A two-mile stretch of Gulf Boulevard runs through the city of Madeira Beach, where the main attractions are pristine stretches of white sand and the tourist-friendly entertainment district of John's Pass Village and Boardwalk, named for the French pirate John LeVeque who buried (and lost) treasure in the vicinity. In addition to piratical motifs and a fishing pier, John's Pass present-day diversions include formal restaurants, casual eateries, sports bars, candy stores, ice cream parlors, retail shops ranging from the usual to the delightfully unexpected, and plenty else. Here are some of our favorites, as well as a few that stray from the village area.
FOOD & DRINK
1. Addicted to the Bean 152 129th Ave. W., 727-399-1573, addictedtothebean.com. Located right by the John's Pass Bridge, this cute coffee shop also has a fine assortment of smoothies and pastries.
2. Bamboo Beach Bar & Grill 13025 Village Blvd., 727-398-5401, bamboobeachbar.com. Serving drinks near the beach for the past 60 years, "The Boo" is a stand-alone establishment at the northernmost end of John's Pass Village. The Boo's atmosphere lends itself well to the laid-lack beachy vibe of the village, with two high-def TVs on the inside and plenty of covered seating on the outside, plus a tiki bar and stage for live music.
3. Daiquiri Deck 14995 Gulf Blvd., 727-393-2706, daiquirideck.com/madeira. This tropical bar and grill draws a college-age crowd with poker, trivia contests and an extra-long daily happy hour (11 a.m.-7 p.m.). There's live acoustic music on Wednesday and live reggae on Sundays with a weekly limbo contest.
4. Dockside Dave's 14701 Gulf Blvd., 727-392-9399, docksidedavesgrill.com. Reputed to have one of Tampa Bay's best grouper sandwiches (locally caught and served five different ways), this place serves downhome food at downhome prices. Also opens for breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays, specializing in eggs benedict, omelets and homemade biscuits and gravy.
5. Hub's Raw Bar & Tavern 150 John's Pass Boardwalk, 727-290-9833, gofriendlyfisherman.com/cove.html. This raw bar is actually two restaurants in one. Upstairs is the main dining room overlooking the boardwalk. On the ground floor is "Pirate's Cove," which serves as a sports bar. The place advertises itself as one of the few Pinellas restaurants that will cook fish you caught the same day. Live music nightly.
6. The Hut Restaurant and Tiki Bar John's Pass Boardwalk, 727-399-9559. Touted as the Gulf Beaches' largest waterfront bar and tiki hut, this is Florida summertime excess: 70-foot waterfront bar, 12 TVs, a colossal 7-by-10-foot screen, and live entertainment. (The Wednesday we visited, a solo steel drum-playing vocalist purred "Copacabana" on the second floor.)
7. Julio's Crepery & Cafe 12850 John's Way, 727-394-8530, juliosfamouscrepes.com. CLOSED.
8. Latitudes Waterfront Dining and Chart Room Bar 13205 Gulf Blvd., 727-398-4103, latitudesmadbeach.com. This casual chic waterside restaurant and bar is nestled in the top of a three-story building located along the marina, in a room lined with big picture windows that offer intoxicating views of the water. All-you-can-eat daily specials, breakfast on weekends (with a Bloody Mary bar) and Major League ball on the TVs.
9. Thai-Am #2 13037 Gulf Blvd., 727-398-9700, thaiam2.com. Tasty, reasonably priced Thai food and sushi in a green building with an extended deck that's hard to miss. Lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. are all $9.95 or less, an $8.95 early bird menu is offered from 3 to 7 p.m., and $1 sushi is served on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Thai-Am #2 also delivers.
Also worth a visit: Waltz Fish Shak 224 Boardwalk Place E, 727-395-0732. Info came in too late for us to include Waltz on our map of John's Pass, but according to a trusted spy (and most everyone on Trip Advisor), the 7-year-old restaurant is one of the most reliable purveyors of local seafood in the area. "Their mission is to provide the best fresh Florida seafood," our spy told us, "and they won't open if they don't have any. I have eaten there and it's awesome!"
SHOPPING & SERVICES
10. I'm Hair For U 13045 Gulf Blvd., 727-391-1938. When you need that stylish trim, but don't want to leave the beach.
11. Meyer's House of Sweets 12930 Village Blvd., 727-397-3663, meyershouseofsweets.com. Mmmm... just the smell of it is enough to draw you in. More than 30 varieties of homemade fudge, plus truffles, handmade chocolates and "specialty" items like chocolate-covered Twinkies. Meyer's also offers 16 flavors of ice cream, 20 flavors of taffy, and sugar-free treats for those who can't (or won't) indulge.
12. The Spice & Tea Exchange 110 129th Ave. E, spiceandtea.com. Styled to look like an 18th-century trading post, this quaint store (one of 13 independently operated franchises in the country) carries a range of fresh gourmet teas and seasonings. Buy one of the shop's mortars and pestles and you can grind up your own secret spices.
13. Sports Fan-Attic 12929 Village Blvd., 727-393-7941, sportsfanatticshop.com. Get your nostalgia fix at this trove of sports memorabilia in John's Pass. Take your pick of Brett Favre jerseys: Packer, Vikings, even the Jets. Prefer baseball? Get a Derek Jeter jersey, or better yet Evan Longoria's #8 Rays uni. There are NFL, NBA and NHL team jerseys as well.
14. Treehouse Puppets & Treasures 12975 Village Blvd., 27-397-2446, treehousepuppets.com. See "The Puppet Master," right.
15. Vino Florida 12945 Village Blvd., 727-362-0008. This establishment carries wines produced in John's Pass as well as selections from wineries around Florida. Wine tastings daily.
16. Ghost Tours of Tampa Bay 150 Boardwalk Place W, Hubbard's Marina Information Booth, ghosttour.net/stpetersburg.html. The 90-minute tour makes various spooky stops in John's Pass, the guide revealng tales of buried treasure, eerie tragedies and present-day hauntings. Tours depart at 7:30 p.m. Sun.-Mon., and Weds.-Sat.; tickets are $15 adults, $8 ages 4-12.
17. The Pirate Ship at John's Pass 140 Boardwalk Place W., thepirateshipatjohnspass.com. Re-live your roguish fantasies aboard this seaworthy pirate ship replica. Among other diversions, families enjoy water gun battles, treasure hunts, pirate stories, and a swashbuckling dance party. Two-hour cruises depart three times a day, Mon.-Sat.
18. Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf 15395 Gulf Blvd., 727-398-7008, smugglersgolf.com. This mini-golfer's paradise boasts faux tropical terrain, rushing waters, shadowy caves and even live alligators and interactive feeding opportunities. Perhaps best not to chase balls into the water, though.