According to legend, the first European to “settle” in the Madeira Beach area was a pirate named John LeVique. Today, Madeira Beach, a Gulf of Mexico beach city west of St. Petersburg, is best known for the sea-themed John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, which features shops, restaurants, and a 1,100-foot boardwalk along the Intracoastal.
Madeira Beach, often referred to as Mad Beach, lies between Treasure Island and Redington Beach. It’s a largely residential town on Pinellas County’s gulf coast, featuring a swath of tourist-friendly businesses along the main drag. Mad Beach feels like a town on vacation but still has a few unique quirks. The beach is safe for families, even across from all the bars and restaurants at John’s Pass Village. The white sand is mostly quiet, save for the occasional portable speaker — with the exception of Spring Break season, when things can get raucous.
One of the reasons it can get wild at times is because alcohol is permitted on the beach. The rules here aren’t as Byzantine as they are on Treasure Island.City regs say you can consume alcohol on the sand, although not on beach access easements. You also can’t have alcohol at Tom and Kitty Stuart Park or at a picnic shelter at Archibald Park.
While alcohol is OK, glass is not. Dogs aren’t either, nor are bonfires. The city’s beach ordinances are listed here. The beach tends to be most populated near the John’s Pass end, with John’s Pass Village nearby. All the shops and businesses are an anchor for visitors. A lengthy, wooden boardwalk over John’s Pass east of the causeway makes for a nice stroll, but you’ll be sharing it with lots of other people on busy days.
From the northern end, with its resorts and vacation amenities, beachgoers could theoretically walk right into much quieter Redington Beach. From the southern end, you could walk over the John’s Pass Bridge (which has a sidewalk) and onto Treasure Island for a change of pace.
Unlike Treasure Island to the south, the beach isn’t really broken up into sections. There’s the busy southern end, and the parts filled with resort guests. Anglers are mostly concentrated on and under the John’s Pass Causeway. There’s a fairly large cross-section of beachgoers, spanning many walks of life, from toddlers to retirees. The sand is soft and the water is typically calm — great for wading.
Be aware that the shore is home to a wide variety of sea life, including stingrays, which like to lie on the bottom, often covered with sand. It’s wise to shuffle your feet when entering the water to warn the stingrays and avoid getting stung. Read more in our visitor information section here.
Otherwise, Madeira Beach offers plenty of entertainment but not much in the way of drama. The most scandalous thing to happen here in recent years involves a former city manager accusing a city commissioner of licking his face.
Things to do in Madeira Beach
Officially incorporated in 1947, Madeira Beach has an origin story going back to 1848, when a hurricane blew through the area that is now known as John’s Pass. Legend has it that John Levique, a pioneer from the mainland, was heading home to Boca Ciega Bay after the storm and found the newly opened passage that now bears his name.
The area was bought and developed, to little success, by prominent St. Petersburg developer Noel Mitchell in the 1910s. He sold it to developer David Welch, who lobbied for the first bridge to the island, which opened in 1926. The area became a fishing village first, with most of the development coming after 1947. Perhaps the most well-known is the city’s entertainment area at John’s Pass Village, on the south end of the city before crossing over to Treasure Island.
Most of the people you will see are retirees, tourists and families who live in the surrounding counties. Generally you will see out-of-towners beachside and residences along the Intracoastal Waterway, although outlets like Airbnb mean more and more people are renting out their vacation homes lately.
THE PIRATE SHIP ROYAL CONQUEST
You know you’re going to ride a pirate ship if you visit here. Family friendly, two-hour pirate expeditions with music, dancing, water guns and pirate stories.
JACK’S RENTALS AT JOHN’S PASS
This shop along the boardwalk (among several others) offers boat and Waverunner rentals. You can head right into the pass from the dock.
TAMPA BAY BOAT RENTALS
The full name of this little building on Gulf Boulevard is Tampa Bay Boat Rentals at Erika’s Bikes, Trikes & Scooter Rentals. As you can read, it offers more than just kayak, stand-up paddle board and pontoon rentals. You can get them all at hourly, daily and weekly rates.
This Jet Ski and Waverunner rental place gives customers complimentary wetsuits and sells temporary boating licenses.
Parasailing is here, with trips for as many as three people at once. But Eagle’s also offers banana boat rides, which are more fun than they have a right to be.
Along the boardwalk, under the Hooters, there are a couple fishing charter options. This place goes on deep sea charters (including a 63-hour trip out into the Gulf of Mexico), dolphin tours and sunset cruises, operates a water taxi service, runs ferries to Egmont and Shell keys and rents kayaks, paddle boards, cabanas and Segways. So there’s some stuff here.
MADEIRA BEACH YOGA
You can practice yoga in the studio or on a patio, or head to Archibald Park for a class on the beach.
MADEIRA BEACH MARINA
Right off the Tom Stuart Causeway, the municipal marina has a boat ramp and slips, bait and tackle, plus a nice little park across the street.
Food & Drink
A retro coffee shop with breakfast (including bloody marys, mimosas and wine), lunch, smoothies, pastries and occasional live music. It’s charm earned it a well-deserved shout-out on a “New York Times 36 hours in” list.
Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this makes a good stop for crab cakes. They also do a brunch if you can’t pick one of the regular three meals.
BAMBOO BEACH BAR AND GRILL
One of the original, stalwart eateries in the area, the tiki-vibed bar offers everything from fish tacos and sandwiches to frozen and beachy rum concoctions. Live singers croon earworms that make you question if BeachElvis and BeachJohnDenver are better than the originals.
THE BROWN BOXER PUB AND GRILLE
Classic pub fare featuring a wing menu if you don’t want to go to Hooters a few blocks away. Has pool tables, darts and bingo and trivia nights. There are more locations in Clearwater Beach.
FRABOTTA’S ITALIAN KITCHEN
The place to go if you want a good pizza while on Mad Beach.
THE BOARDWALK GRILL
Best casual spot to get a walk-and-talk grouper sandwich (a rare feat) with which to roam the boardwalk.
MAD BEACH FISH HOUSE
A vast seafood menu with a rooftop (but not that high) bar. Because sunsets and sea air and so on.
MADEIRA BEACH SNACK SHACK
Built as a log cabin in the 1930s, the renovated building now serves breakfast burritos, slushy alcoholic beverages in commemorative and beach-friendly cups, ice cream and other beach grub.
Acai bowls, coconut flakes, juiced vegetables and smoothies galore! Archibald Beach Park is mere steps away, too.
MAD BEACH CRAFT BREWING COMPANY
Features a rotating tap list, house-brewed beers and wines made at Florida Winery downstairs. With a dazzlingly large beer hall, this joint offers an equally impressive menu featuring grouper so fresh it comes out with a piece of paper that allows you to track online where, when and what fisherman caught your dinner. Quite a few vegetarian options as well.