If there’s a word that springs to my mind when I think of Dunedin it’s ‘charming’. Call it a cliche, but it’s the best way to describe cozy downtown with its farmers’ market, and mom & pop stores.
It also applies to the pair of barrier islands shielding the coastline. With spotless beaches, virgin coastal forest, and profuse wildlife, Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island are both protected as state parks.
Dunedin is one of those places where you can leave the car behind for a while and enjoy the Florida sunshine. The 45-mile Pinellas Trail passes through the heart of the city, and serves a host of nearby attractions.
One is TD Ballpark, which is the spring training center for the MLB’s Toronto Blue Jays. This franchise has spent every preseason in Dunedin since 1977.
1. Honeymoon Island State Park
The northernmost of the city’s pair of sublime offshore state parks can be reached along the Dunedin Causeway.
What I found here simply blew me away. Honeymoon Island State Park has four miles of flawless beaches. These are backed by one of the last old growth slash pine forests on the planet.
The island is served by miles of trails, including a 2.5-mile nature trail through that slash pine forest. You don’t even need to search for wildlife encounters, as they come to you.
I saw dolphins, armadillos, gopher tortoises, and a diversity of birdlife, including osprey, bald eagles, and roseate spoonbills hanging out on the beach. Also at this park is the ferry terminal for Caladesi Island, which I’ll talk about next.
2. Caladesi Island State Park
Up until a hurricane in 1921, Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island were part of the same barrier island.
Today you have to catch the ferry for a short ride across Hurricane Pass to visit Caladesi Island State Park
I cannot recommend this enough. With mangrove forest on the bay side, and a perfect sandy beach facing the gulf, Caladesi Island is most people’s idea of paradise.
In fact, the writer Myrtle Scharrer Betz (1895–1992), who spent her childhood here, chose the title “Yesteryear I Lived In Paradise” for her memoir.
Between the beach and the bay is virgin slash pine forest and beautiful stands of southern live oaks. Stay on the lookout for wildlife and you may see manatees and dolphins in the water.
3. Downtown Dunedin
Bisected by the Pinellas Trail, Dunedin’s central commercial district is by no means large, but packs a lot into a small space.
There’s more than meets the eye too, with signs beckoning you off Main Street and along the trail. Here you might find shops for fancy pet accessories, quirky gifts, popcorn, homewares, and organic skincare.
Crammed into these couple of blocks are restaurants for seafood, pizza, American comfort classics, Italian, Mexican, along with an adorable ice cream stand.
Dunedin Downtown Market takes place here, and I’ll talk about that a little later. There’s also not one but two museums, and Reboot, an arcade with every console from Atari 2600 to the Nintendo Switch.
4. Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training
Near the waterfront on Douglas Avenue, TD Ballpark is the spring home of the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Florida Grapefruit League season kicks off in late February and provides visitors with the opportunity to see some competitive play in a relaxed setting.
For one thing, venues like TD Ballpark are noticeably less expensive than MLB stadiums. Following a recent expansion, the stadium now holds 8,000 spectators. During the pandemic in 2021 the Blue Jays even played the first couple of months of the regular season here.
I never get tired of spring training games. They’re great for enjoying the perfect Florida weather, munching on ballpark fare, and scoping out up-and-coming talent.
5. Pinellas Trail
One of the many things I appreciate about the Pinellas Peninsula is how most of the main urban centers are served by a 45-mile paved trail.
That goes for Dunedin too, and the Pinellas Trail begins just a few miles north of the city in Tarpon Springs.
This multi-use trail is on a railroad corridor, going back to the Atlantic Coast Line and Seaboard Air Line from the turn of the 20th century.
In Dunedin the trail cuts right through the heart of downtown, and serves the TD Ballpark. You can use it to get to Clearwater, 20 minutes away by bike.
If you don’t mind a longer ride, many of St. Petersburg’s big attractions are near the southern trailhead.
Also, if you need a set of wheels Kafe Racer, Bicycle Boutique Outpost, and Pedego Electric Bikes all offer rentals in Dunedin.
6. Dunedin Fine Art Center (DFAC)
A cultural facility that really puts the city on the map, the acclaimed Dunedin Fine Art Center (DFAC) has been around since 1975.
A place for exhibitions and art education, the DFAC has five galleries and more than a dozen studio classrooms.
Also here is the David L. Mason Children’s Art Museum, which I’ll cover in more detail below. Then you’ve got the Palm Cafe, and the Gallery Gift Shop, offering a retail space for local makers and artists.
There’s a big schedule of classes and workshops for a huge array of skills, from clay pottery to oil painting, calligraphy, pastels, and printmaking.
All the galleries will have something on when you visit. When I was here last, there were group and solo shows featuring contemporary illustration, fiber art, embroidery, quilt-making, and art on paper.
7. Dunedin Historical Society and Museum
One of the finest buildings in downtown Dunedin is the old depot for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. This brick structure was built in 1924, and today houses a super local history museum for the city.
The historical society’s collections are extensive, with more than 2,000 items, along with 2,500+ photographs.
In particular, I was enthralled by the railroad artifacts, including telegraphs and maintenance equipment. Elsewhere you can see displays from historic Dunedin businesses, like a safe from the Bank of Dunedin.
