The West Coast of Florida, just north of Tampa, lays an exquisite nature paradise – Honeymoon Island State Park.
Pioneers referred to it as Sand Island and then Hog Island, until developers built palm-thatched bungalows in 1939 to attract honeymooners.
Today, the cottages are gone, leaving miles of pristine beaches, beautiful networks of nature trails, and a haven of local wildlife.
About the park
Here are some crucial aspects you should know about the park:
Initially, the park was part of Caladesi Island that is immediate to its south. The 1921 hurricane sheared off the northern end creating its own barrier island. Today, the park covers over 385 acres of land that attracts more than one million visitors a year.
Access and Parking
There is only one entrance to the park that is open from 8 am till sundown every day of the year. Also, the Honeymoon Island has ample parking, with hundreds of spaces on both the northern and southern ends of the beach.
At the entrance, rangers will collect an entry fee of $4 per vehicle with up to eight persons. The park charges cars with one occupant $4 while bicyclists, pedestrians or passengers over the eight-person limit pay $2 apiece.
The concession area
The park has two concession areas. The southern beach pavilion offers plenty of picnic tables and grills, which allows you to relax and take in the scenery of this beautiful destination. The Café honeymoon serves meals, provides wine and beer, and even plans beach weddings.
Showers and restrooms facilities are available, and you can rent kayaks, bicycles, and beach chairs and umbrellas too.
What to expect before you go to the Honeymoon Island
Prior understanding of the weather and unique features you will find on the Island helps you enjoy the visit thoroughly.
When planning to visit the Honeymoon Island Park, beware of the weather forecasts. Typically, the hottest months are July and August (about 91°F) while the coldest months are January and December (about 52°F).
The Rotary Centennial Nature Center
The Rotary Centennial has an excellent viewing deck overlooking Saint Joseph Sound. You can watch the birds as the staff enlightens you on flora and fauna found on the Island.
There is a dog-friendly beach on the southern end of the Island. You and your pet companion can hit the trails or enjoy a dip in the clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Even so, ensure that your pet stays on a six-foot hand-held leash at all times.
The Caladesi ferry
Visiting the Honeymoon Island offers access to another state park, the Caladesi Island. You can take the round-trip ferry ride at $14 per adult and experience the turquoise waters with stunning beach views.
How to get to Honeymoon Island State Park
The Honeymoon Island State Park address is #1 Causeway Blvd, Dunedin, FL 34698. You can easily access it from:
Dunedin– you can drive from downtown Dunedin along the US 19A, turn left to SR589 (Causeway Boulevard), and follow the 2.8 miles to the park entrance.
Tampa bay– take the Interstate 275 or US Hwy 19 into Pinellas county and head west on Curlew to get to the Honeymoon Island.
Note– You can use the ride-sharing service like shuttles and trains, but the distance between drop-off and admission gate can be long, and pickup will need some coordination.
What to Bring to the Park
When visiting the park, here are essential items that you should bring:
- Water to drink and a picnic
- Sunscreen even in winter
- A hat and sunglasses
- Longs sleeve clothes and raincoat
- Closed-toe shoes suitable for walking
- Insect repellent
- A pair of binoculars and a camera with an appropriate zoom lens
What to do at Honeymoon Island
Honeymoon Island State Park is the ideal place for outdoor recreational entertainment, including:
You can use a kayak to explore the island and mangrove waterways. Here, you will be able to dolphins in the intercostal waterway and manatees taking shelter among the mangroves. Moreover, you can cool off in the crystal clear waters of the gulf in the designated swimming areas.
The warm Gulf waters can yield up tarpon, flounder, snapper, trout, pompano, and redfish for those interested in fishing. However, Florida requires a fishing license, and hence be sure you get one before you head out to fish.
Due to its proximity to where the intercostal waterway meets the Gulf of Mexico, Honeymoon Island is an excellent location for shell-collection. You spend time searching for this elusive treasure.
Walk the beach
During the past forty years, the spit has grown from a few sand bars to the over two miles pristine beach. Walking along the sand spit allows you to soak in the sun and enjoy the water views.
Hike the trails
The primary hiking trail on the Island is the Osprey trail that offers 2.5 miles of nature to explore. It meanders through the heart of the Island to where the Florida slash pine stands. Along the trail, you can see armadillos, raccoons, osprey, blue Herons, Horned owl, Bald eagle, and other native wildlife.
The north beach offers the ideal setting to enjoy the astonishing Florida beach sunsets. You can view from the shore or sit in the wooden swings and benches along this beach.
Where to stay
No camping or cabins are available on-site within the Honeymoon Island State Park.
So when planning your vacation to the park, your ideal accommodation might not be centrally located. However, you will find over 800 hotels and lodging options locally.
When to Visit
While Honeymoon Island Park is beautiful all year round, you should know what weather and time suits you best.
A winter visit offers you the chance to see horned owls and osprey. Thanks to the areas temperate climate, you can also spot manatees close to the shore in the wintertime.
A spring visit allows you to see a litany of migrating birds, not to mention stingrays that move on the coast in April. However, spring is the peak wedding season, and hence traffic is high on the Island.
Summer brings frigate birds on the island, particularly if storms are blowing on the Gulf of Mexico. But, it is also a time when mosquitoes become a big nuisance.
Fall is an excellent season to take a glimpse of the turtles and loggerheads. Autumn is typically the bald eagles mating and nesting season, and so you won’t miss them.
The Honeymoon Island State Park is an oasis awaiting you at the end of Dunedin Causeway. This beautiful park is a haven of lush vegetation, upland pine forests fringed with mangroves, colonies of birds, and native wildlife.
Besides, its exquisite beaches and nature trails offer you a fantastic destination to indulge in your favorite outdoor excursions or a romantic beach day.