By Karen McBride
Published in LOLANews
Honeymoon Island has gone through many names over the years since it was first visited by the Tocobaga tribe, who lived in the Tampa Bay area from the 900s into the 1500s. The Indians were known to eat large amounts of shell fish, and this may be one of the reasons they traveled to the island. Spanish explorers, pirates and traders also visited the barrier island. Over the next few centuries the island ‘s name changed from Sand Island to Hog Island in 1880. In 1921, a hurricane split the island creating Caladesi Island and Hurricane Pass.
A New York developer, Clinton Washburn, had a vision for the pristine beach area and named it Honeymoon Island. In 1939, he built 50 palm-thatched bungalows for honeymooners. The beautiful Florida weather and white sandy beaches made it a perfect destination point for the brides and grooms. When the war started and factories were producing goods around the clock, it became a place to relax and unwind for tired workers. In the 1950s, Honeymoon Island was sold to Arthur Vining Davis, then Hyman Green, and eventually the state bought it in the 1970s.
Honeymoon Island is still enjoyed by visitors today. Whether you want to stay on dry land or enjoy the crystal clear water, you can rent bikes, kayaks, umbrellas and even beach chairs at Café Honeymoon. Dog lovers can bring their four legged friends to the dog park, so they can play in the warm Gulf waters.
A ferry from Honeymoon Island can take you to Caladesi Island, a 600-acre oasis that is only accessible by boat. Three miles of beaches and a meandering nature trail make this a nature lovers paradise. Bring a picnic lunch or enjoy eating at Café Caladesi. Restrooms and showers are available for beach goers.
As you walk along the nature trail, you may see a gopher tortoise, osprey, eagles, egrets or maybe even an armadillo. Walk along the shell laden beach or sit on one of the many commemorative benches and enjoy all that nature has to offer.
Just North of Honeymoon Island is Fred Howard Park, named for the former mayor of Tarpon Springs who was elected into office in 1945. Howard was a successful real estate businessman with a passion for the community. He was Commissioner and Vice Chairman of the Pinellas County Park Board for more than 30 years. The 155-acre park first opened in 1966. Howard worked to secure the property for Tarpon Springs residents and people from the surrounding area, to enjoy. A bronze plaque has been placed at the bottom of the flagpole in his honor.
The park has playgrounds and picnic tables in well shaded areas. Along the open causeway you will find people fishing and jet skiing. The causeway then leads to the sandy beach area. Palm trees provide some much needed shade and the gradual slope of the sand into the water make this an ideal place for families with young children. From March through September, lifeguards are on duty from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Automated pay stations have been installed with a fee of $5 per day. Annual parking passes can be purchased for $75 ($55 for people 65 or older).
From the causeway at Howard Park you can see Sunset Beach. Whether you want to sit under a shady palm tree and read a good book or wade in the shallow warm gulf, Sunset Beach is the place for you. Photographers will love the unobstructed view of the sunset as it melts into the horizon. Picnic tables, bicycle racks, boat ramps and facilities are available. Concerts are held on the first Thursday of each month at 7 pm. De Lei’ed Parrots (Parrot Head Music) will be performing on June 7th. and The Relics (Classic Rock) in August. Music on the Beach hosts a variety of genre. Past entertainers include Time Bandits (Classic Rock), Evergreen (Traditional Irish Music), Tarpon Springs High School Jazz Ensemble and Slick side (Classic R&B).