Explore the hidden island of Pass-A-Grille off Florida's Gulf Coast for a fun and unique beach vacation.

By Jeff Book
March 02, 2011
Pass-A-Grille's Wharf Seafood Restaurant is a local favorite.
Squire Fox

Located on the skinny southern end of an island just off St. Petersburg, Pass-A-Grille is only a block wide--edged on one side by a long, alluring Gulf beach, and on the other by Boca Ciega Bay. Visitors browse quirky 8th Avenue--checking out A Little Room for Art (a tiny gallery with a resident cockatiel), Paradiso (tropical-flavored clothing), and the striking creations of contemporary jewelry designer (and local brewer of Evander Beer) Evander Preston.

There's time for lazing on fine sand and toasting another Gulf sunset on the Hurricane's rooftop deck with a Beach Cruiser, a festive blend of rum and pineapple and cranberry juices, but Pass-A-Grille also makes a good base for exploring the mostly undeveloped islands at the mouth of Tampa Bay.

The five interlinked island that make up Ft. De Soto Park--1,000-plus acres of pristine beaches, historic fortifications, nature trails, and wildlife--are a rest stop for more than 300 species of migratory birds. You can kayak to two island preserves, Shell Key and Egmont Key, and take a kayoga class (a kayaking warm-up followed by yoga on a deserted beach) led by former Egmont Key lighthouse-keeper Tim Ganley. With beach towels on soft sand instead of yoga mats, participants look like comic versions of the elegant egrets watching warily from the dock.

Stay: Located at Pass-A-Grille's southern tip, Island's End has six one-bedroom cottages. Rates start at $163; islandsend.com. Steps from the beach, the recently renovated Coconut Inn offers rooms with kitchens, free use of bicycles and beach chairs, and a pool. Rates start at $155; sabalpalms.com. Or anchor five minutes up the road, in St. Pete Beach. The Postcard Inn on the Beach offers retro decor and modern amenities minutes from downtown St. Petersburg. Rates start at $129; postcardinn.com. The vintage pink palace was built in 1928 and has been refurbished. It is now owned by Loews Hotels and Resorts and is the only four-diamond resort in town. Rates start at $269; loewshotels.com/don-cesar.

Eat: The Wharf Seafood Restaurant & Bar purveys fresh stone crab and grouper from a weathered waterside building; wharfrestaurant.org. For superb seafood with Floribbean flavors, try the Maritana Grille at the Don CeSar. Paradise Sweets serves locally made Working Cow ice cream; 727-360-5830.

Play: Tim Ganley's kayoga classes combine the pleasures of kayaking and yoga; 727-504-5753 or yogaenergy.me.