Explore Pass-A-Grille, Florida

Pass-A-Grill is home to Don Cesar hotel.

Stories of Pass-A-Grille, Florida beckoned me during my winter stay in Florida.

Like a mermaid rising from the ocean, I drew up from my blanket on Pass-A-Grille Beach (PAG) on a wintery day in January. Paradise.

From horizon to sea, I saw a blank slate. What could Monet do with this vista I thought!

Located at the southernmost tip of St. Petersburg Beach, this retro beach town could be a Key West-by-way-of-Gulf-Coast haunt for Hemingway. Time slows down and sometimes stops here. It was a weekend getaway during my stay at Clearwater.

Historic Pass-A-Grille, Florida

Pass-A-Grille, Florida is beach town USA circa 1950s. Drive over to a beachside restaurant for a burger. Buy an ice cream cone. Fish off the pier. Jump in a motor boat. Fly a kite.

But the town dates back centuries. According to the travel bureau, Indians hunted the prairies and fished the waters of what later became Pass-A-Grille for 10,000 years.

“According to legend, it is thought that Pass-A-Grille derives its name from the French Passe aux Grilleurs. In 1857, John Gomez self styled ‘last of the pirates’, began bringing excursionists here from Tampa which gave this area the distinction of perhaps being the oldest resort on Central Florida’s West Coast.”

I did a driving tour of PAG (since I was cold) and no walking tours were offered on this cold January. Stopping continuously on the main drag that parallels the Gulf, I took photos of houses through my window. When I could find a place to park, I jumped out to photograph the homes.

Pass-A-Grill oceanfront mansion

I saw every vintage of house from seaside shack to millionaire’s mansion. This is a Crayola crayon town. Houses are painted foam green, coral and lemon yellow. You walk through a rainbow of abode. The median price is $500,000. A 2-bedroom high rise condo on Gulf Blvd. costs $800,000+.


Pass-a-Grille, Florida is a “walkable” city. I can picture neighbors crisscrossing paths at sunrise and sunset. I suspect a lot of dogs live here. Who wouldn’t want to wake up and rush out to greet the Gulf of Mexico, wave at a pelican and swim with fishes?

And bicycling is BIG in PAG. During my visit, I saw scores of early morning bicyclists, including parents and children. You could safely allow your child to rise her bicycle with training wheels here. Cars brake instead of whooshing by.

Pass-A-Grill bicyclist

I know I would have bicycle every day if I lived here. Because why would I get in my car, when I can feel the wind on my face and fly like an eagle? PAG is definitely Bike Beach Town USA. There is no better way to get around in my opinion.

Merry Pier

For those who prefer to exercise their wrist by holding a fish rod, Pass-A-Grille, Florida welcomes fisherfolk. The historic Merry Pier will walk you back in time. Billed as a “world famous fishing and boating destination,” Merry Pier offers such common catches as flounder, snapper, snook, redfish and mackerel.

“Here you’ll find a friendly store, boat excursions, a fresh fish market, and fabulous fishing . . . Both live and frozen bait are available for sale. Rod, tackle and bicycle rentals and sales are available, too. Drop in at the Fresh Fish Market for right-off-the-boat whole and filleted snapper, grouper, shrimp and more.”

Daytime adventures include booking the historic party boat, christened Miss Pass-A-Grille, for half or full day trip. Offshore Hustler is available for private deep sea fishing charters. And Shell Key Shuttle offers excursions to Shell Key Preserve. Book this adventure if you enjoy shelling, bird watching and dolphin watching. You can also reserve sunset cruises.

Pass-A-Grill beach

Gift From The Sea

For me, Pass-A-Grille, Florida was an escape ticket from the stress of city life complicated by the pandemic. I came down here to seek the Gift from the Sea—serenity. Anne Morrow Lindberg wrote the “immitable, beloved classic” during her brief vacation by the sea at Sanibel Island in Florida in 1955. Its truths don’t lie. Lindberg writes:

“The (Sanibel Island) beach is not the place to work, to read, write or thing . . . One is forced against one’s mind, against all tidy resolutions, back into the primeval rhythms of the seashores. Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes, drown out the hectic rhythms of city and suburb, time tables and schedules.”—Anne Morrow Lindberg

Pass-A-Grille Beach Time

Snuggling in my thin ski jacket (as who needs a warm coat in Florida), I sat down on the steps and dug my tennis shoes into the sand. The sea oats flapped in the breeze. Tufts of green held soldier’s pose. Marshmellow clouds billowed in the blue quilt sky. For me, Pass-A-Grille Florida was paradise.

