Florida Gulf Coast osprey

Exploring the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail

Location of Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island State Park

Click map to enlarge

You will find Honeymoon Island State Park on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida. It is just north of Clearwater Beach and Caladesi Island, both of which are popular tourist destinations. Honeymoon Island is reachable by car thanks to the Dunedin Causeway, which is a popular weekend destination for boaters, fishermen, and those who enjoy a more casual beach experience. The park has a manned entrance gate with a required entry fee of 4-8 dollars depending on the number of people in your car.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Center

Honeymoon Island Nature CenterAny trip to the Honeymoon Island State Park nature trail should begin at the nature center. While the nature center is not at the trailhead, it will give you an idea of what you might find on the island. The rangers are always willing to help, and will answer any questions you have. Mangrove shores Honeymoon IslandYou will find books on the area, dioramas of island wildlife, kid-friendly displays they are allowed to touch, interactive videos, and a display on the island’s history. Outside is an observation deck that overlooks the shallows of St Joseph Sound where you can often observe Honeymoon Island ospreys diving for fish.

 

Honeymoon Island Loop Trail

Honeymoon Island nature trailThe Honeymoon Island nature trail is a 2.5 mile loop, which runs the length of the island’s pine forest. Honeymoon Island has two peninsulas that reach northward. The western arm is mostly beach, while the eastern stretch is forested, with shores covered by mangrove trees. The stretch of water between the two peninsulas is called Pelican Cove. The looping nature trail, which is on the eastern arm of the island, has a number of connectors, allowing hikers to shorten their hike by making smaller loops. Although you will walk through a forested area, the trail will also have lots of sun, so be sure to bring your hat and perhaps some sunscreen. The surface of the trail is sand, sometimes covered with grass or pine needles, but sometimes not. Be sure to use footwear that goes well with soft, sandy terrain. Keep an eye out for the small signs along the nature trail that give you information on island features.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Foliage

Honeymoon Island slash pineThe most prominent plants you will find on the Honeymoon Island nature trail are the tall slash pines. You will also see them as the barren dead trees where the ospreys like to build their nests. The other common trees are palms and mangroves, a staple plants for the Florida Gulf Coast. In the past, the island appeared somewhat dry, with stretches of low foliage where you could see hikers on the other side of the loop trail. Cactus flower FloridaAfter the island received a prescribed burn a few years ago, the plants filled in the spaces that were previously empty. Now a host of the new slash pines are growing, which is one of the main purposes behind prescribed burns. In addition to the trees you will see a seemingly endless variety of other plants, many of them with flowers. During the spring you will also see the prickly pear cacti in bloom.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Wildlife

Florida osprey nestThe most popular feature on the Honeymoon Island Nature Trail are the ospreys. These fishing hawks are expert at catching their meals out on the Gulf of Mexico, in St Joseph Sound, and in Honeymoon Island’s Pelican Cove. You will often see them flying back to their enormous nests with fish in their claws. The grand nests are easy to see because the ospreys most often build them in dead trees. Joining the ospreys on Honeymoon Island are breeding pairs of bald eagles and great horned owls. These latter two, however, are not as easy to spot as the abundant ospreys. Gopher tortoise on Honeymoon IslandIn addition to many types of birds on the island, you will also come across the gopher tortoise, an island inhabitant that is also popular with visitors. Some of the tortoises will make hasty retreats into the island brush while others will calmly watch you walk by. The tortoises and the birds mentioned above are not the only natural inhabitants, so keep your eyes peeled and you will surely discover more wildlife along the Honeymoon Island nature trail.

 

Honeymoon Island Nature Trail Amenities

Picnic area Honeymoon Island State ParkAt the head of the Honeymoon Island nature trail you will find a number of helpful amenities. A small park sits next to a parking lot that never seems to fill up, which is very handy. The small park contains picnic pavilions and a fairly large playground for the kids. You will find a restroom across from the parking lot which also happens to be next to the western trail head of the looping nature trail. If you turn right on path behind the restroom, you will be heading onto the nature trail. If you take the path to the left, it will take you to the famous Honeymoon Island beach. As for that beach, we will let you know more about the other fantastic features of Honeymoon Island State Park in upcoming blogs.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Suncoast Primate Sanctuary

Gulf Coast Bald Eagles

Clearwater Beach vacation

Spoil Your Vacation at Clearwater Beach

Defining Spoiled

The word spoil has a list of different definitions. While they all follow a common theme, they are not all alike.

