Prior to the Hurricane of 1921, Honeymoon Island and nearby Caladesi Island were one large island known as Hog Island. The hurricane split the island in half and created Hurricane Pass.
Before Europeans arrived in the Americas, Native Americans of the Tocobaga tribe inhabited the island. These people harvested the abundant sea life from the surrounding waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
In the late 1930s, a businessman named Clinton Washburn purchased the island. While lunching with a friend who was the editor of Life magazine, he made the comment that the island would make a wonderful site for a honeymoon. The Life editor ran the story and Honeymoon Island was born.
Fifty honeymoon cottages were constructed, and on May 8, 1940, the first honeymooners arrived. In all, 164 couples took part in Washburn’s grand idea. This did not last long. After the start of World War II, the island was leased to an Ohio defense contractor for a rest and relaxation site for his employees.
The northern end of the island was used by a local defense contractor to test an amphibious vehicle they were building for the war effort.
After the war, the cottages fell into disrepair. In the 1960s, a developer purchased the island. His plan was to make the 200-acre island 3,000 acres by pumping in fill from the Gulf of Mexico. He would then build 4,500 residential units along waterfront canals. In total, there would be housing for 16,000 residents. The dredging did not go well. Much of the material that was pumped on to the island was rock.
In 1969 the dredging permit expired and because of the efforts of local environmentalists the permit was never renewed.
In 1974, the state of Florida purchased 113 acres of the island. Over the next six years, Florida purchased the remaining parcels of land on the island, and on Dec. 7, 1981, Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area was created.
Honeymoon Island’s diverse natural habitat plays host to a variety of plants and animals. The beach is home to many resting shorebirds. Black skimmers, American oystercatchers, plovers and terns spend their time feeding and resting on the islands. Several of these birds nest on the island. Loggerhead and green sea turtles also nest on the island.
A hike along the Osprey Trail takes you along a slash pine forest where some of the trees are almost 200 years old. Along the trail you may spot bald eagles, osprey and great horned owls that nest on the island during winter and spring. A large population of gopher tortoises inhabit the island as well as several species of snakes including the Eastern diamondback rattlesnake.
Since it became a state park, staff and volunteers have removed hundreds of thousands of invasive exotic plants. Staff also conduct prescribed fires in the park. The removal of invasive exotic plants and prescribed fires help maintain healthy natural communities.