Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Honeymoon Island's irresistible appeal keeps it Florida's most visited park


With waves crashing into the rocks on the shore of Honeymoon Island, spilling the gulf's spray at her feet, and with wind kicking sand into the air, Rita Fowler stood stone-still.

Facing a storm on the horizon, her hands remained folded.

She explained her serenity amid Tuesday afternoon's looming thunderstorm: "It looks beautiful," she said, watching the waves. "It's gorgeous."

The Pennsylvania native was one of many snowbirds out on the island, which has once again been ranked as the most visited state park in Florida.

The park received about 1 million visitors in 2010, according to numbers released this week by Audubon of Florida. Sebastian Inlet was the second most-visited state park, with attendance totaling about 750,000.

Honeymoon Island has a reputation for its relatively untouched environment. A state park since 1982, it receives many visitors for its shelling opportunities and wildlife, including a trail that features 26 osprey nests and a 185-year-old pine tree.

Park manager Peter Krulder says its natural beauty provides an escape from densely populated Pinellas County. As much as he points toward the natural sights of the park, he isn't lost on the romance in the island's name.

"It's a great place to walk down the beach with your guy or girl," he said.

This is the fourth consecutive year that the park has garnered the state's top attendance, Krulder said.

Bruce Turnbull, 91, of Michigan has been visiting the Tampa Bay area for 30 years and counts Honeymoon Island among his favorite spots.

"I like it here better than downtown because it's so crowded there," he said, sitting on a beachside bench swing.

Minnesota native Pam Hamilton, 53, prefers the gulf's winter waters to her home's negative temperatures.

"I'd go in," she said, looking out at the beach.

Audubon of Florida compiled attendance figures provided by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Eric Draper, the group's executive director, said the numbers show that the state would be wise to invest in its natural attractions.

"Our state parks are really part of the economic interest of the state of Florida," he said, noting the prevalence of winter vacationers.

For snowbirds like Fowler, a blustery day on the beach means a welcome dose of solitude that beats the alternative.

"I'm overwhelmed," she said. "I love the wind."

Fast facts

Florida's 10 most popular state parks in 2010.

1. Honeymoon Island 1,043,336
2. Sebastian Inlet 749,407
3. Lovers Key 731,242
4. Gasparilla Island 716,625
5. Bill Baggs Cape Florida 710,282
6. St. Andrews 683,201
7. John Pennekamp Coral Reef 678,952
8. Anastasia 610,057
9. Blue Spring 559,369
10. Bahia Honda 495,653

Audubon of Florida

Honeymoon Island's irresistible appeal keeps it Florida's most visited park 01/26/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 31, 2011 2:58pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lutz driver dead after crash with semi on Dale Mabry Highway


    LUTZ — A 68-year-old driver died Saturday night in a crash with a semitrailer truck on Dale Mabry Highway, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  2. Toddler, 1, drowns in spa at birthday party in Trinity


    TRINITY — A toddler drowned at a birthday party Saturday evening and died at the hospital, authorities say, after his parents found him in a spa.

  3. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  4. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  5. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.