Madeira Beach is a popular day trip from Clearwater Beach or St. Petersburg. But with beautiful beaches, John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk, and great food, it happens to also be the ultimate vacation spot. Located on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, Madeira Beach has plenty to offer couples, friends, and traveling families.
In the beach town, you’ll find a coastline packed with white sand and balmy water. Sunbathe, jet ski, or kayak, the choice is yours. Steps from the shores of Mad Beach are delectable restaurants serving up fresh seafood and good vibes. Families can enjoy them both along with local parks and animal attractions.
Not sure what to do in Madeira Beach? Start planning your trip with this complete Madeira Beach guide.
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Things to do in Madeira Beach, FL
Any time spent on Florida’s Gulf Coast will come with its fair share of beach days. Madeira Beach is a pristine beach with gorgeous white sand that rolls down to the balmy and calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Although in a region beloved by beach vacationers, Madeira Beach remains relatively quiet throughout the day. Many visitors instead venture to check out the most popular tourist destinations in Clearwater or St. Pete Beach. This leaves more beach just for you, with plenty of room to spread out.
To access the beach, head to the car park at Madeira Beach Access Park. You can drop off the car here with the lot charging $3 for every two hours. From there, wander down to the beach where you’ll find a rental shop. With the Florida sun shining above, pick up some beach chairs and an umbrella for the day.
When you get peckish, head back to the main drag for a fun meal at Dockside Dave’s.
John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk
One of the most popular things to do in Madeira Beach is to explore John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk. It’s here that you can really indulge in the local food scene and experience the town’s seaside culture.
The charming fishing village is just a few minutes south of downtown Mad Beach and overlooks John’s Pass and Treasure Island. This passage was formed by a cyclone in the 1840s and named after John Levique, a pirate thought to have settled the area.
John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk has a vibrant promenade, with the highlight being its 1,100-foot boardwalk. Aside from the beautiful views, you’ll wander by waterfront restaurants and shops.
Sample the local food scene, with seafood being the specialty. If you’re lucky, you’ll arrive in time for John’s Pass Seafood Festival, held every January.
To work off the meal, wander along to the nearby sandy beaches where you can venture out on kayak.
In 2015, the town of Madeira Beach established R.O.C. Park (Remember Our Children Park). Its beautiful waterfront location makes it a lovely way to remember the town’s children who passed on too soon and celebrate the joy they brought into the world.
The memorial park is a large and scenic space with a trio of sports fields that host regular community events and softball tournaments featuring schools from around the nation.
Between the fields and the landscaped gardens, there’s ample opportunity to play with friends and family or simply relax.
Those with kids can let them run amok in the park’s playground. The extensive pier runs out into the harbor and is an excellent spot to enjoy an afternoon of fishing.
Boca Ciega Bay, on the other side of Madeira Beach, features a diverse marine ecosystem. The bay is home to mangroves and sea caves fed by freshwater springs. Among them is a range of marine life, none more beloved than the bay’s resident dolphins.
An exciting way to see them in the wild is to embark on a dolphin cruise with the aptly named Dolphin Quest. They run a number of eco-friendly tours that allow you to see dolphins in their natural habitat, including on a sunset trip. It’s one of the best experiences in Madeira Beach.
Departing from John’s Pass, sit back and enjoy expert narration as you explore the harbor. Souvenirs, drinks, and snacks are available on board. After returning to land, enjoy the many activities around the fishing village.
Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf
Whether you’ve got kids in tow or looking for a great date night idea, you can’t go wrong with Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf. In keeping with Madeira Beach’s infamous history, the thrilling 18-hole golf course will take you through pirate ships, besides tumbling waterfalls, and soaring geysers.
The unique design ensures that this mini-golf course is unlike any other, with plenty of distractions to take the level of difficulty up a notch. No hole is like the other. Beyond ships and water features, you’ll venture into a spooky pirate’s lair before making your way through an arid canyon.
The course is sure to provide you with plenty of laughs as you try in earnest to avoid the many traps.
Alligator Attraction & Wildlife Learning Center
On Village Blvd, the Alligator Attraction & Wildlife Learning Center is a fun way to experience wildlife up close while enjoying an educational experience. The center boasts over 60 American alligators who have been rescued around Madeira Beach.
Far from your regular zoo, the Alligator & Wildlife Discovery Center lets guests take part in an interactive experience where you can not only see the amazing animals but also hold them. The memorable guided tour will allow you to hold and kiss a baby gator while learning about the importance of the animal to the local ecosystem.
All up, there are over 180 animals within the center, including a range of reptiles such as snakes and lizards. The center’s expansive natural habitat also hosts sloths and rabbits for your daily dose of cuteness.
Archibald Beach Park
Just north of the town’s main beach is the equally beautiful Archibald Beach Park. There are metered parking spots right alongside its sandy shores but arrive early as they fill up quickly.
From here, you’ll have but a few steps to reach the Gulf Coast. Before you pick a spot, grab your beach chair and umbrella rentals.
