Tag Archives: Madeira Beach

Gulf Coast artificial reefs

Discovering the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Pinellas County Artificial Reefs

coral on reefLittle known to most tourists at Clearwater Beach, St Pete Beach and the various tourists stops of the Central Gulf Coast are a series of artificial reefs located just off the coast. The reefs vary in distance from the shore, some being only a few hundred yards out while others are as far as 38 miles out in deeper waters. The artificial reef program was started in 1975, growing to the present day total of 42 sites. Most of the reefs, 29 of them, are close to shore. These inshore reefs were set down to help with beach replenishments. After sands were taken from the seafloor to help bolster area beaches between Sand Key and Treasure Island, the reefs were set down at areas where sands were removed. The 13 offshore reef sites are in deeper water and consists of larger materials than those close to the shore.

Both types of reef share a similar life cycle, growing barnacles and other sedentary sea life within just weeks. Fish arrive soon after to feed on these stationary creatures. Coral completes the reef community around the one year mark.

The purpose of the artificial reef program is to enhance fishing opportunities and to provide diving sites for scuba enthusiasts. The reefs also help to disperse the recreation areas of the Florida Gulf Coast, a very popular vacation destination. The increased number of diving and fishing sites offer visitors and locals greater opportunities for sport and play.

 

Materials for Gulf Coast Artificial Reefs

Deploying artificial reefsThe materials for the Gulf Coast artificial reefs ranges from the unique to the mundane. Many of the reefs are constructed from relatively simple items, such as pipes, pylons, and deconstructed bridge debris. Other sites contain treasures such as sunken barges, sunken ships, and even obsolete military tanks from WWII. The reef building materials have to pass an inspection for hazardous wastes and have to be relatively large in size. While it might seem that builders would simply drop the items into the water and be done, it is not so. The reefs are constructed with careful planning, intentionally creating openings that differ in size. The construction technique creates habitats for the various species that will arrive as the reef matures.

Diving on Florida Gulf Coast Artificial Reefs

Scuba diving on artificial reefsWhen we questioned divers regarding the artificial reefs of the Gulf Coast we were surprised to find out that even the simple reefs created from construction debris were popular dive sites. It seems that the attraction of many reefs is the sea life that surrounds them. Grouper, sting rays, eels, sea horses, sharks, coral, sponges and more find homes on and around the reefs. Lucky divers might also encounter sea turtles or dolphins. The visibility changes with Gulf conditions, giving views through 15 to 60 feet of water. Unique dive sites include the large barges and fishing boats, which divers can enter. The WWII tanks are also a popular dive.

Fishing Florida Gulf Coast Artificial Reefs

Fishing Gulf of MexicoThe other inspiration for the artificial reefs on Gulf Coast of Florida is to increase the fishing opportunities. The reefs not only provide good fishing destinations, they also create habitats for bait fish. Fishermen start at the reefs, casting their bait nets to scoop up the smaller fish. They can move on from there or stay, trying for the larger fish that troll the artificial structures below. Some of the more popular fish to catch are grouper, snapper, amberjack, and Spanish mackerel. The reefs closer to the shore are all marked for fishing on the maps, while those in deeper water are designated for mixed use. With the overwhelming popularity of fishing along the Gulf Coast, these new habitats provide additional locations for local fishermen and tourists to cast their lines.

How to Locate Gulf Coast Artificial Reefs

Artificial reefsModern technology makes finding the reefs quite easy. Each one is marked on the official maps, with GPS coordinates included. The intra-coastal waterways of the Florida Gulf Coast are shallow, creating a need for depth finders aboard pretty much every boat that plies the local waters of Clearwater Harbor, Boca Ciega Bay, or St Joseph Sound. Purchasing a GPS to have on board your boat is a good idea, although the more expensive devices come with both depth sonar and GPS. The reef program is no longer creating new sites but those that already exist are being maintained. Florida artificial reefsThat includes, in a few locations, buoys to mark them. If you are not interested in trying to find the reefs on your own, try a local dive shop. Guided tours will take out to the reefs and allow you to dive. Local fishing charters will know where the reefs are, naturally. It is their job to give the best fishing experience possible, which is an easy task on the Gulf of Mexico.

 

 Enjoying the Artificial Reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast

Fishing artificial reefsThe artificial reefs of the Florida Gulf Coast are there for the enjoyment of fishing and diving, creating locations that would otherwise be unavailable. The artificial reefs supply an added bonus for an area already full of recreation opportunities. With Tampa Bay, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg being very popular Florida vacation destinations, it makes sense to expand the resources. If you are looking to take your Gulf Coast vacation a step further, why not give them a try?

 

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How Big is your Vacation Activity Zone?

