Biking, Beaches, and Camping at Fort Desoto Park
Fort Desoto Park is one of Florida’s most beautiful and as such tends to be booked up well in advance. If you’re not a planner (hi there), you can get one of their hold-back sites on Friday mornings starting at 7 am. And you can keep it for as long as seven days.
How to Get a Spot at Fort Desoto at the Last Minute
Now, as you might have seen in our last post, we ultimately failed to secure a site the previous Friday. The reservation system is straight out of the 90s. It’s confusing and terrible even for tech-savvy people. So, if you want to try to snag one of these reservations, here are our tips:
- Create your account ahead of time. To do so, you have to start a site reservation. Pick anything that’s open. You’re not going to complete the booking. Click on “if you have not been here before, click here.” That will take you to the account set-up page. Complete the information and set a pin. Write down your pin. Click continue. Now search by your last name or email address to confirm your account was created. If you find it, you can exit out.
- Choose your site options. Check to see which sites are suitable for you based on your rig size, if you have pets, etc. I recommend you have a list of all the sites you’ll accept and then put stars next to your ideal sites (waterfront, etc.) You do not want to be trying to figure all this out at 7 am. More prepared people will get the site you want.
- Be ready to go at 7 am Friday morning. Ready means about 6:45 am get on your computer, make sure your internet connection is stable, and load up the reservation site. Make sure you have your log-in information and PIN next to you. Have your site list ready. During peak season, you might want to have multiple people on computers trying for sites if that’s an option. At 6:59 am start refreshing the reservation site. Good luck!
If you didn’t believe my urgings above to be prepared, maybe you’ll listen to Technomadia. They document their frustrations with the reservation system.
Picking Up Our Bikes
On the way to Fort Desoto from Alafia River, we stopped to pick up our new bikes in Tampa. We left the RV in a very tight Home Depot parking lot in St. Petersburg, then drove over to Tampa.
Downtown Tampa has some pretty cool bike infrastructure. The bike signals take forever though. We learned from a local that they consider them suggestions rather than law. That makes sense because otherwise, you might find yourself waiting for quite some time for it to change.
Camping at Fort Desoto Park
We’ve been on the road almost a year now, and Fort Desoto is one of our favorite parks. And we didn’t even get a waterfront site!
We were in site 114 which backed up to the main road. That place turned out to be a good choice because on one side there used to be a water tower. So you have a nice buffer there. On the other side, there was a little bit of greenery between you and your neighbor, but it was still somewhat close. You can also walk right through by restroom #4 and set up a couple of chairs in a public area next to the water which we did one afternoon.
The campground itself is fun to bike around. We always found empty sites in area one and three where we could enjoy the view.
If you want to get in even more biking, there are paths all over the park. We biked over to the beaches a couple of times. The Surly Ogres handled the sandy trails like champs! Oh, and that sand is so lovely. It’s like sugar.
We were also obsessed with watching these guys dig into the sand. They disappear so fast!
And over at the fort, we happened upon a battle reenactment! They had muskets and cannons. It was quite the production.
Lotus Vegan Restaurant
One evening we headed over to Pinellas Park to eat at Lotus Vegan Restaurant. It’s hard for us to pass up an all-vegan menu. This menu was mostly Asian but kind of all over the place. They had some raw food, sandwiches and burgers, and traditional Vietnamese dishes. And some other random things.
We tried the cheese sticks and drumsticks.
Kevin got some stir fry. I got the Banh Xeo which is a big crepe stuffed with goodness. Or, two big crepes. It was a lot of food! We both enjoyed everything.
One of our favorite pastimes is creepin’ on other campers. We’re just admiring other people’s set-ups and rigs. At Fort Desoto, we saw this little cutie.
And we saw a Tentsil tree tent set up in the wild! It’s like a cross between a hammock and a tent.
Speaking of campground creepin’ – you might remember back at Collier-Seminole we crept on a cute little Scamp. And then connected with them on Instagram – @tinyredcaravan. Well, the stars aligned and they happened to be at Fort Desoto while we were there!
We rode our bikes over one day just to say howdy to Cindy and Mike and ended up chatting for like six hours. You could say we hit it off! Check out their adventures over at tinyredcaravan.com. We’ll always opt to hang out with them again if we get the chance (and we will!)
It’ll be a while before we get back over to Florida, but Fort Desoto will be on our revisit list for sure. Next time we’ll try hard for a waterfront spot.
About the Author
vegan. digital nomad. cycling. scuba. intj. former vegan bakery owner.