Gulfport

gulfport1Retaining much of its yesteryear charm, yet also exuding an eclectic artistic and bohemian vibe, the quaint City of Gulfport is one of the most interesting communities in Pinellas County. Known for its tranquil Old South atmosphere, the city also boasts chic boutiques, shops and art galleries thanks in part to the active community of artists drawn here by the tropical light and natural beauty of the place.

Gulfport is also home to the beautiful campus of  Stetson University College of Law, Florida’s first law school.

Old Florida
 As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Gulfport had 12,029 residents. These residents are fortunate to enjoy the splendid setting overlooking beautiful Boca Ciega Bay. Housing choices are diverse, ranging from a restored 1920s Mediterranean villa to a newly-built waterfront condo, a comfortable 1960s ranch house to an elegant country club home. Residents take pride in rehabbing old housing stock in creative ways. The spirit of the community is to maintain the throwback-to-old-Florida charm.

gulfport2Small but Active
Gulfport residents are proud of their city pier, an ideal location for catching a fish or just watching the sunset. Other civic institutions include a state-of-the-art performance hall, the Catherine Hickman Theater, and the Gulfport Casino, a waterfront landmark which is home to dances, musical performances, and other activities. Hop on the free trolley the first Friday of the month to experience Art Walk, an evening of street performances, craftsman exhibits, and a variety of galleries, shops, restaurants and clubs open late for your enjoyment. Art walks take place on the first Friday and third Saturday of every month.

The city parks are numerous and varied – from a nature preserve with boardwalk trails to a neighborhood park with softball fields.

“There is a remarkable sense of place in Gulfport. It’s the hometown you grew up in or wish you’d grown up in.” Greg Stemm, eight-year resident.


Factoids:

Population: 12,029 as of the 2010 U.S. Census
Land Area: 2.83 Sq. Miles
 

Points of Interest: City pier, Beach, Fishing, Performance hall, The Catherine Hickman Theater, and Gulfport Casino, Free Trolley, Art Walk takes place on the first Friday and third Saturday of every month, City parks are numerous and varied – from a nature preserve with boardwalk trails to a neighborhood park with softball fields.

Dunedin

dunedin1A tropical beachfront community, Dunedin offers a relaxed lifestyle with a historic, quaint downtown and superb natural beauty for you to enjoy. Cozy bungalows and historic residences as well as new condominiums and modern beach homes provide a wide range of housing styles for those lucky enough to live here. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Dunedin was the permanent residence of 35,321 people. The area attracts artists, business owners, sun-lovers and sailors making Dunedin a rich and diverse community. With four miles of picture-perfect waterfront, you are always within walking or biking distance to the beach and sidewalks along the waterline. Don’t be surprised if you see dolphins jump as you gaze out over the Intercoastal.

Two of the most beautiful beaches in the world are easily accessible from Dunedin. A nature preserve, Honeymoon Island, offers bird-watching along the three mile Osprey trail where you may spot American Bald Eagles, Red-shouldered Hawks, or Great Horned Owls. Look down and you may see gopher tortoises and armadillos by your side. Caladesi Island State Park, took the coveted #1 spot for best beach in America in 2008. It offers a rare glimpse of Florida’s precious nature. After a short ferry or boat ride you are taken away to a tropical paradise. How many can say they have that only five minutes away from home?

Traditional Main Street
Downtown Dunedin offers boutiques, antique shops, fine and casual dining with a relaxing seaside atmosphere and even a historic museum housed in a former railroad station. Here you can enjoy lunch at a restaurant alongside a portion of the 34-mile long Pinellas Trail which winds its way through town.

Arts, Culture and Festivals
Arts and sports get equal billing here. The Dunedin Fine Art Center offers world-class exhibitions and houses an interactive hands-on children’s art museum. At any given time of the year, the Fine Art Center offers over 80 classes to all ages in every conceivable mode of expression. One of Florida’s favorite juried art shows, Art Harvest, is hosted in Dunedin, along with dozens of art, music and food festivals throughout the year. The nine-day annual Highland Games and Festival pay tribute to the city’s Scottish heritage.

For Youngsters
Dunedin is a wonderful place to raise a family, with excellent neighborhood public schools, including Pinellas County’s first charter school, Academie DaVinci, which provides an enriching fine and performing arts curriculum. Many private schools are also available.

Sports leagues, nature programs, art workshops, golfing lessons, sailing and tennis clubs, softball, basketball and theater camps are just a smattering of the many and diverse activities available to children and teens.

dunedin2Parks & Recreation
Kids aren’t the only ones having fun in Dunedin. The city’s leisure services division sponsors year-round activities and operates four recreation facilities for residents of all ages. Community sports leagues for adults and youth as well as the everyday recreational opportunities provided by biking and hiking trails, the beaches, marinas and the Gulf of Mexico keep Dunedin residents active 365 days of the year. The Dunedin Golf Club caters to golfers, while the municipal marina is a haven for boaters. Along the Dunedin Causeway, windsurfers, sailors, kayakers and jet skiers enjoy the protected waters of St. Joseph Sound. No fewer than 29 city parks offer amazing recreational opportunities. In addition Dunedin is also the spring training home for the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Dunedin is an exciting town to be a part of – a place with a true sense of community  focused on families, where kids can be kids, where people care about each other and where I feel safe and don’t worry about anything.” Tony Scruton, 20-year resident.

