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Pass-a-Grille, one of Florida’s best beaches in a charming historic town

The soft white sand and blue-green Gulf water make this one of the most perfect beaches in an area where all the beaches are great. But what sets Pass-a-Grille apart from the other award-winning beaches that stretch from St. Pete to Clearwater is the charming Old Florida feel of the historic town.

Pass-a-Grille has more cute bungalows than mansions or hotels, and there are no condo towers. The core of the town is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a block wide, with the beach on one side and the Intracoastal channel on the other.

Blue-green water, white sand and no crowds at Pass-A-Grille Beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Pass-a-Grille beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Surrounded by water on three sides and located at the very end of the barrier island, Pass-a-Grille feels like an island out of another era.

As you cross the bridge to Pass-a-Grille from the mainland, you first come to the Don CeSar Hotel, the pink birthday cake of a hotel built in 1928. “The Don” provides a picturesque backdrop to many beach photos. The hotel has rooms in the $300+range.

The Don CeSar Hotel marks the northern end of Pass A Grille.
The Don CeSar Hotel marks the northern end of Pass A Grille. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

North of the Don, St. Pete Beach has a typical condos-and-commerce character. South of the Don, Pass-a-Grille is quieter, simpler and more natural.

In the middle of the beach area, Pass-a-Grille has a cluster of restaurants, some quite good, and a block-long downtown with some galleries and shops. All are within a block of the beach.

On the Intracoastal channel side of Pass-A-Grille, you'll find fishermen and their fans.
On the Intracoastal channel side of Pass-a-Grille, you’ll find fishermen and their fans. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Restaurants in Pass-a-Grille

We liked being able to walk to dinner and there are a handful of restaurants on the island where that was possible. While none of the restaurants get five stars for food, we loved the ambiance and views at each.

Sea Critters Cafe, 2007 Pass a Grille Way, Pass-a-Grille, has a real Old Florida feel with an outside deck overlooking the Pass-a-Grille channel. Our seafood here was good, but our favorite thing was the ambiance, with birds wheeling overhead as fishermen cast nearby. Catfish famously patrol under the docks waiting for handouts.

Pass-a-grille pass a grille sea critters Pass-a-Grille, one of Florida’s best beaches in a charming historic town
The view from the deck seating at Sea Critters Cafe in Pass-a-Grille. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Next door is another rustic restaurant with a similarly great water view, The Wharf, 2001 Pass a Grille Way, St. Pete Beach.

One of my favorite features of Pass-a-Grille is a beach bar right on the sand, the The Paradise Grill, 900 Gulf Way. Go here for the sunset, the fantastic view, the chance to have a craft beer on the beach and the live Trop Rock music at night. The food is not special here, but the location and the setting certainly are: Naming this place after paradise is no exaggeration. Right next to the bar in the sand are several cornhole games set up for beach-goers’ use.

The Paradise Grille is right on the sand of Pass A Grille beach.
The Paradise Grille is right on the sand of Pass-a-Grille beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

There are many good places to watch sunset, but our favorite was sunset over drinks form the rooftop bar at the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant, which has been open since 1977. What a view! Then we went downstairs for dinner, where I liked “Mom’s 1945 Crab Cake Melt,” a recipe handed down over three generations in the family that founded and still operates the place.

The sunset view from the roof desk at the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The sunset view from the roof desk at the Hurricane Seafood Restaurant. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

We’ve heard the crab cakes are outstanding at another beach-front spot with a great view: The Brass Monkey, 709 Gulf Way #200, Pass-a-Grille. It has a great sunset view.

You’ll find a few other good choices for restaurants searching Yelp or TripAdvisor.

The beach at Pass-a-Grille

The Pass-a-Grille beach has white powdery sand that extends far into the water, which stays shallow for a long ways gradually deepening. The water is clear and emerald colored, with an occasional passing dolphin or, in the shallows, a hermit crab scuttling along.

At the very southern tip, we saw a dozen people stooped over, shelling at a beach on the inlet. It’s also a spot where we saw snorkelers.

There are benches here and a jetty that stretches into the Gulf offering magnificent views.

At the southern tip of Pass A Grille, the beach is good for shelling.
At the southern tip of Pass-a-Grille, the beach is good for shelling. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Parking: There is metered street parking from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (It’s free after 8 p.m.) Look for parking on both Pass-A-Grille Way and Gulf Way. Parking on the streets that run between these two waterfront roads is limited to residents with the exceptions of 9th Avenue, 15th Avenue and 16th Avenue, where there are meters. (Parking, which is via pay stations, is $3.25 an hour.) Parking is rarely easy, however. You can always tell when and where there is parking with the city’s real-time parking map. Insiders say your best bet for parking is the north or the south end of Pass-a-Grille.

