Top 5 National Parks On My To-Do List

Geyser Old Faithful
Pinterst pin of National Parks to Visit

Every year in April, National Park Week is celebrated in the United States to honor our parks system and the National Park Foundation. Visiting the National Parks is a great way to explore the US and discover different aspects of this country.

Created in 1916 to preserve nature and history, there are 419 areas in the system, including parks, memorials, military venues, seashores and trails. Living where I do, unfortunately there aren’t national parks within 2 hours of me (one reason why I’m focusing on writing about the Florida States Parks and not national parks, which are more familiar to people). However I’m a huge fan of National Parks and have 5 that I have on my must visit list:

Yellowstone/Grand Teton

I’ve always had a certain affection for Yellowstone National Park. I think it has to do with Yogi Bear. Established in 1872, Yellowstone was the first United States national park. With it’s wide open spaces, geysers and amazing wild life you could easily spend your entire vacation there exploring.

Grand Teton National Park

But don’t take all your vacation for Yellowstone because not too far away is Grand Teton National Park. With over 200 miles of trails and lots of activities available on the Snake River, it’s an outdoor lover’s dream. Just be sure to plan your trip to Wyoming accordingly and pay close attention to the weather reports. Snow storms can cut off certain roads during the year and if you’re not experienced can also get you in some dangerous situations if you’re not prepared.

Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island National Seashore

Beaches, salt marshes and wild horses. Sounds like a great trip to me! Assateague Island is located in Maryland and I’d love to go camping and kayaking there.  My daughter loves photography and I think the nature photography opportunities would really excite her.

Big Cypress National Preserve

Big Cypress National Preserve, FL

Living in Florida, I know how important the Everglades are to our state. But there’s another national park in Florida that helps support the Everglades that I would love to see – Big Cypress National Preserve. Keeping the estuaries of the state clean and a wide variety of plants and animals, including the Florida panther. There are ranger lead swamp tours in the preserve. I’m not sure I’m up for one of those yet!

African Burial Ground

Logo at African Burial Ground, NYC, New York

Located in the heart of New York City, the African Burial Ground was discovered in the early 1990’s when construction began on a building. The activity unearthed a 6 acre burial ground of free and enslaved Africans that dates as far back as the mid-1600’s. Now a memorial, library and educational center this site shows an often forgotten part of our American history.

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park north rim

Okay I’ll admit that wanting to go to the Grand Canyon isn’t that original. I don’t care! Anyone remember the episode of The Brady Bunch where the family goes camping in the Grand Canyon? Ever since I saw that show I’ve wanted to go.

The Grand Canyon is so large that it’s 18 miles wide and 1 mile deep. There is camping and hotels available but of course the area gets crowded so follow the National Parks tips to avoid some of those crowds. And of course stay safe. Lately there are been several deaths at the Grand Canyon that were most likely preventable. Here are some tips for safety at the Grand Canyon.

Are you ready to visit a National Park near you or while you’re on vacation? Be sure to visit the Find Your Park website, where you can narrow parks down by state or by the activity that you’re interested in.

What National Parks are you interested in visiting?

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Luxury At Its Best – Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Pool and Palm Trees, Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico
Pinterest Image Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Disclosure: I was provided complimentary accommodations while visiting this hotel. All opinions are my own.

Have you ever dreamed of having a perfect vacation? One where your every request was fulfilled. Where the people working there worked efficiently to make sure they didn’t disturb you. Where the food was spectacular, the pools and beaches sublime and the drinks cool and refreshing to make you feel like you were a member of royalty. Your dream can become a reality thanks to Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Grand Experience, Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Located in Playa del Carmen, Mexico and approximately 30-40 minutes from the Cancun Airport, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is a luxury all-inclusive resort that really is that – all-inclusive. You don’t have to worry about extra uncharges to go to certain restaurants, enjoy non-motorized water sports, use the mini bar or order mixed drinks. Which takes an extra worry off your vacation so you can enjoy yourself even more!

