15 Best Things to Do in Treasure Island (FL)

Written by Bart Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Set on a barrier island next to Boca Ciega Bay, Treasure Island is part of Pinellas County’s Gulf Beaches. The island has three unbroken miles of some of the loveliest beaches I’ve ever laid eyes on. 

These have Gulf Coast’s classic soft white, sands, with glistening emerald waters. The main beach in Treasure Island is unusually wide, which makes it a go-to for annual events for sand sculptures and kiting.

Go south and things become even more relaxed at Sunset Beach, welcoming to the LGBT visitors, and blessed with many gorgeous places to watch the sun go down. 

On the bay side, Treasure Island’s maze of waterways and nearby mangrove islands demand some exploration by water.

1. Treasure Island Beach

For the sake of clarity, by ‘Treasure Island Beach’ I mean the shoreline next to the city’s downtown area. 

This is the Community Center and neighboring commercial district, with 100+ parking spaces at the Community Center Lot.

The beach here is extremely wide and fringed by a large swath of dunes. To make things a little more luxurious you can rent beach chairs, umbrellas, canopies, and even private cabanas.

Sea turtles nest on (carefully labeled) parts of the beach in the summer, and there’s always something interesting going on. I’ll talk about the annual and recurring events below.

You’ve also got downtown shops and eateries just behind, with everything from pizza to Mexican and American comfort classics.

2. Sunset Beach

At the southern end of the barrier island, LGBT-friendly Sunset Beach has a character distinct from the rest of the city. In fact, until 1955, this was a separate town. 

For one thing, this part of the city is mainly residential, with long stretches of quiet beachfront, traced by little more than dunes covered with sea oats. There are half a dozen places along the shore where you can park and access the beach. 

Behind the dunes are Key West-style homes, charming beach cottages, as well as a few isolated Mid-Century Modern motels from the 50’s and 60’s. 

Maybe my favorite part of all is the boardwalk looping through the dunes and around the southern end of the island at Blind Pass. This can be accessed from the southernmost end of Gulf Boulevard at 77th Avenue.

3. Sanding Ovations Master’s Cup

Over four days in mid-November, the world’s most talented sand sculptors let their imaginations loose on Treasure Island Beach.

The Sanding Ovations Master’s Cup is a rare chance to see such a concentration of talent in one place. Every year more than ten artists, each with their own unique style, turn the beach into a temporary sculpture park.

There’s a different theme each year, and I was fortunate enough to catch “It’s About Time”. Some 45,000 people came to view the displays, while there were also numerous vendors, live entertainment, a children’s area, and food trucks.

4. Treasure Island Kite Festival

This free family-friendly festival takes place in mid-January on Treasure Island Beach. The large patch behind Thunderbird Beach Resort is taken over by hundreds of talented kite-fliers from all over the country.

For me, the pleasure of the Treasure Island Kite Festival is seeing how creative kite design can be. They come in all conceivable shapes and sizes, from butterflies to octopuses, dragons and bizarre geometric shapes.

The festival has been going for more than a quarter of a century now, and features a full schedule of demonstrations and workshops, for all kinds of kite-flying. There are representatives from kite companies attending, and you can even learn how to fly a stunt kite for free.

5. Sunset Drum Circle

Every Sunday, something special happens on the shore next to the Bilmar Beach Resort. Exactly what it sounds like, the Sunset Drum Circle is essentially a relaxed spontaneous party, coming together around 3 pm.

It’s a tradition that goes all the way back to 2001, providing an opportunity for people from all walks of life to unleash their creative side, in a communal environment. 

So as well as a lot of people playing percussion instruments, from bongos to singing bowls to pots and pans, you’ll see a lot of people dancing all while the sun sinks over the Gulf of Mexico.

6. The Florida Shell Shop

The oldest shop on Treasure Island dates back to 1955, and is doing better than ever. This is the Florida Shell Shop, selling an astonishing variety of shells and other finds like sharks’ teeth.

Treasure Island is on a part of the Gulf Coast with some of America’s best beaches for shelling. And it shows in this shop’s selection, with thousands of these little treasures neatly categorized, and presented along with exotic shells from around the world.

There’s also shell jewelry, and all kinds of nautical-themed gifts from books to home decor. What I’ll remember most is the relaxed Old Florida feel of the place, in the middle of a modern coastal destination.

7. Mad Beach Paddlesports

Treasure Island, with its labyrinth of waterways on Boca Ciega Bay, lends itself to paddling. Here you can rent a paddleboard or kayak for between one and four hours, and can launch right from the dock off Gulf Boulevard.

As well as taking the time to explore the city in a new way, you can also make for beautiful mangrove islands, teeming with wildlife. 

Well worth the short trip is a spectacular sandbar on the bayside of John’s Pass. No surprise that this becomes party central on warm and clear days. 

I’d also check out Mad Beach’s guided tours, which include a sunset paddling trip to the sandbar in a clear kayak. These are fitted with LEDs for an unforgettable ambiance and lots of nature spotting opportunities.

8. Friday Morning Market

Just in from the beach at Community Center Park, there’s a regular open-air market worth exploring. This takes place every Friday, from the beginning of December to the end of April.

An inspiring showcase for local small businesses, the Friday Morning Market has a bit of everything. I saw fresh produce, spices, plants, flowers, gourmet sweet treats, salsas, honey, homemade jams, jerky, and a lot of handmade crafts.

These ranged from furniture to seasonal decorations, jewelry, candles, and other fashion accessories. There’s normally live music, as well as seasonal events at Christmas and Easter.

