ABOVE: Honeymoon Island State Park (Florida State Parks photo)
One of the best kept secrets from Central Floridians is the unspoiled treasure a mere 130 miles west of Mount Dora just off the coast from historic Dunedin. A scenic causeway connects the mainland to Honeymoon Island State Park. with four miles of some of the most unspoiled white sandy beaches in the state.
So pack your beach chairs and sunscreen and head out for an island escape just a few miles from Tarpon Springs. There is even a Pet Beach at the park in case you want to take Fido along. Just be sure to follow the leash requirement.
Besides just chilling with your feet in the sand and your eyes on the surf, here are some other things to enjoy while visiting Honeymoon Island:
EXERCISE: Peace and solitude can be enjoyed by walking or running the two-and-a-half-mile sand spit by parking at the northernmost parking lot, then hitting the beach and heading north. The sand spit has grown during the past forty years from a few sandbars to over two miles of the most pristine beach found anywhere in Florida.
The Osprey Trail, a three-mile trail through one of the last remaining virgin slash pine forests, and four miles of beach are also perfect for runners and walkers.
For anyone wanting some exercise on the water, kayaks are available for rent at the island’s concession or visitors can bring their own to explore Pelican Cove which lies between the sand spit and nature trail.
For pedal-powered fun, beach cruisers and multi-passenger surreys are available for rental and can be ridden on the paved trails throughout the island.
BOAT RIDE: Visitors can also take the 20-minute ferry ride from Honeymoon Island Docks across St. Joseph Sound to Caladesi Island. Boat is the only way to get to the pristine island which received the #6 rating for Best Beach in the U.S. in 2020 by Dr. Beach. The ferry departs Honeymoon Island Monday through Friday starting at 10 a.m. and Saturday and Sunday starting at 9 a.m. every half hour or as weather permits.
SHELLING: The island provides exceptional shelling and visitors can eat up a chunk of their day wandering the beaches as they collect the natural treasures.
FISHING: Anglers can put their lines in the water and try to hook spotted sea trout, mackerel, snook and many other species of saltwater game fish.
WILDLIFE: Animal lovers will love the many species of native birds that can be spotted, including osprey, great horned owls, oystercatchers, snowy plovers, least terns, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons and snowy egrets.
On land, visitors can spot lumbering gopher tortoises, armadillos and raccoons along the nature trail and picnic areas.
SHOPPING & DINING: Take a pit stop after the beach to the tree-lined streets of charming historic Dunedin. Main Street is sprinkled with quaint shops and diverse eateries. Mount Dora Buzz recommends Casa Tina for their great vibe, perfect margaritas and incredibly fresh and authentic Mexican food. The Mole Poblano Enchiladas are arguably the very best in Florida.
ISLAND HISTORY: In the early 1940s newsreels, ads and magazines touted the island's undiscovered beaches for newlyweds and honeymoon-type huts with thatched roofs were built for vacationing. As a result, the name was appropriately changed from Hog Island to Honeymoon Island. After the huts fell into disrepair during World War II, they were razed and the 385-acre island was converted into a pristine State park.
The Honeymoon Island State Park is located at #1 Causeway Boulevard in Dunedin and is open from 8 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year. The cost to enter is $8 per car.