Never Confuse a Bayou with a Backwater Again

Gulf Coast Sunken Ship

 

John Levique Pirate Days

Fun Times at John Levique Pirate Days

History of John Levique

John Levique Pirate Days 9The history of John Levique and the history of John’s Pass are linked by the legend naming John Levique as the first man to sail through the pass. According to the legend, a large storm rearranged the sands of the barrier islands, opening a new inlet to Boca Ciega Bay. The new inlet was subsequently named John’s Pass. The boardwalks, restaurants, and gift shops did not appear for another 150 years. The name John Levique is remembered, thanks to his discovery of the pass. Today, his name is used for one of the best celebrations you will find on the Florida Gulf Coast. John Levique Pirate days skeleton manequinJohn Levique was a turtle farmer, so you might wonder why the celebration is called ‘pirate days.’ Here on the Florida Gulf Coast, and especially in Tampa Bay, a true pirate history exists. The pirate theme, often invoked in this region, has been used to enhance the John Levique celebration. Once you’ve experienced the fun at the John Levique Pirate Days event, you will see that John Levique would probably not mind at all.

 

John’s Pass

John Levique Pirate DaysJohn’s Pass Village and Boardwalk is one of the best tourist stops on the Florida Gulf Coast. The small but popular shopping and restaurant district is lined with loads of souvenir shops and lots of great dining. John’s Pass is a fun diversion where you can spend hours walking from one interesting knickknack shop to the next. When you need to resupply your energy, you can choose from a number of unique restaurants, many of them on the waterfront. Seafood is popular at John’s Pass, thanks to the numerous fishing boats that use John’s Pass to reach the Gulf of Mexico. The boardwalks and sidewalks are fun to stroll, and when you are done with your dining, stop into a candy shop to finish off your day. You can find all of these things on an ordinary day at John’s Pass. During the John Levique Pirate Days celebration, that entertaining setting becomes a backdrop for much more.

 

John Levique Pirate Days Celebration

John Levique Pirate Days foodThe John Levique Pirate Days event was on our roster of things to see this spring. This year it was held May 9th through 11th. The event took us by surprise. We expected a few pirates standing in the doorways and perhaps few kiosks- not by a long-shot. The entirety of John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk had been transformed in to one giant event. The street was filled with tents and kiosks selling everything imaginable, much of it pirate themed. Instead of a parking lot we found a large tent where the musicians and dancers performed, along with lots of tables for dining. John Levique Pirate Days 8The other side of the parking lot was the food court, with banquet style vending stalls selling mouthwatering food. Amid the lively setup strolled a large number of attendees, enjoying shops, vending tents, the shows, and the food. However, all of those things together were still not the best surprise. We found no mere dozen pirates at the John Levique Pirate Days event, but rather the streets were filled with them. The pirates had erected tents to mock up how original pirates had camped on the shores of the Gulf Coast. Tons of professional pirate actors roamed the streets along with a number of enthusiasts. Aside from the pirate encampment, we found a pirate wrestling ring, a mechanical bull, a tropical bar, a hula hoop contest and an inflatable slide for the kids, and roaming musicians. John Levique Pirate Days 4Lastly came the large pirate show down at the waterfront of John’s Pass. On the sandy shore, amid the older pylons, some 50 to 60 pirates put on a mock battle. The battle included walking the plank, musket fire, sword fights, and, our personal favorite, ‘death by mermaid,’ which consisted of throwing convicted pirates to the trio of mermaids waiting just off shore. John Levique Pirate Days 6The mayhem lasted for a good five minutes, all under the thunderous explosions from cannons set on the shore. Watching from the drawbridge between Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, the handrails under our palms trembled from the shock wave of the cannon fire. Spectators lined the John’s Pass boardwalk to watch the show, many of them dressed in pirate costumes themselves.

 

John Levique Pirate Days Recommended

John Levique Pirate Days 7

For Love or Money Band

After our visit to the John Levique Pirate Days celebration, we definitely recommend it to visitors to the Florida Gulf Coast. The event was a lot of fun and definitely lived up to its name. There were pirates galore, lots of in-theme trinkets and souvenirs to purchase, good music shows, and fantastic food. The pirate battle topped off the event with a performance that brought the theme to life. The event has earned a place on our list of celebrations to visit year after year.

 

Other posts you might enjoy:

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

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Caladesi Island

Florida Barrier Island Breakdown

Barrier Islands of the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Off the Pinellas County shorelines of the Florida Gulf Coast are a series of barrier islands. It is very likely you know the names of some of them, like Clearwater Beach, or Honeymoon Island. We’ll break them all down for you, so that you too can be an expert on the barrier islands of our area. We’ll start in the north off the shores of Tarpon Springs and head south past Palm Harbor, Dunedin, Clearwater, Belleair, Largo, Seminole, Gulfport, St Petersburg, and beyond. Once you are a barrier island expert, you will be able plan your Gulf Coast vacation trek up and down our shoreline with much keener insight.