The common modern usage of the word spoil means to ruin or degrade, such as

  • 1. A spoiled child, 2. Spoiled fruit, 3. Spoiled plans.

The word spoil comes from an older usage however, originating in the days of attacking and looting cities. It means to loot the valuables from a location, such as a city or town. It is synonymous to despoil, as in

  • 1. Spoils of war, 2. A spoiled city, 3 spoiling enemy villages
great blue heron

Great blue heron on a spoil pile

Another definition comes from the byproducts of construction or mining. Waste materials created from drilling or digging are called spoil. An example would be spoils from a basement excavation being used for landscaping.

  • 1. A large spoil pile

So what does all of that have to do with a Clearwater Beach vacation? Let’s see!

 

Pirate Spoils at Clearwater Beach

Pirate ship

Captain Memo Pirate Cruise

Did you know the Florida Gulf Coast has a pirate history? It’s true. Tampa Bay area is no stranger to pirates. In fact, the modern Gasparilla Invasion celebrates a pirate who sailed the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gasparilla treasure, along with some others, is rumored to be hidden along our shores. Many of those pirate spoils, taken from victories over merchant ships, have never been found! Have they sifted down deeper into the sands of the beach? Has the landscape shifted and put the pirate spoils under waters of the Gulf of Mexico? While you walk the sands of the beach on your Florida Gulf Coast vacation, will you inadvertently walk several feet above the long lost treasure of pirate spoils? It’s possible! Rumor has it that, after large storms on the Gulf, coins from pirate conquests might wash up on the shore. None of our guests have discovered pirate treasure yet (that we know of), but it is fun to imagine coming across a coin poking out of the sand.

 

Spoil Islands of Clearwater

Spoil island

View from one island to the next

The harbor that runs between the City of Clearwater and Clearwater Beach is very shallow. Navigating a boat through the waters requires staying within the marked channels or having a sonar to check the depth under your boat. The boating channels that run the length of Clearwater Harbor were created in the 1950’s. The waste material from dredging, called spoil, was dumped in piles at regular intervals. The spoil piles collected vegetation and local wildlife quickly, becoming established islands in a very short time. The islands soon became a playgrounds for local boaters, an attraction the islands maintain to this day. The small islands, wrapped in shallow vegetation or covered with small forests of pines, palms, or oaks, are open to boaters and campers. The spoil islands are property of the State of Florida that has no plans to develop the islands or charge for their use. The islands make great stopovers while cruising the waters of the harbor on a motor boat, kayak, or paddle board. They are great places to relax or walk the shore.  Taking a picnic basket or beach chairs to the islands is a popular past time for those who know this local secret. If you are planning on boating the harbor on your Clearwater Beach vacation, be sure to check them out!

 

Go ahead and spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation

Clearwater BeachWhen we say spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation, we are talking about having fun.

Walking our shores under the Florida sun, you can imagine our pirate history. Is there a pirate chest of gold somewhere beneath your feet? Are the spoils of a pirate raid buried under your vacation rental unit? Will you find pirate gold underneath a seashell on the beach?

While boating our beautiful turquoise harbors, look to one of the tiny spoil islands. The small islands are usually empty, ready for you to land and claim the territory for your own –at least for a little while. Occupying your own island for a few hours of your vacation might give you some fun vacation memories for you to treasure.

So go ahead. It’s okay. Have some fun and spoil your Clearwater Beach vacation.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

How to Successfully Use Vacation to Relieve Stress

What Is a Causeway?

What Is a Beach Villa?

 

Florida Gulf Coast beach

Ever Changing Sands of the Florida Gulf Coast

Beaches on the move

Clearwater Beach dunes and beachThe beaches along the Florida Gulf Coast are among the best loved beaches in America. The soft white sand is soothing to the feet and glows brightly in the sunshine. The pleasant nature of the sand makes the beaches famous, and the area has become a favorite vacation destination. What visitors to the area might not realize, however, is how much Mother Nature can move around that soft white sands.

 

Effects of Wind and Sea on the Beach

Kiteboarding Clearwater BeachA visit to the beaches of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida will introduce you to the powdery white sands of which we speak. While pushing  your toes through the sands, your feet will tell you how soft the tiny grains are. Some call it “sugar sand” while others compare it to powder. On a day with higher winds, you might feel the sand gently blowing across your ankles. Over time, this can create a considerable effect. In addition to the wind, the weather patterns create different currents offshore. Over time, the effects of wind and water can significantly change the beach landscape.

