Seven Reasons I Love Delightful Dunedin, Florida

Maybe it’s the Scottish name. Maybe the fact it’s the Blue Jays spring training home makes people think it’s all about baseball and old folks with ball caps and rolled up programs. For whatever reason, I’ve always thought Dunedin doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

I started coming to Dunedin in 1993, when I was covering the Blue Jays for the Toronto Star, and immediately fell in love with the place. I could provide a lot more, but here are seven reasons why I keep going back.

Dunedin is a delightfully walkable town with fun shops and restaurants.

Dunedin is a delightfully walkable town with fun shops and restaurants.

  1. For one thing, it’s a very walkable town. Unlike some suburban areas of big Florida cities, there’s a real downtown with a small, curving main street that’s lined with flower planters bursting with colour; always a sight for Canadian eyes tired of dirty brown snow piled on grey sidewalks. Another big benefit is that there are several hotels within a couple hundred meters of Main Street. The Best Western Yacht Harbor Inn is right on the Intracoastal Waterway and adjacent to a pretty marina with gleaming white boats resting in the Florida sunshine. Right around the corner there’s a Holiday Inn Express. Even better is the Meranova Inn, a small B and B that’s run by an engaging couple of guys with a great eye for detail. The grounds are lush and thick with flowers and deep green vegetation, the rooms are charming, and it’s literally across the street from the best shops and restaurants in town.
  2.  There used to be three or four cool restaurants along Main Street. Now there are probably a dozen. Sea Sea Riders is always good for a blackened fish sandwich.
    Casa Tina is a cool Mexican restaurant on Main Street in Dunedin.

    Casa Tina is a cool Mexican restaurant on Main Street in Dunedin.

    Casa Tina is a fun Mexican restaurant with good margaritas and a lovely, shaded patio out front, right on Main Street. Pensare is an Italian spot with a patio that serves great pasta and a lovely salad with arugula, lemon and shaved parmesan. The Living Room has a nice menu and often has live music, while The Olde Bay Café is a small spot right on the marina that’s perfect for a light bite or a beer. The views at sunset are lovely, especially if you climb up the stairs just outside the café. Also right on the water is Bon Appetit, a fine dining spot at the Best Western Yacht Harbor Inn.

  3. Shopping seems to get better each time I go, too. The last time I was there I wandered into Patina, a beautiful spot with colourful signs, bits of and even an old Blue Jays spring training program for sale.
    Patina is a wonderful shop on Main Street in Dunedin, where you'll find plenty of antiques and fun, Florida-style gifts.

    Patina is a wonderful shop on Main Street in Dunedin, where you’ll find plenty of antiques and fun, Florida-style gifts.

    You’ll also find casual spots selling blow-up palm trees and other beachy kitsch, or maybe postcards showing a parrot with the words, “To heck with a cracker, Polly wants a drink.”

  4. I love taking a walk up Victoria Ave, an unpaved road that runs along the Intracoastal Waterway behind the Best Western and is lined with gorgeous homes, some with huge docks extending into the water or huge porches and giant oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.
    Victoria St. in Dunedin runs along the Intracoastal Waterway and features lovely homes. A great place for a walk or bike ride.

    Victoria St. in Dunedin runs along the Intracoastal Waterway and features lovely homes. A great place for a walk or bike ride.

    I’d give my eye teeth for one of those homes. They’re utterly spectacular, and they feel like a part of an old Florida that’s sometimes hard to find these days. You also can take a bike along the road, which is only a few metres from the wonderful Pinellas County bike path and jogging trail, which stretches approximately forever.

  5. Also part of Dunedin is Honeymoon Island State Park, where you’ll find lengthy stretches of beach where you can drive your car or swim in shallow waters or rent a kayak. Nature lovers flock a little further out to the park’s nature centre, where there are quiet walks and interpretive displays that explain the flora and fauna of the area.
    Caladesi Island State Park is a fantastic spot off the coast of Dunedin.

    Caladesi Island State Park is a fantastic spot off the coast of Dunedin.

    One of my favourite things to do in all of Florida is take the short ferry ride from Honeymoon to deserted Caladesi Island, where you’ll find awesome nature trails and an endless beach that features some of Florida’s best seashells. At low tide, you can walk to Caladesi from nearby, happening Clearwater Beach.

  6. Too old school for you? Okay, Dunedin also is home to a pair of killer breweries. Just off Main Street you’ll find Dunedin Brewery, a mainstay in the area for several years.
    Dunedin Brewery is a wonderful spot to wet your whistle. Good food, too.

    Dunedin Brewery is a wonderful spot to wet your whistle. Good food, too.

    It’s large and airy and they make killer wings. Try the Apricot Peach or the Gold Ale, or perhaps one of the seasonal brews. Just a few steps away, near the Holiday Inn, is a relative newcomer called 7eventh Sun. It’s small and funky and they make some sensational brews, including some wickedly good and rich IPA’s. I especially loved the Mangrove Double IPA. Some of the beers are aged in bourbon, rum or other spirits barrels.

