourist-filled, condominium-lined beaches of St. Pete and Clearwater.

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$40 to sleep on the sand? Check out Long Key State Park

If you’ve never slept on a beach, you should add it to your bucket list.

There’s something about the roar of the ocean in the middle of the night that is unforgettable.  I spent the first 23 years of my life within five minutes of the Gulf of Mexico.  I’ve spent every year since within an hour and a half.  I’ve boated, kayaked, fished, swam.  I’ve run on the beach, I’ve snorkeled on reefs, I’ve cruised from island to island in the Caribbean and Central America.

But I’ve never felt the ocean like I did sleeping in a cheap tent on the sand.

Sunset from Long Key

If you’re reading this within four hours of the Florida Keys, here’s what you should do this weekend:

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Video from Silver River in Ocala – Hiking, biking, kayaking, Oh yeah!

I’ve written about kayaking on Silver River in Ocala before, but I haven’t touched on any of the other cool things to do there.

I’ll hit on a few of them quickly, and I’ve put together a little video to give you the sense of what else is out there.

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Photo Friday – Camping in Long Key State Park

Long Key campground

One of the greatest tent camping destinations in Florida, Long Key (about halfway to Key West) offers campers beach-front camp sites with water and electric for less than $20 a night.  The park is quiet, small and rarely full.  Direct kayak access to the water and fishing piers, boat launches, Key West and Islamorada are all within minutes of the state park.