Welcome to our first article about Florida State Parks. We’ll be visiting all 175 state parks in the Sunshine State, which can take 5 or 6 years. The reason to write about the state park system? Some people don’t experience the real Florida when they come to visit. Plenty of people go to an amusement park and then head home. It’s like going to England, visiting Buckingham Palace and leaving. These articles are to introduce you to the unique outdoor areas and historical sites that are in Florida. So here’s an introduction to Honeymoon Island.
On the west coast of Florida, about 30 minutes west of Tampa International Airport, Honeymoon Island State Park is located on 350 acres of land in the city of Dunedin. Honeymoon Island was voted the #10 beach of the Top 25 Beaches in America by TripAdvisor in 2009.
NOTE: The Florida State Parks system requires visitors to wear a mask when talking to rangers at the entrance gate and whenever entering buildings, including restrooms. When outdoors, try to keep a 6-foot distance from anyone not in your party, including on the beach.
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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 yearly pass, access is free for up to 8 people.
Things To Do
Honeymoon Island has about 4 miles of sugar-sand beaches. The entire island is undeveloped except for the shop/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 too 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. Honeymoon Island does not have lifeguards on duty, and you may encounter riptides.
Honeymoon Island has some good shelling for the area. Caladesi Island State Park has some better selections, but if you don’t want to take the ferry out there, Honeymoon Island is an 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 shelling bag so you can have free hands and also quickly rinse the shells off.
- Go when the tide is low – you’ll find more shells.
- Bring a diving mask and snorkel – you’ll be able to get a little farther out in the 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 it’s home. If the 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 a minimal grade, so they’re suitable for beginners.
Bring a pair of binoculars with you – there’s plenty of animals 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. The Nature Center is where you’ll get your stamp for your Real Florida Passport or purchase a passport book if you need one. The center 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 shops, Honeymoon Cafe and Honeymoon Pavilion. Each offers various cooked foods such as hamburgers, hot dogs, fried fish and fries, and 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 a cooler and food if you’d like. Leave the alcohol behind, though, because no alcohol is allowed 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 you have to drink them 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. However, Dunedin has several hotels. The Fenway Hotel is located within walking distance of downtown Dunedin and has a rooftop bar with sunset views.
Honeymoon Island State Park is open from 8 am to sunset, 365 days of the year
Honeymoon Island is located at the end of the Dunedin Causeway in Dunedin, FL.
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Hi, I’m planning a trip to Florida (including this state park) on April. What’s the sunset time in that season and where can I rent the chairs and umbrellas for the beach? Thank you!
Marcea Cazel says
Sunset around that time is about 8:15-8:30p. When it gets closer, you can visit http://www.timeanddate.com/sun/ and find the exact time it’ll set in Dunedin, FL. You can rent the chairs and umbrellas at Cafe Honeymoon, which is the concession/restaurant building on the north side of the island. If you get a chance another day, take the ferry over to Caladesi Island. I have a blog on that as well and you can catch the ferry on Honeymoon Island.
I love the Florida State parks! This one looks just as great as the ones I’ve been to 🙂
My Cornacopia says
So far all of the ones I’ve visited have been really great!
Melanie Pollard says
I will try to get down to Florida to see all these state parks in the winter. So much to see; so little time.
Eric Gamble says
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!
Jamie Italiane says
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!
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.
Stella Jones says
Love to read this useful information. I really like your article.
Thanks for reading it Stella!
Bob Bales says
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.
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.
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.
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!!
Alexa Meisler says
I love collecting shells. These beach looks like an amazing way to spend a day!
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.
Obligatory Traveler says
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.
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.
Sol Solntze says
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!
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.
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! 😛