 

Mangroves and Sand Dunes on the Florida Gulf Coast

Mangrove shores of the Florida Nature CoastWhile you visit the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, you will notice two things; mangrove trees and sand dunes. Mangrove trees are easy to identify from their sturdy root systems that lift the trees up over the sand or water. These trees help to clean the water while protecting the shoreline from erosion. While a shore of mangrove trees may not be as appealing to some as a wide-open, sandy beach, the trees are an essential part of the Florida coastline. Mangroves can even withstand the powerful forces of hurricanes, protecting inland areas from many of the storms’ effects. Clearwater Beach sand dunesSand dunes may sometimes block the view of the open sand and sea, but they form an irreplaceable function for the beaches. They store sand for times of greater erosion and help to block the flood waters during storm surges. A beach without dunes is far more vulnerable to erosion than one with a healthy dune system. On your Florida vacation, be sure to treat the mangrove forests and the grasses on the sand dunes with the respect they deserve.

 

History of Shifting Sands on the Florida Gulf Coast

Johns Pass

Johns PassThe most famous story of our changing shoreline comes from a location known as John’s Pass, currently a fun tourist day trip destination. However, the popular boating route and tourist stop of John’s Pass did not always exist. The barrier islands along the coast of what is now Pinellas County continued uninterrupted past the present day channel. According to local history, a storm in 1848 washed away the sands and left an opening in the barrier islands, connecting the Gulf of Mexico and the intra-coastal waterway. The passage is now an essential route for boaters that includes a large drawbridge. Waterfront dining and shops have capitalized on the location, which is a plus for tourists to the Central Gulf Coast.

Dunedin Pass

Clearwater Beach to Caladesi IslandThe second, well-known change in the shoreline was started in 1921 by a hurricane. The water channel known as Dunedin Pass was altered by the storm, and in combination with other forces, caused the sand bar at the north end of Clearwater Beach to migrate northward until the pass closed. It is now possible to walk from Clearwater Beach to Caladesi Island, although locals have not allowed Caladesi’s status as an independent island to fade.

Three Rooker Bar

sand barAnother unique feature of the local coastal landscape shaped by tidal forces is Three Rooker Bar. This land feature began as a sand bar but now is a tiny island supporting both plant and animal life. Thanks to the quickly changing landscape of Three Rooker Bar, you will find it listed online as both an island and a sand bar, depending on where you look. If the forces that made the sand bar continue, not only will the title of island remain, but the island will continue to grow in size.

 

Florida Gulf Coast has a Tradition of Change

Hurricane Pass Dunedin FloridaThe beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast have a tradition of change. While mankind can and does have an effect on preserving beaches, the landscape will continue to shift. You can experience this process for yourself by visiting the channel that runs between Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island. This passage owes its existence to the hurricane of 1921, thus giving it the name Hurricane Pass. You will find long spits of soft, white sand reaching out toward the passage from both islands. You will also see large, areas of sand just beneath the surface, many of which you can walk on during low tides. If you are lucky enough to return to the beaches year after year, you will notice a marked change at Hurricane Pass. The sands on either side of the boating channel are in constant flux. The shape of the beaches changes visibly, while the sand bars move from one location to another.

 

Gulf Coast Beaches

Palm shadows on the beachYour beach holiday on the shores of Florida’s West Coast will surely be amazing. The beaches are renowned for their soft white sands and wonderful weather. You can choose between a manicured public beach or the wild shores of the less-visited barrier islands. In fact, you can visit both during the same day! Keep in mind that the beaches you walk upon might appear the way they do just for you, right at that moment. The next time you visit, you can then see if you recognize the subtle changes in our beaches. Finding the differences can be entertaining so be sure to bring your camera. It might be fun to add the changing sands of the Central Gulf Coast to the list of beautiful sights you will see on your Florida vacation.

 

 

Dragon sand sculpture

The Amazing Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival at Clearwater Beach

Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival 2014

TSugar Sand Festival sculpturehe Sugar Sand Festival made its second appearance at Clearwater Beach this April. The show ran from April 5th through the 13th. A large tent went up long before the event opened, getting the folks at the beach a heads up the festival was coming. The artisans got busy sculpting, all with the show’s theme in mind. This year, cinema was the theme, with the title of “Beach Walk of Fame.” Inside the tent, sculpted figures from Hollywood history were found along a ribbon of film also crafted from sand. Visitors viewed images from the very beginning of cinema, like Charlie Chaplin, through the most recent movies, including Dolphin Tale.

