Heading over to Hontoon Island

Hontoon Island State Park is a great little spot for day-tripping or overnight camping. Southwest of the city of DeLand in west Volusia County, Florida, the park is a favorite destination for many. At just over 1,650 acres in size, and about 9½ miles in circumference, it takes a little while to explore.

Various people have used the island over the centuries. Mounds or middens give evidence of use as far back as 12,000 years. A Spanish mission from the 1500s purportedly existed on the isle. Today, Hontoon Island State Park is a point of interest for tourists and locals alike.

Come prepared for some down time. Bring your kids, your leashed dogs, a picnic lunch, some drinks (no bottles or alcohol) and enjoy the day. Access to Hontoon Island State Park is by private boat, canoe, personal watercraft, kayak or the park’s ferry that takes you from the parking area over to the island. The ferry (pontoon boat) runs every few minutes. No motorized vehicles are allowed except motorized wheelchairs.

We like to come early in the day (park opens at 8 am) when the park is the least crowded. Weekends tend to be kind of busy with campers and tourists seeking a family fun location.

Once ashore, you can check out the campground, the picnic area, playground or the 3 miles of hiking trails. Some of the trails are accessible by boardwalks. The others are rather rugged with protruding roots and may present a problem for the elderly or toddlers.

Overnight camping is permitted. No portable generators are allowed. Campers typically use a wheelbarrow to carry their gear to the six cabins or 11 campsites.

For the more active day-trippers, canoes can be rented at the Visitor’s Center. Explore the waters of the St. Johns River (an American Heritage River), Snake Creek, and the Hontoon Dead River. Paddling around the island, you might see osprey, otters, deer and other indigenous wildlife. Many visitors bring their mountain bikes and explore the surrounding area.

Swimming isn’t allowed, but that’s a good thing. There are alligators in the waters of the St. Johns, and there have been occasional sightings of sharks. You don’t want to become an appetizer for these toothy terrors.

However, fishing is allowed, so if you would like to try your hand at reeling in some catfish, brim bass, or crappies, by all means bring your fishing gear. A fishing license may be required, so check with the park before you cast a line.

Summer on the island can be exceedingly hot, humid and buggy. Dress appropriately for the Florida weather, and bring some bug repellent. This really is a budget trip for the family. Admission to Hontoon Island State Park is free, but there is a donation box available.

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