Four wonderful miles of mostly quiet white sand beaches including a pet beach section that is not overrun by tourists, a slice of real Florida nature and helpful facilities including bathhouses, plenty of parking, snack bar, various rentals and a nature center. A park definitely worth visiting, so pack your beach stuff and maybe your canine best friend and head on over. I’m lucky it’s only 15 minutes drive from my house!
Located at the end of SR 586 (Curlew Road), the island is a link in the chain of barrier islands that extends from Anclote Key south to Cape Romano. It cushions the Florida coast from tropical storms. In 1921 a hurricane split the island, forming Hurricane Pass and Caladesi Island to the south.
Named Honeymoon Isle in 1939 by a New York developer who bought the island for $30,000, newsreels and magazine ads in the 1940’s promised undiscovered pleasures for newlyweds in one of the 50 palm-thatched bungalows he built. The bungalows are gone, but it is a beautiful site for beach weddings. This vacation paradise was recommissioned as an R & R site for exhausted workers during World War II. By the 1950’s, a causeway bridged the gap between Honeymoon Island and the mainland.
My recent visit was prompted by a mention in the local paper that admission was being waived for Veteran’s Day. With great weather that day how could I not go?! I loaded up two of my dogs and made the short drive to the park.
Admission is $4/person or $8 for 2 to 8 people. Children under 6 admitted free. (TIP: Watch the local paper for announcements of free admission to state parks. Almost every state has a state park day.) If you plan to go frequently, an annual pass is a good deal at $60, good at any Florida state park. All fees subject to change.
There is a disarming sign as you enter that warns of possible rattlesnakes on the island that may freak some out. Good to heed not only for human visitors but for dogs as well.
The pet beach is on the south end, the first section you come to, marked by a small sign pointing to the left. Getting to the shore requires walking a longish path through thick plant growth. All pets must be leashed. My strong recommendation – don’t let your dogs go into the thick brush. There are a few trash cans and posts along the path with poop bag containers in case you forgot to bring your own, another good idea as sometimes the canisters are empty. Leave no trace by picking up after your dog.
Once in the beach, you can walk to the left or the right. The left end is flat sand and goes around a bend at the far end that becomes very rocky and difficult to walk on with dogs. Turning right, you can continue walking until you get to the next section, where no dogs are allowed. It is fun to interact with fellow dog owners and their pooches and get some great exercise for my legs. (TIP: Watch out for sand spurs, the spiked burrs that come off of one of the native grasses. They hurt to step on and get really tangled in dog fur. Don’t take footwear off until you reach the beach.)
Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, kayaking, canoeing, sailing and swimming in the warm Gulf waters. During summer stingray mating season, stingrays rest in underwater sand. Learn to do the “Stingray Shuffle” so you don’t become a victim of very painful tail barb stings.
Surf and pass fishing can yield flounder, snook, trout, redfish, snapper, whiting, sheepshead and tarpon. (Fishing license required.)
Picnic pavilions, bathhouses and a cafe are available. On one visit, I found the bathhouse dirty – sand and water on the floors (slippery and unsafe) and in need of a good cleaning.
The island is home to more than 208 species of plants and a variety of shore birds, including several threatened and endangered species. Visitors can observe one of the few remaining Florida virgin slash pine stands along the island’s northern loop trail. These large trees serve as important nesting sites for the osprey. The Rotary Centennial Nature Center has an elevated observation deck offering spectacular views and at low tide, provides a good opportunity to see wading birds around the sea grass beds in St. Joseph Sound. There are ranger led trail walks and shell programs available. The best shelling is on the north end.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, except at the Cafe Honeymoon restaurant in the park where alcohol is sold. Alcohol is allowed during park-sanctioned events, within designated areas only.
For more information, check out their web site at http://www.floridastateparks.org/honeymoonisland/
Don’t forget to bring the sunscreen and sunglasses!