The Clearwater Ferry Services launched a new service to Dunedin on Friday, expanding to five stops and bringing a new destination full of restaurants, shops, and breweries all within walking distance from the dock. Known as the Blue Line, the route links Downtown Clearwater with Downtown Dunedin and Clearwater Beach, eight times per day each Friday through Sunday. Service starts at 11:15 a.m. with the last boat pulling into the downtown Dunedin Marina just before 10 p.m. This is a convenient alternative to driving and a fun and scenic trip to popular destinations along Clearwater’s Gold Coast.
“We’ve been looking to add new stops for a long time and the City of Dunedin really stepped up to make this happen," said Camille Hebting, Sales and Marketing Manager for the Clearwater Ferry. "Getting people out of there cars is a win for everyone. Along with avoiding traffic congestion the Clearwater Ferry gives people the opportunity to discover the waterways which is one of the best features of Pinellas County.”
The Clearwater Ferry's Dunedin port.
The best place to pick up the Clearwater Ferry is from the downtown Clearwater Marina. Free and ample parking is available, so you don’t have to search for parking once you arrive in Dunedin. The ferry takes riders north along Edgewater Drive and gives a great view of the stately homes that face the water and line the route. The arrival point for the Clearwater Ferry’s new service to Dunedin is the Dunedin Marina Plaza, next to Bon Appetit Restaurant. Once off the boat, a quick walk up the street puts you in the downtown shopping district, full of restaurants like Cafe Alfresco and Casa Tina, known for authentic Mexican cuisine.
Stroll into boutique shops and galleries or sample some local beers at any of the craft breweries that dot the area. Grab an English Golden Ale at Cueni Brewing Co., right off the Pinellas Trail. The Dunedin Brewery on Douglas Avenue is a great spot for live music, create-your-own beer samplers and pub food. Across the street is the new outpost for Nature's Food Patch, where you can choose from a wide variety of organic snacks for the next leg of your ferry ride.
Bottlenosed Dolphin playing in coastal waters.
From Dunedin, the ferry heads south and under the Memorial Causeway Bridge toward the Clearwater Beach Marina. Don’t be surprised to see dolphins playfully swimming around the boats en route. As we crossed under the bridge, I couldn’t help to notice the line of cars moving at a snail's pace heading west to the beach. The Ferry takes all the frustration of traffic jams and limited parking out of the beach experience!
Once docked in Clearwater Beach, head west to the beach or north for shopping along Mandalay Drive. There's a great selection of specialty stores like Maui Nix Surf Shop in the Pelican Walk Plaza. On a warm day, head to Kilwins Clearwater Beach to cool off with ice cream and a great selection of hand-made candies. If you’re looking for casual dining, check into any of the Frenchy's Cafe locations. The original restaurant is on Baymont Street and has a great gift shop, Frenchy’s off the Hook, next door. It’s full of beach themed items for home, clothes and funky jewelry.
The Clearwater Ferry's Clearwater Beach stop drops riders off near the roundabout.
Heading back to Downtown Clearwater is the shortest of the three legs and before you know it, your back on terra-firma. Before you head out, store the beach chairs, bags, and umbrellas in the car and walk up the bluff for some Thai Chicken Flatbread, avocado fries, and a great margarita at Clear Sky on Cleveland or an iced coffee at the Grindhouse café. You can also take in the Clearwater Marine Aquarium presentation of Winter’s Dolphin Tale Adventure at the Harborview Center.
The Clearwater Ferry Services addition to Dunedin offers a beautiful, stress-free and economical way to visit the destinations, each loaded with exciting things to do for the whole family all within walking distance from the stops. You can bring beach gear and well-behaved pets on the boats, but bicycles are not allowed, though bike rentals are available at each stop. Reservations are required for the Blue Line and can be made at www.clearwaterferry.com. Complete information on schedules, fares, private charters and large parties can be found on that site or by calling 727-755-0297.
Clearwater Ferry photos courtesy of the author. Dolphin photo courtesy of Evan Kirby and Unsplash.