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State Park: Honeymoon Island

I don’t know what it is about Honeymoon Island, but I have always found it as one of the most romantic places in Florida. It’s not just the name—it’s the sea oats on the beach, slash pine and palmetto trails, mangroves in the water, and high surf on a chilly day.

Honeymoon Island State Park is a barrier island on the Gulf Coast. It is known for having four miles of beach, 385 acres of land with 2,400 of it submerged underwater, an active osprey population, and a pair of bald eagles, which can be viewed along the Osprey Trail.

Honeymoon Island, A Short History

Photo by Philipp Michel Reichold

Photo by Philipp Michel Reichold

The first known visitors of the island were the Tocobaga tribe. The Spanish came next, spotting the island around 1530, who were followed over the next two centuries by pirates, traders, and fishermen. The bones of the Tocobaga tribe still reside in burial mounds on other nearby islands.

In the 1830’s it was on maps as Sand Island. Pioneers referred to it as Hog Island. In 1939, it became known as Honeymoon Island after a New York developer bought it, built 50 thatched bungalows, and marketed it as a honeymoon hotspot through newsreels and magazines. Many cast members from 1939s Wizard of Oz, including the “Lollipop Guild,” vacationed in them to popularize the idea to the public. But the idea didn’t take hold, WWII erupted and the bungalows fell to disrepair.

Eventually, the State of Florida bought the island, tore down the bungalows, and reopened it as Honeymoon Island State Park. In 1964, a causeway was built to connect the island to the mainland, creating easy access for visitors.

The island is estimated to be 7,000 years old.

Visiting the Island

Photo by Christopher Hollis

Photo by Christopher Hollis

The island is open year-round, but my favorite time to visit is the colder months during the fall and winter. It is way too cold to swim, but I usually get to have the island to myself. If you follow my suggestion, dress warm. The wind coming off the water can chill to the bone.

I love walking along the secluded beach. There are multiple trails too, but my favorite is the Osprey Trail. It’s an estimated 3 mile hike, longer if you take side trails. Since 2008, a pair of Bald Eagles has nested along the Osprey Trail. It is closed off to the public, but they can still be seen with the naked eye. Binoculars work even better.

Honeymoon Island has a pet beach, and the Rotary Centennial Nature Center has displays on Honeymoon Island history. There are pavilions and bathhouses along the beach; a playground is available for the kids near the Osprey Trail trailhead. Nature photographers will have plenty to shoot.

There is a ferry that brings visitors over Hurricane Pass from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi Island State Park (the islands used to be connected until a 1921 hurricane cut them asunder). The ferry costs $14 for adults, $9 for kids, and free for ages 5 and under. Here’s a dollar off coupon.

WARNING: The mosquitoes are awful! If you are going in the June to October months, bring lots of repellent. Outside of those months, mosquitoes aren’t really a problem. They are not an issue at the beach any time of year; it’s mainly a problem if you expect to do some hiking.

Further Information 

Location: #1 Causeway Boulevard, Dunedin, FL 34698

Hours: 8:00am to Sundown, 365 days a year

Admission: $8 per vehicle, 2-8 people │ $4 per vehicle, 1 person │ $2 per pedestrian

Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland/  Phone: 727-469-5942

Photo by Christopher Hollis

Photo by Christopher Hollis

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