Arrival

After landing at Cancun Airport and collecting my luggage, I maneuvered my way through the timeshare salespeople in the transportation area (there are a lot in this airport so just keep your eyes straight ahead and keep walking) to the outside waiting & pickup area. It was a party atmosphere complete with a Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville stand and beer vendors. I found the Grand Velas employee waiting with my name on a sign and he walked me over to my driver, Gabriel.

Airport driver from Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Grand Velas uses their own cars and drivers, which is different from some resorts which hire car companies and you can get spotty service. Gabriel welcomed me, opened the back of his Chevy Tahoe and opened a small cooler to provide me with a chilled washcloth that had orange flower aromas and a cold bottle of water for the ride. The ride to the resort was smooth and if you have small children, they’ll provide car seats to use so you don’t have to cart yours with you.

Driving into the 85-acre resort you are greeted by a large white wall and a gate that is more of a wooden sliding wall.

After going through we pulled up to the Zen area of the resort where I was staying. As soon as I exited the SUV I was greeted by two women who were going to check me in and let me know about my stay. Imagine my surprise when one of them said she was my personal concierge!

Check-in

Yes, every room at the resort has it’s own 24-hour concierge. Obviously you wouldn’t get the same person every time (they’re not robots!) but your concierge makes sure you have everything you need to feel relaxed. After getting a non-alcoholic fruit drink and turning over my passport to get checked in, I sat back on the couch and took in my surroundings.

Concierge service at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

The lobby areas of all the sections of the resort and the walkways are built in the western Mexican palapa style making it cool and a little dark. Not dark so you can’t see but dark enough to help you feel relaxed.

Walkways are built in the polapa style at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

After I was completely checked in, which took at most 20 minutes, I was escorted to my room.

Rooms

Grand Velas Riviera Maya has over 500 suites which are situated in three distinct areas: Grand Class, Ambassador and Zen. Each area has its own pool, restaurants and styles.

Family Experience

Are you looking for a family-friendly area of Grand Velas so you have closer access to the Kid’s Club? Stay at Ambassador which is located closest to the beaches. The Ambassador area has the restaurants Frida, Azul and Lucca (you can visit any restaurant at the resort, no matter what area your room is located in).

Relaxation Experience

Interested in a more secluded, relaxed vacation area a little farther from the beach? Surrounded with foliage, back patios that face a lagoon and resident monkeys that you might see lounging on the sidewalks during the hottest afternoons of summer, the Zen area should be your choice. The restaurants Chaka and Sen Lin are at Zen, along with the resort’s spa SE.

Romance Experience

On vacation because you’re interested in a romantic resort? Grand Class is for you. View the sun rise from your balcony while relaxing in your private plunge pool. There’s also an adult infinity pool where you can get a snack and a drink. The restaurants at Grand include Bistro, Piaf and the Concina de Autor.

I stayed at Zen, which was just that . . . zen. Rarely did you see your neighbors and I never heard them through the walls. Another thing you hardly see – the maids. It was amazing that I didn’t see any of the housekeeping team in the hallways during my 3 day stay. The Grand Velas team takes extra effort to make everything seem seemless.

Relaxing view at Zen Experience room

While I was at the section of the resort farthest from the beach, there was no need to worry. Zen has a shuttle stop to pick up the resort van over to the Grand and Ambassador areas. It’s not walkable but I never had to wait more than 2 minutes at each stop for a van and it only took a few minutes to get to each area. A van was even waiting for me at 7:30am one morning when I woke and decided to watch the sun rise.

My room itself was 1,100 square feet (!) that included the bed, a work area, a relaxing chair area, a spacious bathroom with both a walk in shower and a separate jet tub, and a back patio with chaise lounge and two large chairs. There was also two large closets that had a beach bag, iron, robes, slippers, safe and laundry basket.

Room view from Zen Experience room at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Jet tub at Zen Experience

The bathroom amenities are from the French company L’Occitane. With a lemon verbena scent, they smelled wonderful and I especially appreciated the thick lotion that was there.