The temporary exhibit at the time of writing was Florida Foodways, covering the surprising history of agriculture around Dunedin.
At the entrance is an awesome little gift shop, brimming with area-specific goodies, from toys to fashion accessories, mugs, books, and home decorations.
8. Edgewater Park
Another of my favorite haunts in Dunedin is this little waterfront park by the city’s marina. Aside from two shaded children’s playgrounds, there are no recreation amenities at Edgewater Park.
Instead this is a place for rambling, taking in the sunset, and admiring the rows of yachts berthed in the marina.
There’s a lot of shade along the walkways from pines, palms and live oaks, while the gazebo at the center can be rented for private events.
This is also the anchor for a number of major shindigs in Dunedin. Perhaps the biggest is the Dunedin Music & Craft Beer Festival, a two-day affair in early March.
9. Hammock Park
Just off the Pinellas Trail, this 90-acre public space has been given over to native habitats. Growing in Hammock Park are mangroves, pine hammocks, live oaks, palms, and oak scrub.
The crowded understory in the park’s wooded portions is covered with ferns, cabbage palms, orchids, and wild coffee.
There are five miles of trails coursing through the park. One that I really loved was the Fern Trail Boardwalk giving you a close look at the lush understory.
Also recommended is the Butterfly Garden, with 40 plant varieties providing a habitat for 35 species of native butterfly.
There’s wildlife at every turn, with scores of resident and migrating birds. Among the year-round species are snowy egrets, osprey, green horned owls, and six different heron species.
10. Dunedin Downtown Market
Right by the Pinellas Trail there’s a lively farmers’ market with upwards of 60 vendors. This takes place by the bandshell in Pioneer Park, November through June.
In July and August the event moves to the parking lot at the Dunedin History Museum. The market takes place on Saturday mornings all year, but there’s also a Friday market November through May.
Awaiting your business are vendors selling local fresh produce, honey, cheese, pastured meats, plants, candles, soaps, pet accessories, nut butters, eggs, and all sorts of baked goods.
My tip is to keep your lunch plans open. Bites when I visited included lobster rolls, beer cheese, chips and guac, egg rolls, and savory pies.
You can’t call it a farmers’ market without live music, while leashed dogs are also welcome.
11. David L. Mason Children’s Art Museum
Set within the Dunedin Fine Art Center, the David L. Mason Children’s Art Museum is an excellent educational resource for families with children aged 4.5 to 12.
Every season year there’s a new main exhibit. When I visited, this was Artsy Architecture, exploring the intersection of art, science and architecture.
Kids could build a Romanesque arch, draw up blueprints, create their own cities with magna-tiles, and build wacky structures with a variety of other materials.
The Dunedin Fine Art Center also offers a wide range of classes for kids, in everything from clay sculpture to VR painting, drawing, and iPad animation.
12. Dunedin Golf Club
Dating back to 1927, Dunedin Golf Club was designed by a famous course designer, Donald Ross (1872-1948).
This was the home of the PGA of America between 1945 and 1962, and in 2014 was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
On my round here I was a bit humbled to be following in the footsteps of many greats. We’re talking about the likes of Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Bobby Jones, and Al Watrous.
Meanwhile Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias are just two of the decorated LPGA players to have trodden these greens.
The course is always in great shape, and the holes are bordered by mature pines, live oaks, and palms. To warm up, there’s a 250-yard driving range, short game area and practice putting green.
13. Cueni Brewing Co.
Another spot right on the Pinellas Trail is a craft brewery that has won many awards since opening in 2016. Named for its owners, Cueni Brewing Co. puts an emphasis on malty Belgian and English beers.
The tap list changes pretty much week to week. Still, a few of my favs when I wrote this list were Lonely in Brussels (Single), Skyway to Helles, Hopscotch IPA, Kashmir Haze (IPA).
There’s always something interesting going on here. For instance, on Tuesdays—and only on Tuesdays—you can get a Tajin or cinnamon sugar rim on your beer.
14. Kiwanis Sprayground
A paved trail leads from the Dunedin Fine Art Center to this fantastic splash pad in Highlander Park.
The Kiwanis Sprayground is a jumble of slides, jets, buckets, fountains, and all the other things you’d expect from a resort-class water playground.
This facility is right next to Highlander Park’s picnic shelters, and there are also canopies in the playground where parents can take shelter. For a frozen treat there’s often an ice cream or shaved ice truck in the parking lot outside.
This facility is also a few steps from the Highlander Pool, which has a shallow children’s training pool and a 25-yard main pool for laps.
15. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
There’s plenty to get up to in Dunedin, but it’s worth remembering that downtown Clearwater and Clearwater Beach are only 10 minutes away by car.
If you only have time for one thing, I’d make it the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, open for more than half a century now.
More than a straightforward visitor attraction, this institution rescues, rehabilitates and releases native Florida marine life.
Among them are otters, sea turtles, dolphins, stingrays, sharks, and pelicans. There’s also a variety of colorful and exotic fish and marine crustaceans from the gulf’s warm waters.
For an additional fee, you can take part in a variety of animal care experiences. These include feeding sea turtles, stingrays or sharks, or posing for a photo with a friendly bottlenose dolphin.