Honeymoon Island is one of Florida’s most popular State Parks. The white sand beaches softly blending into turquoise water are just like the advertisements for Visit Florida. The shore is sprinkled with sun-bleached shells ripe for the picking to take home as a souvenir. It’s easy to see why many people chose Honeymoon Island as their beach destination.
Located six miles north of the famous Clearwater Beach, Honeymoon Island looms in the shadow. In stark contrast to the touristy concrete beach and towering highrises, Honeymoon Island is the marriage of uninterrupted Florida nature and the gentle rustle of waves perpetually breaking along the shore. Meanwhile, the slow but steady gopher tortoises rummage through the grass and ospreys sore overhead with their latest catch clinched in their talons. There are no sharp pings of steel drums blaring through the speakers of a packed tiki bar, only the clammer of palmetto fronds fighting the gusty wind.
Honeymoon Island History – Rotary Centennial Nature Center
The history of Honeymoon Island dates back before the Europeans inhabited the Americas and was home to the native Tocobaga Tribe. In 1921, the then Hog Island sustained a direct hit from a Hurricane, carving a portion of the southern island away. This severed island is now known as Caladesi Island State Park. The waterway separating the two islands was aptly named Hurricane Pass as a nod to the destructive storm that barged through this idyllic haven.
Hog Island was renamed Honeymoon Island in the 1930s after it was purchased by a businessman who thought the island would be the perfect place for newlyweds to Honeymoon. In 1940, developers erected fifty honeymoon cottages. These (non-hurricane-rated) palmetto leaf huts welcomed 164 couples to the island before it was turned over to a defense contractor during WWII to test amphibious vehicles. Years later, a land developer failed to dredge and develop the land, and the state purchased the entirety of the island by the 1980s.
The Rotary Centennial Nature Center has archived photos of young couples enjoying their first days of married life together. The hairstyles and bikinis may have changed over the years, but visitors enjoying the white sand beaches are the same as seventy years ago.
If you are looking for more than seashells to take home as a souvenir, the Rotary Centennial Nature Center is the only gift shop on the island. Visitors can learn about Florida’s native animals both in the water and on the land while picking up a memento from the trip. If photos are all you take away from your trip, the Rotary Centennial Nature Center has a wrap-around patio to take panoramic pictures of the inlet waters.
Beaches For The Family & Your Four-legged Friend
I hope by now I’ve sold you on the beauty of the beaches on Honeymoon Island. The island recently completed a beach renourishment project. The state dredged sand from Hurricane pass and Pet Beach to make the waterway more navigable and distributed a new layer of sand across the beaches.
Honeymoon Island has three beaches: North Beach, Oasis Beach, and Pet Beach. The North Beach, aptly named, is the northernmost beach. It’s also the most popular and beautiful of the three beaches. Everything you see on postcards from Florida is found at the North Beach. The walk from the parking lot to the aquamarine-colored gulf waters is only a minute.
If you wander south on North beach, you’ll eventually find yourself on Oasis Beach. You’ll know you’ve made it when the sand looks like it’s clumping into rockier terrain. Because of the rocks, this area tends to be less crowded, which is perfect for people like me who like going to the beach but don’t want to see other humans. It is easy to move a few rocks to have some privacy.
Arguably the most adorable sunbathers are at Pet Beach. This stretch of coast is one of the rare beaches in Florida, allowing dogs to enjoy the sun and sand with the whole family. Although they must remain on a six-foot leash, dogs can socialize and cool their paws in the refreshing beach waters.
Café Honeymoon & South Beach Pavilion Café
Access to food and drinks is a rare commodity at a State Park. It may be more economical to bring your food and drink to enjoy; however, it is nice to know you can grab a hamburger and a beer while watching the sunset from the cafe’s balcony. The South Beach Pavilion runs a pancake breakfast on Saturdays for those early morning beach walkers and a fish fry special on Fridays. This casual counter service beach fare is precisely what you’ll crave after a long day in the summer sun.
Biking, Paddling, Skating, & Hiking
There’s more to Honeymoon island than lying on the beach. Here you can see the best of Florida’s wildlife. If you like to get up and explore, I recommend hiking the Osprey Trail, a 2.5-mile hike through the slash pines. This secluded area makes you feel like you have the island to yourself. Although I wouldn’t get too comfortable, this area is home to rattlesnakes. Keep a watchful eye on where you step. Another cold-blooded resident of the island is the gopher tortoise. These harmless herbivores are a much more appealing animal to run across. From far away, they look like rocks wading through the grass. However, the best way to enjoy their presents is from a distance as they stretch their necks for each blade of grass like a game hungry-hungry-hippo. Careful not to disturb them; they are protected under state law.
Bikes and kayaks can be rented from the cafes. Those who have their own are welcome to bring them to the park. I chose to bring my roller skates to take advantage of the paved trail running from North Beach to the park entrance. The path allowed me to roll from end to end to see everything the park had to offer in half the time.
If you visit Honeymoon Island, you will learn this is where many locals flock too in the summer season. When visiting, do as the locals do; drive the speed limit, be kind, and don’t feed the seagulls!
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