L'Occitane soaps and shampoos hotel size

Did you forget to pack something? Remember that concierge you met when you checked in? All you have to do is give them a call and they’ll hep you out. I forgot a charging cord for my portable battery pack I use when I’m on vacation. If this happened at most other hotels, they’d  directly you to their gift shop to make a purchase. My concierge found a comparable charger and had it delivered directly to to my room. All I had to do was sign for it and return it when I checked out. Now that’s service!

Tip: If you’re celebrating a special occasion be sure to ask for the resort’s chocolatiers to create a special gift for whomever is celebrating. I was surprised to find a picture of myself waiting for me – the entire thing, including my image and the frame, was constructed out of chocolate!!

My Cornacopia in a chocolate picture frame at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

All-Inclusive Services

When you visit most all-inclusive hotels, all-inclusive will come in different levels to accommodate different price ranges. While in theory this is great, when you’re actually on vacation it ends up that you can’t visit certain areas of the resort, have to pay extra to visit select restaurants or only can order select drinks and have to pay for an upgrade. This is where Grand Velas Riviera Maya stands apart from the rest.

95% of the amenities at the resort are included in the cost of your room. That includes:

  • 24 hour room service
  • Everything in the room’s mini bar which includes pretzels, chips, nuts, sodas, beer, mini bottles of wine, coffee, tea and water
  • All restaurants and meals ordered poolside
  • Kid’s and Teen Clubs
  • Kid’s Glamping
  • Beach & poolside service
  • Kayaks and boogie boards
  • Fitness classes
  • Beer, liquor and most wines
  • Wi-Fi

You’ll notice I said most wines. There were about 5% of the wines available that charged an upgraded because they were so high end. Don’t worry though wine lovers; there was still a wide selection available to choose from. I enjoyed wines from many regions of the world, including Mexico, that were part of the all-inclusive package.

What else isn’t included in the all-inclusive package? Jet skis, babysitters for kids, laundry services, transportation to and from the airport, and the spa.

Food & Drinks

The food and drinks at this resort were unbelievable. With 7 restaurants to choose from, 24 hour room service, poolside food and drink service, the mini bar and several nighttime bars/clubs, including a karaoke bar and a sports bar, to go to, there is never a reason to be hungry while at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. There are even several restaurants in the resort that are AAA Diamond rated so if you thought all-inclusive food wasn’t tasty or unique, think again!

Mixed drinks at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

I was lucky enough to have dined at four of Grand Velas Riviera Maya’s restaurants, including two of the four AAA Diamond rated restaurants on site, Frida and Cocina de Autor. All of the meals were excellent and again, attention to detail played a big role since several of my group had food allergies, including one who is gluten-free. Every waiter asked about any allergies after introducing themselves and answered any questions about ingredients they could. Anything they couldn’t answer, they went straight to the chef for a full list of ingredients. We didn’t have one allergy incident during our stay.

Sunrise at Azul Restaurant, Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Food at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Even room service was excellent. One morning I had to be ready early for a planned activity. I asked for delivery at 7am; they were 10 minutes early, which was perfect and everything was laid out on a rolling cart for my enjoyment. This was my first time having eggs Benedict and although the biscuit underneath was too sweet for my tastes, the eggs were perfect, the orange juice fresh squeezed and the fruit was amazing.

Eggs benedict from room service Grand Velas

Spa

While SE,  Grand Velas Riviera Maya spa, is not included in the all-inclusive package, it’s something I would suggest that everyone splurge on. Included as a Forbes Star Award winner, it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

SE Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

When you enter the spa you’re greeted at the desk and quickly checked in. You’re then escorted into the back area which is divided in half; one side is for males and one side is for females for complete privacy. There are couples massage rooms if you choose to schedule one, but otherwise I didn’t see anyone from the male side the entire time I was there.

Massage room for couples at SE Spa

If you’re going to experience only one thing I’d suggest the Spa Water Ceremony. 75 minutes of our relaxation, you are treated to shower, a sauna, the Ice Room (to help shrink pores), the Clay Room and then the sensation pools. The water ceremony is included if you purchase a massage or facial but has an additional cost if that’s the only treatment you experience during your stay.

Sauna room at SE Spa

Water treatment at SE Spa

Beaches & Pools

With three pools (the pool at Grand Class is an adults only pool) and a beautiful beach, there are plenty of water activities to participate in.