A morning walk on the beach at Pass-a-Grille. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
A morning walk on the beach at Pass-a-Grille. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Fees: No charge for beach access, other than parking.

Alcohol: No, but note the existence of a beach bar right on the sand. You must keep alcohol on its grounds, however.

Pets: No. But at the southern tip of the peninsula, there is a designated dog beach on the channel side at Pass-a-Grille Way.

The small business district of Pass A Grille.
The small business district of Pass-a-Grille. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Location and directions: Passe-a-Grille is the southern-most tip of the barrier island along St. Petersburg. It is part of the city of St. Pete Beach but has a long history as a separate community. The first homesteaders arrived in 1886 and the community didn’t become part of St. Pete Beach until 1957. You reach it via Pinellas Bayway, which is an exit off I-275 just north of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Accommodations and hotels on Pass-a-Grille: In addition to the Don CeSar Hotel, there are a handful of beach-front hotels and inns on the beach near the small restaurant-and-business district. Check out Inn on the Beach, Island’s End Resort (with classic cabins, some with water views) and Keystone Motel. We’ve stayed in two spots: a vacation rental (here are a few options) and the Sabal Palms Inn, where we were very happy with an efficiency with a patio directly facing the beach.

Day trips from Pass-a-Grille: You can get a shuttle to wild and scenic Shell Key, an island located across the pass south of Pass-a-Grille, right from the Merry Pier, 801 Pass-a-Grille Way. The pier is also the place to rent fishing gear or line up a fishing charter or a sunset cruise.

Sunset on Pass-a-Grille beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Sunset on Pass-a-Grille beach. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Near Pass-a-Grille

Fort Desoto County Park is a park with a wide variety of recreational opportunities in its five islands and three miles of award-winning beach. It’s 15 minutes from Pass-a-Grille. Here’s a Florida Rambler story about Fort Desoto.

St. Petersburg: Seven places to find Old Florida is this lively town. The downtown is only 25 minutes away.

Pinellas Trail: On the west side of Tampa Bay is one of the most progressive and appreciated rails-to-trails projects in all of Florida. The 50-mile Pinellas Trail starts in Tarpon Springs and runs south through downtowns and neighborhoods in Dunedin, Clearwater, Largo, Pasadena and into downtown St. Petersburg. There’s a spur north of Dunedin that goes out to beautiful Honeymoon Island. This is a multi-purpose trail for hikers, bikers and roller skaters. Read more in this Florida Rambler article: Treasured St. Pete bike trail.

Arts and craft beer: Explore St. Petersburg craft breweries and galleries on a stroll through the charming downtown.

St. Petersburg: City of Arts: Three new art museums in St. Petersburg – each built to house extraordinary private collections – make this city a destination for art lovers.

Egmont Key: Five things to love about this wild island off Fort De Soto Park.

Emerson Point Preserve: Four reasons to discover this jewel in Palmetto

Anna Maria Island: Things to do in Old Florida beach town


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Be Warned

Tuesday 19th of July 2022

This beach is very dangerous it has taken the life of a mom who was trying to save multiple children. Last month it almost took the lives of 2 families adults and children. They need to post a sign about dangerous currents on the beach sand so people are warned about these dangerous waters. There is no lifeguard. This beach is cursed is very deceitful.

Bonnie Gross

Wednesday 20th of July 2022

Concerned by this message, I searched the internet for news of these drownings. It appears a woman drowned after several children were caught (and saved by other swimmers) in rip currents north of the jetty in October 2018. There have been calls for signage and lifeguards to be added. It appears the most dangerous location is where this drowning occurred, in the area north of jetty, because inlets have surprisingly strong currents. I did see snorkelers in that area of the inlet on a recent visit. It seems wise to avoid swimming there.

Chris Almvig

Friday 15th of July 2022

Let's hope the EPA can stop the Phosphate Companies from dumping their industrial waste into the rivers and streams, so that the Red Tide doesn't find it's way onto the gulf beaches. There were many weeks last summer that we couldn't enjoy Passe-A-Grille!

Clydia Whitlock

Thursday 7th of July 2022

One missed piece of Pass-a-Grille in your article… Best crab cake ever at The Brass Monkey

Bonnie Gross

Friday 8th of July 2022

Thank you! One of the key places I didn't get to. It's a great location right across from the beach, too.

Erik

Monday 6th of June 2022

Let’s hope that it will remain the way it is and not over develop with apartments and condos like TI and Madeira Beach have become..

Drew P Bahlzs

Sunday 5th of June 2022

Silas Dents ghost will haunt all tourists

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