Three nights in Palm Harbor/Dunedin, FL

We were in Palm Harbor from 1/16 to 1/19/2022 as part of our Florida in January trip.

bugsy playing with driftwood at honeymoon island state park
Bugsy enjoying a hike in Honeymoon Island State Park

From Venice, it’s a two hour drive up to the Dunedin/Palm Harbor area, just north of Clearwater and northwest of Tampa. The shortest route includes the bonkers Skyway bridge, which was scary to pull the Airstream over on a windy day–keep that in mind if you’re route-mapping with a trailer!

We planned this stop with two goals in mind: to visit with friends in Tampa, and to explore the charming small town of Dunedin. (Yes, another pronunciation lesson is in order: it’s duh-NEED-in.) It turns out that this area has not just one but three neat little towns in a cluster: Dunedin, Palm Harbor, and Tarpon Springs, an impressive number of breweries, and lots of dog-friendly spots!

Campground

bugsy dozing at our campsite at Caladesi
this is the best photo I have of our campsite

Our original plan had us staying at Dunedin RV Resort, but no surprise, they were fully booked even way in advance when we planned our trip. So we stayed at the next-closest RV campground to Dunedin, Caladesi RV Park, which is only about ten minutes from downtown Dunedin.

Caladesi has a pool, bathrooms, good internet, and it’s close to the Pinellas Trail (more on that later) and has an ice cream joint next door. If you read our Key West post, you may remember that the RVing pig was at Caladesi when we were, which was a fun coincidence. It’s an ok campground, if a bit crumbly and run-down–Dunedin RV Resort looked nicer overall, and it’s a few minutes closer to downtown Dunedin, so we’d try (again) to stay there next time.

Eating

Real food

tuna kimchi-changa at crown and bull
my tuna kimchi-changa at Crown and Bull

Crown and Bull: Our sweet friends from Tampa drove 45 minutes west to meet us for an evening in Dunedin. We brewery-hopped and landed at Crown and Bull for dinner. The food, with a focus on seafood and local ingredients, was delicious, and they have a great patio. I recommend the tuna kimchi-changa!

at the bar at Bar Fly
sitting at the bar at Bar Fly

Bar Fly: 11th St between Nebraska Ave and Florida Ave in Palm Harbor is the coolest area of Palm Harbor that we came across, with a handful of restaurants and bars in neat old houses. Bar Fly, a super casual raw bar/seafood shack/burger joint has seating on a big patio under the trees, and there was live music and lit fire pits the night we were there. We sat at the bar and shared fantastic mahi tacos and lobster tacos–maybe the best we had all trip. I’ll re-evaluate that after finishing all the trip posts!

fish tacos and lobster roll at lucky lobster
grouper tacos and lobster roll at Lucky Lobster

Lucky Lobster: The internet thought this might be the best restaurant in Dunedin, so we gave it a shot and it was really good! Our grouper tacos were absolutely crammed full of fish, but the lobster roll was too small for what they charged. Service was great, and we enjoyed our dinner.

Casa Tina: Our Tampa friend Missy recommended Casa Tina, a hip Mexican restaurant in downtown Dunedin, but we didn’t make it there. Keeping it on the list in case we return!

Taco Baby: I really wanted to grab a snack at “Florida’s tiniest taquería” while exploring Dunedin, but the line was too long. Definitely doing this if we are in Dunedin again!

Treats

bugsy licking her pup cone from strachans
Bugsy’s pup cone from Strachan’s

Strachan’s Homemade Ice Cream: Strachan’s is a local gourmet ice cream shop and there’s an output adjacent to Caladesi campground! J and Bugsy walked over for a treat and they both thought the ice cream was super. I say “both” because Bugsy was served a free (with purchase) pup cone!

mini cosmic donuts
mini Cosmic Donuts

Cosmic Donuts: How could I not stop by a local doughnut shop that’s a short drive from the campground? We were in a hurry so I asked the donutter to recommend her favorites, and we ended up with an assortment of minis. They were tasty, and I appreciated the small size, but some of the regular-sized doughnuts looked incredible!

bugsy choosing her ice cream at salty paws
Bugsy choosing her ice cream flavor at Salty Paws
bugsy waiting for her ice cream at salty paws
Bugsy patiently waiting for me to put down her ice cream bowl

Salty Paws: Bugsy and I chanced upon Salty Paws, the first doggy ice cream bar in Florida, while exploring downtown Dunedin. Salty Paws sells all kinds of doggy treats, from baked goods to clothing and toys, but Bugsy wanted to try the ice cream. The flavor selection included cheddar, maple bacon, and peanut butter, all of which sounded like Bugsy, but we went with cheddar. Of course she inhaled it!

Hellas Bakery: To really immerse ourselves in the Greek culture of Tarpon Springs, we required a pastry from Hellas. Be sure to peek into the connected restaurant; the decor is really something.

Drinking

We had our beer tasting work cut out for us in Dunedin, Palm Harbor, and Tarpon Springs, and we did our best for you, dear readers.

Breweries: Dunedin

bugsy and beers at 7venth Sun brewing
7venth Sun Brewery’s patio

7venth Sun Brewery: This was our favorite brewery in the area! 7venth Sun has a small, friendly inside bar and a nice big (but smoky when we were there) patio on the edge of town. We tried IPAs, a pale ale, an imperial stout, and several sours and they were all fab. 7venth Sun has a much bigger tasting room in Tampa with more beers to try.

bugsy at dunedin brewing
Dunedin Brewery’s patio

Dunedin Brewery: Florida’s oldest craft brewery has a nice outdoor space, good service, and ok beer.

bugsy chilling at woodright brewing
Woodright Brewing’s patio

Woodright Brewing Co: Another good patio with a tiny inside tasting room, Woodright specializes in German beers, but J liked the hazy IPA and L liked the pretzel!

beer at cueni brewing
Cueni’s open-air taproom

Cueni Brewing: Cueni has a cool dive-bar feel while still being open-air. The pickle sour was interesting, and the session IPA was ok.

HOB Brewing: HOB has a massive outdoor space and we liked the refreshing cucumber IPA, but thought the other beers were nothing special.

Caledonia Brewing: I have to like a brewery with a unicorn in their logo. Their tap list only included a few of their own beers, and J liked their milk stout, but I opted for a sour from 81Bay in Tampa.

beers at soggy bottom brewing
Soggy Bottom’s taproom

Soggy Bottom Brewing – SBB also only had a few beers of their own, and a ton of guest beers. This was our least favorite beer in the area, no offense. 

Breweries: Palm Harbor

beers at deBine brewery
streetside spot at deBine Brewing

deBine Brewing: We liked our little table by a huge open window, but we didn’t finish our beers: an overly-sweet sour, and a meh IPA. 

Stilt House Brewery: Great service from super-nice people, but we didn’t like the beers. We tried a coffee stout and a cucumber saison; they didn’t have any hazy IPAs or sours, which is what we are drinking these days.

Palm Harbor Brewery / Two Lions Winery: We walked up to this tiny little storefront that looked crowded and not really like a brewery at all, and decided to keep walking. Maybe we would have tried it if their outdoor space had been open at the time.

Breweries: Tarpon Springs

beer at brighter days brewing
trailside spot at Brighter Days Brewing

Brighter Days Brewing Co: We declared Brighter Days the second-best brewery in the area. J thought his IPA was good, with an interesting distinct flavor, and my sour was nice. The food menu looked awesome!

Non-breweries

sunset tiki drink at marker 8
sunset cocktail at Marker 8

I wanted to go to a cocktail bar for a pretty sunset, and the internet sent us to Marker 8. It’s a cheesy tiki bar boasting a gorgeous sunset over the water. They hand out free shots at sunset, which was kind of hilarious.

Exploring

There’s a lot to see and do in the area, from hiking and biking to exploring a Greek fishing village!

Dunedin

Downtown Dunedin is charming and full of cute restaurants and shops. Parking was easy, and we wandered around Main Street, grabbing coffee and a power ball at Dunedin Coffee Company and Bakery, treating B to ice cream at Salty Paws, and not getting me any tacos at Taco Baby. We also put together a downtown brewery crawl with Dunedin Brewery, Woodright, Cueni, and HOB all in close proximity to each other.

kafe racer in dunedin
Kafe Racer coffee shop

On a separate visit, I went to Kafe Racer to get a new tire for J’s bike (if you’re counting: 2nd new tire after Venice, causing 3rd flat after Key West and Venice). What a cool spot: it’s a hybrid coffee shop and bike shop, where you can chill with a latte or a beer and a snack while your bike gets fixed.

hammock park alligator sign
not feeding alligators in Hammock Park

Our last morning in town we did a family walk around Hammock Park, a huge and beautiful city park between the campground and downtown. There’s a network of trails so you can piece together whatever distance you want; we did this two-mile Perimeter Loop hike.

Tarpon Springs

sponge fishing boat in tarpon springs
a sponge fishing boat in Tarpon Springs

The best way to travel from Palm Harbor to Tarpon Springs is by bicycle, on the Pinellas Trail! Tarpon Springs is a village known for sponge fishing, and for having the highest percentage of Greek Americans in the US. The sponge dock area was fun to visit, and the baklava from Hellas powered our ride back to Caladesi.

Downtown Tarpon Springs looked promising, but was dead when we rode through so we didn’t bother exploring, instead focusing our Tarpon time at the sponge docks and at Brighter Days Brewing.

Palm Harbor

walking the pinellas trail in palm harbor
walking the Pinellas Trail in Palm Harbor

Palm Harbor seems to be mostly made of strip malls along busy roads, but we set out on foot one evening from the campground and found a fun little downtown-ish area, where Bar Fly lives along with a few other restaurants. From the campground, it’s possible (and seemed safe, but be careful in the dark) to walk along the Pinellas Trail to the Palm Harbor breweries and into the Bar Fly neighborhood.

Honeymoon Island State Park

hiking honeymoon island state park
hiking in Honeymoon Island State Park

Honeymoon Island is a lovely state park just across the bridge from Dunedin, with beaches (no dogs allowed there) and a 2.5-mile (dog-friendly!) hiking loop. We saw lots of ospreys and a bald eagle–which was cool, but her/his presence also caused part of the trail to be closed, to protect the nest. Go early to beat the crowds!

Key Vista Nature Park

bugsy running on the beach at key vista park
frolicking in Key Vista park

I kind of randomly came upon this park and it’s a gem. Bugsy and I had to run to Camping World, and I wanted to entertain her afterward and saw Key Vista on the map nearby. It’s a peaceful place for a walk in the woods to quiet beaches and an observation tower.

Pinellas Trail

riding the pinellas trail in tarpon springs
biking the Pinellas Trail to Tarpon Springs

Last, but certainly not least, is the Pinellas Trail, a rails-to-trails multi-use path stretching from St Petersburg in the south up beyond Tarpon Springs in the north. It’s a wonderful trail and it passes just behind Caladesi RV Park and across the street from Dunedin RV Resort. We ran it a few miles south one day, and biked it up beyond Tarpon Springs, where the trail gets more scenic and has fewer stop signs, another day. The trail is awesome, and to add to the awesomeness: we saw a Roseate Spoonbill along the trail, our favorite bird sighting so far!

To do

I already mentioned a couple restaurants to hit on a future visit: Casa Tina and Taco Baby. Also on my wish list: the Chihuly Collection in St Petersburg.

Let us know if you have any Dunedin-area favorites!

At our next location I finally get my manatees!!!!!!!!

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