Zen pool at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

The pools all have food and drink service and a pool concierge will take your order at your chaise lounge and deliver it to you.

Pool concierge brings blue drinks by the pool

The beach meets the edge of the Caribbean Sea and is right in front of a coral reef, making it perfect for snorkeling and SCUBA diving. The resort also has water crafts such as jet skis, catamaran sailboats and kayaks.

Catamarans on beach - Grand Velas Riviera Maya

If you’re in search of a getaway, wedding destination or business retreat where you can completely put asides worries and concerns and be in the moment, Grand Velas Riviera Maya is the place to go. I was completely taken aback at how seamless and relaxing this vacation was. While there were a couple of hiccups, both involving an inconsiderate guest, the team at Grand Velas Riviera Maya was always on top of everything and took any concerns to heart and worked discreetly with their guests to ensure everyone had a wonderful experience.

I honestly cannot recommend this resort enough and am anticipating one day visiting another one of their Mexican locations. It was a sublime adventure and I promise, you’ll leave dreaming of the day you can return.

Pinterest pin for Grand Velas Riviera Maya

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Family Vacation At Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres

Contemporary architecture - Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres
Mexican beaches at Grand Palladium
Pool View at Grand Palladium Mexico
Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre
Disclosure: I was provided complimentary accommodations while visiting this hotel. All opinions are my own. 

Family vacations can be a bit like the novel A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . . ”

That’s because we plan trips that don’t account for everyone getting a little time together and a little time alone which can cause fights, resentment and sometimes can ruin a long planned family get together. A visit to Mexico’s Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres covers all your bases so you don’t have to worry about anyone of any age being left out.

Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres is located at the tip of the state of Quintana Roo, just north of Playa del Carmen and Cancun. With it’s own wide strip of beach, contemporary design and a large resort style feel, it’s a nice place to go on a family vacation without worrying anyone will be bored.

Family Selection Section

Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres Family Selection sign

The Family Selection section is a great place to stay for anyone with children under the age of 12. With a selection of traditional rooms or two-level lofts for more privacy, the Family Section offers exclusive services not available in other parts of the resort including each guest getting two pieces of clothing laundered for free during their visit (perfect for babies and baby’s parents!), 24 hour room service and a personal babysitter available during your stay to give parents a little alone time whenever they need it. The kids get a welcome package and have a special towel they can use through their stay.

Tub in Family Selection of Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres

There’s also a kids club area for different age groups; one for ages 1-3, another for ages 4-11 and a teen’s club for ages 11 and up so your kids can even get a break from each other and play games like Xbox One.

Kids playing Xbox One at Grand Palladium

Grand Palladium is an eco-friendly resort so you can be sure that the cleaning products used around your little ones are safe. And if your kids have the habit of of opening doors and not adjusting the air conditioner, don’t worry – all the rooms at the resort have eco-friendly air conditioners that turn off when you open a door and turns back on when the door is closed. The Family Selection area even has a family friendly pool exclusive to that area.

Pools

Poolside at Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres

With 4 fresh water pools, including one that is exclusive to families, and a kid’s water park area, there are plenty of opportunities to get some of that great Mexican sunshine. The family pool has it’s own bar and soft serve ice cream machine. The other pools have swim up bars and plenty of lounge chairs.

At the kid’s water park area is Play at Palladium With Raggs which is a kid’s activity area themed around the animated  tv show Raggs.

Play at Palladium with Raggs

And the water park, with its dump bucket, slides and hoses shaped like flamingoes will keep the children occupied for a long time.

Dump bucket in kid's water area of Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres

Beaches

The beaches are divided into an adult side and a side for everyone. This is perfect for anyone staying at TRS, which is the adults only section of the resort, or even for parents who might want a little time without the kids. The beaches at the resort were wide with lots of sand, cabanas and lounge chairs available so you can relax and take a dip into the Gulf of Mexico.

Cabanas and beach at Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres

There are also stand-up paddleboards, small sail boats and SCUBA lessons & tours available. The beach activities area is located in the huts at the north side of the beach. Just look for the SCUBA flag.

