Recently we visited Maderia Beach and had the opportunity to spend a day at John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk. We discovered what many have known for years. This place is a great compendium of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences.

In all, we counted more than 100 different shops, services and experiences at this multi-level complex. In addition to the restaurants and souvenir shops, you can find almost anything from hand-rolled cigars to Birkenstock shoes to rescued alligators. Originally, we had planned for about an hour to breeze though the place. We ended up walking, browsing and patronizing for better than four hours.

Getting Oriented

We had not visited John’s Pass previously. Fortunately they are well prepared for first timers. A welcome center that is well stocked with maps and brochures greets you. There also are several kiosks and locator maps scattered about the facility. It’s easy to find your way around the area.

At the entrance to the Boardwalk, there’s a posted map as well as tri-fold brochures you can carry with you to find your way about.

We actually started on the boardwalk. The place is peppered with restaurants and all kinds of dining options. There’s also a wide variety of water entertainment services. There are Waverunners for rent, deep sea fishing charters and guided tours to see the dolphins. You can go parasailing or even take The Royal Conquest Pirate day cruise.

We discovered the Royal Conquest while researching our article about Arr-gust being pirate month.

The Royal Conquest preparing to sail with its newest band of miscreants.

The Dining

After looking about, we decided to have lunch at the Friendly Fisherman. This three story facility is part of the Hubbard’s Marina. It’s run by the multi-generational Hubbard family who have been providing fishing and tourist cruises for decades – and also providing dining excellence on the boardwalk.

We scored a window seat on the upper deck. This enabled us to see a lot of the water traffic traveling up and down John’s Pass. There were private boats, tour boats and a deep sea fishing charter departing and arriving. The Royal Conquest Pirate ship went out for a mid-day cruise as well.

The dining was delicious. We sampled a wide variety of fare. There were fried oysters and calamari, gator bites, corn fritters and onion rings. Everything was great and Audrey was a wonderful waitress.

In fact, it was Audrey who suggested we take a walk down the boardwalk, head under the John’s Pass Drawbridge and make our way over to beautiful Maderia Beach. We did just that and it was wonderful. Although the bridge is said to be haunted, we only experienced some wildlife looking for lunch.

The walk under the John’s Pass Drawbridge is a great place to see wildlife up close.

Maderia Beach

Maderia Beach itself is long and spacious. The day we were there it was not crowded. There were a few families enjoying the sun and surf. The small jetty was a wonderful place to watch the water traffic coming into and out of the Gulf. There were a few fishermen trying their luck against several shorebirds which were plying the waters nearby as well.

Maderia Beach was not very crowded the day we were there.

The Shopping

Back at John’s Pass Village, we spent quite a bit of time browsing the shops – and there are a lot of them. We picked up some Birkenstock sandals (on sale) at 5:00 Somewhere. There was resortwear and accessories at Fantasia’s Boutique. Island Rags and Laska Surf provided great opportunities to find style for the beach.

Additionally, there are numerous outlets for jewelry, there’s The Leather Shop and The Spice & Tea Exchange. Windworks, the home of spinners, whirlygigs and kites, is by far is one of the coolest places in the complex.

Oscar was rolling Dominican tobacco

If you are a cigar smoker – Cuban Paradise is on the property. Watching Oscar roll cigars is great entertainment in and of itself. We stood amazed at his ability to roll cigars of equal size and weight – one after another.

Sadly, we did not have time to get to the Florida Winery and sample their wares. Nor did we make it to the alligator attraction and feed live gators. Those will have to wait for another time.

When visiting Maderia Beach we recommend John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk. We also recommend you budget plenty of time for this great place.