What if I told you there was a way to enjoy Fort De Soto camping where all you had to do was show up with your favorite pillow, a few things to eat and a smile? Interested? I thought so.

With a camping package from Tampa-based Hitch Top Tent you can do all of the above.

We arrived at our campsite at beautiful Fort De Soto Park, just south of St. Petersburg, around 3 p.m. Our first impression of site number 32 was wow!

The folks from Hitch Top Tent had set everything up for our Fort De Soto camping experience prior to our arrival. Our family package gave us two tents that looked almost like tree houses, sitting atop the trailer over six feet above the ground. The first tent is for the adults, comes complete with a 2.5-inch mattress, blanket and air conditioning. That’s right, the tent has AC! The second tent is slightly smaller but also includes a mattress, blanket and AC. Perfect for the kiddos or another couple. Each tent has a ladder for easy entry, an electric reading light and even a hanging basket for things like your toothbrush or shoes.

Things get even better below the tents, where we found the trailer equipped with a counter top area perfect for meal prepping complete with cute hanging lights and a large storage locker underneath. They even included s'mores roasting sticks.

Rounding out our package we found two very nice beach cruisers conveniently locked to a palm tree, two chairs, a fire pit complete with a tub of firewood, fire starters and lighter and a tandem kayak.

We unloaded our pillows, our food and cooler and we were ready to start glamping. Talk about convenient!

Fort De Soto camping

Gareth Kelly for VISIT FLORIDA

Fort De Soto camping trip

Gareth Kelly for VISIT FLORIDA 

With no battling of tent poles, finding batteries for the air pump and all the other stresses of setting up a camp, we were in a relaxed mood and decided to take the bikes for a spin around the park.

After identifying the location of the restrooms, the camp store (fresh coffee and ice) we headed down the bike trail into the park itself.  We checked out the pier, where you can catch a ferry to Egmont Key, cycled around the old fort itself, stopping to look at the massive guns on display (circa 1900) and found ourselves at one of the most pristine perfect beaches we have ever encountered.

Riding alongside the surf we found incredible shells, and tossed a few into our bike baskets as we went. After a dip in the warm Gulf we made our way back to camp with dinner on our minds.

Each campsite (238 to choose from) comes complete with a grill. Bring your own charcoal and you’re ready outside dining. We enjoyed salmon tacos as we watched an assortment of birds feeding in the water a mere 100 yards from our site. Dolphins were swimming past in the shallows, so with the sun setting we unlocked the kayak and went for a short evening paddle. A small island of mangroves lay ahead, a perfect circumnavigation and chance to burn off dinner. There’s also a 2.5-mile self-guided kayak trail just across the bay, which we planned for the next morning. Dropping the kayak in and out of the water was easy thanks to the gentle beach and grassy shore.

As night arrived we lit our campfire and set about making smores. We were not the only ones showing an interest in our campsite -- a local tribe of raccoons arrived and casually strolled around looking for scraps, pawing at our trash. We quickly secured everything away and kindly asked them to leave.

Fort De Soto camping can be tough, with set-up and take-down often the hardest part. We, on the other hand, were exhausted only from all our adventuring. Being able to show up and jump straight into the activities was pleasurable and convenient.

When you go:

Hitch Top Tent currently serves nine campgrounds within the Tampa Bay area and is hoping to expand. A full list of the sites they serve plus more information and rates for all their products and services can be found on their website: hitchtoptent.com

Most campsites book up quickly during peak season but some hold back a portion of sites to be sold on Fridays. To book a campsite or for more information visit: www.pinellascounty.org

Fort De Soto camping experience

Gareth Kelly for VISIT FLORIDA 

Gareth Kelly for VISIT FLORIDA


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