Beach at Pine Island

Pine Island and Alfred McKethan

By Deanna Dammer Kimbrough Posted on July 2, 2020

This is Part 2 of Bayport and Pine Island: Part of Hernando County’s Gift to the Nature Coast. Part 1 may be found by clicking on the link.

Pine Island Alfred A. McKethan Park is just a boat ride or short drive away from Bayport and features the only public Gulf beach in Hernando County. 

Mr. McKethan was influential in the improvements made to what is now Cortez Boulevard, and the only road onto the island: Pine Island Drive.

In 1950, the sole residents on Pine Island were the Mr. and Mrs. Plummer, who ran a commercial fishing business.  By the 1960s, their business was closed, possibly due to the purchase of all the land there by a Tampa company.

History of Pine Island

Housing development started mostly in the early 60s, and as of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 64.  That number had not changed from the previous census, so speculation is that it won’t increase much for the 2020 census.  However, during my very recent visit to Pine Island, I did see several “For Sale” signs on open lots. 

Pine Island Alfred McKethan park is surrounded by water on three sides. The drive out Pine Island Drive is beautiful. The beach is white sand.
Pine Island Alfred McKethan park is surrounded by water on three sides. The drive out Pine Island Drive is beautiful. The beach is white sand. Image courtesy of Hernando County.

The park sits on three acres, surrounded on three sides by water where sea grasses, fish and crabs enjoy the salt marsh and estuary.  The white sand is so nice to feel between your toes, build a castle, run through, or just sit on.  The tide changes, so it is good to check the times before wading out too far.

Visitors are asked to do social distancing, due COVID-19 precautions, which they seemed to be observing while I was there.

pine island storm
Storms come in fast at Pine Island. Image by Diane Bedard.

An Introduction to the Gift of Pine Island

My first experience here was on a hot, sunny day in mid-July of 1988.  It was my second day in Hernando County after driving down from Minnesota.  A soon-to-be co-worker gave me a brief tour of Brooksville and then we headed out to the beach.  The small beach was very crowded, but no one was actually in the water! 

I waded in and immediately felt it was where I wanted to be.  Suddenly a man’s voice called out “Ma’am, please come out of the water; there’s a storm coming in.”  It was the lifeguard.  I looked west, and sure enough, there were dark, ominous clouds moving towards us. 

gulls at pine island
The warm water and beautiful view made me want to stay at Pine Island. Image by Diane Bedard.

There are no lifeguards now at the Park, so be mindful of the weather and tides! Where would I be if that lifeguard had not been there that day in 1988. 

But enough about me.

Pine Island
Pay your 5 bits to park at Pine Island Alfred A. McKethan Park at the colorful entrance booth. It helps maintain the park and provide park services. Image by Deanna Kimbrough

Pine Island Beach Park Visitor Information

Pine Island Beach Park is currently open from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and has a $5 per vehicle parking fee, payable in cash or credit card at the very colorful entrance booth.  The parking lot will accommodate about 100 cars, depending on size and the precision of the driver (you know how parking lots can be). 

Willy’s Tropical Breeze Cafe

Willy’s Tropical Breeze Cafe is currently open, serving burgers, wraps, hotdogs and fried seafood, along with a variety of beverages and ice cream. 

Public restrooms are available and there are picnic tables and barbeque grills.  A sandy volleyball court and amazing nautical-themed children’s playground are available.  Make sure to do a dolphin watch from the observation deck. 

Willy's Tropical Cafe
Willy’s Tropical Breeze Cafe is open at Pine Island for grabbing a cold drink or fast meal. There are restrooms, picnic tables, barbecue grills, a playground, and a sand volleyball court as part of the fun amenities at Pine Island Alfred A. McKethan Park in Hernando County. Image by Deanna Kimbrough.

No Pets Allowed at Pine Island Park

People ask if dogs are allowed.  Even though the park used to be pet-friendly every other Saturday morning, the Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department decided safety was an issue and ended that opportunity, so no pets allowed.

The Park has been a special place to watch the sunset while enjoying a Drum Circle.  But the group, known for playing hand-drums and percussion instruments, has stopped during the social distancing time.  Hopefully, they will return soon.

pine island sunset
Sunsets at Pine Island are dramatic. It is a great place for dolphin spotting, also. Image by Diane Bedard.

Get out and Enjoy the Gift of Pine Island Today

The beach at Pine Island is an amazing place to have a picnic, relax and watch a sunset, alone or with family and friends.  It can also be a stunning venue for weddings.  The number of guests may be limited due to COVID-19, so for more information, check with Hernando County Parks and Recreation.

Enjoy the gift that is a beach this summer.  Practice social distancing, wear sunscreen, be mindful of the tides, do not feed the animals, do not litter and keep an eye on the weather! 



DJ says

Nice place….but the fee to park? Eh. I remember when it was free…esp when you plan a day n discover it’s “full” no where to plop your car. Any ideas?

Florida's Original NatureCoaster™ says

I sure don’t. Does anyone else have any ideas?

Peggy says

I am a 62 year old lifelong resident of Brooksville. I’ve been coming here my whole life. I absolutely love Pine Island! Is it the same as Clearwater, St. Pete, Daytona, Flagler? No it is not, but it’s not meant to be. It’s our own little piece of paradise. Our place to come unwind and feel the salt air in our face. This place has brought me much peace in my life. My girls grew up hanging out here! I love Florida! Love my Pine Island! Thank you for sharing all the history Diane.

Chas says

It’s all perspective ! It can’t compare to the miles long white beaches in Pinellas and south, but it and Fort Island are close by for Citrus Country. Salt water, sunshine, sand… Go to your happy place and enjoy !

Tubby says

Honestly? Cannot compare or be called a lovely beach or a great view. Really uninspiring drab place.

cbk says

How sad that you have the opinion of Pine Island that you shared with us. If you crave the tiki-bar, loud-music, bikini crowd, than you provided an apt description. However, if someone enjoys peaceful relaxation, an family volleyball game, delicious freshly-prepared fare, a simple wade in shallow water where you can find an occasional treasure, and some of the most breathtaking sunsets, then certainly Pine Island beach is the place to park your chair. Sometime, when you have the chance, Google “history of Hernando County” and open the link on Fivay. You may want to do a little more exploring and you’ll learn to love everything about Hernando County that we all do.

Marvin says

Having fished and lived on Both coasts all the way to Key West, I enjoy the reports given as meant to be from the perspective of this area, and are to help, those that want to feel Nature as it is. Been to over developed beautiful beaches and when trying to absorb the being there, I kept thinking what it was like a hundreds years before, as something was missing, these reports help to show where you can find a little of past Florida, and to just look at the endless Horizon, Sky and feel the Sea Breezes, one can feel like they found an old love lost. If these locations reported with detail, do do Not make one at peace with the world, enjoy the music elsewhere. Someday, we all wonder what we missed, these locations can make memories other than party stops.

Melba says

It’s a lovely place to enjoy the beach or setting sun. The water is shallow which makes it great for kids. Dolphins often show up which adds to the fun. We visit there several times a month and find it quite relaxing.

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