Location: North of Dunedin, Florida, on Bayshore Boulevard to Curlew Road, then West to the park entrance. Ask the Park Ranger how to find the trail, it is located on the North side of the park about two miles from the gate. A map of the area is here.
Florida is blessed with abundant wildlife, and among the most spectacular to photograph are Ospreys. Honeymoon Island State Park has a large population of Ospreys that nest among its large pine trees along the Osprey Trail. Accommodations are reasonably priced, and it’s a wonderful place to take the family with some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. There is much to do in the area, Bush Gardens is about 20 miles away, Clearwater Beach is fantastic with a wealth of great restaurants, and there is the Pinellas Trail which runs for miles along an old abandoned rail road track for those who love to bicycle or walk. Downtown Dunedin is filled with antique shops and excellent restaurants. It’s the perfect place to go for the serious photographer who wants to find a spot that the family can enjoy as well.
I have visited the Osprey Trail many times and I am never disappointed in finding great subjects to photograph. Along the Dunedin Causeway on the way to Honeymoon Island State Park, one can find ample opportunities to photograph birds. And, it is easy to find a spot to park your car. The park opens at 8:00 AM, so I often go early and work the causeway at first light. When the light is good, one can capture what only Florida can provide, fantastic colors at dawn.
And, if one is lucky, a passing Osprey might provide one with the chance to get that very special shot, an Osprey with fish, much as I did here one morning on my way to the trail.
Upon arrival at the park, there is a great parking area with restrooms and a map that shows one the outline of the Osprey Trail. It’s about one mile from the parking area to the best spot for capturing Ospreys as they nest. Look for dead trees on the left. Ospreys love them as perfect spots for their nests.
But, what is more wonderful is to capture shots of the Ospreys as they return from fishing and to hear their cries. During March and April, I have counted as many as 30 nesting pairs along the trail. It is always a delight to hear them interact.
During the summer months the trail can be a terrible place to be. Mosquitos are there by the billions. Trust me, go in March or April if you want to be free of the insects. Florida now has the West Nile Virus so make certain, even when the days are warm, to cover up. I never walk the trail unless I am wearing long-sleeve shirts and long pants. Insect repellant is a must during some days, unless one is blessed with a good wind.
When to go?
The best months are March and April, this is the breeding season and one will find dozens of Ospreys building nests along the trail. It’s also a great time because the days are often clear and the cool mornings make for a pleasant walk.
How to Get There
Tampa International Airport is located across Tampa Bay from the Pinellas County penisula. It’s about a 15-mile drive from the airport to Dunedin. For those who live in the USA, or in close proximity to the Dunedin area, driving is easy with excellent roads leading into Pinellas County. Interstate 75 and US 19 lead into the area from the North. Interstate 10 leads to the area from the East. Follow this link for a map of the area and this link for information about Honeymoon Island State Park.
Where to stay?
There are hundres of hotels and motels in the Dunedin/Clearwater area. A Google search should provide you with ample choices and selection. Where you stay depends on whether your family will accompany you. My first choice would be to stay at Clearwater Beach and let the family enjoy that area. But, frankly, the hotels and motels in Dunedin are much more reasonably priced. It is more costly at the beach.
Advice for Travelers Based on Personal Experience
Plan your holiday to include more than just a visit to the Osprey Trail. The area is fabulous for a family vacation. Disney World is a two-hour drive from the area, Bush Gardens is a great place to spend a day, and the Clearwater/Dunedin area offers great beaches, shopping, and opportunities to just chill out. Make sure you bring clothing for both the beach and visits to nearby attractions. The whole of the area is classic Florida casual. Forget the tie. Pack some good beach shoes, the kind you can get plenty wet because you may want to wade into pools at low tide for great bird photos. And by all means go sailing or kayaking at the Causeway. And, your family may love the idea of taking a boat trip from Honeymoon Island to Caladesi Island.
When the light is good.
Get out early. Sunrise along the Dunedin Causeway can be spectacular. Sunset at Clearwater Beach or in Honeymoon Island can’t be described, it is awesome.
When the light is bad.
Take the family to Bush Gardens. It’s a wonderful attraction. Explore other parks in Pinellas County, many of them offer great photographic opportunities. It’s always good to explore and plan for a return later when the light is good. One of my favorite parks is John Chestnut County Park. It’s a great place to spot Red-shouldered Hawks.
Will I go again?
Absolutely. I can think of no place else in the world that offers a greater variety of birds to photograph. And, the whole area is family friendly and perfectly safe for the family.