Hernando de Soto landed at Tampa Bay in 1539 and made his way north in search of gold and riches. Archaeological evidence shows he celebrated his first Christmas in the New World at present-day Tallahassee, where the Governor Martin House now stands. From there, his explorations took him westward toward Pensacola and beyond.
A unique driving trail now follows this first year of Hernando de Soto's historic expedition through Florida's Native American territories. Easily accessed by motorized vehicle, the De Soto Trail connects 34 sites of cultural, environmental, or historic interest. Each is marked by a kiosk, offering a glimpse back in time to a land of long ago. Brochures, complete with trail map and GPS coordinates, are available at each kiosk.
A controversial figure in American history, Spanish Conquistador Hernando de Soto is regarded as a hero and brave explorer by some — and an overzealous madman by others. The De Soto Trail shows him as a product of Medieval Europe, a brutal society forged over 780 years of warfare. It also tells the story of the Native American peoples of 16th-century Florida, a highly advanced collection of chiefdoms struggling against each other to gain dominance over their regions.