Walkway to beach

Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre

Looking to get a little tennis in while you’re in Mexico? The Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre just opened at Grand Palladium Coast Mujeres. Inspired by and facilitated by the Rafa Nadal center in Spain, the center immerses students in instruction with professional tennis players. There are programs available for children and adults so all of your family’s tennis lovers can receive expert advice.

Entrance to Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre, Mexico

Anyone a Rafa Nadal fan but not a tennis player? Be sure to visit the museum on site that houses Nadal’s shoes and trophies and also artifacts from some of his tennis compadres. There’s also a cafe and shop on site.

Rafa Nadal's 2005 trophy from the French Open

Electric Boats

Need to get around the resort and a little tired of walking? Try one of the electric boats that go along the canals that were built in the center part of the resort. There are 8 stops to help you get from place to place. The kids will love them!

Alternative Transportation at Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres resort

Tours and Things To Do Off Site

If you need a little break from the resort or you just enjoy going out to see other things on your vacation, Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres has a tour desk to help you set up excursions. You can also take a taxi from the resort and head into Cancun or even to Isla Mujeres, which you can see from the Grand Palladium’s beach.

Dining

With 7 different restaurants to choose from, everyone will have a favorite meal while at the resort. There are choices from Mexican to Italian to Indian. We ate at Portafino, the Italian restaurant, while we were there.

Portofino Restaurant

The food was very good but they did run out of tiramisu.  I found that a little strange since it’s the quintessential Italian dessert. The resort was only a few months old when we visited so they were still working a few kinks out.

Caprese Salad

Meats and Cheeses Tray

For breakfast there are only a few restaurants open. Some are buffets and some you can order off a menu.  I’d suggest getting your game plan ready the night before since the resort is so large and no one will want to wander around hungry in the morning.

Need a coffee fix? Stop by Piacere Coffee Shop which is located in the village. Lots of great coffee selections and plenty of seating if you want to get away alone to relax or maybe meet up with the family in the middle of the afternoon.

Coffee break at Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres

Room service is available 24/7 for those who are under the all-inclusive plan. For other guests, room service is available from 11am to 11pm.

Nightlife & Bars

If parents need to get out alone after dinner, the nightlife at the resort is a lot of fun. There was a casino party one night we were there and there are also a few bars including a roof top champagne bar and there’s a sports bar as well. The sports bar has pinball machines, a full liquor bar, televisions and activities hosted by the resort.

Pinball Wizard

One great thing that’s available to adults only is the cabaret show, Chic. A 2 hour dancing and singing extravaganza, it’s a fun way to get some adult time together. Reservations are required and limited to 100 people per night so I suggest you make the reservation as soon as you book your room. Note: there is an extra cost to attend the Chic show.

Chic Cabaret Signage

Getting tickets to Chic is actually like getting two shows. There’s a pre-show in the resort’s conference center that includes some of the dancers. You’ll have a few appetizers and drinks to get in the mood. There was even a mermaid in a tub serving some drinks!

Mermaid in a tub!

Pre-show at Chic Cabaret

Afterwards you head over to the Chic theater where you are served dinner and drinks between sets of popular music and acrobatic dancing. The food was very good and so were the drinks. I didn’t partake of the shots between each course because I wanted to keep my wits. If you are a non-drinker I suggest you also skip. We had someone who didn’t drink alcohol in our group and when we asked if there was alcohol in the drink, in the confusion of the serving someone told us no. But I could taste it. It was also a little dark in the theater to completely see what you were eating but if you bring a little pocket flashlight you can peek at the menu. They were accommodating to those of us who had any food allergies.

Cabaret show at Grand Palladium

After the show the singers and dancers come into the audience to meet the guests and take pictures. It was a blast and probably one of my favorite things about the resort.

Multi-Generational Travel

So if you’re looking for a resort where you can spend time with the kids and also some time alone, check out Grand Palladium Costa Mujeres. It’s a great place to have a family reunion or multi-generational trip because traveling together is great but so is some time alone to rejuvenate!

