Honeymoon Island Pleases a Diverse Crowd

Enjoy a sunset picnic by the seashore, a hike in the Florida wilds, or a ferry ride from Dunedin’s Honeymoon Island State Park — a popular destination along Florida’s West Central coast.

The park — known as Hog island by pioneers — is a diverse park, with attractions for sea and landlubbers. It boasts seaside picnic tables for a romantic sunset repast, a ferry to nearby Caladesi Island, and a host of other activities for nature lovers.

Renamed when a New York developer built thatched huts for honeymooners there in 1939, the barrier island is still popular with couples and is often used for wedding ceremonies.

Expect to find enough activities to keep even the restless occupied.

Along the shore you can bring your own food and eat at picnic tables or visit Cafe Honeymoon, which offers breakfast and lunch fare — even a pancake breakfast on weekends.

You can rent a kayak, take out your own, or fish. You may swim, surf, shell, stroll or take photographs of the many shore birds. You may find penguins dropping into the water for a quick bite, sea gulls resting on pilings near shore, or nests roped off to protect shore birds.

If you have a crowd with lukewarm fervor for swimming or beach-related activities, it’s a great place to mix it up with a hiking or wildlife viewing expedition.

The park features the Rotary Centennial Nature Center, facing St. Joseph Sound, which is located not far from the toll booth off the main road. It offers guided walks and nature programs on topics like birding, ospreys, the Great Horned Owls, and shells, plus the animals that live in them.

An ongoing scavenger hunt is available for children at the Nature Center.

Bring a sun hat and closed walking shoes for the trail, which can get hot in the afternoon summer sun. Sunscreen and mosquito spray also are advisable.

Guided trail walks, which average 45 minutes, are available on Saturdays from November through February at 11 a.m. The guided walks from 1/2 to 3/4-mile long are free with park admission.

The trails are not difficult to traverse for the most part, but there are portions with loose sand, which may make walking or bicycling more difficult.

Here on Honeymoon Island, you can avoid the standard tourist fare of Clearwater and St Petersburg beaches and relax amidst the sea oats, pine trees and palmettos.

Or catch a ferry to nearby Caladesi Island. Near the park entrance, turn left for the ferry to Caladesi. Adults pay $10 and children pay $6 for the ride and can stay for four hours. More information is available by calling the park at 727-469-5942.

Honeymoon Island State Park has restrooms, a children’s playground, picnic and grilling facilities, plus a gift shop where you can pick up necessities like suntan lotion and shoes to walk along the rocky shore. It has wooden rocking swings and volleyball courts.

The park allows well-behaved pets, who must be on a six foot, hand-held leash. Dogs are allowed on the trails but not in buildings or most beaches. There is a designated dog beach.

Admission is $8 per car, with up to eight passengers, $4 per car with single occupant and $2 for pedestrians and cyclists. Annual passes are available. The park, located at the west end of State Road 586 north of Dunedin, opens at 8 a.m. and closes at sunset.

Camping is not available on the premises

State and national parks in Florida offer varied opportunities for outdoors men and women — everything from the comfort of the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park Lodge near Tallahassee to rustic beach camping at Dry Tortugas National Park, almost 70 miles west of Key West.

The state parks alone encompass 700,000 acres and 100 miles of beach, offering swimming, diving, fishing, and hiking and riding nature trails throughout the year for visitors of all ages.