9. Sunset Vista Park

Sunset Vista Trailhead ParkSource: Ron Hroncich / Facebook
Sunset Vista Park

This small but alluring beachfront park is towards the north end of Sunset Beach, by the bridge to St Pete Beach. What you get is a beautiful beach area that tends to be less crowded than the other beaches nearby 

There’s a pair of dune crossovers, delivering you to those signature unblemished white sands, bathed by emerald waters. There are resorts up and down the shore, but this patch is blissfully undeveloped.

I haven’t even mentioned the best thing, which is the elevated view platform behind. Without doubt this is the best place to watch the sun going down in Treasure Island.

10. Treasure Bay Golf & Tennis

Next to the Treasure Island Causeway, the city maintains an impressive public recreation facility, open to all. 

Benefitting from the breezes blowing off Boca Ciega Bay, Treasure Bay Golf & Tennis features golf, tennis, and pickleball facilities in a sub-tropical park.

Best of all for me is the 9-hole par-3 course, with an open layout and uplifting views over the water. Combined with that are eight Hard-Tru tennis courts, three pickleball courts, a basketball court, a sand volleyball court, and two shuffleboard courts.

11. Dine on Seafood at Middle Grounds Grill

Middle Grounds GrillSource: Middle Grounds Grill / Facebook
Middle Grounds Grill

Given Treasure Island’s location, I think it’s fair to say that seafood is on just about every menu in the city. However, Middle Grounds Grill doesn’t offer just any seafood. This spot serves only the finest, freshest, top-quality fish served in carefully-prepared dishes.

Take the signature Mango Nut Crusted Grouper. This comes crusted with walnuts, macadamia, and pistachio, in a mango beurre blanc, on coconut rice. 

While it’s considered a fine-dining establishment, the atmosphere is relaxed and suitable for the whole family. There are also plenty of items on the menu for those who don’t eat seafood. Happy Hour occurs daily, and there’s live entertainment on select evenings.

12. Rent a Boat from Treasure Isle Boat Rentals

Treasure Isle Boat RentalsSource: Treasure Isle Boat Rentals / Facebook
Treasure Isle Boat Rentals

There’s so much to see around Boca Ciega Bay and this stretch of the Intracoastal Waterway, that I’d recommend renting your own boat. If you just want to enjoy the weather and the laid-back Gulf shore lifestyle, you can cruise along the bay’s many miles of canals.

But there are also truly unforgettable nature experiences awaiting you, just in from John’s Pass to the north. Here, wading birds forage on the sandbars and nest in the mangroves, while the large seagrass beds attract grazing manatees. 

Treasure Isle Boat Rentals is right on Gulf Boulevard downtown and has a small fleet of Bentley 240 Cruise pontoon boats. With a capacity of up to 15, these feature a large bimini top, a stereo system, and comfy upholstery.

13. Caddy’s on the Beach

Caddy’s On The BeachSource: Caddy's On The Beach / Facebook
Caddy’s On The Beach

Something that contributes to Sunset Beach’s easygoing vibe is this beachfront cafe. Caddy’s on the Beach is part of a small chain in the Gulf Beaches.

Hanging out here is a whole experience, whether you’re lounging on the beach, dining, taking part in daily activities, or catching some live music in the evening.

Food-wise, this is another excellent spot for locally caught grouper. Be sure to try the grouper sandwich, or get it as a dinner, preferably blackened, southern-style. 

The menu is extensive, with a big choice of shareables, like crab cakes, calamari, wings, watermelon bites, and ceviche. 

I don’t need to tell you that the sunset is fabulous here, and is soundtracked with live music. If you come on a Friday you can also take part in yoga on the beach, just as the sun is going down.

14. John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk

Treasure Island and neighboring Madeira Beach were one until 1848 when a hurricane ripped a hole in the shoreline. 

The resulting inlet became known as John’s Pass, named for one John Levique, a purported rogue who became the first person to navigate it.

On the Madeira Beach side, what was once a quiet fishing village became a vibrant commercial district in the 1970s. 

Made for wandering, and imbued with a kitschy pirate theme, John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk abounds with specialty shops and chain restaurants with coastal views.

This is also a good embarkation point for themed cruises, jet ski rentals, fishing charters, and eco-tours spotting dolphins.

15. Get Pampered at Paradise Spa

Paradise Spa, Treasure IslandSource: Paradise Spa / Facebook
Paradise Spa

Treasure Island is a relaxing place, but running around from site to site trying to see as much as possible during your stay can be exhausting. Get some much-needed relaxation and rejuvenation at the luxurious Paradise Spa.

Set downtown, this day spa specializes in massage therapies, in a tranquil atmosphere. When I visited there was an extensive choice, from salt stone massage to, sports, Swedish, couples, and even an express massage if you’re pressed for time. 

Hydrotherapy, body scrubs, body wraps, and infrared sauna sessions are just some of the other services available. The treatment rooms feature soft lighting and soothing music, and only the finest products are used.

15 Best Things to Do in Treasure Island (FL):

  • Treasure Island Beach
  • Sunset Beach
  • Sanding Ovations Master's Cup
  • Treasure Island Kite Festival
  • Sunset Drum Circle
  • The Florida Shell Shop
  • Mad Beach Paddlesports
  • Friday Morning Market
  • Sunset Vista Park
  • Treasure Bay Golf & Tennis
  • Dine on Seafood at Middle Grounds Grill
  • Rent a Boat from Treasure Isle Boat Rentals
  • Caddy's on the Beach
  • John's Pass Village & Boardwalk
  • Get Pampered at Paradise Spa