Bar hopping along the Miracle Mile on St. Pete Beach

Back in the day, friends would entice us out to the beach with an invitation to cruise the "Miracle Mile." It's a stretch of beach behind a row of St. Pete Beach hotel and motel bars that's really more like 0.8 of a mile. But the allure is the ability to wend your way down the beach on a wonderfully radiant day, imbibing and relaxing – sometimes taking advantage of the refreshing pool -- until you reach the end and can call a friend or a cab to ferry you home. It'd been a while since we did the Mile, so we took a trip out to the beach recently to see how the bars were doing. Here's our report.

PCI Beach Bar (at Postcard Inn on the Beach)

Formerly called the Swigwam, this was once one of the beach's most beloved dive bars. It's retained the rustic decor, but upped the energy level with pounding music and live bands on some weekends. The results have been uneven. When the bartenders are on top of their game, it makes a delightful first stop on the Miracle Mile. But catch them on an off day, as we did recently, and you'll be cooling your heels for a bit at the window as you strain to catch their attention and get some service. You've been warned. 6300 Gulf Blvd., (727) 367-2711

Jimmy B's (at Beachcomber Resort)

With three separate bar areas and indoor/outdoor seating, this place can hold a lot of sunburned partiers. It's got TV everywhere for sports nuts, but there's also a strategically placed band area, and they promise live music every night. The bars themselves are spacious and the one we popped by features inlaid marble tile. The menu looks great, especially the wide array of "worldwide wings," featuring such flavors as "South of the Border" with honey chipotle sauce and "Rickshaw Ginger." Bonus for you smokers: They sell cigarettes at the bar, and they have a copious supply of matches. The place also has plenty of railing room for parking drinks while you watch the setting sun. Oh, and did we mention they serve complimentary shots of beachy drinks as the sun goes down? 6200 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 367-1902

Ricky T's (at Howard Johnson resort)

This long-time beach favorite was looking a little tired on our visit. The back deck area that faces the beach was small, but the bar itself is pretty large and it has outdoor seating facing the pool area. It has plenty of TVs indoors for sports, and would make a great place to park if a sudden thunderstorm crops up. 6110 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-4575

Sandbar (at the Sandpiper, part of the Tradewinds group)

This is a quiet little space tucked behind some sea grapes bushes. It's a good place to chill and catch a sunset if you're not into a party scene. But there's nothing that would make you stop otherwise. 6000 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727)360-5551

The Alden

Skip this spot unless you're staying there and somehow the drinks are comped. 5900 Gulf Blvd, St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-7081

Bongos (at the now-closed Coral Reef)

Sadly this is place is out of business and decrepit. Pity. The pool with its islands was so fun to swim in, and the bar used to be the favorite of folks like former Buc Mike Alstott. Let's hope someone sees the potential in this place and gets it back to bar-hopping glory.

Flying Bridge (Tradewinds Resort)

This place gets really crowded in the summer, but on this winter day the place was wide open and the indoor space was a little empty. Go there and order a cocktail and you'll have a wonderful view of the pool from the "bridge." There'a a small space for lunch or dinner behind a little picket fence. This spot features two pools: a regular one out in the sunshine, and a pool underneath the parking deck that is heavenly on a 95-degree-plus summer's day. Bonus if you have kids in tow: There's a giant slide you can have fun with on the beach. 5500 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 363-2200

Harry's Beach Bar (Sirata Resort)

This is a mainstay among beach bars, complete with Jaegermeister shot machine and the Rum Runners restaurant next door. Any place that has Gale Trippsmith on its music lineup is perfect for us. And there's plenty of seating around the pool for partiers or those just looking for a beachfront dining experience. This is a must-stop, so save some alcohol room on your excursion. 5300 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 363-5100

Bongos Beach Bar and Grille

Wait, here's our little monkey bar! This bar at the Grand Plaza Hotel is really a nice spot, but points off for being snuggled up against an asphalt parking lot with nary a nice pool area in site. You can purchase a souvenir T-shirt, or listen to a live band when one is playing. The bar itself looks like a home improvement project, with square tiles that look like they belong in your shower stall. Still, they announce that they serve more than 200 kinds of tropical frozen drinks.5250 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-1811

Flipper's Beach Bar (Dolphin Beach Resort)

We really wanted to like this place because of its beach access, its cool beachy décor with maps embedded in the bar and its music lineup with Mike Giles. But the day we were there, some oldster guy was giving us a hard time. Oh scratch that. The crusty, but fun-loving oldster is really the reason this place rocks. So stop in and let them entertain you. Or better yet, wow them with your shuffle skills at the courts out back. 4900 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-7011

Not on the Mile, but close

The Undertow

Super-packed most weekend days, this is a beach party on steroids during warm weather. With its large space, beach bum ambience and 150+ selection of beers, it's no wonder the parking lot is a zoo most days in the summer. Here's a tip, though: Park down the street in the public parking lot. Sure, you will have to pay, but it's only about 350 yards away and an easy walk. And you won't have to risk a dented fender as you try to negotiate the tight, narrow parking spaces of the Undertow lot. 3850 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 368-9000

Don CeSar pool bar

This is a good destination to shoot for if you want to take a walk north from Pass-a-Grille. It's about 20 minutes from the Hurricane Restaurant. Remember, this is a resort, so pretend to be nonchalant when they announce your bill for a vodka and grapefruit juice: $9.40. Gulp! But it's a large to-go cup and lasts all the way back (but you didn't hear that from us, if you know what we mean). Or you can hang out and look at the pretty people living their dream vacation. Don't be afraid to jump in the pool. After all, you'll earn your way in with all that expensive booze. 3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 360-1881

Editor's note: This story has been edited to reflect updates and additions.

Bar hopping along the Miracle Mile on St. Pete Beach 01/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 21, 2011 3:48pm]

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