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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hours, Fees, Location, Contact and other FAQs
Honeymoon Island State Park is open year-round every day from 8 am to sundown.
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.
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.
Location, Contact, Website
Official website: www.floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland
Honeymoon Island Address: #1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin, FL 34698
Phone number: 727-241-6106
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).
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.
Other Florida State Parks
More Photos from Honeymoon Island
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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…