Nature Immersion. Hiking on Honeymoon Island.

On the weekend between Christmas and New Year, I decided I had to get moving. I mean really moving. An hour of jogging around the salt marsh nearby just wouldn’t cut it. So I decided to go hiking on Honeymoon Island.

Honeymoon Island aerial in 1940s
Honeymoon Island aerial in 1940s

This beautiful island in the Gulf of Mexico was used as a hog farm by early settlers, and consequently it was called Hog Island. But when a developer from New York bought the island in 1930s, and built 50 palm thatched huts  for honeymooners, it became known as Honeymoon Island.

lovers nook hut on honeymoon island 1940s
Lovers Nook, one of the huts on Honeymoon Island in 1940s

In 1939 the developer held a competition for newlyweds, featured in the LIFE magazine, and the winners were flown onto the island for a their two-week honeymoon.

Map of the Honeymoon Island
Map of the Honeymoon Island

Today the island is a beautiful state park with gorgeous beaches and nature trails, and you can reach it by car on a causeway from the city of Dunedin. I drove there right after sunrise that Sunday, and started off on the Osprey Trail.  The natural beauty of the virgin slash pine forest was breathtaking.

HM osprey trail
The Osprey Trail
HM island pine and palm forest
Honeymoon Island forest

Right away I saw Ospreys. Some were flying and others were just hanging around, many perching on dead tree trunks close to their nests. I guess they were waiting for their mate to arrive and the nesting season to start.

HMI park osprey and her nest

All my pictures are shot from the trail. It was not advisable to walk deeper into the forest trying to get a clear shot  or a close-up . Why not? Simply because I didn’t have any desire to “shoot” the rattle snakes who also live on the island. Here are a few Ospreys out of the over 20 that I spotted that day on the Osprey Trail.

I have also prepared a small gallery of the numerous osprey nests I spotted along the trail. I thought some of them were true masterpieces showing off the nest-building capabilities of these birds. Like a Home Show.

I spotted a couple of Woodpeckers too, but couldn’t get close enough for a clear shot. Great Egrets liked to sit on the top of the tall trees and trunks, beautiful against the blue skies.

One of the Great Egrets on Honeymoon Island
One of the Great Egrets on Honeymoon Island
Another Great Egret
Another Great Egret

And I spotted a bird I had not seen before, an American Black Vulture. He was sitting in deep thought and nodded off a couple of times while I was observing him.

HM park american black vulture
An American Black Vulture
HM park american black vulture sleeping
…nodding off on his perch.

It was a peaceful hike. No manmade noises in the cool winter air. I was alone in the nature with the birds that morning.

HM pelican trail 2
The mangrove lined Pelican Trail

I wanted to hike back on the Pelican Cove Trail.  It was beautiful too and took me to the northwestern  side of the island where a small lagoon has formed between the main island and the “sand spit”. I didn’t see any Pelicans, but many other birds were wading on the “sand spit” side of the lagoon. The “sand spit” doesn’t have trails, but one can walk on the sandy beach to the north end of it to see tidal pools that tend to form there. I plan to do just that … next time.

birds on the sand spit beach HMI
Ibis and Blue Heron wading on the Sand Spit side of the Lagoon.

I stood there for quite a while inhaling the serenity and admiring the view of the calm Gulf of Mexico.  Silence swept its arms around me and I lost the sense of time. Food for the soul, nature immersion at it best.

HM island beach N
A view towards the ocean

On my way back I spotted an Osprey fairly close to the trail. She had just caught a big fish for late lunch or afternoon snack. And was not happy to see me approaching on the trail.

HM osprey with a fish2
An Osprey with a fish was not happy to get company…

My last discovery that day was a colony of fiddler crabs who had taken over the sandy trail. The sand was full of little “doors” to their dwellings. They were happily running back and forth conducting their business when I approached. But as soon as they felt the tremors from my tiptoeing feet, they hurried inside. I was free to pass their village.

HMI sand crab
A fiddler crab is scurrying away from the trail…
HM sand crab2
…and the last man on the run…made it to safety too!

It was a great hike! All my moving parts felt it for a couple of days. My soul still feels it.

I hope you enjoyed the trip and are not too tired from the long hike. Thanks for coming along!

58 thoughts on “Nature Immersion. Hiking on Honeymoon Island.”

    1. It was as close as you can get! Need to go there again soon…and to the neighboring Caladesi Island, once I get into form…that’ll be much tougher.

  1. I so envy you my friend. If I lived closer I would go with you! Of course the first few times you might have to slow down for me, but I would soon get in the swing of things. 😉

    1. I’d love to go hiking with you, my friend! You’d catch up real quick and forget all about the distances when you’d enjoy the sights and the birds 🙂

    1. Thank you! It is a very beautiful island! The snakes keep to themselves and don’t come to the trails, but going deep into the forests could potentially lead to a meeting 🙂 So I didn’t want to risk it.

    1. Thanks Nancy! I saw people on my way there but everybody was going to the beaches…I really enjoyed the solitude on the hiking trails. And spotted no rattlers…

    1. Happy you’re not too tired 🙂 The park is really great, the earlier owners had only built the huts just on the beaches so all the forest is intact, very old and untouched. One of the few remaining slash pine forests in southern/central FL.

    1. It is truly a beautiful place, the virgin slash pine forest is very old (luckily the developer only built his huts right on the beaches- all gone now) and is a perfect habitat for so much wildlife.

    1. It is a wonderful island, much of it untouched. I cannot find any specs on the huts but found a picture from Dunedin Museum which I have now added to the post. From what I have read, I believe they might have been self-contained with a simple wash room, but with no running water or electricity.

    1. They were funny little fellows. When I first passed their “domain” they were all in hiding. I waited for a few minutes little further away and they all came back. That’s how I got the two shots 🙂

    1. Happy you came along, Val! A secret just for you to keep: PO’s wait seems to be over, just need to confirm some “stuff” before telling others 😀

  2. Loved this trip. Thanks for taking all of us along. The osprey nests are indeed amazing – along the NC coast, they nest on signs and wharf posts along the inland waterway. If we get to the beach early enough in the season, we get to see the babies.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog!

    1. Happy you came along, Sylvia! The Black Vulture was a pleasant surprise. Apparently there is a Bald Eagle too nesting in the park, so next time I’m hoping to spot it.

    1. Thanks Matti! It’s a beautiful place, I will certainly go back there, and also to the neighboring island that is completely pristine and untouched.

    1. It was truly a deep nature experience. I couldn’t believe I was alone on the trails…all people headed for the beaches. And for the ospreys and other birds it is a paradise, as close to “untouched” nature as you can get here.

  3. I never saw a rattlesnake on my visit to the island. Was nearly eaten alive by a ravenous swarm of mosquitoes though. I have never been attacked quite like that before. You could actually see a cloud coming at you. I tried to run, but unlike the crabs, I did not make it.

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