Yesterday was cool, windy and rainy, so all we did was chow down at our resort’s big Sunday brunch buffet, then spend the afternoon reading and napping. Dinner was left-overs from our Cuban Restaurant dinner the night before. No question—we nailed our goal of relaxation.
So, today we had to get moving. We donned our bike shorts and headed for the Pinellas Trail, which runs for 47 miles from Tarpon Springs to St. Petersburg. Still in relaxation and rehab mode, we only did a tiny piece of the trail in Dunedin, then took a spur that ran along a lengthy causeway and across a bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway to get to Honeymoon Island, site of the largest undeveloped beach and dune system left on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Like so much of Florida, Honeymoon Island had humble origins until an enterprising developer re-imaged it as a tourist magnet. It was originally called Hog Island--home to a bunch of wild pigs, plus some domestic pigs that a local hotelier raised and fed with the left-overs from his hotel dining room. Then New York millionaire Clinton M. Washburn purchased it in the 1930s, renamed it Honeymoon Island, and built fifty wooden huts thatched with palm fronds along the beach. In 1940 he initiated a contest, offering two weeks free accommodations to 200 lucky newlyweds (married less than two weeks) who submitted three references along with an essay on why they deserved to honeymoon in a hut there. LIFE magazine and newsreels picked up the story, and the place really took off. The honeymoon abruptly ended with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Fortunately, later developers did not get too far in their big plans for exploiting the island, and today most of it is a State Park. Now the big honeymooners here are ospreys – the island has the densest population of nesting ospreys in the world. As we rode our bicycles along the Osprey Nature Trail there was always at least one osprey nest in view above us, and the whistling cries of the ospreys were incessant. We think they were proclaiming nest ownership and seeking honeymoon mates. We also saw a nesting great horned owl and a couple young eagles in a nest along the trail.
There are four miles of sugar sand beaches to explore in the park. I could have spent hours picking over the shells being left by the receding tide, but we didn’t have lights on our bicycles, and we had to make our way back to the car before dusk.
We ended our wonderful day with dinner at Columbia, one of our Florida favorite restaurants. Serving Cuban Spanish specialties for over 100 years, the restaurant is still owned by descendents of the founding family, with sixth generation family members working there. We had tapas and sangria overlooking Clearwater Bay as the sun set on a perfect day in Paradise.