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Florida State Parks: #1 Honeymoon Island State Park

Beaches of Honeymoon Island
30 minutes west of Tampa International Airport and just north of Clearwater, Honeymoon Island is located on over 350 acres of land, Honeymoon Island State Park is a great place to go to the beach, find some shells and take a hike.

Welcome to the first official article on My Cornacopia about the Florida State Parks system!* As we’ve written in a previous post, we’ll be attempting to visit all 175 state parks in Florida. Some people don’t really experience Florida when they come to visit;  they go to an amusement park and then head home. Which is like going to England, visiting Buckingham Palace and leaving. There’s so much more to Florida than rollercoasters and we’d like to introduce you to the unique outdoors that are available in the Sunshine State. Our first park is Honeymoon Island State Park.

On the west coast of Florida about 30 minutes west of Tampa International Airport and just north of Clearwater, Honeymoon Island  is located on over 350 acres of land (not including water areas). Honeymoon Island was voted the #10 beach of the Top 25 Beaches in America by TripAdvisor in 2009.

Entrance sign at Honeymoon Island

Cost

The cost to enter is $8 per car and $2 per bicycle. With your Florida State Parks Individual annual pass, admission is free for one person with additional people costing $2. With a Family annual pass admission is free for up to 8 people.

Things To Do

Beach umbrellas on Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island has about 4 miles of sugar sand beaches that are undeveloped outside of the restaurant/restroom areas on either end of the beach.

While the park can get crowded on certain days,  it’s a big difference from visiting Clearwater Beach or the other beaches in the area. Those beaches are developed and can be extremely crowded during the tourist season. Visiting Honeymoon Island’s beaches is like taking a step into the past. Be sure to use caution when swimming the beaches. Honeymoon Island does not have lifeguards on duty and sometimes you may encounter riptides.

Shelling

Honeymoon Island has some good shelling for the area. Caladei Island State Park has some better selections, but if you don’t want to take the ferry out there, Honeymoon Island is a nice alternative. Since it’s not as populated as other beaches in the area you’re more likely to find whole shells. Tips when shelling:

  • Bring your own shelling bag so you can have free hands and also easily rinse the shells off when you’re done
  • Go when the tide is low – you’ll find more shells
  • Bring a diving mask or swim goggles and maybe even a snorkel – you’ll be able to get a little farther out in low tide and look for shells in the water

Remember that live shelling is not allowed at Honeymoon Island. When you find a shell, turn it over and see if anyone is making the shell its home. If it shell has an occupant throw it back into the water. Nothing in it? It’s yours to take!

Hiking

If you feel like taking a hike, there are two trails on Honeymoon Island: Osprey Trail, which is 2 miles long, and Pelican Cove Trail, which is less than a mile. We saw lots of osprey and osprey nests when we walked the beginning of the Osprey Trail. Don’t feel like trekking by foot? Osprey Trail allows you to ride your bike if that’s your preferred mode of transportation. Both trails have minimal grade so they’re good for beginners.

Bring a pair of binoculars with you – there’s lots to see. On Osprey Trail you’ll see a variety of flora (wax myrtle, goldenrod, Christmas berry, winged sumac) and fauna (osprey, snakes, raccoons, gopher tortoise). Wherever you walk on Honeymoon Island, aside from the beach area, be sure to wear comfortable closed toe shoes while hiking. Rattlesnakes are prevalent on the island and while you’re most likely not to run into one, it’s best to stick to the official trails and not allow your dogs to go into the brush.

Osprey in its nest at Honeymoon Island

After your hike make sure you visit the Nature Center. This is where you’ll get your stamp for your Real Florida Passport (or purchase a passport book if you need one), but it also has a complete history of the island and a garden of native plants of Florida.

Honeymoon Island Nature Center

While visiting the Nature Center you’ll find out how Honeymoon Island got its name, see images of some of the island’s animal inhabitants and learn about Myrtle Scharrer. Myrtle was the only child born on what was then known as Hog Island. She lived there  with her dad and rowed herself to school every day 2 miles each way across St. Joseph Sound.

Signage at Nature Center on Honeymoon Island

Pet Friendly?

