Where is Pass-a-grille located?

Pass-a-Grille is a small beach vacation town at the southern end of St. Pete Beach. This beach spot is located on a barrier island in Pinellas County, Florida. For a small place, there is more than is expected going on. The Pass-a-Grille beach is the main attraction, but you can also enjoy the Historic District and the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum. The intercoastal wasterway wanders through the area as well as many spots along the Gulf of Mexico.

The town is reputedly named after some fisherman that used to camp there. In their honor, according to local legend, the area has been named from the French phrase: Passe Aux Grilleurs (the passageway of the grillers).

Pass-a-Grille Beach has been a vacation area since before the Civil War. As far back as 1857, travelers were invited to stay at John Gomez’s resort like structure in the gulf, which is actually part of the Atlantic Ocean.  Selwyn Morey and Roy S. Hanna began developing real estate along Pass-A-Grille Beach shortly thereafter. The first hotel was opened in 1901, the Bonhomie. In 1957, Pass-a-Grill was incorporated into the city of St. Pete Beach. In 1989 Pass-a-Grille was recognized as a National Register Historic District.

Where is Pass-a-Grille Beach?  27°70′N 82°74′W

Arlo the beach dog on the Pass-a-grille beach

Pánfilo de Narváez visits Pass-a-Grille

In 1528, a band of Spanish merry men led by the infamous, Pánfilo de Narváez, anchored off Pass-a-Grille.  By this point, this region of Florida’s Gulf Coast had been inhabited by Native Americans for a few thousand years.  However, this was the first time European eyes set eyes on these beaches. Narváez had an interesting career, even though he was a reprehensible individual. He is known for having led two failed expeditions and was known for his cruelty to the natives in the Americas.

Narváez led the Caonao massacre in 1511.  He ordered Spanish troops to kill an entire village of Indians that greeted them with food offerings.  After, Narváez asked a famous eyewitness, de las Casas, “What do you think about what our Spaniards have done?” to which de las Casas replied, “I send both you and them to the Devil!”

This esteemed gentlemen was later sent by his relative, the first Governor of Cuba,  to stop Hernán Cortés  and his invasion of Mexico. He failed, even with a 3 to 1 numerical supremacy. Narváez was taken prisoner after having one of his eyes stabbed out by Cortés in 1520. For two years, he was held as a prisoner in Veracruz, Mexico before being returned to Spain. His men gladly joined Cortés and participated in the Aztec conquest.

What a night in Pass-a-Grille with another amazing sunset

Charles V, gave Narváez the title of adelantado of Florida. That means he was responsible for conquering it and then later he would become the governor after it was subdued. Narváez left Spain with 5 ships and 600 men on June 17, 1527. The combination of an inexperienced navigator and the Gulf current pushed the flotilla off course. Already weakened by desertions and storms, the group of would be adventurers landed on the west coast of Florida among hostile natives. About 300 men landed at the Jungle Prada site.

The survivors tried to travel along the Gulf Coast in a futile attempt to reach a Spanish province in Mexico. In a storm Narváez was carried out to sea in a raft after some highly questionable decisions. He was never heard from again. There were only 4 survivors from this expedition.

They journeyed across the present southwest United States and northern Mexico over an 8 year period until finally reaching safety in Culiacán (Sinaloa). The four survivors trek was described by Cabeza de Vaca in his account Naufragios (Castaways). I read this tale of woe years ago on the beach in Playa del Carmen.

Pass-A-Grille Beach was hidden gem in the Gulf of Mexico when it was first encountered by the Spaniards about 500 years ago, and still is today.

What a nice beach along the Gulf of Mexico, in Pass-a-Grille

Pass-a-Grille did not become a part of St Pete Beach until 1957.  It took another 40 years for the area to be recognized as a National Historic District. Currently, this beautiful beach destination is still able to marvel the masses with its natural beauty. The beach is not as well known as the nearby Fort De Soto beach, but is just as nice.

In an area where all of the beaches are perfect, this is one of the most amazing beaches with soft sand and the blueish green Gulf of Mexico. This historic town is able to hold its own, mainly due to the genuine feel of Old Florida. In addition to the world class beach, you will find an outdoor art market, fishing piers, and of course, ice cream and pricey boutiques with ample choices for restaurants.

Beach Spot in Pass-a-Grille

Pass-a-Grille feels like an island from a bygone era. Located at the end of a barrier island and surrounded by water on three sides, Pass-a-grill is also slightly cut off.

With no ugly condo towers reaching for the sky, Pass-a-Grille has more cute bungalows than hotels or even mansions.  “The core of the town is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a block wide, with the beach on one side and the Intracoastal channel on the other.”

I would like to thank KO, one of my oldest friends for the images. Along with Arlo Wyatt the lion hearted and her husband, they have transplanted themselves into this small community from San Diego. Arlo is still adjusting to his new more conservative surroundings, but will be fine once he gets his feet under him.

6.9 Charming

Pass-a-Grille feels like an island from a bygone era. If you love Old Florida, this is your dream location.

  • Je ne sais quoi (How cool is it?) 5
  • Scenery 7.3
  • Water 8.5
  • User Ratings (1 Votes) 6.4
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About Author

This project, Beach Spot, has been a lingering thought for nearly 20 years. It started on a crazy offshore Venezuelan island, Isla Margarita, during the first dot com craze. The idea evolved while life continually got in the way. A decade was spent on a Mediterranean island as well as a number of years chasing the sun in the USVI.

Back living stateside in San Diego, this project will hopefully be an enjoyable look at a number of beach towns.

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