Visitors to Dunedin, a small town of 37,000 residents located along Florida’s Gulf Coast, inevitably come away with a strong sense of history. Although the town began life as ‘Jonesboro’ in 1870, by 1882 residents agreed to adopt the name Dunedin, which better reflected the town’s strong Scottish heritage. Early in its history Dunedin became one of Florida’s chief seaport and trading centers, as it was home to the largest fleet of sailing vessels in Florida. Today the nearly four miles of picturesque waterfront remains a focal point for the community, although its docks and moorings are now home to sailboats and all manner of pleasure craft rather than working vessels.
Through the years, Dunedin has been the site of numerous other firsts:
- The amphibious tractors that played a decisive role in the Pacific theatre during World War II were assembled in Dunedin
- Frozen orange juice concentrate originated here
- The “Pram” sailboat racer was fist built in Dunedin
- The town was the first home of the PGA (Professional Golfers Association)
- The first radio signals from Pinellas County were sent from Dunedin
- The oldest continuous garden club on Florida’s west coast is the Dunedin Garden Club.
- The famous television ratings firm, A.C. Nielsen Company, has located its master computer in Dunedin since 1972
Even the graceful entrance to Main Street, the painstakingly preserved buildings in the two-block long central business district, and the architecture on residential side streets recall the past. The Dunedin Historical Society has designed a walking tour of the town’s historic sites, including the Douglas home and Andrews Memorial Chapel, both of which have been placed on the National Register of Historic Sites through the efforts of the Society. An admirable collection of artifacts is also on display inside the Historic Society, which is housed in the old Atlantic Coast Line Train Depot on Main Street.
To further enhance its appeal, Dunedin offers a wide array of events throughout the year, including a full complement of holiday activities between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The town’s Senior Awareness Fair is held in January, and the Downtown Merchants sponsor Mardi Gras in February. When April rolls around it’s time for the annual Highland Games, conducted in the proper Scottish tradition, as well as Friday night films that are screened in Pioneer Park at dusk. May brings the Hog Hustle, and the Dunedin Sprint Triathlon is held each June. In September, boats gather for the Dunedin Cup and Kiwanis Regatta, while in October visitors from all over the state converge for Dunedin’s annual Oktoberfest. In November it’s a week-long Italian American Reconciliation event, and in November the Downtown Merchants get back into the swing of things with the ‘Dunedin Wines the Blues’ event. Band concerts, choral concerts, and art shows are scheduled throughout the year, and concerts and fireworks are always scheduled for the 4th of July.
As if all that would not be enough to satisfy the most demanding of tourists, Dunedin is also home to two stunning beaches that are located just a mile outside of town, Honeymoon Beach State Park and Caladesi Island, the latter of which has been named the nation’s most beautiful beach and may well offer the finest shell collecting in the country. With all this, plus bike trails, birding paths, great restaurants, and comfortable B&B’s, it’s no wonder the town bills itself as “Delightful Dunedin.”
Photos courtesy of Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut Travels