Honeymoon and Caladesi Islands

By DALIA WHEATT, Times Staff Writers
Published September 30, 2007

Geography: Honeymoon Island boasts about 4.5 miles of beach, while Caladesi's beach, accessible from Honeymoon by ferry, stretches 3 miles. Although you'll pass a handful of condos en route to Honeymoon Island, once you set foot in the park, you'll feel a world away. Enjoy shelling, kayak through the mangroves, fish for snook or spot wildlife along the Osprey Trail. Just keep your eyes peeled for the occasional rattlesnake.

A little history: Originally inhabited by the pre-Columbian Tocobagan tribe, the area first appeared on maps in the 1830s, as Sand Island and, in the 1880s, Hog Island. A 1921 hurricane split the island into Hurricane Pass and Casladesi Island. In the early 1940s, LIFE magazine advertised the area's climate and bungalows as the perfect getaway for newlyweds, rebranding it Honeymoon Island. For more history and a gorgeous view of the St. Joseph Sound, visit the pine-walled Rotary Centennial Nature Center.

The beach: The islands take a hard-core stance on protecting osprey, great horned owls and other wildlife, so mind the "keep off" signs. Accessible only by boat or a $9 Caladesi Connection ferry ride, Caladesi Island's remoteness makes it fairly quiet, despite being ranked the second-best natural beach in the country by Stephen P. Leatherman, a.k.a. Dr. Beach. Honeymoon Island's beach has 10 access points, while Caladesi's has two.

Amenities: The beaches' lack of amenities are what keep them so charmingly low-key. Cafe Honeymoon offers fast food, fishing supplies and sunscreen, as does the concession shop on Caladesi Island. For a fee, you may reserve a picnic pavilion. There are also several bath houses at each beach.

Some drawbacks: For starters, entry to Honeymoon Island costs $5 per car (for up to eight people; single occupant fee is $3). The ferry ride to Caladesi Island takes about 20 minutes and costs $9 per adult and $5.50 per child over age 4. No animals are allowed on the ferry. And if burgers, fish and chips and chicken fingers aren't your idea of beach fare, then pack a cooler.

Parking: Honeymoon Island has 1,879 parking spaces; there is no extra fee or meters after your enter the park. There's no parking at Caladesi.

Bottom line: Cherished by local sunbathers and pet owners, Honeymoon and Caladesi islands are prime locations for out-of-the-way relaxing.