 

Sugar Sand Festival Extras

Sand sofas at beach restaurantThe sand sculptures were at the heart of the event, but surrounding the tent were a host of additional activities that had the beach buzzing with activity. Sand artists held special shows and contests for beach visitors, including speed sculpting. Directly surrounding the tent were a number of other fun attractions. The Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa, one of the event sponsors, had a kid’s sand sculpting area, complete with umbrellas and chairs for the parents. Frenchy’s restaurant hosted a “Sand Bar” right on the beach, with a fenced off area set up as pub. Area restaurants sponsored a restaurant setting behind the show tent with sand sculpted sofas for restaurant guests, with the sand sofas right on the beach. The attractions surrounding the tent were a success, with plenty of attendees joining into the extra fun.

 

Sugar Sand Festival Pier 60 Entertainment

Pier 60 Sugar Sand FestivalPier 60 is a Clearwater Beach attraction every evening, two hours before and after sunset. For the Sugar Sand Festival, however, the vendors and street performers showed up every day, all day long. The usual Pier 60 fun was in overdrive. Clearwater Beach visitors were treated to non-stop entertainment. The pier was lined with vendors selling every manner of souvenir, while the street performers spread across a wider area than usual to accommodate the extra visitors. With a larger amount of people at the beach for the festival, Pier 60 was a hub of activity.

 

A Successful Clearwater Beach Sugar Sand Festival

Sand sculpture Willows in the WindIf the number of visitors to Clearwater Beach last week was any indication, then the 2014 Sugar Sand Festival was a success. The beach enjoyed lively crowds and, each time we checked in, the Pier 60 shows were running. The line leading into the sand sculpture tent enjoyed a constant flow. If you are considering a Clearwater Beach vacation, be sure to check this one out for 2015. Judging by the turnout for this one, the Clearwater Beach Pier 60 Sugar Sand Festival will back again next year.

Bugs Bunny sand sculptureOther blogs you might enjoy:

Ultimate Tourist Attraction at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Dunedin Celtic Music and Craft Beer Festival

 

Clearwater Beach dolphin sculpture

Explore the Gulf Coast Dolphin Trail

Dolphin Sculptures at Pier 60 Clearwater Beach

Dolphins sculpture Clearwater BeachOn your Clearwater Beach vacation you will surely notice a host of painted dolphin sculptures prominently displayed along roadways, on sidewalks, and in storefronts. The dolphins are a project created by Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, the City of Clearwater, and the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The display was kicked off in the fall of 2012 with a display of 50 dolphins lining the sidewalk in front of Pier 60. According to VisitClearwaterFlorida.com, the region now boasts over a hundred of the sculptures.

 

Decorated Dolphins at the Beach

Clearwater Beach Marina dolphins sculptureEach dolphin sculpture is painted and decorated in its own unique way. Before displaying the dolphns, the participating businesses most often paint their dolphins to match the business, or to say something about what they do. You will find the dolphins placed at local shop fronts, usually right outside the entrance. If you peek at the bottoms you might see wheels used to roll the dolphins inside at night. The designs are endless and are almost always bright and colorful.

 

Gulf Coast Dolphin Sculpture Tour

Pier 60 Clearwater Beach sculptureYou can join in the fun of the dolphin sculptures right here on our part of the Florida Gulf Coast by following what is known as the Dolphin Trail. While there doesn’t seem to be any official pathway to follow, the starting point is at Pier 60 where you will find a metal wire sculpture of three dolphins, right in front of Pier 60. From there it is up to you whether you head north, east or south. Whichever direction you chose, you will quickly find dolphin sculptures along the way. According to the dolphin sculpture maps, the island of Clearwater Beach has 22 of the dolphin sculptures. To the north, the shops along Mandalay Avenue have quite a few, while to the south you can find many more of the dolphins on a leisurely stroll along Beach Walk. You can also cross the bridge that takes you off of Clearwater Beach to find a good number of sculptures along Cleveland Avenue in the City of Clearwater. Dolphin sculpture Clearwater FloridaFor the adventurous, there are many more dolphin sculptures across the entire peninsula of Pinellas County. It’s up to you how far you want to go.  Whether you follow the dolphin trail or you simply discover the dolphins on your adventures at the beach, take a moment or two to admire the designs on these unique, regional works of art. Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, and the surrounding Florida Gulf Coast communities are quite proud of their dolphins.