  7. Still too mainstream? Okay, here’s the piece de resistance. Dunedin looks sleepy, and the town does feature the likeness of a Scottish piper on their welcome sign.
    Kellys/Chic-a-Boom/Blur is a fun food and bar complex on Main Street. Drag Queen Bingo is just one of the occasional attractions.

    Kellys/Chic-a-Boom/Blur is a fun food and bar complex on Main Street. Drag Queen Bingo is just one of the occasional attractions.

    But for a couple decades it’s been something of a gay hotbed, so to speak. It’s also home to a renowned Main Street bar and nightclub complex called Kellys/Chic-a-Boom/Blur where they have Drag Queen Bingo on Tuesday nights. It’s a great night of entertainment and the hosts/hostesses are hilarious. When I was there last, a bearded fellow with a flowered dress and bright lipstick was addressing the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, homos and heteros…”

Definitely not your grandmother’s Dunedin.

What’s your take on Dunedin? While we’re at it, how many games do you think the Blue Jays will win next year?

 

Prev Top U.S. Cities to Visit with Your Best Friend
Next How to Choose the Best All-inclusive for You

About Author

Jim Byers

A veteran of 32 years with the Toronto Star, the last five as travel editor, Jim has been covering the travel business and writing about destinations for nearly a decade. He appears regularly in Zoomer Magazine, WestJet's Up! Magazine and, of course, with Expedia.ca as a blogger.

10 Comments

  1. Visited briefly in the hottest part of July, 8 years ago, and fell in love. Took my wife to spend some time here 4 or 5 years ago: she wept the whole way back to Boston’s winter.
    We moved here 16 months ago. Love it! Made more friends in the first week here than I did in 17 years in a Boston suburb. You can’t imagine how nice the folks are here.

    Reply
  2. Hi Jim, I was reading your post on our Lovely & Beautiful town of Dunedin. I’m a fellow Canadian. My Hubby(Retired Air Force Guy) & I (I was born in NFLD., Canada…..my Canadian family live in Kitchener, Ont. now) came to Dunedin in 1978……almost 37 yrs. We love it here. Every word you posted to describe it …IS TRUE!!! I love the Blue Jays & hope they don’t leave Dunedin …ever!!! We live just up the road (off Cty Rd. 1) from Englebert Field…..where they practice in the Summer. It is nice to read your comments about Dunedin & its Scottish history……all our 4 children went to school here also. I love the Scottish highlander band of the High School here……they always post their music on fb. Well, thank you Jim, for all you do for the Blue Jays…..I will keep “rootin” for them, as you will also, I’m sure. Have a wonderful stay here, & a wonderful day. Thanks again…..good luck with all your jouirnalism. God bless…….Pat M.

    Reply
  3. You forgot to mention Rosie’s Tavern that has open mic on Wednesday, hosted by Treble Hook. Great little tavern for listening to music under the stars and quiet conversation. And, all the great little shops that sell a variety of products by local artists such as stained glass, homemade candies and great ice cream. Mostly, though, it’s about the warm and caring people in this community. And, don’t forget how dog friendly Dogeden is. We even have our own small rescue here, the Dunedin Doggie Rescue that has found homes for several hundreds of rescued dogs over the years.

    Reply
  4. I agree that Dunedin is delightful. But I disagree with you about Casa Tina. I think it is coasting on its reputation. The last two times I was there, the margaritas were poor and unappetizing … Served in plastic tumblers.

    Reply
  5. I love your seven reasons to Love Dunedin. What seems to be left out is the small brick building in the center of town. Yes The Dunedin Museum with its 3 bronze statues is the center piece of Dinedin. The Museum has been a part of Dunedin for 45 years, collecting and displaying history. Even Jays history! We are proud of Dunedin and are very pleased that we show it. Stop in and visit this friendly museum.

    Reply
  6. Agreed with the commenter who mentioned Casa Tinas. Worst Mexican food Ive ever had and their “margaritas” are 90% store bought sour mix, no lime juicein sight. Appalling people still go there.

    Reply
  7. You are quite right about everything you have said about Dunedin…you missed something however which , to me is very important. Dunedin is a great place to raise a family. We moved here over 40 years ago from the frozen NE. The friends we’ve made here are life long, the medical care here and in the Tampa Bay area is superb and the general area is like a big home town made up of a lot of little unique communities. But Dunedin is the best…we love it here and will never ever leave, it’s our real live Paradise.

    Reply
  8. Are you aware that the Dunedin City Commission is considering putting pay stations for parking in downtown? The merchants are pushing this, most everyone else is against it, but they do not ask us, and they do not advertise their agenda. They have relaxed the parking requirements for new businesses, and so exacerbated the problem! Time for a development moratorium until we get a parking structure. That was recommended in a 2009 study, nothing has been done re: parking garage.

    Reply

Leave a Comment