Florida State Parks: #1 Honeymoon Island State Park

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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16 Comments

  1. Eric Gamble

    19th Jun 2019 -

    So many Florida state Parks so little time. We live in New Orleans and love taking road trips to the plethora of beautiful beach state parks in the panhandle of florida. They are always like Honeymoon Island state park: Pristine, Welcoming, wonderful water, and often have tons for the entire family to do besides just swimming!
    Definitey going to have to add Honeymoon Island to our next Florida Road Trip!

  2. Jamie Italiane

    20th Apr 2019 -

    Are you going to cover the place you can see manatees? I just read about them living in Florida. That is a reason I would visit Florida!

    • CornacopiaBlog

      20th Apr 2019 -

      Hi Jamie. Thanks for asking – manatees are a favorite of mine as well! You can see manatees in a lot of the state parks, usually between December and February when it’s chilly here and the manatees want waters that are warmer. I have an article on Blue Spring State Park, which sometimes gets more than 350 manatees during the winter! But the time we went in February, we had a warm spell and didn’t get to see any. There’s also an article about Homosassa Springs State Park which I recently wrote and they have manatees there that are rescues.

      If you’re referring to swimming with the manatees, that’s not allowed in the state parks. The only place in Florida where you’re legally allowed to swim with manatees (but still not touch them) is in the Crystal River area. It’s something I’d like to do but ethically I’d like to investigate a little more why you’re allowed to do that there and how they stop people from bothering the manatees. You have to go on a guided tour so I’m sure the captains are stringent about it, but I need a little more information for my own peace of mind before I actually go do that, since manatees are still a threatened species in Florida.

  3. Stella Jones

    16th Apr 2019 -

    Love to read this useful information. I really like your article.

    • CornacopiaBlog

      20th Apr 2019 -

      Thanks for reading it Stella!

  4. Bob Bales

    21st Feb 2019 -

    Looks like a great beach. I really need to get to Florida soon. I love the waters there, much clearer than the Texas gulf coast.

    • CornacopiaBlog

      20th Apr 2019 -

      I think the west coast of Florida has some of the most beautiful beaches because of the water. The east coast is a little murkier and the sand is rougher.

  5. Antonina

    19th Feb 2019 -

    It’s been years since I did any shelling. I’ve just read a book about all things seashore to my kids, and this place looks perfect for practicing all the activities.

  6. Susan

    18th Feb 2019 -

    I’ve been to a number of the islands off the west coast of FL but this is one I’ve missed. I love a good shelling beach!!

  7. Alexa Meisler

    17th Feb 2019 -

    I love collecting shells. These beach looks like an amazing way to spend a day!

    • CornacopiaBlog

      20th Apr 2019 -

      It’s a great place to get some peace and quiet in one of Florida’s busiest counties! The shells there are great, but even better at Caladesi Island State Park, which I’ll be writing about soon.

  8. Obligatory Traveler

    17th Feb 2019 -

    I love this idea of visiting all of the state parks. We visited Rainbow Springs last year and I was amazed by how beautiful it was. I can’t wait to follow along as I really want to learn more about all of the state parks in Florida so we can visit more. Honeymoon beach looks lovely and it’s great that there’s hikes and a nature center.

    • CornacopiaBlog

      17th Feb 2019 -

      Thanks! And Rainbow Springs is one that we’ve wanted to visit for a while and just never have. Might need to move it up on the list and get there sooner rather than later.

  9. Sol Solntze

    17th Feb 2019 -

    I’m not usually a beach person, but February is a good time to bring this to my attention! And that does look like an excellent bit of sand, with extra interest in wandering around too. What I want to know is why it is called Honeymoon Island if you can’t actually stay on it. Although I suppose it does sound better than Hog Island!

    • CornacopiaBlog

      17th Feb 2019 -

      Good question! In the late 1930’s/early 1940’s someone had the idea to build small tiki houses on the beach and market them to newlyweds who lived up north. Hence the name Honeymoon Island! The huts only lasted a few years because the US entered World War II, but the name stuck.

  10. Brianna

    16th Feb 2019 -

    This looks like a great park! I wish I could spend all day at that beach. It’s too snowy where I am right now! 😛

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