For a quiet beach day in the Tampa Bay area, visit Honeymoon Island State Park or neighboring Caladesi Island State Park on the Gulf Coast of Florida.
Tampa Bay, Florida has a beach to please any personality. The gulf coast beaches of Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island appeal to those seeking solitude or wishing to explore a natural Gulf of Mexico beach. There are no accommodations of any kind on the islands themselves, but visitors can find a hotel room or rental condominium in Clearwater Beach or the nearby city of Dunedin.
Honeymoon Island State Park
Located north of Clearwater, Honeymoon Island State Park is accessible by vehicle via the Dunedin Causeway (Curlew Rd./Fl. 586). The island features beautiful beaches as well as a nature trail through the virgin slash pine forest. Despite its name, there is no place to honeymoon on the island which is completely uninhabited. Weddings are popular here though.
Honeymoon Island Beaches
The main beach on Honeymoon Island is wide and long with soft white sand. Because the beach does not face directly west into the Gulf of Mexico the water here is quite shallow and calm, perfect for families with small children. There are bathrooms, showers, and concessions at each end of the main beach. Chairs, umbrellas. kayaks and even bicycles are available for rent.
A rocky beach lies at the north end of the road through Honeymoon Island State Park, however, a walk even further north along the beach eventually leads to beautiful sand frequently littered with perfect shells and other gifts from the gulf. Between the rocky beach and the main beach are several other opportunities for parking and beach access, with bathroom and shower facilities. Picnic tables and large swings are nearby. Those craving a quiet day away from the crowds will love this stretch of the island.
Honeymoon Island Vacation
A picnic area with two pavilions, barbecue grills, and restrooms is located at the north end of the island, near the 2 ½ mile nature trail. A wide variety of shorebirds including osprey, snowy plovers, and great blue herons may be seen, as well as gopher tortoises and armadillos. On the east side of the island, the Rotary Centennial Nature Center features an elevated observation deck.
At the south end of Honeymoon Island is a pet beach. Dogs are allowed on this beach as well as on the nature trail, however, they must be kept on a six-foot leash at all times. The ferry to Caladesi Island also docks at the south end near the pet beach.
Getting to Caladesi Island State Park
Named the Best Beach in America by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman – a.k.a. Dr. Beach – in 2008, Caladesi Island State Park is accessible only by boat. Ferry service operates daily between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island. A 108-foot marina with electric and water service is available for private boats which may dock overnight for a fee. The Dolphin Encounter cruise out of Clearwater Beach also makes a trip to Caladesi Island once a day.
It is actually possible to walk to Caladesi from Clearwater Beach, however, it is a long walk through the sand of anywhere from one to six miles depending on where you park to enter the beach. Caladesi Island was formerly separated from Clearwater Beach Island by the narrow Dunedin Pass, however, the pass filled with sand after Hurricane Elena in 1985.
Exploring Caladesi Island
Caladesi and Honeymoon Islands were one contiguous landmass until a major hurricane in 1921 created what is now known as Hurricane Pass. Vegetation and wildlife on Caladesi are similar to those found on Honeymoon Island – virgin slash pine forest, gopher tortoises, great horned owls, and an abundance of shorebirds. A three-mile nature trail winds through the forest. Kayakers can explore the mangrove-covered kayak trail.
The unspoiled white sand beach on Caladesi Island is the main attraction for most visitors. Snorkelers take advantage of the clear Gulf of Mexico waters. Shelling is permitted as long as no living creatures are inside the shells. Starfish and sand dollars are often found here. Visitors can carry their own chairs and umbrellas over on the ferry or rent these on the beach.
Caladesi Island Amenities
Amenities on Caladesi Island are quite nice despite the remoteness of the island. Concessions include a restaurant and gift shop. Restrooms with changing facilities and outdoor showers are along with the beach access. Pavilions are available as well as many picnic tables shaded by tall palm trees. Visitors may barbecue on the grills but must bring their own charcoal and lighter fluid as these are not sold on the island. A children’s playground is located near the picnic tables.
Unlike Honeymoon Island, dogs are not permitted anywhere on the beach at Caladesi Island. Dogs are also not allowed on the ferry over to Caladesi. Private boat owners may bring their dogs onto the non-beach areas of the island but they must be kept on a leash at all times to protect the nesting wildlife.
Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island in Florida
For a break from the crowds of the Tampa Bay area’s other beaches, visit Caladesi Island or Honeymoon Island on the Gulf of Mexico. These islands are a step back in time to Florida’s original unmanicured beaches and native pine forests.
Billing itself as “the ultimate Beatles museum,” Penny Lane is a free look at Fab Four memorabilia and signed souvenirs. There’s even John Lennon’s glasses and strands of band members’ hair.
A gay-friendly hotspot on Main Street in Dunedin, Blur is attached to a bar and a restaurant with the same owners. Late-night dancing is the norm, but events range from NFL game-watching to drag queen bingo.
DUNEDIN ORANGE FESTIVAL
The city celebrates its past as an agricultural community, recalling the region’s orange groves each July. The festival features merchants, music, beer vendors, kiddie events and the crowning of the Orange Queen.
DUNEDIN CELTIC MUSIC AND CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL
The name features what you’ll get each November, when traditional bands and local beers come together.
DOWNTOWN DUNEDIN CRAFT FESTIVAL
Also in November, Main Street shuts down as artists and craft vendors from across the state and beyond set up shop for the weekend.
Food & Drink
CAFE HONEYMOON AND SOUTH BEACH PAVILION CAFE
These two restaurants, the only ones on Honeymoon Island, are on opposite ends of the big parking lot off the southern beach. The food is pretty simple but reasonably priced, and drinks and ice cream are available. Cafe Honeymoon offers kayak rentals. The South Beach Pavilion Cafe sells alcohol, to be consumed on site.
The Clearwater Beach favorite has a popular satellite location on the road to Honeymoon Island. Get a pretzel shaped like a fish and grab a daiquiri, because the wait for a seat in this open-air joint can take awhile.
Javier and Tina Avila have run this Tex-Mex institution for more than 25 years. The restaurant shuts down part of Dunedin’s Main Street for Dia de los Muertos and Cinco de Mayo, and showcases aerialists right in the dining room on select nights.
OLDE BAY CAFE
Right in the heart of Dunedin’s city marina, Olde Bay Cafe is a great place to grab seafood and suds right on the water. There’s a fish market right next door, and the kitchen will cook whatever you catch.
A family-run ice cream shop featuring cones, milkshakes and more, with locations in Palm Harbor and Dunedin. On hot summer days the line will stretch out the door, but it’s worth it.
Tiny little Ozona, on the edge of Palm Harbor, features this bar and grill built out in a 170-year-old house — they keep the beer in a literal bathtub full of ice. Seafood is the draw, but there are plenty of options that don’t come from the water.
A Palm Harbor institution, Peggy O’s is an Irish-style pub that puts street tacos and a mac and cheese bar on the menu. There’s a kid’s menu, so the tykes are welcome.
KELLY’S CHIC A BOOM ROOM
This block on Dunedin’s Main Street is usually hopping, but the best place on a nice day is in the tented back patio of the Chic A Boom Room. Generous cocktails and good people-watching make it worth the stop, and there’s food available if you’re hungry. Huey, the owner’s bulldog, may make an appearance, too.