Dolphin sculptures unveiled YouTube video

Dolphin sculpture artists YouTube video

 

Other posts you might like:

Pinellas Trail Bicycle and Walking Path

Dinosaur World

Secret Caladesi Island Shell Tree

 

 

Strange Florida news

Weird Florida News Right Here in Clearwater

Weird Florida News

Florida map of Pinellas CountySometimes a news story comes out of the state of Florida that sounds a little odd. Strange news from Florida includes the legends of the chupacabra and the skunk ape monsters, the house made of bowling balls, the drive-in church, and more. Then of course comes the crazier variety like the woman arrested after throwing her husband’s chicken into the pool, or the man who attempted robbery with a tomahawk.  Yes, we citizens of Florida smirk at these too. However, a while back we noticed our own local slice of bizarre Florida, not all that far from Clearwater Beach. While we won’t be disclosing the exact location, we took pictures of the strange occurrence we found.

 

Local Piece of Weird Florida

Guinea Pig and Marsh RabbitA common variety of rabbit living in Florida is the marsh rabbit. These rabbits are most often seen at dusk, and almost always next to areas of tall grass, where they like to make their homes. They frequent marshes where the abundant undergrowth makes perfect homes for them. Within the stiff grasses that grow along the water, the small-eared rabbits create pathways that look a lot like tunnels. While there is nothing surprising about finding marsh rabbits in Florida, this time we found something else. Living in perfect harmony with the wild rabbits was a Guinea pig! He huddled next to the rabbits and foraged alongside of them. The rabbits had clearly accepted the Guinea pig as part of their community.

The animal was well-known to local residents who said the Guinea pig had lived among the rabbits for quite some time. Apparently, each evening at sunset, when the rabbits come out to forage, the small Clearwater, Florida resident draws a small crowd of onlookers.

Other posts you might enjoy:

Where the Heck is Pinellas County and Why Should I Care?

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Gulf Coast Local Big Bird Secret

 

Perfect vacation rental

9 Need to Know Differences between Hotels and Vacation Rentals

Towels and Linens at a Vacation Rental VS a Hotel

Vacation rental king size bedHotels and vacation rentals handle linens and towels very differently. In a hotel, you can get new towels and linens either every day or on the schedule you request. At a vacation rental, your towels and linens are there for the duration of your stay. The perk you will usually get at a vacation rental is an in-unit washer and dryer for your laundry. That is great for week long stays where you are visiting the beach often. It also means, however, that you will be washing the sheets and towels on your own. While an on-call towel service is nice, so is having your own washer and dryer for your one week to one month vacation accommodations.

 

Daily Cleaning at a Hotel Vs a Vacation Rental

Clearwater Beach hotelsHotels will clean your room each day if you let them, while vacation rentals leave that task up to you. The pros and cons are pretty easy to imagine. With a hotel, you get the cleaning done for you. In a vacation rental, you do the cleanup, but, in exchange, the space is yours without interruptions. That means leaving your personal belongings lying around in a vacation rental might feel more comfortable.

 

Staffing at a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

vacation hotelYour vacation rental staff is always willing to help you out but they are not onsite like a hotel. Help in a hotel is usually right downstairs in the lobby. For a vacation rental, the staff is in an office somewhere in town. While vacation rental offices (like ours) will respond to your call 24hrs a day, it might require a longer period of time to arrive than a hotel, based simply on distance. You might want to choose your vacation rental office based on office location, by the way. A remote office will be less capable of helping you than one closer by.

 

Hotel Check in VS Vacation Rental Deposit

Check in for vacation rentalVacation rentals and hotels operate differently regarding check in. Hotels will take your credit card number to secure your reservation and you pay for your room when you arrive. Vacation rentals most often take a deposit at the time of booking and the remainder upon arrival. This is where researching your vacation rental company becomes a good idea. Are they members of BBB? Are there reviews of at least some of their properties? See our blog on vacation rental scams for more information on how you might protect yourself.

 

Hotel Common Spaces VS Vacation Rental Properties

vacation rental with poolHotel and vacation rental grounds differ considerably. A hotel will always have common areas such as the lobby, rec rooms, restaurants, pools, and so on. A vacation home or vacation cottage, on the other hand, will often have yards that are yours to use. Rather than a balcony, many vacation homes will have patios. If you enjoy luxury accommodations and settings, a hotel is probably your style. If you are looking for spaces to call your own, a vacation home or vacation cottage might be the way to go.

