Since moving to Central Florida in 2012, day trips have sort of become my jam. Living in a state where people regularly come for their yearly vacations means an endless supply of things to do, and I’m making a commitment to explore more this year and in the future. Day trip guides feature locations accessible in 2.5 hours or less that are small enough to be enjoyed in just one day.
If you’re looking for a great spot to explore on foot, enjoy the arts, prefer local eats over chain restaurants, and like cities that are full of character and big on community, Dunedin may be just the place for you.
Dunedin, FL is a small city in the Tampa Bay area with Scottish roots (Dunedin comes from the Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland). It’s home to Florida’s oldest craft brewery, a popular Mardi Gras celebration, Honeymoon Island State Park, and a vibrant arts community. Coming from Orlando, plan for a 2 hour drive each way.
What to Do
Honeymoon Island State Park
What better way to start the day than spending a few hours at the beach? You can check out the beaches here, or take the ferry over to Caladesi Island State Park. I spent the morning walking, reading, dodging seagulls (hide your snacks unless you want to share them with a seagull, don’t ask me how I know), and generally getting way too much sun on Oasis Beach.
There’s ample parking at the beach along with bathrooms and a drinking fountain. I chose to pack a lunch and enjoy it on the beach so I could stay and soak up the sun a little longer. Even on a weekday, it started to get pretty busy around 11am so I’m glad I arrived early.
Check out the Breweries
The Tampa area has tons of breweries, and there are a few really great ones located right in Dunedin within walking distance of each other. Try Dunedin Brewery if you want something to eat along with your brew (I love the Apricot Peach Ale), or 7venth Sun for Belgian style brews – a small space but wonderful atmosphere.
Explore the Heart of Downtown
Downtown is easily walkable and public parking is free. I spent most of my time walking along Main St, Broadway, and Douglas Ave. Main St dead ends into a marina with a nice pier and Edgewater Park, a nice public park right on the water. There are cute shops and restaurants to enjoy all along Main St and Broadway. I especially loved wandering the side streets.
From an artist’s perspective, the magic of Dunedin is in the details. Wander the streets and keep your eyes out for fun murals (like the dog mural on the wall of Skip’s Bar and Grill), colorful homes and buildings, art galleries, and the small oranges painted on buildings throughout downtown (a nod to the history of citrus in the area). There’s plenty of shopping along the main roads.
Where to Eat
My first experience in Dunedin was at the Dunedin Brewery (Florida’s oldest craft brewery) and it’s now a mandatory stop anytime I’m in the area. My favorite dish is the tater tot poutine – tater tots, cheese curds, pulled pork, snakebite sauce and green onions – perfect for sharing. The waiter described this dish as a “belly buster.” (My new favorite phrase.) Also recommended: the black bean tacos.
Because no beach trip is complete without ice cream, make sure to stop by Strachan’s Ice Cream and Desserts. The chocolate milkshake was my selection, but the mint oreo ice cream was super tempting.
Other restaurants in the area I can’t wait to try on my next visit:
The Dunedin Smokehouse (471 Main St)
This BBQ spot has a huge outdoor patio and smelled absolutely heavenly when I walked by.
Pan y Vino (369 Main St)
I love pizza and wine, and this restaurant has both. Pan y Vino is a brick oven pizza restaurant and wine bar in one – a dream combination.
Casa Tina (365 Main St)
Aside from pizza and ice cream, Mexican food is one of my favorite cuisines. Casa Tina is located right next to the aforementioned Pan y Vino – the colorful exterior is hard to miss. I can’t wait to try it!
Other options: Kelly’s and the Chic-A-Boom Room (319 Main St), 9th Bar Coffee Co. (949 Huntley Ave.), and The Dip (355 Scotland St.)
Tips for Getting Around
The heart of downtown Dunedin is accessible and walkable. My favorite spot to park is in the public parking area on Douglas Ave. right across from Dunedin Brewery. After a morning visit to the beach, the brewery is a great place to start when exploring downtown and makes for a convenient spot to leave your car.
Driving time between Honeymoon Island State Park and downtown is about 15-20 minutes. From the park, exit and go across the causeway, then make a right at the first traffic light. If you’re traveling on to Dunedin Brewery, make a left on Skinner Blvd, then a right on Douglas Ave. and park in the free public parking lot across the street.
If you want to extend your day trip into an overnight, there are several hotels in the area to choose from. Dunedin is a simple drive from Clearwater, so if you’re in the area on vacation and want to change up your scenery, give it a try.