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If you’re searching for the perfect romantic getaway for newlyweds that doesn’t require a passport or a pricey airline flight, you may have come across Honeymoon Island in Florida. With a name like that, you’d hope the location’s reputation lives up to its title!
And while the island has many fun activities and beautiful views to offer, it’s not actually a destination where you can stay overnight. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit!
Florida has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, making it the perfect destination for a honeymoon road trip. This picturesque island is located off the coast of Dunedin, Florida which is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from Tampa Bay, St. Pete, or Clearwater.
So if you plan a stateside honeymoon in this area of Florida, it’s absolutely worth a day trip, or even multiple visits! For a daily entrance fee of $8, it’s an affordable day out to add to your honeymoon plans.
With stunning white sand beaches and crystal clear waters, Honeymoon Island is a beautiful place to spend time with your spouse. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about traveling to this curiously-named destination, including how it got its name, fun things to do there, and how you may want to consider making it the destination for your wedding rather than your honeymoon!
What is Honeymoon Island?
Honeymoon Island is a state park located on Florida’s Gulf Coast. The area is labeled as a barrier island, which is a long, narrow island that lies parallel to the coastline. The tropical paradise is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Honeymoon Island State Park features more than four miles of beaches, a three-mile nature trail, and a variety of wildlife to see.
The 2,810-acre park is a popular destination for many recreational activities including swimming, fishing, kayaking, and cycling. Shelling, or collecting shells from the beach, is also a popular activity on the island as well.
There are no overnight accommodations on the island, so sadly it’s not somewhere you could spend your entire honeymoon. So how exactly did it get such a misleading name?
History Of Honeymoon Island
The island was originally called Hog Island, because, as you might guess, it was home to a hog farm. So how did a stinky pig farm come to be given the romantic name of Honeymoon Island? With the magic of marketing, of course!
The owner of the island, Clinton M. Washburn, decided that pig farming was not the best use of the beautiful setting, so he decided to market it as a tourism destination. In 1939, the New York entrepreneur held a contest for newly married couples in LIFE magazine. The contest winners were invited to stay for free in small, thatched huts for a two-week honeymoon, hence the island’s name.
The honeymoon cottages didn’t even have electricity or plumbing– not exactly the typical luxury accommodations one might expect on a romantic honeymoon. But that didn’t stop couples from entering in droves– the campaign was a huge success!
Washburn was flooded with entries of hopeful newlyweds, and Honeymoon Island became well known as a place where couples could escape the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy each other’s company in a beautiful natural setting.
Today, Honeymoon Island is still a popular destination for couples looking to get away from it all. Now a state park, the island’s sandy beaches, lush forest trails, peaceful picnic areas, and tranquil waters, provide the perfect setting for a romantic and affordable getaway.
How to get to Honeymoon Island
Honeymoon Island is fairly easy to get to. Out-of-town visitors will find it is close to both St. Pete and Tampa airports, so it’s perfect for a destination wedding! There are several ways to get to honeymoon island. You can take a ferry from Clearwater Beach or St. Pete Beach, or you can drive to the island across the Dunedin Causeway.
If you’re taking a ferry, there are several companies that offer service to honeymoon island. The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes and is a great way to see the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
If you’re driving to honeymoon island, it’s important to note that there is no bridge connecting the island to the mainland. You’ll need to take a ferry or water taxi to get to the island.
Things to Do on Honeymoon Island
Once you’re on Honeymoon Island, there are plenty of things to do beyond just lying on the beach. What type of beach-goer are you and your partner? Whether you’re the lounge lizards who love getting a tan or active types who get a thrill from hiking trails, or water lovers who enjoy snorkeling or swimming, Honeymoon Island can accommodate any of these beach activities!
There are plenty of activities to keep you busy, including swimming, sunbathing, fishing, kayaking, and more. And don’t worry about bringing your own gear as there are a variety of rentals on the island such as beach chairs, umbrellas, kayaks, and bikes for rent.
For Low-Key Beach Bums
On Honeymoon Island, a beach lover can relax on the sand, sunbathe, take a dip in the water, go for a sandy stroll to collect seashells, and so much more. You can rent an umbrella and two chairs for the day for just $30 and enjoy a beautiful day at the beach. Share a packed lunch in a picnic area complete with grills for use or grab a bite or some beverages at one of the cafes on the island.
