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Natural Beach Paradise: Honeymoon Island State Park (Florida)

Natural Beach Paradise: beach morning glory, sea oats, birds, and wide white beach, Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida

Honeymoon Island State Park brings Florida nature dreams to life: miles of white beaches, clear blue water, shady wood trails, wildflowers, birds and other wildlife – and not a hotel in sight.

Honeymoon Island is the place to be if you want to get away from the Tampa Bay and Clearwater Beach crowds and enjoy all the nature the gulf coast has to offer, including those gorgeous sunsets!

Honeymoon Island Overview

The Gulf of Mexico island is situated at the north-western edge of the general Tampa Bay Area. Driving over from the Tampa International Airport should take around 30 minutes. Honeymoon Island is the gem at the northern end of the Pinellas Peninsula barrier islands. We’ll tell you about the southern gem another time…

What can you do on Honeymoon Island? It’s great for swimming, paddling, beach-relaxing, sunset watching, hiking, birding, shelling, and fishing. You can even bring your dog to the pet-friendly south beach and onto the wooded trails.

Pelican watching sunset, silhouette, channel sign, Honeymoon Island Dog Beach, Gulf of Mexico

Honeymoon Island Map


On The Beach

Honeymoon Island offers about 4 miles of gulf-facing beach front, including a pet beach at the southern end and over 2 miles of beach north of the last parking lot. At the parking lots for the various beaches, you can find pavilions on stilts with bathrooms, showers, and stores for food, drinks and other beach necessities.

wide white beach with people, Honeymoon Island North Beach, State Park, Florida

The north end of the island splits into two long spits – separated by Pelican Cove. The gulf-facing sand spit has the long beach where you should go if you want to have some space, pick from an endless amounts of seashells and watch shorebirds, dolphins, and manatees. When you walk up the North Beach to the end, keep the tides in mind. During high tide, you might have to walk through water – or around some mangrove trees or shrubs to get back.

From the northern tip, you can see Three Rooker Island, a bird sanctuary accessible only by boat. You might see many of the same birds on Honeymoon Island: skimmers, royal terns, least terns, oyster catchers, snowy egrets, reddish egrets, great white egrets, great blue herons, snowy plovers, and sandpipers.

Reddish Egret on the beach, rusty red neck and head, grey body, grey legs, dark grey, Gulf of Mexico
Reddish Egret

Some of these birds and also sea turtles nest along this beach! Did you know that you shouldn’t leave holes dug into the sand on beaches where turtles lay their eggs? Freshly-hatched baby turtles can fall into these holes on their way to the water and not get out before the sunshine or a predator might kill them.

Most people just crowd together at the beaches near the parking lots, instead of walking up the beach from the northern parking lot. Of course, there are no bathrooms or concessions past the parking lot. Whatever makes you happier…

beach sand ripple wave pattern left by water on large north beach Honeymoon Island, State Park, Florida

Into the Woods

The eastern mainland-facing spit features one of the few South Florida virgin slash pine stands, with some trees being over 200 years old!

Osprey Trail, tree covered, sand trail, rare virgin slash pine, old trees, Honeymoon Island, State Park, Florida
Osprey Trail

Here you’ll find about 2.5 miles of trails and finally some shade! Most importantly to the bird nerds among us: these woods are the nesting ground for about a dozen osprey couples, a Great Horned Owl family, and the always popular Bald Eagles. And this is the perfect time to see them! Winter is the season for these birds to nest.

Adult and juvenile bald eagles at their nest - seen from Osprey Trail on Honeymoon Island., State Park, Florida
Adult and juvenile bald eagles at their nest – seen (with a long lens) from Osprey Trail on Honeymoon Island

You may also see gopher tortoises, armadillos, raccoons, butterflies, herons, egrets, pelicans and even roseate spoonbills . Depending on the season, this part of the island also features a variety of wildflowers and lots of snowbirds, err, migrating birds.

The main trail, Osprey Trail, takes you along all the nests and provides some shade and benches. Pelican Trail runs parallel to the west along the mangrove shore of Pelican Cove. It’s sandier, lacks shade, and our dog has picked up sandspurs there. Several short paths connect the two trails.  During nesting season, the Osprey Trail gets closed just before reaching the bald eagle nest. You can see the nest from the closure – but you can’t walk all the way to the end of the trail to a little beach and views of the sandspit, Three Rooker Island, the mainland, and the St. Joseph Sound in-between.

gopher tortoise eating grass on Honeymoon Island
Gopher tortoise along Osprey Trail

The Osprey and Pelican trailheads start at a picnic area with a playground, bathrooms, and a short trail over to the best on the west side of the island.

Please be aware: seasonally, mosquitoes can get pretty bad along the trails – especially after rainy days. Come prepared. There are also snakes on the island – so stay on the trails.

Honeymoon Island History

Long before the USA was established, people of the Tocobago tribe lived on the island.

During a 1920s hurricane, the island then known as Hog Island was split in two: creating Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island – and Hurricane Pass in-between. During low tides you can’t quite walk from one island to the other – but you can paddle over fairly easily.

A businessman bought the island in the 1930s and renamed it Honeymoon Island. Several Honeymoon cottages were built and a pre-TV newspaper reality show was born: with couples applying to honeymoon on the island. You can see newspaper articles with photos and quotes at the Nature Center on the island. Of course, you can also learn about nature at the center – and check out the native plant garden.

light purple bloom, vine, Butterfly Peas, Pigeonwings, Florida wildflower
Butterfly Peas

After World War II, a developer tried to turn the island into a big residential area. Several apartment buildings right by the causeway remind of that plan. Fortunately, the natural uniqueness and importance to preserve it were recognized and building residences was prohibited. Eventually, the state of Florida came to own all the land and the Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area was established in 1981.

flock of least terns in flight with shadows over shallow clear water and beach
Flock of terns flying between Honeymoon and Three Rooker Island

Hours, Fees, Location, Contact and other FAQs

Hours

Honeymoon Island State Park is open year-round every day from 8 am to sundown.

