Off the Beaten Path: Exploring Pass-A-Grille Beach

Pass-A-Grille Beach is regarded by some as the ‘hidden gem’ of Tampa Bay’s beaches. It features prime location off the coast of St. Petersburg, and as a division of St. Pete Beach on its southern-most tip, it allows you to escape to the carefree, “Old Florida” island lifestyle, while still being close to the mainland.

Pass-A-Grille Beach is tucked off the beaten path, literally. If you’re heading down Gulf Boulevard, you go until you cannot go any further, and then veer to the right, merging onto Gulf Way. You’ll immediately know when you’re there. It looks pleasantly unfamiliar. Where St. Pete Beach is cluttered and chaotic with hotels and vacationers everywhere you look, this little town is peaceful and quiet. The pace of everyday life slows down.

You’ll notice people do a fair amount of walking in Pass-A-Grille. The historical downtown district lends itself to casual sunset strolls along the beach. You can pay to park at the metered parking and you’re your pick of where you want to go. There are eclectic shops, boutique hotels, locally-owned restaurants, homemade ice cream parlors, and art galleries up and down the streets of Pass-A-Grille.

Unlike St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, and Clearwater Beach, where there are lots of Gulf front hotels and condominiums, Pass-A-Grille Beach has more unobstructed views of the water than any other beach in Pinellas. You can literally drive down Gulf Way at night and look out onto moonlit waters. You can stop, park, and get out at virtually any moment to take a stroll along the beach, or catch a bite to eat at the world-renowned Hurricane Seafood Restaurant.

A big reason the area has escaped vast commercial development and maintained its ‘Old Florida’ charm is because of its historical designation and because the community fought hard to keep Pass-A-Grille’s 31 blocks of real estate primarily residential. Because of this, you’ll see families everywhere. Fathers will take their sons and daughters to Merry Pier for fishing, which has been part of the Pass-A-Grille lifestyle for centuries.

Pass-A-Grille Beach was inhabited by the Tocobaga native Americans between 1,000 – 1,700 A.D., who enjoyed a fishing lifestyle. The Europeans who landed in 1528 also enjoyed the fishing lifestyle and found the area perfect for that very need. The name “Pass-a-Grille” actually comes from the French “Passe aux Grilleurs” which means ‘passageway of the grillers,’ with the grillers being fishermen who would cook their fish right on the shore.

In 1857’s visitors began vacationing in the area for short trips, with the first hotel and first ferry boat services being offered in 1886. Soon hotels began to sprout up along the Gulf Beaches. The wealthy began taking day and weekend trips to the area. The Gulf Beaches’ first church was built in 1917, and is now home to the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum.

Many homes that were built in the 1950s and 1960s are still their today and epitomize the old Florida ‘beach cottage.’ If you get the chance, take that turn off the beaten path and experience the charming beach town of Pass-A-Grille. You will most certainly fall in love, and possibly never want to leave.

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