Pass-A-Grill sea oats

Following a wise woman’s advice, I just told my mind to shut up. Meditating on the waves that lapped up shoreside, I watched their arrival, then departure. I heard a whistling in my ears that might have been the mermaid’s song.


Trip Advisor lists Pass-A-Grill as #2 of things to do in St. Petersburg. Visitors write siren songs to time spent in Pass-A-Grille, especially during the pandemic. “Escape commercialism.” “Laid back, comfortable lifestyle.” “Uncrowded.”

“This is best beach around! Beautiful sand, blue water a few people! So many shells I had to stop collecting. Parking is limited so get there early during spring and summer.”

“If you want a touch of Key West around St Pete, then this beach is the place to go.”

The crisp cold wind blowing across my face in January erased all thoughts of deadlines as I worked remotely in Florida. It also wiped away all warmth, leaving a healthy pink glow on my cheeks.

Pass-A-Grille Parking

There is no free parking at Pass-A-Grille Beach so make sure that you bring coins or a credit card. I jumped out of my car several times in the parking lot that fronts the beach. But you can be sure that I jumped right back into the car unless I paid. Meters start at $3.25 an hour. Paystations are strategicall located all down Gulf Way until 1st Avenue.

“Be mindful of their location and how much time you have on the meter!”

The city raised the price due to enhanced cleaning and sanitation efforts due to COVID.

Pass-A-Grill features 5 star hotel.

The Don Cesar

Moreover, pink is the dominant color of Pass-A-Grille thanks to its famous neighbor. The Don Cesar Hotel is world-renown . . . and not just for its Pepto pink exterior. This grand dame of Florida’s Gulf Coast opened in 1928 so it’s a Gatsby gal. The countdown is just seven years until its 100th birthday.

Celebrities included F. Scott Fitzgerald and Clarence Darrow stayed at the Pink Palace. The hotel also served in the Great War.

“With a sugar-fine beach, radiant sunsets, a world-class spa, and a vibrant food scene, you really can have it all. More than a landmark, The Don is epic style. Timeless. Majestic. Cool.”

The hotel likes to describe its style of service as dating from “the Great Gatsby era of pampering.” I know that Nick would have enjoyed partying on its rooftop. I could just imagine Gatsby’s Rolls-Royce pulling up at the hotel, although I am sure that they would also have parked Nick’s Dodge.

One day I hope to stay at the “Legendary Pink Palace®” at least for a weekend. I would order a gin rickey. I wonder if they could dye it pink?

Ring The Bell

I missed this featured attraction as I visited Pass-A-Grille, Florida in the morning while enroute to a St. Pete’s city tour. But the nightly sunset bell ringing at Pass-A-Grille is a beloved tradition.

“Over the past decades, thousands of people have joined the Pass-A-Grille tradition to ring the bell and sign the bell’s guest books which are kept at the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum on 10th Avenue.”

And now during the 2020-2021 Pandemic, traditions are held even more dear. Weddings, anniversaries, engagements and birthdays are all celebrated in misty-eyed fashion.

Dog Friendly

Sadly, my two Siamese cats didn’t get to enjoy PAG’s streets or beaches, because they refuse to transform into adventure cats and walk on a lease. But dog lovers should know that “PAT is dog-friendly everywhere with the exception of the beach on the Gulf side.”

Pass-A-Grill seaside hotel

Pet parents can bring their dogs to many restaurants in Pass-A-Grille, Florida which offer outdoor pet-friendly seating, including Grace, Berkeley, Sea Critters and Hurricane. According to the city’s travel bureau, “a couple of small inns are also dog-friendly (Coconut Inn, Havana Inn, and Islands End.)

You Might Also Like

  • Joanna
    January 22, 2021 at 8:59 pm

    I enjoyed reading this article. You brought the town to life with your thorough guide. If I lived in the States, I would want to spend time in Pass-A-Grille.

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 4:50 am

      I am so glad that I brought it to life for you! It is such a jewel!

      • Sue
        February 4, 2021 at 3:29 pm

        Pass-a-grille is beautiful. However, “Gift from the sea” is from Sanibel island

        • Terri Markle
          February 6, 2021 at 6:26 am

          I know Gift from the Sea was not written in Pass-a-Grille. I just alluded to the book because Lindbergh wrote it on a beach in Florida. Thanks for commenting!

  • Sharyn
    January 23, 2021 at 3:41 am

    What a lovely place. It seems typical of a beach side town in winter. I love having a whole beach to myself – even if it is cold!

