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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There is no overnight camping or accommodations on Honeymoon Island.
Honeymoon Island State Park is open from 8am to sunset, 365 days of the year
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 : )