 

Anclote Key

Anclote Key barrier island lighthouse

Anclote Key lighthouse

Anclote Key Preserve State Park is directly off shore of the mouth of the Anclote River, the waterway that runs past the tourist destination of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks. You can depart from those docks on a tour boat that will take you to Anclote Key, where you can walk the shores, view the historic light house, or just spend some time on one of Florida’s best natural beaches. You will find lots of driftwood and seashells on this island, since it can only be reached by boat.

 

Three Rooker Island

Gulf Coast ShoresThree Rooker Island is one step up from a very large sand bar. This tiny barrier island is a favorite hangout spot for boaters. You can only get to the bar by boat and anchoring off its shores is a great way to spend the afternoon. The shores of the small key are the soft, powdery white sand for which the Florida Gulf Coast is famous. Swim from your boat or from the shore. On a walk down the beach in ankle deep water you might be able go from one end to the other of the two mile stretch of Three Rooker Island.

 

Honeymoon Island

Honeymoon Island, Florida

Honeymoon Island sunset

Honeymoon Island State Park is one of the most famous of the barrier islands along our coastline. It has long stretches of white sand beaches, a concession stand, lots of parking, a dog beach, nature center, playground, and nature trail. It is also where you catch the ferry to neighboring Caladesi Island to the south. The island is a great place to beachcomb for shells. You can also see nesting ospreys, bald eagles, and great horned owls, or perhaps one of the burrowing gopher tortoises. On a trip to Honeymoon Island you can choose the type of adventure you want to have. In fact, you will have to, because the Honeymoon Island is too large to see all in one day.

 

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island

Caladesi Island is just north of Clearwater Beach. You can even walk to the island from the south, because a storm some decades ago filled in the opening between the two islands. Of course, you can skip the long walk by taking the ferry from Honeymoon Island. Caladesi Island is known for its pristine white sand beaches. You will feel as if you are in the wilds when you walk along its northern shores. You can also view plenty of Florida birds that use the island for nesting. This famous retreat belongs on your must-see list for your Florida Gulf Coast vacation. Caladesi Island is one of our best.

 

Clearwater Beach Island

Clearwater BeachThe most famous of all the barrier islands along our coast is Clearwater Beach Island. It was formerly known as Tate’s Island, named after a family that lived on the island when the area was first settled. Clearwater Beach became the tourist destination we know today after the bridge was built from the city of Clearwater. Clearwater Beach has more tourist attractions than you can shake a stick at, including the famous Pier 60 nightly sunset festival, and the nearby home of Winter the dolphin from the Dolphin Tale movies. With its beautiful white sand beaches and multiple attractions, Clearwater Beach makes a perfect base of operations for a Florida Gulf Coast vacation.

 

Sand Key – Sand Key Beach to Madeira Beach

Madeira Beach, Florida

Madeira Beach, Florida

The long barrier islands of Sand Key starts just south of Clearwater Beach. It extends down through some great beach communities until it ends at John’s Pass, which is one of the best tourist destinations in the region. To the south of Sand Key Beach is Belleair Beach, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, North Redington Beach, and Madeira Beach. The beach communities on Sand Key are some of the calmest of our region of the Gulf Coast, perfect for family vacations. You should definitely check into the many diners along the scenic drive down the length of Sand Key.

 

Treasure Island

Treasure Island BeachTreasure Island has one of the widest swaths of sand on the entire chain of barrier islands. This is a good location to look into local festivals. The beach makes a perfect location for large events, which is exactly what they do on Treasure Island. The bridge heading east from Treasure Island leads into Seminole, Gulfport, and St Petersburg, which is why this is a good location to find restaurants, pubs, and gift shops. Treasure Island is one of the barrier islands along our coast you will want to keep your eye on.

 

Long Key – St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach

Long KeyLong Key is the last of the residential barrier islands on the strip. You will find St Pete Beach and Pass A Grille Beach here. St Pete Beach is one of the more developed tourist districts in the area. You will find plenty of dining and entertainment in the area. It is also a great place for family vacations. Pass A Grille Beach has the distinction of being the most southern beach community on our coast, with plenty of Florida charm.

 

Mullet Key and Shell Key Preserve

Fort Desoto ParkMullet Key is home to famous Fort Desoto Park. The interior waters are shallow and calm, thanks to the islands’ horseshoe shape, making a great place for boating. The park is rich with history, and beautiful white beaches. It is a fantastic destination for a family beach day, complete with shaded picnic areas and shallow wading areas. Shell Key Preserve is just north of Fort Desoto. It is a preserve for local wildlife, especially a large number of local birds, who nest and rear their young there. Shell Key is a great place for boaters and birdwatchers.