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 4:50 am

      I like a beach town even better in the winter when all the tourists go away. I loved this place.

  • Jamie
    January 23, 2021 at 4:50 am

    I have spent a lot of time in Florida but had not heard of Pass-a-Grille. Even in January the beach looks gorgeous, though a bit chilly with the overcast skies. And the Don Cesar looks like it’s straight out of a movie set!

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 4:52 am

      I had never heard about it before I came down to Clearwater to vacation. It is such a beautiful drive to reach this little beach town along the Gulf. The Don Cesar is absolutely stunning!

  • Irma
    January 23, 2021 at 7:50 am

    It is amazing how I was transported to this beautiful beach through your prose! Thank you for sharing your travels with such wonderful pictures and vivid descriptions that I feel I am sharing the moments with you! – Irma

  • Runaway Ann
    January 23, 2021 at 9:34 am

    This is a first time I’ve read about that place but it looks so friendly for a peacfull vacations 🙂

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 11:41 am

      You definitely want to “run away” to this beach town Ann!

  • Josy A
    January 23, 2021 at 11:01 am

    Lol at your comment at the end. My kitty will walk on a leash, but not very far (and only on our street) I do keep meeting adventure cats on the trails here in Vancouver though so they do exist!!

  • Lina
    January 23, 2021 at 11:42 am

    I’ve never heard of Pass-A-Grille before but it looks like a wonderful seaside town. Would love to relax at the beach there 🙂

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 9:01 pm

      It was amazingly to just sit by the ocean again!

  • Krista
    January 23, 2021 at 11:58 am

    It looks like a lovely area to spend a few days, even in the winter time! I loved your photos of the city and your tips were really helpful too.

  • Carley
    January 23, 2021 at 1:53 pm

    I’d never heard of Pass-a-Grille but it looks awesome! thanks for sharing! I’d love to visit soon!

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 9:02 pm


  • Megs
    January 23, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    I want a pink gin rickey, too! This little town sounds like the perfect escape. 💞

  • Lindajane
    January 23, 2021 at 2:37 pm

    I love beach walks & in winter you can still enjoy a lonely stretch of sand & a beautiful sky! Nice article…

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 9:02 pm

      Pass-A-Grille is muy linda Jane!

  • Diana
    January 23, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    Wauu, I like this. I didn’t know this part of Florida. I have never been to the USA. I would love to travel there asap including Florida.

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 9:02 pm

      Florida is a must visit state whenever you get to travel to the USA!

  • Carol G
    January 23, 2021 at 7:27 pm

    What an unusual name! Regardless, those beaches look fab and I can’t say no to a hotel that we frequented by a famous author!

    • Terri Markle
      January 23, 2021 at 9:03 pm

      We do have some charming 100-year-old hotels in the USA. They are always fun to visit.

  • Marisa
    January 23, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    I was born and grew up in Tampa and have visited this area including Pass-A-Grille many times! We used to visit here all the time and admire the Don Cesar!

    • Terri Markle
      January 24, 2021 at 4:48 am

      This is so cool. It is definitely a place that locals love. And now I know why.

  • Ummi Nadrah
    January 24, 2021 at 1:57 am

    PAG sounds like a charming place to live in! I don’t have a car anyway, so it’s cool to know that it’s a walkable city and that bicycling is a big thing here. And it’s dog friendly!

  • Anna
    January 24, 2021 at 4:41 am

    Your photos are beautiful, I’d never heard of Pass-A-Grille before, it looks amazing.

    • Terri Markle
      January 24, 2021 at 4:48 am

      Thank you so much! It was a lovely place.

  • Marika
    January 25, 2021 at 2:17 pm

    OMG! This town is so freaking cute! Thanks for sharing such a fantastic guide!

    • Terri Markle
      January 30, 2021 at 6:41 am

      It is freaking fun Marika! You must visit.

  • Courtney
    January 25, 2021 at 2:18 pm

    This is such a fun post! I grew up in Florida but I’ve never visited Pass-a-grille. I’ll have to check it out some day!

  • Kim Parks
    February 4, 2021 at 6:53 pm

    Wow. This certainly brought back memories. I’m a Philly girl who lived in Tampa in the mid 90’s. I loved driving down to St. Pete beach for a day in the sun and surf.🏖 Then I would grab some grouper nuggets and a drink 🐟🍹 from The Hurricane restaurant before heading back home. I ❤ Pass-a-grille!

    • Terri Markle
      February 6, 2021 at 6:25 am

      Kim this makes me so happy! I could live in Pass-A-Grille. It’s like stepping back in time. Loved it too!