Aside from enjoying a delightful swim in the serene and balmy ocean, Archibald Memorial Beach Park has a range of amenities. Those looking for some friendly competition can hit the two beach volleyball courts.
If you’ve packed a picnic, wander over to the covered picnic area. Archibald Memorial Beach Park is also home to the Snack Shak for snacks and beverages.
A day on the sand is a great way to take in the beauty of Madeira Beach. But if you feel the itch or the desire to take things up a notch, then beeline for Woody’s Watersports. Offering a wide range of jet ski rentals, this is the best way to explore the bay and the Gulf with friends and family.
Departing from John’s Pass, Woody’s will first give you the lowdown on how to operate the watercraft. From there, you’ll be free to roam the designated areas, get a new perspective of the beautiful coastal town—and maybe even spot a dolphin or two!
Woody’s Watersports has an early bird special of $70 per hour, with their regular rate at $85.
Madeira Beach Cigar Company
As your time in Madeira Beach comes to a close, take the time to celebrate and toast to your travels. Head along to the Madeira Beach Cigar Company and pick up authentic hand-rolled cigars. The cigar shop has an incredible range of cigars on offer. With the help of their friendly staff, you’ll be able to pick out the perfect stogie for you.
Another great option for cigars is in John’s Pass at the Florida Winery. Find some of the highest quality hand-rolled cigars from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic within their walk-in humidor. After finding the one for you, check out their 20 varieties of wine that have won over 50 awards.
Mad Beach Surf Shack
Founded in 2016, the Mad Beach Surf Shack had a storefront location for three years. But in 2019 they went entirely online, providing locals and travelers alike with envious access to a wide range of rentals.
Don’t worry about trying to get your hands on gear before the beach day. Mad Beach Surf Shack will bring every right to you. These include bike rentals, an outstanding way of exploring the Gulf Coast and John’s Pass.
You can also have beach chairs and umbrellas delivered. If jet skis aren’t your kind of fun, then check out their range of kayaks and paddleboards. The latter includes MEGA SUPs which can be used by up to four people.
Where to eat & drink
Madeira Beach’s spot along the Gulf Coast may bring beach vacationers from far and wide. But its seaside location and vibrant local community have led to a fantastic food scene.
Some of the top-notch restaurants in Madeira Beach can be found in John’s Pass. These include Friendly Fisherman Restaurant and the Boardwalk Grill. The Friendly Fisherman gives you the chance to hand over your fresh catch to be cooked just how you like it. The Boardwalk Grill is an unpretentious eatery right on the water. It specializes in New England-style lobster rolls and tacos at budget-friendly prices.
Between downtown and John’s Pass lies the Mad Beach Fish House. The local institution on Gulf Blvd has all the seafood classics, including fish tacos with a rooftop tiki bar overlooking Tampa Bay.
For something to complement your beach day, head to a staple of Madeira Beach, Dockside Dave’s. The restaurant is a classic Gulf Coast establishment with a laid-back vibe, plenty of sea breeze, and delicious deep-fried seafood.
If you’ve spent some time on the other side of Boca Ciega Bay, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Slyce Madeira Restaurant. Enjoy their creative pizzas, with indoor and outdoor seating plus a waterfront view.
Madeira Beach has no shortage of bars that offer some great eats. A popular choice is Bamboo Beach Bar, with delightful frozen drinks and live music. Mad Beach Craft Brewing Company is another serving highly=-rated craft beer alongside global and American pub food.
Last up is the Florida Winery, an award-winning small-batch winery. Stop by for tastings, with artisan treats like dressing and hot sauces also for sale.
Many travelers arrive in Madeira Beach by flying into St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport. The airport is around 30 minutes from town. The route is serviced by both shuttles and bus services.
Although Madeira Beach is a small coastal town, it’s spread along a barrier island, making many attractions further than walking distance. This, plus the ability to explore nearby towns like St. Pete Beach, Pass-a-Grille, and natural areas like Fort De Soto Park, leads many to hire a car for the duration of their travels.
If you choose to stay within John’s Pass, you may be able to avoid renting a car as you’ll have plenty to do from your doorstep. Madeira Beach is also on the trolley route that runs between Clearwater Beach and St. Petersburg. But as it runs in a linear direction, there’s little room for flexibility with the last trolleys departing before 5 pm.
Where to stay
A short walk from John’s Pass, Madeira Norte is a great way to experience this end of town. Your condominium comes with a full kitchen and dishwasher with views of the pass from your private balcony. From your room, you’re minutes from the Boardwalk and the best restaurants in Madeira Beach.
Perched on the Gulf of Mexico, the Shoreline Island Resort offers seaside adult-only accommodations. Each room comes with a fully equipped kitchen for cooking up delightful brunches as the sun streams through the airy rooms. Enjoy a private beach all to yourself along with the resort’s own pool, fitness center, and firepit.
With floor-to-ceiling windows, you’ll have no shortage of natural light at Madeira Vista. Enjoy amazing views of the Gulf with a stunning evening sunset best captured from your balcony. Your apartment comes with two rooms, cable TV, kitchen, and is less than 100 feet from the ocean.