By Lauren Tjaden

It’s not the best of 10, or 50, or even 100 beaches.

St. Pete/Clearwater's Fort De Soto Beach Park is the best family beach in the entire United States. That’s a big deal. That’s a nice beach!

Parents Magazine (the nation's top-selling parenting and family lifestyle magazine) awarded the pristine park top honors on the magazine's 2011 list of the '10 Best Beaches for Families' that hit newsstands recently.

So, what makes it the best?

Fort De Soto Beach: Best of the Best Family Beaches

The water is wonderful. Parents reviewed water-quality reports, closings and advisories for more than 1,000 beaches in the county, and found delightful De Soto as clean as a cat’s conscience. It demonstrated a spotless record following more than 100 tests in 2009 and 2010.

The sandbar is sweet. Mother Nature cleverly formed a sandbar off of the coast, making a natural "kiddie pool" – peachy for little swimmers and a reason it's one of the best family beaches in the country.

Restrooms, calm surf and lifeguards, oh my! A variety of extras helped shape the final result.

Fort De Soto Beach features:

  • Historic fort
  • Seven-plus miles of waterfront, with almost three miles of beautiful, white-sand beach
  • 800-foot-long boat launching facility with 11 floating docks
  • Camping
  • Picnic shelters
  • Restrooms
  • Playgrounds
  • Two large swim centers at the North Beach Swim Center
  • Lifeguard
  • Two fishing piers, each with a food and bait concession
  • Ferry Service to Egmont Key
  • Concession/Snack Bar/Souvenir Shop
  • Quartermaster museum
  • Asphalt recreation trail
  • Canoe trail
  • Nature trail
  • Dog park

Where exactly is Fort De Soto beach? Now you’re talking! The pristine park is a Gulf Coast beach nestled against the Gulf of Mexico at the southern tip of St. Petersburg.

Fort De Soto beach

Two dogs have a ball at the beach in Fort De Soto Park in St. Petersburg where there are fountains for a drink and hoses for a shower.

- Joseph Garnett Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

best family beaches

Daly Ruffatoo and son Tyler try to coax Luna onto a boogie board while playing at Fort De Soto Park, one of many locations that allow dogs.

- Joseph Garnett Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA