Feel the buzz

Dunedin, the downtown heart of North Pinellas

North Pinellas is dying fast. Or maybe it was never fully birthed — hovering between giant nursing home and beach-party tourism hub in a kind of sprawling suburban incubation tube.

But there's hope: Go downtown.

OK, maybe not downtown Clearwater. The Church of Scientology bought the old Fort Harrison Hotel in 1975 and has been turning the surrounding city into a sterile fortress ever since. Remaining charms include the Farmer's Market, the Pro Shop Pub and the Royalty Theatre. Otherwise, well, there's Starbucks.

Downtown Safety Harbor is a better bet, with its flourishing Main Street, John Wilson Park, Tea House and, of course, the renowned Safety Harbor Spa. Its 2,000-year-old natural mineral springs may or may not be the fabled Fountain of Youth.

But it's the delightfully concentrated town of Dunedin that is the real heart of North Pinellas. Its pulse is felt mostly in the tiny, thriving Main Street district, but the surrounding area also manages to be refreshingly quaint and artsy, a coastal residential strip that offers folks of all ages a reasonable shot at the mythical American dream.

And we do mean shot. Thanks to surprisingly logical zoning and a wide selection of local bars, the crafty 30somethings as well as the salt-and-pepper seniors all enjoy a constant buzz in this cheery Floridian version of the Middle-Earthly Shire.

Local notables 

Johnny Bravo, who ran and played the Dunedin Brewery open mic for years; Jim Terry, musician and owner of Jim Terry Music store; Justin Robert, avante-garde musician and founder of Lunar Flower Netlabel; Elizabeth Faubert, artist and photographer, known for her photos of "literary animals" (dogs and cats "caught" in the act of reading books).

See also

The don't-miss list

The top 21 draws in Dunedin.

Local quotable

"It's a great town to live in.

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