 

Noise and Privacy in a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

vacation rental spacesIt is easy to guess who comes out on top when comparing noise and privacy between hotels and vacation rentals. Despite the numerous pleasures of a hotel, they are meeting places for larger numbers of people than you will encounter at private residences. This is true even with beach vacation condos. The choice here is between a more dynamic hotel atmosphere and the quieter spaces of a vacation rental.

 

Hotel and Vacation Rental Age Requirements

Clearwater BeachThe difference in age requirements between vacation rentals and hotels is slight, but very important. While most hotels will allow 21 and up to book, the age is higher in most vacation rentals. Our requirement is 25 and up. Anyone who has gone to Florida during Spring Break will understand why that rule is in place. We do apologize to our college friends.

 

Hotel Dining VS Vacation Rental Dining

vacation diningMealtime at a vacation rental is a very different affair than at a hotel. Hotels rooms without kitchenettes offer very few options outside of ordering a pizza or going out on the town. At a vacation rental, how you eat your meals is completely up to you. Vacation rental properties will always have some sort of kitchen, even if it is a kitchenette. Vacation homes and vacation condos will usually have full kitchens, just like at home. Leave the pots and pans at home as these kitchens are stocked with at least the standard complement of kitchenware. If you want a kitchen, look for hotels with condo-style suites, or book your vacation in a vacation home, cottage, or condo.

 

Length of Stay at a Hotel VS a Vacation Rental

Clearwater Beach sunsetHotels will accept accommodations for one night while vacation rentals are intended for longer stays. Ordinarily, a vacation rental will limit the minimum stay to seven days, while some condominium associations will hold vacation rentals to one month minimums only. The plus side to this, of course, is that longer-term vacation rentals will often prove to be the better value for per night costs.

 

Other blog posts you might enjoy:

What Is a Beach Villa?

Regatta

How to Prepare for Florida Gulf Coast Beaches

 

 

Caladesi Island

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

Barrier Islands of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Off the Pinellas County shorelines of the Florida Gulf Coast are a series of barrier islands. It is very likely you know the names of some of them, like Clearwater Beach, or Honeymoon Island. We’ll break them all down for you, so that you too can be an expert on the barrier islands of our area. We’ll start in the north off the shores of Tarpon Springs and head south past Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Belleair, Largo, Seminole, Gulfport, St Petersburg, and beyond. Once you are a barrier island expert, you will be able plan your Gulf Coast vacation trek up and down our shoreline with much keener insight.

 

Anclote Key

Anclote Key barrier island lighthouse

Anclote Key lighthouse

Anclote Key Preserve State Park is directly off shore of the mouth of the Anclote River, the waterway that runs past the tourist destination of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. You can depart from those docks on a tour boat that will take you to Anclote Key, where you can walk the shores, view the historic light house, or just spend some time on one of Florida’s best natural beaches. You will find lots of driftwood and seashells on this island, since it can only be reached by boat.

 

Three Rooker Island

Gulf Coast ShoresThree Rooker Island is one step up from a very large sand bar. This tiny barrier island is a favorite hangout spot for boaters. You can only get to the bar by boat and anchoring off its shores is a great way to spend the afternoon. The shores of the small key are the soft, powdery white sand for which the Florida Gulf Coast is famous. Swim from your boat or from the shore. On a walk down the beach in ankle deep water you might be able go from one end to the other of the two mile stretch of Three Rooker Island.

 

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island, Florida

Honeymoon Island sunset

Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the most famous of the barrier islands along our coastline. It has long stretches of white sand beaches, a concession stand, lots of parking, a dog beach, nature center, playground, and nature trail. It is also where you catch the ferry to neighboring Caladesi Island to the south. The island is a great place to beachcomb for shells. You can also see nesting ospreys, bald eagles, and great horned owls, or perhaps one of the burrowing gopher tortoises. On a trip to Honeymoon Island you can choose the type of adventure you want to have. In fact, you will have to, because the Honeymoon Island is too large to see all in one day.

 

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island is just north of Clearwater Beach. You can even walk to the island from the south, because a storm some decades ago filled in the opening between the two islands. Of course, you can skip the long walk by taking the ferry from Honeymoon Island. Caladesi Island is known for its pristine white sand beaches. You will feel as if you are in the wilds when you walk along its northern shores. You can also view plenty of Florida birds that use the island for nesting. This famous retreat belongs on your must-see list for your Florida Gulf Coast vacation. Caladesi Island is one of our best.

