A honeymoon, generally speaking, is a sure thing. And for beach lovers, the same goes for Honeymoon Island, a small but striking strand just north of Clearwater Beach.
Its calm Gulf waters come in every shade of blue imaginable, spread out over four miles of coast so lovely it consistently ranks atop the list of Florida’s most visited state parks. You’ll fall in love with the place – and here are 10 reasons why.
Honeymoon Island’s beaches are natural and beautiful – and relatively expansive, too. Don’t mind a hike? Head to the northernmost strand but don’t camp out near the entrance. Walk up some and you’ll likely find some space to breathe.
It can get crowded here, particularly on weekends, so come early – before traffic on the Dunedin Causeway starts to slow up.
Wedding ceremonies are almost as regular as sunsets — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Couples headed off on their own honeymoons often set the stage here – by tying the knot on the beach. Weddings are a regular thing on Honeymoon Island; you’ll often see signs guiding guests to the right ceremony or chairs being set up for the event. You may even catch one in progress. Tres romantique!
The island flora is unique, lush, delicate and exquisite — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
The ecosystem here is unique, particularly if you’re visiting from another state. To learn more about Honeymoon’s native flora and fauna, visit the nature center, where exhibits showcasing shells, geology and more – and a small outdoor garden with indigenous plants and flowers – inspire visitors to explore more than just the beaches.
Eyes on the skies
Bald eagles "honeymoon" here, too – it's a nesting ground — Photo courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA
Honeymoon Island’s three-mile Osprey Trail isn’t just a perfect place to spy these impressive fish hawks. We spied a great horned owl on a recent visit and watched, transfixed, as bald eagles soared overhead. As many as 10 nesting pairs were reported here during the 2017-18 season.
Down to earth
Birding is certainly ample on Honeymoon Island. The aforementioned get most of the glory, but plovers, ibises, sandpipers, pelicans, gulls and many, many more call this atoll home, but so, too, does ground-dwelling wildlife. Armadillos, gopher tortoises, raccoons and more live here, as well, and are oft spotted on the trails and beyond.
Bring your own
The armadillos may sometimes get close enough to touch, but that’s against the law – so if it’s four-legged company you’re craving, just bring your own. Honeymoon Island has something rare and prized among locals: a dog beach!
Pups must remain on a six-foot leash, but can happily dig, romp and swim to their heart’s content whether simply walking the beach or setting up for the day with their people. Be sure to bring water and shade (for everyone) if you’re staying awhile and keep pets safely on the beach trail while walking out – the sand spurs can be brutal.
While the park provides bag stations so owners can keep the beach and trail clean, it’s advisable to bring your own in case they’re empty. A bathing station by the parking lot allows for post-beach baths, so Rover doesn’t bring the whole beach home with you.
Neighboring Caladesi Island is consistently ranked among the world's most incredible beaches — Photo courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA
About 100 years ago, the atoll today called Honeymoon was considerably bigger, but in 1921 a massive hurricane tore the barrier island in two, thereby creating Caladesi Island. Caladesi’s blinding-white sands, warm Gulf swells and beachy hiking trails are just a 15-minute ride away.
Hop the ferry at the south end for a beautiful ride to Caladesi Island — Photo courtesy of Caladesi Island Ferry
…on the Caladesi Island Ferry, which you can grab at Honeymoon Island. The relaxing and wonderfully scenic ride is short on time and long on rewards, which often include playful dolphins leaping in the craft’s wake. And save Thanksgiving and Christmas, it runs every day, on the half-hour or hour depending on the season.
Round-trips: $14/adults, $7 (kids 6-12), 5 and under ride free.
The only other way to get to Caladesi is to walk north from Clearwater Beach, or...
From Dunedin Causeway, folks truck in their own kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and small sailboats to journey across beautiful St. Joseph Sound themselves. Or you can hit up Sail Honeymoon, which rents all of the above by the hour or day.
The quick journey across is rife with opportunities to see dolphins, manatees, breaching rays and more as you navigate the crystalline waters, exploring the edges of the mangroves or pulling up on the western beach of Caladesi and either camping out awhile or exploring on foot.
The outfitter’s thatched-roof bar, the High & Dry Grill, is an ideal spot – perhaps even on the way back from Honeymoon Island, to enjoy a shave ice, snack or Sailor’s Spiced Rum Punch from a shady spot while the sun glints off the sound’s peaceful waters.
The nightly farewell ceremony for the sun is legendary on the Gulf coast — Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/jonathan c. wheeler
The sunsets at Honeymoon Island are as epic as any you’ll find on Florida’s Gulf coast – pinks, purples, blues and oranges swell and fade like breathing watercolors as the blazing ball of sun descends. No filter necessary, we assure you.
Best Florida Beach (10Best Readers' Choice Awards 2018)