Entry Fees

Varies, main prices: $8 per car; $2 pedestrians and cyclists. To limit contact during the covid pandemic, you can make a reservation and pay ahead of time online.

For locals, we highly recommend getting an annual Florida State Parks Pass ($120 for annual family pass, $60 for single-person annual pass). It’s not just so you get in “free” at all the parks, it’s also to give extra support to our amazing Florida State Parks – The Real FloridaTM.

Great Horned Owl, big ears, in tree Osprey Trail, State Park, Florida
Great Horned Owl perched above Osprey Trail
This photo available as a postcard and greeting card (pic141).

How To Get To Honeymoon Island

The island is about a 30-minute drive from Tampa or from St. Petersburg. You can reach the island by car via the Dunedin Causeway. If you come by car during popular times (weekends, post-work / pre-sunset), you may get into some stop-and-go traffic at the entrance.

While the surrounding islands (Caladesi, Three Rooker, and Anclote) are officially only accessible by boat, Honeymoon Island does not have a marina. But if you come by water, you can always drop anchor off the beach and walk in through the shallow water – or even better, paddle over and pull your kayak or SUP onto the beach.

Men fishing, sunset, silhouette, reflection, dog beach, Honeymoon Island, Florida
Sunset fishing off the Honeymoon Pet Beach

Location, Contact, Website

Official website: www.floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland

Honeymoon Island Address: #1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, FL 34698

Phone number: 727-241-6106

Honeymoon FAQs

Dogs are allowed at the Pet Beach and on the Osprey Trail and Pelican Trail. Dogs must be on a leash at all times.

During the coronavirus pandemic, masks need to be worn inside buildings, and people are expected to keep 6 foot social distance from any people outside their family / pod / bubble.

Beach access may be limited due to erosion caused by Tropical Storm Eta.

The ferry to Caladesi Island has an extra charge besides the Honeymoon Island entrance fee: $16 per adult, $8 children 6 and over.

Bikes, kayaks, beach chairs and umbrellas can be rented from Romantic Honeymoon Island.

You can also rent a kayak or SUP from Sail Honeymoon Kayak and SUP Rentals and paddle your way over to Honeymoon or Caladesi (and maybe see some dolphins, sharks and stingrays in-between, as we have).

variety of seashells, beach, open sea, Gulf of Mexico, Tampa Bay
This seashell view is featured in the 2021 Happier Place wall calendar.

Nearby Attractions

Caladesi Island – The natural combination with a Honeymoon Island visit. From Honeymoon Island, you can take a ferry (currently masks are required) or paddle over. Officially, there is no other access than by water vessel. We will have a full post about Caladesi Island State Park soon.

Dunedin – A quaint town featuring Florida’s oldest microbrewery (Dunedin Brewery) and lots of restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors and more breweries.

Pinellas Trail – Over 25 miles of the rails-to-trails asphalt bike trail covering the entire Pinellas Peninsula runs through Dunedin and close the Causeway.

Clearwater Beach – If you’re looking for more people, parties, and a place to stay on the beach this is where it’s at.

Man, Skinny Water fishing, north end Honeymoon Island, St. Joseph Sound, Tampa Bay, Florida
Skinny water fishing in Pelican Cove

Other Florida State Parks

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park (Key West)

Florida Keys Highlight: Bahia Honda State Park (The Keys)

Anastasia State Park on Anastasia Island (St. Augustine) + VIDEO

Best-Kept Secret: Caladesi Island State Park (Tampa Bay Area)

More Photos from Honeymoon Island

Osprey, big eyes, white chest, fish eagle, seahawk, dead tree, blue sky
Osprey
This photo is available as a postcard (pic143).
Red Admiral black and orange butterfly with white dots, on the sand
Red Admiral
This photo is available as a postcard (pic106).
Pink purple beach morning glory vine along the Honeymoon Island north beach, Dunedin, Florida
Beach Morning Glories
yellow wild flower, multiple blooms, Dyers Greenweed, greenwood, Florida
Dyers Greenweed
Bald Eagle, dead tree, blue sky
Bald Eagle

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Natural Beach Paradise, Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida, Happier Place
reddish egret, Natural Beach Paradise, Honeymoon Island State Park, Florida, Happier Place,

All photos in this post were taken by Luci Westphal.

Let’s Inspire Each Other

Have you been to Honeymoon Island? What was your experience like? Any tips? Do you have any favorite Florida getaways? If you were to visit Honeymoon Island, where would you go first: beach or wooded trail or onto the water? When you go into nature, do you rather rest, play, or explore?

Please leave a comment below – inspired by these questions or whatever you’d like to share…

Natural Beach Paradise: Honeymoon Island State Park (Florida)Natural Beach Paradise: Honeymoon Island State Park (Florida)

4 thoughts on “Natural Beach Paradise: Honeymoon Island State Park (Florida)

  1. omg the place is gorgeous!!! I would loooooove to go there and spend a few weeks, that would be the best.

    1. And these photos don’t lie. It really is this pretty – and as uncrowded as long as you’re willing to walk a little ways. But you can’t stay on the island – no hotels or campgrounds. But Dunedin and Clearwater Beach are nearby with rentals and hotels.

  2. I have been wanting to get to Florida and I think this looks like the perfect destination! Beautiful photos and love the petunias not to mention the gorgeous beaches ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hope you can plan a trip to Florida soon – and can check out Honeymoon Island. It really is a jewel among the otherwise often more crowded beaches with hotels and homes. Let me know if you have any questions.

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