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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

[Read more…]

The mangrove trails at Weedon Island are the coolest ever

A few months ago, I posted a Friday photo from Weedon Island Preserve, in St. Petersburg. The photo was a few years old, but I revisited the park recently to kayak the trails for probably the tenth time.

There’s lots of great kayaking in Florida, and lots in the Tampa Bay area, but nowhere comes close to Weedon Island.  Watch the video for a good summary:

Weedon is located in on the Tampa Bay side (as opposed to the Gulf side) of St. Petersburg.  Even though it’s been open to the public for the last 80 years, you’d be surprised how many people in the Bay area have never even heard of it.

[Read more…]

Photo Friday – Weedon Island Preserve

Here’s a special Saturday edition of Photo Friday!

Weedon Island Preserve, on the Tampa Bay side of Pinellas County, offers one of the coolest mangrove trails in the state.  The channels, which were dug by the Army Corps of Engineers in the 1950s to help reduce the mosquito population (didn’t work), are now maintained as a series of kayak trails.  In many places, the trails are so narrow that you need to use a half-paddle to get through.  Crabs, snakes, rays and wading birds fill the park, and there’s a nearby manatee viewing area.  I can’t recommend this place enough.

SUPs gaining popularity in Tampa Bay

If you’ve been anywhere near the water in the last few months, you’ve probably seen one.

They look like long surfboards, and the rider relies on a paddle, not a wave, to get around. They’re called stand up paddleboards, and they are coming to a bayou, lake, river or bay near you.

Local retailers can’t keep stand up paddleboards, or SUPs, on the racks. In some places, they are even outselling kayaks.

Their success stems, perhaps, from their appeal to both adventure seekers and the fitness buffs. In the last year alone, paddleboard sales have doubled nationally, according to a recent Transworld Business report. In the Tampa Bay area, specialty retailers are reporting sales far exceeding the national average.

Brody Welte, who owned Stand Up Fitness in St. Petersburg before relocating his company to California, said his business has tripled each of the past three years.

[Read more…]