 

Clearwater Beach Island

Clearwater BeachThe most famous of all the barrier islands along our coast is Clearwater Beach Island. It was formerly known as Tate’s Island, named after a family that lived on the island when the area was first settled. Clearwater Beach became the tourist destination we know today after the bridge was built from the city of Clearwater. Clearwater Beach has more tourist attractions than you can shake a stick at, including the famous Pier 60 nightly sunset festival, and the nearby home of Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies. With its beautiful white sand beaches and multiple attractions, Clearwater Beach makes a perfect base of operations for a Florida Gulf Coast vacation.

 

Sand Key – Sand Key Beach to Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach, Florida

Madeira Beach, Florida

The long barrier islands of Sand Key starts just south of Clearwater Beach. It extends down through some great beach communities until it ends at John’s Pass, which is one of the best tourist destinations in the region. To the south of Sand Key Beach is Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, and Madeira Beach. The beach communities on Sand Key are some of the calmest of our region of the Gulf Coast, perfect for family vacations. You should definitely check into the many diners along the scenic drive down the length of Sand Key.

 

Treasure Island

Treasure Island BeachTreasure Island has one of the widest swaths of sand on the entire chain of barrier islands. This is a good location to look into local festivals. The beach makes a perfect location for large events, which is exactly what they do on Treasure Island. The bridge heading east from Treasure Island leads into Seminole, Gulfport, and St Petersburg, which is why this is a good location to find restaurants, pubs, and gift shops. Treasure Island is one of the barrier islands along our coast you will want to keep your eye on.

 

Long Key – St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach

Long KeyLong Key is the last of the residential barrier islands on the strip. You will find St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach here. St Pete Beach is one of the more developed tourist districts in the area. You will find plenty of dining and entertainment in the area. It is also a great place for family vacations. Pass A Grille Beach has the distinction of being the most southern beach community on our coast, with plenty of Florida charm.

 

Mullet Key and Shell Key Preserve

Fort Desoto ParkMullet Key is home to famous Fort Desoto Park. The interior waters are shallow and calm, thanks to the islands’ horseshoe shape, making a great place for boating. The park is rich with history, and beautiful white beaches. It is a fantastic destination for a family beach day, complete with shaded picnic areas and shallow wading areas. Shell Key Preserve is just north of Fort Desoto. It is a preserve for local wildlife, especially a large number of local birds, who nest and rear their young there. Shell Key is a great place for boaters and birdwatchers.

 

Egmont Key

Snorkeling FloridaEgmont Key State Park sits at the entrance to Tampa Bay. The lighthouse has been used in times of peace and war since 1858. Ruins of Fort Dade, from the same era as Fort Desoto, can be found on the island. Be aware, however, that access to the southern end of the key is limited because of the shore bird refuge there. The island is reachable only by boat. Once there, you can fish, picnic, swim, hike, or tour the ruins. It one of the most difficult to reach islands listed here, but Egmont Key is definitely worth visiting.

 

Other blog posts you might like:

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Aerial of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island

 

Florida waterways

Never Confuse a Bayou with a Backwater Again

Need to Know Info for your Florida Vacation

Florida wildflowerPlanning a Florida vacation? You might want to be able to talk to the natives on their own terms. What terms are we talking about? Florida is known for its greenery and flowers. In fact, the word Florida comes from the Spanish word for flowers or flowery. The way Florida gets its lush plants and flowers is from water. Florida has an abundant level of rainfall as well as a good number of rivers, lakes, and inlets from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. If you want to chat with the local Floridians about the terrain and waterways, here are few words you might want to know.

 

Bayou

Sutherland Bayou, Palm Harbor, FLA slow moving offshoot of a river, lake or other body of water. Often home to volumes of plant life and animals, and having indistinct banks. Often will flow both directions due to ocean tides. You will want to know this word so you don’t accidentally confuse it with the very similar waterway known as a backwater. Nothing puts egg on your face faster than calling some backwater a bayou. And you don’t want to call someone’s bayou a backwater either. Seriously. A bayou will not have much water flow but should take you easily back out to the river or bay to which it is connected. Plenty of them are undeveloped while others have very upscale communities surrounding them.

 

Backwater

Florida backwaterAn out of the way side channel with little flow of water, or an obstructed flow of water. While you might think you’ve found a bayou, you’ll have to look for obstructions, or a lack of water flow that’s cautiously different from the meandering bayou. A general disregard for the waterway in question will also be apparent in the attitude of the locals. Once you realize you are dealing with a backwater, you no longer need to treat the waterway with respect in conversation. Naturally, you might not want to apply that method to anyone you find living on that particular backwater.

