Honeymoon Island State Park: Dunedin, Florida
Honeymoon Island State Park
On the west coast of Florida, just north of Tampa, is a nature lover’s paradise called Honeymoon Island State Park. Named back in 1939 when developers built palm-thatched bungalows on the island to attract honeymooners, the island has become quite the haven for local wildlife. The bungalows are long gone, but with four miles of pristine beach and a wonderful network of nature trails the island is a great spot to unwind and enjoy all that Florida has to offer.
For visitors to the park, the island has two very special surprises in store for you. The first is the presence of a Great Horned Owl nest that is currently home to two young owlets. The nest is visible from the osprey trail and if you are lucky you may be able to catch a glimpse of the owls. Be sure to bring your binoculars and your camera.
Update: On our last visit to Honeymoon State Park the Great Horned Owl nest, which had been destroyed in a storm, had been rebuilt in a new location. Ask at the visitor center for the best location to catch a glimpse of the owls.
Further down the trail is yet another surprise waiting for you. A pair of southern Bald Eagles have made their home here on the island, and we should know in just a few short weeks whether we have one or two new eaglets.
The next six to twelve months should be an exciting time on Honeymoon Island as the owl and eagle chicks grow and learn to fly. These are just a few of the many surprises waiting for you on your visit.
Southern Bald EagleClick thumbnail to view full-size
The new additions aside, there are many other reasons to visit Honeymoon Island State Park. The beaches here are beautiful, and this area just happens to be a great shelling area due to the Gulf currents depositing a wide variety of shells onto the beaches. There is also a pet beach on the island for our four-legged friends, and the boardwalk leading to the main beach area does have shower facilities.
The miles of pristine beach make for a great spot to walk the beach, especially on the north end of the island, which is pretty remote. If you prefer to explore the island in a canoe or kayak, rentals are available. The Park Concession rents bikes, kayaks, umbrellas, beach chairs, and also has food and beverages available. For those of you interested in fishing, the warm Gulf waters can yield up flounder, tarpon, redfish, snapper, trout, and pompano to name a few. Florida does require a fishing license so be sure to get your license before heading out to fish.
The main hiking trail on the island is the appropriately named Osprey trail. The two and a half miles of walking will take you through one of the few remaining Florida slash pine stands that is home to numerous Osprey and other birds native to Florida. Along the trail you may also encounter armadillos, gopher tortoises, raccoons, egrets, Great Blue Herons, and many other local bird species. And don’t forget about the Great Horned Owl, and the Bald Eagle nest! This is an opportunity you won’t want to miss.
Before heading out onto the nature trails you may want to stop into the Rotary Centennial Nature Center. The center has a great viewing deck that looks out over Saint Joseph Sound, and is a wonderful observation spot to watch the birds at low tide as they come in to feed. The staff on hand at the center are very knowledgeable, and can give you whatever information you are looking for on the animal and plant species that are found on the island. Ranger-led walks are also available, and you can inquire in the nature center for availability and schedules.
Honeymoon Island State Park also has two picnic pavilions that are covered and can be reserved for a fee. They are located near the nature trails, and make for a great location for that family gathering or other special function.
There are also a number of picnic tables, grills, and restrooms available for those who just want a secluded spot to take a lunch break or relax while taking in the scenery in a beautiful location.
If you are looking for some further adventure on your holiday here in Florida, consider taking the Caladesi Island ferry to nearby Caladesi Island. Accessible only by boat, Caladesi Island is another great spot for nature lovers as the island has three miles of nature trails in addition to some beautiful beaches. The ferry departs from Honeymoon Island, and it’s a short ride to nearby Caladesi Island. The beaches here are superb, and were selected as America’s Best Beach in 2008.
Park Hours and Fees:
Open daily from 8 a.m. - sundown, 365 days/year
$8 per vehicle, 2-8 people
$4 per vehicle with single occupant
Pavillion Rental - $30 per day
Getting to Honeymoon Island State Park is very easy, and does not require a boat trip as the island is connected to the mainland by a causeway. The island can be reached by taking SR 586 from Dunedin across the causeway out to the island. Dunedin is located about twenty five minutes north of Clearwater Beach in the Tampa Bay area on Florida’s west coast.
If you love nature, and are looking for a pristine beach area with options for plenty of other activities to keep everyone happy, consider spending a day at Honeymoon Island State Park.
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© 2013 Bill De Giulio