You probably don't want to hear this, but we're losing a minute of sunlight every day. The summer is going to be over before you know it, which means now is the time to hit the beach and enjoy this
face-of-the-sun-hot gorgeous weather. The ultimate beach is, of course, Fort DeSoto — but unless you've spent some serious time there, you probably don't realize what there is to do on Fort DeSoto (and near it) other than sneak a rum drink on the beach. Thankfully, you have us, and we're here to help.
1. Catch some sun on a not-so-easy-to-access beach
Let's get this out of the way right now, because sometimes there really isn't anything better than stretching out your towel on a patch of sand and closing your eyes. We won't even lecture you about sunscreen. We will tell you that the North Beach gets pretty damn crowded, but here's a tip: Park by the pine trees near where the bike path crosses the street, then walk down to the beach and head north for about 500 yards. Perfect. Think of it this way: Most of us are lazy. The farther away you can get from the parking spots, the better the chance of a private (or, at least, not ass-to-ass people) strip of beach.
2. Look for baby horseshoe crabs
As you drive onto Fort DeSoto, after the bridge, look to your left so you're facing east. There are a few areas where the mangroves part and you can find white sand. If you're going to find baby horseshoe crabs, this is the spot. The picture above is a little misleading — they're definitely that tiny, but they're also more translucent. And adorable.
3. Grill some dinner off the main strip
Over at Arrowhead Picnic Area, the grills face east and north — and so does the waterfront. We're not going to kid you: You're going to have company. But the parties won't be as loud and you have a better chance of getting a grill to use. #BYOCharcoal.
4. Take the ferry to Egmont Key
By the Bay Fishing Pier, the Tampa Bay Ferry shuttles people to Egmont Key. Egmont's probably a weekend destination in its own right, but for now, content yourself with a half-day trip to explore the island (and hear boat captains make bad jokes).
5. Take your pup for a swim
Dogs love beaches, because they can roll in dead things and dig in the sand to their heart's content — and also because they can be off-leash. As for the water part, Fort DeSoto has a not-great dog beach for those of us who own dachshunds, because it's on the channel and gets deep fast, but even CL's Barketing Director, Calypso, loves to roll in dead things and run up and down the beach.
6. Watch the kitesurfers
Head to the east beach and watch the kitesurfers defy gravity. From the beach, though — they're crazy fast in the water and do you really want to get between a kitesurfer and Newton's First Law of Motion?
7. Hunt for geocaches
Forget about catching a Pikachu; instead, hunt for real treasure — Fort DeSoto has plenty of geocaches you can find. Bonus: Seeking these out tends to show you parts of the park you probably haven't seen.
8. Paddle to the spoil islands and find the starfish nursery
Bring your own kayak or rent one, and then make for the spoil islands northeast of the backside of the north beach. Around the oyster shells you can sometimes find teeny-tiny starfish, because it's harder for the big fish to get i the shallows and eat 'em there.
9. Follow the old train route and look for the crumbling building foundations
It's a big park, and if you never leave the sand you're missing some cool history. There used to be a narrow-gauge train that ran past the fort, and there's also the remains of brick buildings near the museum. You did know there was a museum there, right?
10. Watch the sun go down
Look, to quote Jimmy Buffett (the master of the Florida beach himself): Even the worst of sunsets will never let you down.
And that's your low-key beach weekend at Fort DeSoto. Enjoy it, because it's going to fly by. See you next week!
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