A state park loved by the community
The rich history of Honeymoon Island starts before colonization in the America’s where a local Native American tribe, the Tocobago, occupied the island surviving off its abundant sea-life and the coastal resources. The Tocobago tribe’s history holds some mystery as their disappearance or migration out of the area is yet to be discovered. According to the local Dunedin History Museum’s curator David Knupp, it is inferred that the tribes were either killed off by neighboring rival tribes or were victims of outside diseases brought in by the Spanish.
In the early 20th century, the connection of land that is now Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island formerly known as Hog Island was split in 1921 after a hurricane passed through creating two separate landmasses. Towards the end of the 1930s, a businessman by the name Clinton Washburn bought the land and noted during a lunch date at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York with a friend that it would be an excellent location for a Honeymoon. Washburn’s friend, Joseph Bryce, was the Life Magazine editor at the time and ran the story and Honeymoon Island was born.
Honeymoon Island (known as isle) was open to selected honeymoon guests on March 10, 1940. Honeymoon Village, on the island, consists of fifty thatched cottages, a king's palace, recreational hall with a dance pavilion, a chapel, water tower, and a community house with toilets, showers, and lavatories. Honeymoon Isle was approximately three miles in length and had an area of 335 acres. The Village welcomed 164 couples but due to the start of World War II, the island was leased to an Ohio defense contractor as a temporary vacation site for overtime employees where the northern part of the island was used to test amphibious vehicles to possibly use in the war effort by the Unties States Marine Corps. The director of the Dunedin History Museum Vincent (Vinnie) Luisi credits the demise of Honeymoon Isle to two factors: World War II and government caution. Given the hostility between the United States and Japan in World War II, the government was worried that Japanese spies might enter through the island and use it as spying grounds.
After the war, the beloved destination for newlyweds was in shambles after its military use. The land was purchased in 1956 by Arthur Vining Davis and sold again in 1958 to Robert E. Lee representing Curlew Properties Inc. It was proposed that the company would build a toll- free causeway from Curlew Road to the Island in exchange for a city permit to dredge and fill the island to expended its land surface to build residential units. However, in 1969 with a lack of progress, the permit expired and the land was bought by the state in 1974 to turn the island into the Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area in 1981.
Today the state park offers locals and tourist beloved amenities such as a three-mile-long nature trail for bicycling and hiking. As well as excellent opportunities for bird watching featuring eagles, ospreys, owls. Additionally, its coastal location offers swimming, fishing, shelling, and access to a dog beach for all to enjoy.