By  Mike Miller  Updated August 25, 2023

Melrose, Florida Things To Do, Lodging, Dining, & Real Estate At End Of Article

Melrose, Florida is a quiet unincorporated Victorian village about 19 miles east of Gainesville at the intersection of State Roads 26 and 21.

An unusual thing about Melrose is that it is located in four counties:  Alachua, Bradford, Clay, and Putnam. 

Indian Princess on Lake Santa Fe, State Archives, Florida Memory, Princess on Lake Santa Fe
Florida State Archives

State Road 26 is a historic road.  It was the first federal highway built in Florida and it was completed while Florida was still a territory in 1824.

It was known then as Bellamy Road and connected St. Augustine to Pensacola.

When I was a student at the University of Florida, some of the staff and faculty lived in Melrose and made the drive each work day. 

They valued the laid back quiet ambiance of the place which hasn't changed in the many years since I graduated.

Melrose Woman's ClubMelrose Woman's Club


The town takes its name from Melrose Abbey in Scotland, and originally existed to serve the booming citrus industry that was becoming quickly dominant in this region of North Central Florida.

A home in Melrose, FloridaMelrose Home

Melrose is at the southern end of Lake Santa Fe, and a canal was dug from the lake to Lake Alto and then to Waldo, the nearest point on the railroad at the time. 

The first steamer to make the round trip from Waldo to Melrose was the F.S. Lewis in 1881.  It was named for the man who dredged the canal.

The F.S. Lewis paddle wheeler between Melrose and WaldoF.S. Lewis on the Santa Fe Canal, Courtesy

From Waldo, citrus from Melrose and the surrounding region made it's way to northern markets on the railroad.

Melrose Bay in Melrose, FloridaMelrose Bay on Lake Santa Fe

The giant freezes of 1894 and 1895 wiped out the citrus industry.  Local groves were destroyed, and most of the citrus growers relocated further south in Florida.


Melrose has survived in the years that followed as a quiet unincorporated residential community of about 3500 people. 

Melrose Homemakers ClubMelrose Homemakers Club

Many artists and writers are attracted to the town because of its quiet beauty. 

The rustic streets, many of them unpaved, are canopied by ancient oaks draped with Spanish moss.  

It is a quiet inviting atmosphere.

L. Baldwin and Sons Store in Melrose, FloridaL. Baldwin and Son Store, Melrose

One of my favorite writers, the late Al Burt, retired here many years ago.  

He wrote such Florida classics as "Becalmed In The Mullet Latitudes",  "Al Burt's Florida" and "The Tropic of Cracker"

The famous rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley lived for many years on a farm near Hawthorne, south of Melrose. 

The musical legend is buried in Bronson, Florida, and has a major downtown square in Gainesville named after him.

There are 72 structures listed in the Melrose Historic District. The District is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Trinity Episcopal Church, Melrose, FloridaTrinity Episcopal Church, Melrose, Florida

Among the structures is Trinity Episcopal Church, an example of Carpenter Gothic architecture. 

The church is at 204 State Road 26.  Trinity was completed in 1886, and built completely using local materials.



319 State Road 26
Melrose, FL 32666
Tel:  352-475-1928

Blue Water Bay is not only popular with local residents, visitors come from miles around to enjoy the atmosphere and great food. 

Blue Water Bay, Melrose, Florida

 I visited recently and was impressed with the extensive menu, full service bar, and friendly efficient staff.

The ambiance of the place is Old Florida with a lot of original paintings on the walls, some of the by local artists and for sale at reasonable prices.



Melrose Bay Park 
25500 Devonia St, Melrose, FL 32666 
This picturesque park, located on the shores of Melrose Bay, is a favorite among locals and visitors for its serene beauty and recreational opportunities. It offers a peaceful setting for picnicking, swimming, fishing, and kayaking.

It’s the perfect spot to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. The park’s small sand beach area is ideal for a quiet afternoon by the water. 

Gallery 26 
303 State Road 26, Melrose, FL 32666 | (352) 475-2924 
Celebrate the vibrant art scene of Melrose with a visit to Gallery 26, where local artists and craftsmen display their work. This cooperative gallery showcases a wide range of mediums, from painting and sculpture to jewelry and textiles.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the creativity of the region and perhaps find a unique piece to take home. The gallery also hosts workshops and events, making it a dynamic hub for the arts in Melrose. 

Historic Melrose Walking Tour 
Start at Heritage Park, 201 FL-State Road 26, Melrose, FL 32666  
Step back in time with a self-guided walking tour of Melrose’s historic district. Stroll through tree-lined streets and admire the charming architecture of homes and buildings that date back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Highlights include the Melrose United Methodist Church and the Victorian-style Homestead Farmhouse. It’s our favorite way to explore the rich history and architectural beauty of Melrose at your own pace. 

Melrose Farmer’s Market 
Heritage Park, 201 FL-26, Melrose, FL 32666  
Experience the local flavor of Melrose at the weekly Farmer’s Market held in Heritage Park. Here, you can sample and purchase fresh, locally-grown produce, homemade goods, and artisanal products.

The market is a great place to mingle with locals, enjoy live music, and immerse yourself in the community’s friendly atmosphere. It’s an ideal spot for those looking to savor the tastes of North Central Florida and support local farmers and artisans. 

Bellamy Road 
Melrose to Alachua 
Take a scenic drive or bike ride along Bellamy Road (FL-26), one of Florida’s oldest federal roads as discussed above. This historic route offers a peaceful journey through lush landscapes and past significant sites, including the Alachua Sink and Paynes Prairie.

It’s a lovely way to experience the beauty of the area and reflect on its history. 


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