Honeymoon Island’s Cafes
On the island, there are two cafes; Cafe Honeymoon and the South Beach Pavilion Cafe. Both locations feature fresh but casual beach fare. If you fancy a beer, you’ll have to get your drinks from the cafes as alcoholic beverages are not allowed on the beach.
Additionally, Cafe Caladesi is easily accessible by ferry if you feel like venturing to Caladesi Island, another stunning untouched state park that is worth a visit.
For Wildlife Explorers
Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins or manatee friends swimming nearby in the blue waters. Go snorkeling and see what types of fish you spot during low tide. Go for a hike and see if you can spot some other animal friends like armadillos, raccoons, or gopher tortoises.
Or grab your binoculars and do some bird watching! You just might see great blue herons, bald eagles, egrets, osprey, or great-horned owls. Fishing is also allowed with a license and is a common activity in Hurricane Pass at the southern tip of the island.
Visitors can also enjoy kayaking, hiking, bicycling, snorkeling, canoeing, or fishing during their time on Honeymoon Island. Explore the Osprey Trail that winds through pine and mangrove forests, or rent a kayak and venture into St. Joseph Sound.
Fun for the Whole Family
If you’re looking for a family-friendly place, Honeymoon Island also has a kids playground, volleyball court, and a picnic pavilion that is great for groups. Honeymoon Island even has an events staff that can help you host gatherings or events like a family reunion, bridal shower, or wedding.
And Fun with Fido, Too!
Pets are allowed, so if you want to bring your furry friend along for your getaway, that’s good news for you! The island is actually home to a dog beach (one of very few in the area) which makes this destination popular with pet lovers. Note: dogs are not allowed off-leash anywhere on the main beach, and leashes can be no longer than six feet.
Get Married on Honeymoon Island
If you’re feeling extra romantic, you can even get married on Honeymoon Island! It’s a beautiful place to consider as a wedding destination– perhaps one of the best beach wedding locations in Florida!
The island is actually a very popular site for couples who want an eco-friendly natural wedding– so you may be lucky to catch a glimpse of a ceremony on your visit. Honeymoon Island overlooks the water facing Caladesi Island and Downtown Clearwater, making for a beautiful backdrop for a romantic wedding celebration.
The wedding venue on the island is all-inclusive, making for a worry-free event for couples who want to have a beach wedding. You can host both your ceremony and reception in one location, which makes planning a breeze.
Choose between two reception locations: a beautiful pavilion on the south end beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico or a chic white tent complete with drapery walls and windows if you’d prefer to be on the sand. Either option is beautiful!
The on-site catering is provided by the Bon Appetit Group, which has been in business in the Clearwater area for 40 years. As a bonus, they are licensed to hold events after hours. This allows your wedding celebration to be more private and intimate since it can take place even after the park is closed to the public.
Experience Honeymoon Island
While the island might not be exactly what you’d think of when you hear its name, Honeymoon Island is still a unique destination to visit and spend quality time with your new spouse.
If you’re in search of an affordable way to take a beach vacation for your honeymoon, add a visit to Honeymoon Island to your itinerary. It’s worth it just to share the geotagged photos on your Instagram!
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and head to Honeymoon Island today!
Important Honeymoon Island Details to Know
At-a-glance, here are the details you might need to know:
- Hours: 8 AM until sunset, 365 days a year
- Entrance fees: $8 per vehicle (limit eight people per vehicle) $4 for a single-occupant vehicle, and $2 for a pedestrian or bicyclist.
- Parking: Plenty of space for parking, no added cost.
- Alcohol: Consumption on the beach is prohibited. Alcoholic drinks may be purchased at the cafe.
- Pets: Only allowed in certain areas. There is a pet beach designated specifically for fun with your pets that is located on the south end of the island. Owners must pick up after their pets.
- Surfing: Yes! The best surfing waves can be found on the north end of the island.
- Camping: The park closes at sunset, and camping overnight is not permitted.
- Facilities: Showers available, ADA-accessible restrooms.
- Food & Beverage: The park has 2 cafes on site with food and drinks available for purchase.
- Fishing: Allowed, but you may need a license.
- Rentals: Beach Chairs, Umbrellas, Bikes, and Kayaks are available for rent.
- #1 Causeway Boulevard
- Dunedin, Florida 34698
- (727) 469-5942
This post originally appeared on Hello Sensible.
Featured Image Courtesy Visit Florida/Russell Mick.