Dunedin, Florida, is a small town in north Tampa Bay with a big reputation as a place to go for great weekend getaways. The town has a lot going for it.
There are two state parks, both on islands offshore. There is the Pinellas Trail that runs right through the middle of downtown. There is MLB Spring Training baseball. There is an LBGTQ nightclub. On top of that, the downtown area has a host of fine restaurants.
I’ve been going to Dunedin for getaways for years and have watched the town blossom from a sleepy little burg into a thriving, fun-filled town. There is a vibrant restaurant district downtown along Main Street, and plenty of recreational opportunities.
Downtown Dunedin is well preserved, with restrictions prohibiting chain businesses and limits on signage. Just about every business downtown is locally owned. The downtown area is very walkable, and there is plenty of free public parking.
Dunedin is named after the city of Dun Eideann (Edinburgh) in Scotland. Many of its early settlers in the 1850s were of Scottish ancestry. Located on the Gulf of Mexico coast just north of Clearwater, Dunedin is easy to get to from anywhere in the Tampa Bay area. Follow U.S. 19 or Alt. 19 to the town.
Note: The St. Pete/Clearwater Visitor’s Bureau and Dunedin Chamber of Commerce provided assistance for this article.
Things To Do In Dunedin
Probably the single biggest impact on the exciting downtown life of Dunedin is the popularity of the Pinellas Trail, a paved recreation trail used by bicyclists, runners, walkers, and skaters. The trail is one of the oldest rails-to-trails trails in the country and runs 50 miles from downtown St. Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, right across Main Street in downtown Dunedin. It brings recreational visitors, who find Dunedin a delightful place to stop for lunch and a cool drink. Local businesses credit the popularity of the trail with helping to revitalize the downtown.
Honeymoon Island State Park is located at the end of the Dunedin Causeway, reachable by car or bike. The park is noted for hiking trails, a dog park, and miles of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. There is a per-carload admission fee. The ferry to Caladesi Island State Park is located at this park.
One of the crown jewels of the Florida state park system, Caladesi Island State Park has unspoiled white sand beaches and a mangrove tunnel kayak paddle trail that is one of the best in Florida. You reach the island by ferry or private boat. I have been there many times and always paddled my kayak from the causeway. The paddle is a short trip, less than a mile, across the Dunedin Channel. It’s easy for a novice kayaker. Just watch for powerboat traffic. If you prefer the ferry, it runs from Honeymoon Island State Park.
Note: There is no overnight camping at either state park.
Once you cross the drawbridge, you’re on island time. The Dunedin Causeway has a recreational trail that is popular for bicycling, rollerblading, and just walking to enjoy the sun. There is a kayak rental and beachy restaurant. Many people looking for a beach experience in Dunedin go no farther than the causeway and its protected waters. Parking is plentiful, even on the weekends.
The Toronto Blue Jays make their spring training home in Dunedin. From mid-February to the end of March, the Jays draws fans, some coming all the way from Canada. The Blue Jays’ popularity has led many Canadians to buy winter homes in the area.
Every Friday and Saturday morning, the Dunedin Farmer’s Market draws large crowds downtown at Main Street and Douglas Avenue. We found it to be mainly an arts and craft market, but a good one with lots of talented artists. There are stands featuring locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Held every April at Highlander Park, the Highland Games strengthen the town’s Scottish ancestry. They really do toss small telephone poles, and there’s a real bagpipe band.
Note: Unfortunately, the 2021 games have been canceled due to COVID-19.
The Sterling Art Studios and Gallery is located right at Main Street and Broadway as you enter downtown. It is a collection of local artists and features a second-floor room devoted entirely to the Beatles museum, appropriately named Penny Lane. Admission is free, and you get to see lots of Beatles memorabilia, including guitars, gold records, posters, and autographed pictures. Like most things in Dunedin, the museum is locally owned. Its owner is Dr. Robert Entel, who has been collecting Beatles memorabilia since the 1980s.
Dunedin has an active artist community. The Dunedin Fine Arts Center features rotating art displays, many by local and Florida artists. The annual Dunedin Art Festival is held in June every year, attracting artisans of Floridian and national prestige.
Best Restaurants And Bars In Dunedin
The Cafe Alfresco sits on Main Street, right at the crossing for the Pinellas Trail. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For a lunch stop, I got a great omelet, and my travel friend feasted on a large Cafe Salad. They were very strict about mask requirements.
The Black Pearl on Main Street is fine dining downtown. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekend. The signature dessert is licorice ice cream with a twisted cinnamon cookie.
Lobster And Seafood
A couple blocks off the downtown area you find the Lucky Lobster. Be prepared for a long wait on weekends if you don’t have reservations. In addition to Maine lobster, the menu features a wide assortment of seafood dishes. There is entertainment on weekends. The night of our last visit the entertainer was playing guitar and singing a golden oldie set of soft rock favorites from the ’60s and ’70s.
Dunedin is known as an LGBTQ community. Downtown, you will find the Blur Night Club, a weekend hot spot with DJ and live music and dancing. During the week there is drag queen bingo and karaoke.
Dance An Irish Jig
Flanigan’s Irish Pub is an authentic Irish bar on Main Street. Yes, you can get Guinness beer on draft. There is entertainment on weekends.
The Dunedin Brewery is located on Douglas Avenue, just south of Main Street. It offers a large assortment of craft beer and a limited food menu. Try the Pipers Session IPA or the Red Head Red Ale.
Best Hotels In Dunedin
Just south of downtown on Edgewater Drive, you’ll find the Fenway, part of the Marriott Hotel system. Billed as the Autograph Collection, the Fenway has been around for nearly a century. It offers fine dining at the HEW Parlor and Chop House. There is a rooftop bar that is perfect for watching the sunsets in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bed By The Marina
When I visit Dunedin I always stay at the Yacht Harbor Inn, by the marina. It’s close to downtown, within walking distance. The rooms are spacious and most offer water or marina views. The hotel is pet friendly in a limited number of rooms. There is a popular restaurant overlooking the water. The parking situation is a bit of a drawback, as spaces are limited and fill up on weekends when the restaurant is busiest.
The hotel Hampton Inn is located just off Curlew Road, leading onto the Dunedin Causeway. This a perfect place to stay if you are looking for a weekend on the water. The hotel features an outdoor saline pool and a fitness center. The drive to the causeway is only minutes long and gives you close access to the two area state parks and the recreation trail that parallels the causeway. Downtown is just a few minutes away by car.
During the week, Dunedin is a sleepy little town, but things really change on weekends. Downtown is hopping, restaurants are full, and hotels need to be booked well in advance.
I have always brought my kayak and bike to take advantage of the recreational opportunities Dunedin has to offer. If you’re a baseball fan, the best time to visit is March when the Blue Jays are playing their spring training games.
Dunedin doesn’t have its own beach, but you’re not far from the causeway and access to the Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island state parks, which have world-class beaches. Dunedin is a great little weekend getaway town, especially if you are an outdoorsy person and enjoy good restaurants.