 

Egmont Key

Snorkeling FloridaEgmont Key State Park sits at the entrance to Tampa Bay. The lighthouse has been used in times of peace and war since 1858. Ruins of Fort Dade, from the same era as Fort Desoto, can be found on the island. Be aware, however, that access to the southern end of the key is limited because of the shore bird refuge there. The island is reachable only by boat. Once there, you can fish, picnic, swim, hike, or tour the ruins. It one of the most difficult to reach islands listed here, but Egmont Key is definitely worth visiting.

 

Other blog posts you might like:

Wildest Islands on the Central Gulf Coast of Florida

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Aerial of Caladesi Island and Honeymoon Island

 

Johns Pass

Johns Pass

What is Johns Pass?

John's Pass drawbridgeJohn’s Pass is a fun tourist stop along the waterway known as John’s Pass. According to local history, it was created by a hurricane in the mid 1800’s, when the storm rearranged the shoreline, forming a new opening into the bay. Today the bay is known as Boca Ciega Bay, with John’s Pass serving as a major entrance. On your visit to John’s Pass, you will undoubtedly notice the active drawbridge, allowing taller sailboats into John’s Pass. Fishermen still embark from the shores of the pass and seafood restaurants dot the shoreline. Dolphins swimming in John's PassClose to major barrier island beaches, the undeveloped shores of the pass are lined with mangroves, a plant that is very good at fighting erosion. While you walk along the boardwalks, you will see plenty of seafood shops, mangroves, and passing boats. You might even get to see some of the dolphins that also frequently use John’s Pass to enter and exit Boca Ciega Bay.

 

Where is Johns Pass?

John's Pass mapJohn’s Pass divides the barrier islands that host the cities of Madeira Beach and Treasure Island, Florida, USA. Barrier islands line the coast of Pinellas County, home to Clearwater Beach, St Petersburg, and St Pete Beach, as well as the popular beaches of Honeymoon Island, Caladesi Island, Sand Key, Indian Rocks Beach, Indian Shores, Redington Shores, Redington Beach, and Fort Desoto Park. John’s Pass sits among these famous beaches as a unique feature, being a well-visited attraction despite having no white-sand shoreline. You will find John’s Pass 16 miles south of Clearwater Beach and just 5 miles north of St Pete Beach. It is a fun place to visit and definitely worth the short trip from any of the local beaches. John’s Pass is an entertaining addition to a Gulf Coast beach vacation.

 

What to Do at Johns Pass

John's Pass restaurantJohn’s Pass is a quintessential tourist stop. You will find every type of nautical gift shop you can imagine, loaded with shells, starfish, toys, souvenirs, specialty soaps, t-shirts, dresses, hats, and even pirate costumes.  After you’ve cruised the gift shops, you will definitely want to dine at John’s Pass. The restaurants are one of the main reasons for visiting! Cruise the streets and the boardwalks to find your perfect dining experience. You can dine inside or out, on a pier over the water or down below the boardwalk in a fun and rustic setting. Some of the restaurants are tall enough to provide sweeping views of the area. Keep your eye out for the restaurants south of the drawbridge too! Jet Ski and parasail rentalAfter you have dined, it’s time for some taffy, coffee, or ice cream in one of the many sweets shops. You’re on vacation after all, right? Lastly, you will want to take advantage of the rentals and cruises at the docks. You can take a dolphin sighting tour or a cruise on a fun pirate ship. If that’s too slow for you, then rent one of the powerboats or jet skis. Fishing charters also cast off from the docks, so you might want to try them too. Whatever you like on a fun filled vacation, you will find some fun memories at the docks of John’s Pass.

Souvenir shop John's Pass

John’s Pass souvenir shops

Shops at John's Pass

John’s Pass restaurants

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other blogs you might like:

Treasure Island Kite Festival 2014

Hurricane Pass Tidal Currents

Where the Heck is Pinellas County and Why Should I Care?

 

Indian Rocks Beach

Central Gulf Coast Cities

Gulf Coast City Info

Below are links provided by Florida Beach Rentals for local Gulf Coast cities. These fun vacation destinations have tons of activities. The listed sites will help you learn more about the Central Gulf Coast. They also have some great ideas for places to go and things to do. The list is ordered from north to south.

Tampa

Tampa Chamber of Commerce

Clearwater Beach

Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce

Dunedin

Dunedin Chamber of Commerce

Sand Key

Belleair Beach

Indian Rocks Beach

Indian Shores

Redington Shores

North Redington Beach

Redington Beach

Madeira Beach

Treasure Island

St Pete Beach

Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce

City of St Petersburg and the St Petersburg Chamber of Commerce