Hontoon: A Different Kind of Island

IMG_3404Sanibel Island, Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, Amelia Island, St. George Island…what do they all have in common? Sand, salt water, beach…not so with Hontoon Island. Instead, Hontoon Island State Park is located in the St. John’s River far from the Atlantic or Gulf and Florida’s famous beaches.

The only access to the island is by private boat or the park ferry. The ferry is limited to passengers and pets, no vehicles. And since I love ferries, that’s a bonus!

Boating, canoeing, fishing, and picnicking are popular activities for park visitors. Picnic areas include tables and grills as well as a playground. No fishing this trip, but Meghan and Jon paddled eleven miles around the island and John and I motored up and down the St. John’s exploring as far south as Blue Springs and as far north as the bridge at S.R. 44.

A three-mile nature trail follows the Dead River and leads hikers to a large Indian mound at the southwest corner of the island. We hiked each day, once to the Indian mounds and a couple times to the nest of a bald eagle trying to get a good view of the eaglets.

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We enjoyed camping in the one of the twelve tent sites, but since no cars are permitted on the island campers load their gear in wheel barrows and then the park van transports tents, sleeping bags, ice chests, firewood, food and other items to the campsite with a strict limit of one trip per site.

Cooking out, roasting marshmallows, relaxing in the hammock, playing bocce ball and board games occupied our time at the campsite between hiking, canoeing, and boating.

In addition to the tent sites, Hontoon Island has 40 boat slips for boat camping and six rustic cabins. We’re trying to figure out how we can boat camp since it looks like the perfect way to stay on the island, sitting out on the dock in the light of the full moon…we’ll need to find a boat to rent…buying is not an option.

The Hontoon Island Friends held a cookout with live music on Saturday, and not only did we buy tickets to the cookout, we ended up members of the Hontoon Island Friends. Guess they’ll be contacting us to volunteer for future events.