 

Watershed

Florida watershedA place for the natural flow of water to go, especially during heavy rains or during the rainy season. They constitute the natural water system leading to lakes, rivers, the ocean, or to below-ground aquifers. Watersheds are maintained by the state to keep water quality high, and to keep the water flowing where it is wanted, rather than collecting in neighborhoods or other developed areas. You can find watersheds marked on local maps in Florida. Many of them overlap with county parks. You might be able to take long walks in the Florida wilds along park trails while within designated watershed areas. If you do so in the rainy season, you will likely find the low-lying areas have filled with water. This might leave favorite walkways in a muddy condition or actually under water.

 

Swamp

Florida swampsA swamp is low, wet, marshy, woodland area. These can be quite interesting places to visit in Florida. Many Florida parks have raised pathways and boardwalks to keep you dry. A walk in a swamp in Florida will surely take you past the beautiful cypress trees, famous for their wide bases, and the knobs they send up from the ground surrounding the trunk. Florida parksWhile you might think you would never want to visit a swamp, the pathways leading through the cypress groves can be quite beautiful. You might even find yourself strolling along a flowery bayou –or maybe even some backwater somewhere.

 

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Movie star hippopotamus

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

What is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Florida manateeHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is home to a variety of animals native to the state of Florida. The park is home to a many rescued animals, along with its other exhibits. The animals are displayed in open areas which make viewing easy. The park walkways wind among tall trees, providing plenty of shade for Gulf Coast’s warmer days. A bayou extends into the park which is frequented by manatees, one of the park’s main attractions. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park emphasizes natural Florida Manatee at Homosassa Springsand the preservation of native species. It is a worthy stopover on a Gulf Coast vacation, especially for those who want to see manatees, alligators, or other native Florida species. The Homosassa Springs is a great place to spend the afternoon and makes great entertainment for kids.

Where is Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park?

Homosassa Springs boat rideHomosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is located seventy miles north of Clearwater Beach. It is south of Crystal River Preserve State Park and north of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. Crystal River, Homosassa Springs, and Chassahowitzka are all located on the coastline known as the Nature Coast of Florida. The park is situated on a bayou branching off from the Halls River. You will find the park in the community of Homosassa Springs off of Hwy 19 (Suncoast Blvd), or by taking the alternate route on Fishbowl Drive, which is a very scenic back road. An old sugar mill is nearby on the Fishbowl Drive route, for those interested in history. Homosassa Springs FloridaBoth parking areas leads to the same entrance but the large parking area off of Hwy 19 includes an informative and beautiful boat ride over to the parking area on Fishbowl Dr. We recommend the boat ride, because it starts at an interesting info center and gift shop. Plus, on your ferry to the park entrance, you can see the natural Florida environment and a good number of native animals living in the wild. The address of Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is 4150 South Suncoast Blvd., Homosassa, FL 34446.

What to See at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

Homosassa Springs hippoOur first recommendation for things to do at Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is the boat ride to the park entrance. If you miss this ride, you’ve cut out a vital part of the complete experience. You will hear plenty of interesting tidbits from the boat captain as you wind down the slow moving water channel. You might also learn some history, such as the names of famous movies filmed in the area, and about the only non-native animal in the park, Lu the hippopotamus, granted official state citizenship so that he could stay in the park after the end of his Hollywood movie career. You will find gift shops at either end of the boat tour.

Homosassa Springs manateeOnce you enter the park, where you go is up to you. The walkways wind in different directions throughout the park, displaying both native plants and animals. Any walk along the waterway should be done with your eyes alert. You will undoubtedly see manatees swimming in the bayou. Even better is the underwater viewing room where you can see schools of fish and any nearby manatees. Your chances of seeing the large marine mammals is very good, because park rangers feed them at regular intervals from above. You might also find a number of manatees inside of pens on the others side of the waterway, recovering from illness or injury suffered in the wild.

Florida pantherThe park is essentially a zoo, displaying Florida’s native species. You will see just about any bird you can imagine, plus some others. A few of the larger species are egrets, bald eagles, owls, and even turkeys. You can also view of deer, black bears, wolves, cougars, bobcats, alligators, and otters.

While the park has a concession stand, it is also a great place for a picnic. You also won’t want to miss the ice cream stand just past Lu the hippo’s pool. Alligator at Homosassa SpringsThe park makes for a great afternoon on a Florida Gulf Coast vacation and is just over an hour from Clearwater Beach, making it a great outing for the day. If you are going to strike out from the beautiful beaches of the Central Gulf Coast, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is one of the best attractions out there.

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