The Sand Spit Beach trail is a 2.5 mile linear trail that follows the shoreline of the Sand Spit peninsula that lies off the north end of Honeymoon Island State Park. I found it to be a pleasant summer hike with cool breezes frequently blowing off the water. The tide was low and the sand smooth, tempting me to walk bare-foot along water’s edge. The Coastal side of the beach was lined with blooming beach grasses waving in the breeze while bright pink blooms of the crawling cross vines added splashes of color to the green carpet of vines covering the bare sand. As I made my way down the beach, the people became scarcer while the shore birds increased. The most common bird encountered that day was a medium sized wheat colored shorebird known as a Willet. I was entertained by their territorial disputes as one flew in only to drive the other one further down the beach. The Brown Pelicans were a delight to watch as they kept busy hovering over the Gulf water only to plunge instantaneously into a dive for a fish.
Skimmers encircled the island as they continuously flew from north to south while skimming for fish at the water’s edge. This tern type bird is unique as they feel for fish by fish by slicing the water’s surface with their razor sharp bill. After two miles of trekking down the beach and enjoying the scenery in the warm evening daylight, I came upon a Reddish Egret dancing in a side pool left in the sands by the receding tide. I watched as he ran around in circles then jump up in the air as if to fly while the breeze blew through his plumage making it stand on end. Then he stopped for a moment to take a stab at the shallow water. A surge of excitement passed through my veins as I saw him come with a small white fish. Success! Amused by the energy and antics of this right-brained bird, I stopped my journey for several minutes to watch as he pranced and danced through the salty puddle to stir up his next catch. Then I continued on to the end of the island delighted to find a diverse group of the smaller shorebirds clustered together for security and shelter. Amongst the common Seagull were Wilsons Plover, Ruddy Ternstone, Sandwich Terns and Sandpipers. I watched in amusement as they bathed and preened in the nearby puddle of water.
“What a satisfying day!” were my thoughts as I retraced my steps back toward the north parking area. I took my time as to take in the rich warm sunlit glow on the sandy beach, the gently waving beach grasses, and the white puffy clouds that were hanging weightlessly in the rich blue sky. Enchanted by the beauty, I couldn’t help but to stop periodically to capture a few photos as the evening sun was starting to set. With a fast stride and one mile left to go, I see a bird near a resting bench on the side of the trail. It was an immature night heron with brown feathers and a thick black bill. He was aware of my presence but was too preoccupied with his catch to pay me much mind. He had captured a full size white crab and was in the process of consuming the hard-shelled crustacean. Out of curiosity, I paused to watch as the he wrestled with the crab… swallowed…. regurgitated….swallowed…. regurgitated… and finally swallowed his prey whole! I left shaking my head in amazement; I picked up my pace one more time as the glowing dusky sky was slowly waning into night.
Click here to view the photo slideshow of the Sandspit Beach Trail on flickr.
Directions: From US 19 turn West on Curlew Road (SR 586) follow Curlew Road several miles until it ends at the Park Entrance.
Hours:Open from 8:00 AM to Sunset 365 days
$8.00 per vehicle. Limit 2-8 people per vehicle.
$4.00 Single Occupant Vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass.
$4.00 per vehicle: sunset fee, starting one hour prior to sunset.
Picnic Pavilion Rental Fees:
$30.00 per day, plus tax.