Florida Vacation at Fort De Soto Park

We had a fun filled Spring Break at the end of March visiting Grandpa and Grandma M for a week down in Fort De Soto Park, just south of St. Pete Beach on the Gulf. They have been hopping around from campground to campground this past month in Florida, and the timing worked out just right for us to spend a much needed vacation with them. Overall, the boys had a blast–no time for naps, and we enjoyed lots of beach time and perfect weather to boot.

We flew into Tampa on Wednesday evening. The flight was about 3.5 hours, somehow we all made it one piece. After a short drive, we made it to the Gulf. Fort De Soto comprises several keys providing a mixture of intracoastal water ways and beautiful beaches. The campground itself was huge with very large campsites, some right on the water. The pop-up was one of the smaller rigs on the lot. It was good sleeping weather as long as a light breeze was in the air. The boys wasted no time rough housing around in the camper and were spoiled by Grandpa with many night time stories. William finally got to play with all his led lights too. Later that night we were awoken by a raccoon going through the trash, and William was obsessed the whole trip about Rocky.

On Thursday we took the park ferry to Egmont key, just a short ride out past Fort De Soto. If you are a strong swimmer, you might be able to make it on your own power but you would have to dodge the barges in the shipping lines. The boys took in the boat ride and on the way back, we saw our first dolphins right along the boat. The key itself was beautiful with very pristine beaches. Joshua wasn’t so sure at first about the water and took a while to warm up to it.

The next day was the only non-beach day of the vacation, and we all (minus Joshua and Grandma) headed out to Lakeland to see a Tiger’s Spring training game at Joker Marchant stadium. My dad’s been waiting forever to see the Tiger’s at Spring training and was the perfect excuse to catch some early season baseball. We arrived early for bp, which was unfortunately canceled, but nonetheless, we enjoyed exploring the facility and seeing some of the players in a more laid back atmosphere. One highlight was seeing Justin Verlander throw some pitches on one the practice fields. The game was pretty good, and William was spoiled with multiple treats and lots of sugar to keep him going.

Saturday, Sunday, Monday were all beach days back at Fort De Soto. The boys just love playing in the sand and North Beach was our favorite, complete with a snack bar and Eddy’s icecream if needed. Overall the water was farely warm, about 70, but cold for Florida standards. We had no problems swimming and it was very clear, making fun for finding different treasures. I spent many hours looking for Shark’s teeth and made out pretty well, after a I discovered a localized hot spot where they kept on washing out at certain tide times. Linnea and I were spoiled with on-going baby-sitting by the grandparents and waded out to Sand Key for more beach combing.

We rented a tandem kayak for 3 days to explore all the different water ways. It was a pretty slick deal, and the kayak was dropped off at our campsite and picked up 3 days later. Our site was right on a mangrove tunnel creek that we could kayak from and Linnea and I explored all over. Some-much so that I got blisters. One day we kayaked way across the different water ways eventually connecting to Shell Key on the gulf. On our return trip, we came right up on two dolphins that were fishing. They would swim in tight circles and one splashed its tail real hard a couple times.

Later on in one of the evenings we saw more dolphins fishing. In the morning we saw manatees and we kayaked right over them. They would come into shallow water to sleep and then head back out to feed mid morning. Linnea took the boys out to see them too. Another day, we met Grandpa and Grandma on the beach and gave them the kayak to travel back. Needless to say, they were a little weak to paddle the big channel and barely made it back. Luckily a pizza from the campstore re-energized them.

On Monday night, Linnea and I got to go on nice dinner date just up the coast and found a fun restaurant bar, Caddy’s on the beach, right on the water and just in time for sunset. It was a relaxing evening and there even was live music which turned out to be pretty good. Linnea had fresh fish, me of course chicken 🙂

For Tuesday, our last full day, we headed up to John’s pass for some more dolphin watching. We were all excited to go out on the ‘big boat’ as William called it, and it didn’t take long to spot a whole group of them. The boys just loved the boat and being on the water in general. At John’s pass we also got ice-cream at Kilwins, the same shop franchise I worked at growing up. A few fishing boats made there way in and the catch looked exceptionally well, kind of making me wish I booked a deep sea fishing trip. After a nice dinner on the boardwalk, we drove back to the campground, with a short detour to St. Pete beach to catch the sunset.

For Wednesday, our final day, we had a lazy morning enjoying the campsite, before getting our last beach time. Our flight didn’t leave until 6p so we still had a pretty solid day. Both boys love playing in dirt where Granpda is the regulator making sure they keep their cars of the camper sides. The water at the beach was really nice that day and we spent a lot time wading around. William had fun flying his Lightning Mcqueen kite (a surprise from Grandma), although after letting go of the handle and almost loosing it to the trees, I buried it in the sand. It was great day to wrap up the vacation and we sadly made our way back to the airport in the evening. Both boys completely passed out about half-way through the flight. Overall, we all loved Florida and was quite the treat to get a small taste of the retirement life with the grandparents.