I’ve been going to Florida for a loooong time, but just when I think I’ve been (or at least heard of) everywhere, I find out about another amazing spot. Earlier this year, I was planning a trip to St Pete Beach for the first time and stumbled across this little community at the southern end of St Pete Beach…Pass-a-Grille.
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This southernmost neighborhood on the island is technically St Pete Beach but it feels like another world. It has a very residential feel with no large hotels or condo complexes.
It starts pretty much immediately south of the Don Cesar Hotel (the famous and historic pink hotel in St Pete Beach) although the cluster of what you could consider “downtown” Pass-a-Grille is a bit further south (about a mile south). The small town center is pretty picturesque.
This quickly became my favorite area on St Pete Beach. If you’ve been to Florida’s panhandle, this area reminds me of the 30a (but less preplanned) with more island vibes.
Even if you’re not staying down here, you’ll at least want to spend an evening in the area.
How I Found Pass-a-Grille
I’d never been to the St Pete area before and planned to spend most of a recent trip checking out the island and all of the popular spots (they must be popular for a reason right?). I mean…this place has gotten “best beach in America” awards! We spent the first two nights at the Postcard Inn in the middle of the island. Long story short…it was pretty terrible. It was the weekend and it was a pretty raging spring break scene (which I heard from locals is pretty much the deal year round).
We spent pretty much the entire time at the pool or the beach (both of which were loud and crazy). Loved Shop Betty (next door), PS Grind coffee shop (in the lobby), and we walked to the Toasted Monkey one night for drinks, grouper sandwiches, and key lime pie. Liked that place.
Sidenote: If you’re walking in this area, it’s a lot better to walk through the neighborhoods (there’s way more foot traffic too) than along the strip. The main street is just…honestly…kind of like the bad/rundown part of town wherever you’re from.
We were not super happy and were a little concerned about spending four more days in the area. The second night we managed to get an Uber (so hard on the island!!!) so we went down to Pass-a-Grille because I had read that it was a nice spot. And boy I’m glad we did. That’s where we ended up most nights for the rest of the trip.
For the second part of the trip, we moved down to the Don Cesar Hotel and I can 100% say it’s THE place to stay in St Pete Beach. And mostly because it doesn’t feel like you’re in St Pete Beach. It’s like you’re in a little bubble. But you’re also right next to Pass-a-Grille!
So we spent the rest of the trip doing days at the pool (early morning walks on the beach) and venturing down to Pass-a-Grille (it’s an easy 1.5 mile walk down the beach) every night.
It was honestly the perfect set up for us because we like a resort but also liked having access to the town.
We spent a lot of time talking with locals and other longtime visitors everywhere we went, so I’ve compiled a pretty good list of things to do in the area plus I’ll share some of my favorites from the time I spent in Pass-a-Grille.
Things to Do in Pass-a-Grille & St Pete Beach
THE BEACH: This is why you came, right? The sand along these islands is super soft, super white, and very inviting. It’s not hard to spend days just doing the beach and all that involves.
Shelling: I was pleasantly surprised by how good the shelling was in Pass-a-Grille and St Pete. Now, it’s nowhere near as good as the big Florida hotspots (looking at you, Sanibel!), but for the casual sheller, I thought there was a pretty good variety. The early bird definitely gets the worm!
Watch the Sunset: Pass-a-Grille is a sunset town! Because of its location on the west side of Florida, you won’t see any sunrises, but sunset is a big deal every night. Everyone gathers in front of the Paradise Grill (and along the beach) for sunset every night and there’s usually a lot of cheering.
Shell Key: If you’re a big sheller, you’ll definitely want to do a tour that takes you to the secluded barrier island of Shell Key. It’s only accessible by boat. You can either arrange a private tour, take the public shuttle, or go on a kayak tour. This was the #1 thing I wanted to do, but I waited too long to book it and everything was sold out. Check out this kayak tour and this private boat tour. Or you can book the Shell Key Shuttle here.
