Beach sceneMost beachgoers here are laid back, with lots of locals and families, although you can still find the odd Bluetooth speaker blaring across the sand.
Keep in mind that the beach itself can be quite thin and rocky, with lots of limestone rocks covering the sand, a leftover of past dredging. The beach gets renourished with sand pumped in from the pass, but it routinely washes away and has to be redone.
The park is essentially divided in half, with the southern end open for sunbathing and picnics, and the northern end reserved primarily for hiking and other outdoorsy pursuits.
Be aware that alcohol is only allowed in designated areas, and not on the beaches themselves.
There's only one entrance to the park, which is open from 8 a.m. to sunset every day of the year.
Rangers collect an entry fee at a tollbooth on the south end of the island before you're allowed in. The cost is $8 per car with up to eight people, or $4 for a vehicle with only one occupant. Pedestrians, bicyclists or passengers over the eight-person limit are $2 apiece.
A nature center with interpretive exhibits is to the right once you’re inside the park.
There is no camping on the island, but a popular pastime is driving out to the island to watch the sunset. Starting an hour before sunset, the park reduces the entrance fee to $4 per car, but you have to leave when it gets dark.
There are 10 beach access points spread across the available parking lots.
The northern part of the island has plenty of sand, but conservation is the keyword here.
There are multiple hiking trails and mangroves for paddling, but no parking or services. The Osprey trailhead north of the playground goes on for 2 ½ miles, offering views of virgin slash pine stands and wildlife.
Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails. Be sure to keep an eye out for rattlesnakes, which do live on the island.
If you make it to the northernmost end of the island along the beach, the rocks thin out considerably. Not everyone is up to hiking their beach gear for 3 miles, however, and there are no services up there.
The waterfront-oriented southern end offers both a north beach and a south beach, each with their own parking lots.
Driving past these lots from the entrance leads you to a playground and picnic area, where pavilions are available to rent for $30 per day.
Surfers congregate at the north beach, which has its own bathhouse. The south beach, catering more to people content to stay on land, offers bathrooms and two concessions areas.
Dog owners particularly benefit from the pet beach at the far southern end of the island. There's a turnout past the southern parking lot for pet owners to park and walk the half-mile to the sand. Dogs must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times, including on the trail and on the beach. Fishing is good at this end, as well.
You may have noticed on the way to the park that Dunedin Causeway is lined with a beach of its own, before you even get to the island. This strip of sand on each side of the road is known on some maps as Jetski Beach or Causeway Community Park, but most people refer to it simply as Causeway Beach or just the Causeway. It's popular with locals and offers some of its own amenities.
If you're looking to save a few bucks to experience St. Joseph Sound and don't mind the steady hum of traffic, you can try stopping here. There's no admission fee and parking is free, when available. Sunbathing is not the focus here, where the beach caters to the boating and fishing crowd.
The beachfront is open from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., and has designated areas for launching motorized and non-motorized watercraft. You can get permission to fish after 11 p.m. by contacting the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and can park a boat overnight with a $10 permit. More details are here.
The Caladesi Island ferry
Just south of the park, across Hurricane Pass, is Caladesi Island State Park, which quite frankly offers much better beach conditions than Honeymoon Island. Indeed, Caladesi has topped Dr. Beach’s best beaches in America list twice in recent years.
There are only two ways of getting to those sugary sands, however: You can either take your own boat, or catch the ferry from Honeymoon Island.
The road to the ferry is to the left just inside the park entrance. There is a sizable parking lot at the pier for the ferries. That means that you have to pay both the park fee and the fare to take the ferry — a $14 round trip for adults and $7 for kids 6-12. Kids 5 and younger are free, and there is a military discount. The ferry service also offers discount coupons on their website.
Two ferry boats depart starting at 10 a.m. every half hour from mid-February to mid-September, and hourly the rest of the year. The ride takes about 15 or 20 minutes.
There is a marina, bathrooms and concessions on Caladesi, which we will explore in more detail in future posts on Caladesi Island.
Taking a boat to the island doesn't have to mean a motorized craft. Depending on water conditions, it's a relatively short paddle from Honeymoon Island or the causeway (where kayaks and paddleboards are available to rent) to Caladesi.
Keep in mind that Hurricane Pass can get busy, so be sure the coast is clear before paddling across the waterway. In the summertime, scads of boats weigh anchor in the pass just off the beach, and the area is very popular among anglers.
Because it's a short distance, people often swim across Hurricane Pass to reach the island. We recommend a lot of caution, because the current in the pass can be quite strong, especially at low tide. We'll also point out the area is known for its shark and crab fishing, so you won't be alone in the water.