 

Factoids:
Population: 35,321 as of the 2010 U.S. Census
Land Area: 10.4 Sq. Miles
 

Points of Interest: The Dunedin Fine Art Center, Dozens of art; music and food festivals, The nine-day annual Highland Games and Festival, Dunedin Country Club caters to golfers, The municipal marina, Dunedin Causeway, Windsurfing, Sailing, Kayaking and Jet sking,The protected waters of St. Joseph Sound, 29 city parks, Pinellas Trail, Toronto Blue Jays.

Belleair

belleair1The Town of Belleair may be small – encompassing just 2 square miles – but within its boundaries are three 18-hole golf courses, a well-appointed community center and seventeen public parks. Brick-paved streets shaded by dramatic tree canopies are lined with stately mansions, private estates and upscale condominium residences.

Wonderful History
Early Spanish explorers called the area Pescua, or Place of Flowers, and Belleair today retains its incredible natural beauty. Perched on a bluff above Clearwater Bay, Belleair also maintains an air of grandeur, perhaps stemming from the 1890s when railroad magnate Henry B. Plant built the magnificent Belleview Biltmore Hotel there. In 2009, the Belleview Biltmore Hotel closed and the future of the building is still undecided as of today. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places

Belleview Biltmore

Some of the area’s first homes, constructed with a view of the Belleview’s golf course, still stand today. The Belleview Biltmore Golf Club  continues to be a favorite among locals and visitors alike.  Luxury and opulence extend throughout the town; Belleair boasts some of the most magnificent upscale neighborhoods in all of Florida.

Busy Enjoying
The 3,869 residents of Belleair enjoy a wealth of activities organized by the Belleair Recreation Department, including summer camps and tennis lessons for kids to yoga classes and bridge clubs for adults. The many city festivals, races and celebrations culminate at the end of each year with the popular Holiday Tree Lighting.

 

Factoids:
Population: 3,869 according to the 2010 U.S. Census
Land Area: 1.79 Sq. Miles

Points of Interest: Belleview Biltmore Hotel, Some of the area’s first homes, Belleview’s golf course, Belleair Recreation Department, Summer camps, Tennis lessons for kids, Yoga classes, Bridge clubs for adults, City Festivals, Races and the popular Holiday Tree Lighting.

Island Time

egmont1While many of Pinellas County’s communities are, indeed, islands, sometimes you just want to get away to another kind of island. Fortunately, you don’t have to go far: several island experiences are available to you without having to leave the county.

Egmont Key, at the mouth of Tampa Bay, is a wildlife refuge that also happens to be on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to its 150-year old lighthouse and remains of Fort Dade, a relic of the Spanish-American War. A visit there is a step back in time.

Caladesi Island State Park, designated as the 2008 #1 Beach in the U.S., is only accessible by boat – your own, or by taking the ferry with hourly departure. It is one of the few remaining all-natural islands on the west coast of Florida where you can swim, hike, fish, study or just loll on a pristine beach. Explore the mangrove-covered kayak trail. Spot a gopher tortoise. This is the way Florida looked a century ago.

Honeymoon Island is an island, but you can walk or drive there via a causeway from Dunedin. The natural preserve is known for its bird watching – it’s a rookery for eagles and ospreys. Gulf currents deposit a huge variety of seashells on the island’s newly re-nourished beaches, making the island a paradise for shell collectors.

Getting away for a little island time doesn’t require a plane ticket.  For the lucky ones who live here, island time is only minutes away.

honeymoon

Fort De Soto

fortdesoto2Locals have always known that Fort De Soto Park has one of the top beaches in the world and it’s right here in our own back yard. Experts and travelers from around the world agree.

In fact, in 2005 famous beach preservationist Dr. Stephen Leatherman named Fort De Soto North America’s number one beach. For two of the last three years, the world’s largest online travel community Trip Advisor has named Fort De Soto America’s Top Beach. Some 2.7 million visitors come every year to relax in this tranquil, breathtakingly lovely place.

fortdesoto3Fort De Soto Beach is located in Fort De Soto Park, Pinellas County’s largest park, with 1,136 acres spread across five interconnected islands. The 12-inch mortar battery, located at the fort for which the park was named, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, making the place a magnet to history buffs.

In Ft. De Soto Park nature is the real star with over 7 miles of waterfront, including almost three miles of the finest white sand beach in the United States. Visitors from near and far come to launch a boat or kayak, pitch a tent, throw a line in the water or hike the recreation trail. This is one of the few beaches in Florida where you can camp overnight, and fall to sleep to the sound of waves lapping the shore and wind rustling the palms.

Fort De Soto Park is one of the most incredible natural environments in the state, and probably the country.  And it’s only in Pinellas.