Egmont Key State Park: This scenic barrier island just 1.5 miles south of Fort De Soto State Park is a national wildlife refuge and a popular day trip from St Pete Beach. It’s only accessible by boat and most of the year has good conditions for fishing, shelling, and snorkeling. Book a tour to explore the island here.
Dolphin Cruises: There are so many dolphins in the area around Tampa Bay so dolphin cruises are a super popular thing to do. Pretty much wherever you’re staying along St Pete Beach will have a boat that picks you up right on the beach to take you out for a spin. Some even go around sunset. Book this dolphin cruise that also includes a snorkeling stop.
Fort De Soto State Park: This popular state park consists of five small islands at the south end of St Pete Beach. It is accessible by car. In addition to a beautiful beach, you can rent canoes or kayaks (watch out for manatees!), fish from the pier, bike the park’s paved 7 mile trail (regular bike rentals as well as 8 seater Surrey bikes are available), or even visit the historic fort and museum. The fishing pier is also a launching point for boat or kayak tours to nearby Egmont Key.
Shopping: I’m not a mega shopper (I’m picky!) and there’s not a ton of shopping in Pass-a-Grille (St Pete either really), but there is some. Most of the shops in Pass-a-Grille are on 8th Street. They all close at 5 so go earlier if you’re wanting to check them out. There is a place I LOVED though up in St Pete Beach. You’ve got to check out Betty Shop. It’s next door to the Postcard Inn (the first place I stayed on this trip) is the CUTEST shop. Not a cheesy souvenir in sight…this shop was reminiscent of the type of boutiques I like in Hawaii. Definitely worth a stop.
Favorite Restaurants in Pass-a-Grille & St Pete Beach
Dewey: Best meal and overall favorite restaurant of the trip although the main dining room doesn’t have a view. There is a rooftop lounge that serves a cold bar.
Grace: Really enjoyed their patio. Solid cocktail menu. Loved the homemade pasta.
Hurricane Seafood Restaurant: Great rooftop lounge with typical beach bar drinks and food.
Toasted Monkey: The only spot we really tried farther north up the island. Very lively in the evenings and the best grouper sandwich I had on the trip.
Shaner’s Market: Cute little market to stock up if you’re staying in Pass-a-Grille but they also do made to order sandwiches (breakfast too). Short walk to the beach if you want to do a picnic.
Paradise Sweets: Getting ice cream from Paradise Sweets is a town tradition. I strongly recommend getting your ice cream BEFORE sunset as the line gets really long after.
Where to Stay in Pass-a-Grille
There are no big hotels, resorts, or condo complexes down here. It’s mostly all cute inns, quaint condos and apartments, and a whole lot of adorable houses.
Berkeley Beach Club: Modern and sleek loft-like hotel in “downtown” Pass-a-Grille. It’s a small property, very boutique feel, and one of my favorite restaurants, the Dewey, is on site. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
Coconut Inn: This small inn is probably the best, laid back place to stay. Efficiency studios and apartments with a small pool (and complimentary bikes and everything you need for the beach). Very charming vibe. Click here to check pricing and availability during your stay.
I mentioned above that there are so many cute houses and charming condo units in Pass-a-Grille (here’s a complete search). I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites here:
Luxury Paradise: I actually noticed this house walking through Pass-a-Grille! It’s just as cute in person as it is online and fun to see the inside on the listing.
Charming Cottage: Close to the beach and exactly what a beach cottage should be. A little kitchsy but updated and comes with bikes.
Coastal Retreat: On the bay, super awesome pool, modern beachy interior, four bedrooms. I want to rent this house for my friends!
SUPER TIP!!! On the last night of our trip, a lady told us about Freebees! It’s a free ride service via electric car (like a golf cart on steroids) that’s subsidized by the city. The company started in south Florida and has recently expanded to St Pete Beach. Download the app and you can request a ride if you’re within the zone. It mostly covers the southern end of the island (Pass-a-Grille) up to Dolphin Crossings in St Pete Beach (where the Publix and Walgreens are). So if you’re staying in that part of the island (the Don Cesar Hotel falls in this area), this is THE BEST WAY TO GET AROUND. It’s 100% free, but I like to tip $3-5 per ride.