By Sheila Mullane Estrada
Published September 30, 2007
Geography: Madeira Beach - often described as "two miles long and a smile wide" - is located virtually in the middle of Pinellas County's beaches. It is a complete destination city with hotels and motels, condominiums, single-family homes, apartment complexes, lots of stores, restaurants and, of course, the famed John's Pass Fishing Village. It is accessible directly from the mainland via the Tom Stuart/Welch Causeway Bridge just west of Bay Pines, from the south via the John's Pass Bridge, and from the north along Gulf Boulevard.
A little history: The city was officially incorporated in 1947, but its recorded history goes back a century when two early explorers from New Orleans, Joe Silva and John Levique, discovered a hurricane-created pass dividing the island from what is now Treasure Island to the south. Over the years, the island community grew, starting with small beach-front cottages and fishing docks at what came to be known as John's Pass.
The beach: Madeira Beach is blessed with easy access to its beaches from several public parks, as well as from public beach access points scattered throughout its 2-mile length. Restrooms and showers can be found at Archibald Beach Park, as well as at John's Pass Park/South Beach, and a county park on Gulf Boulevard. Some have pavilions, as well, where you can get out of the sun. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available for rent at many locations. Also of note, Madeira's beaches are among the few in the county where you can openly drink alcohol -- just be sure it is in a plastic container. The only exceptions are on any of the city's beach easements, the picnic shelter at Archibald Park, Kitty Stuart Park or any of the city's beach parking lots where open containers of alcohol are banned.
Amenities: Madeira Beach is known most of all for John's Pass Village where visitors can shop for the ubiquitous T-shirt, visit art galleries, dine at a variety of restaurants, rent watercraft, sail out for a day of charter fishing in the Gulf of Mexico, take a gambling cruise, and even go on a "ghost tour." Each summer, the Village celebrates its discovery during the pirate-themed John Levique Days festival. If you come by boat, you can tie up at the city-owned marina near the causeway.
Some drawbacks: Because so many motels and hotels have converted to condominiums, transient accommodations are harder to find than in years past. Some beach-front condos are available to rent by the week, month or season, so don't be discouraged.
Parking: Parking is not an issue in Madeira Beach. Although not free, spaces can be found at John's Pass Village, Archibald Park, Kitty Stuart Park, the county park and at public beach access points up and down the beach city.
Bottom line: Madeira Beach welcomes visitors and offers everything a beach addict would want -- lots of white sand and activities to suit any taste.