Pine Island and Alfred McKethan
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!