Honeymoon Island is rare because it has a pet friendly beach which is located at the southern part of the island (near the ferry pickup for Caladesi Island). Pets on a 6-ft leash are also allowed on the trails.

Food & Restrooms

Food is available at two restaurants, Honeymoon Cafe and Honeymoon Pavilion. Both restaurants are located on the south side beach which is closest to the entrance. Each offers a variety of cooked foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, fried fish and fries along with ice cream, water and sodas. Sit on their patios and you’ll have a great view of the water while you eat.

View from Honeymoon Cafe

You can also bring your own cooler and food if you’d like. Leave the alcohol behind because alcohol is not permitted at Florida State Parks. If you feel like enjoying a beer or wine while on Honeymoon Island you can visit one of the restaurants. They sell alcoholic beverages but they must be consumed on the restaurants’ patio areas.

Restrooms are available at both beaches (which also have changing stalls), the nature center and near the playground.

Rentals

While visiting Honeymoon Island you can rent kayaks, beach chairs, beach umbrellas and 4-wheeled tricycles at the cafes. There are also pavilions available for rental for picnics and grilling (grills available) and a playground for kids near the entrance to Osprey Trail. To rent a pavilion call (727) 469-5942.

Honeymoon Island Playground

Accommodations

There is no overnight camping or accommodations on Honeymoon Island.

Hours

Honeymoon Island State Park is open from 8am to sunset, 365 days of the year

Getting There

Honeymoon Island is located at the end of the Dunedin Causeway in Dunedin, FL.

 

*We’ve previously written about Weeki Wachee Springs State Park – so even though this is our ‘official’ first article in the series, we acknowledge that it’s really our second : )

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Visiting Florida State Parks

Mermaids in Little Mermaid show at Weeki Wachee State Park

When people think of visiting Florida, a lot of times they immediately think of visiting Disney or going to Harry Potter world. While those are fun, there’s more to Florida than amusement parks. Like visiting the Florida State Parks.

With an average cost of entry to each park of $3 to $8 per car,  it’s very inexpensive to learn more about Florida’s ecosystem and history. Another great perk? The parks are so vastly different you can be at the beach on the west coast of the state one trip, be visiting Florida’s highest waterfall and natural sinkholes the next and then head off to the battlefield where the Second Seminole War began.

The tallest waterfall in Florida at Falling Waters State Park

To put all of this perspective and help Florida visitors and residents decide which parks are right for them, I’m going to be blogging about my visit to each of the 175 venues in the Florida Park Service system. I’m really excited about this and although there are blogs here written previously about parks such as Blue Spring and the Ybor Museum, updated posts will be written about them. I’ve previously written exclusively about Weeki Wachee, and won’t be creating a new blog for that park.

What We’ll Be Talking About

Every park is different but there are a few things that are consistent to most locations. So we’ll be talking about each park and mentioning Things To Do, Rentals, Accommodations, Pet Friendly and Food & Restrooms. We’ll try to be fairly standard so readers can compare each park as equally as possible.

Annual Passes and State Parks Passport

There are couple of tools to use when going to the state parks that will make the trips easier. The first is the Florida State Parks Annual Pass.   This pass provides entrance to each park for a flat fee ($60 for individuals or $120 for a pass that allows entrance to up to 8 people to each park). It’s perfect for full-time residents, snowbirds or even those who want to visit Florida RV parks. Did you know that many of the Florida state parks offer camping facilities, including those for RVs?

Honeymoon Island restaurant with Florida State Park passport overlooking beachAnother is the State Parks Passport, which will help me keep track of which park has been visited and how many more there are to go. The passport can be purchased at select state parks and is divided into 8 categories to help you locate the one closest to your region. Every time you visit a park you get your passport stamped by a park ranger; once you’ve gotten all of your stamps, you’ll receive a free annual family pass!

How Long Will It Take??

According to a park ranger at Honeymoon Island, it takes the average person 3 to 4 years to visit all of the parks. It might take longer than that to produce all of the blogs. But my love of the natural beauty of the state of Florida will get me through. I hope you’ll come along for the ride!

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