What's the best waterfront restaurant in Florida? 17 favorites for food, drinks and fun! (2024)

Where is the best place to eat and drink on the water in Florida? Check out these 17 amazing places including beachfront favorites.

While our USA TODAY Network Florida Dining & Entertainment team loves to recommend all kinds of restaurants, we do pay special attention to waterfront establishments, given that we are the only state bordering both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

In this story, our team has selected favorite waterfront restaurants for food, drinks, and fun from across the Sunshine State, with businesses situated along both the Gulf and the Atlantic, as well as various other bodies of water such as bays, rivers, and the Intracoastal.

These are dining destinations where you can arrive by land or sea and savor your meal with views of perhaps a frolicking dolphin or a playful pelican. Presented in alphabetical order, these are the 17 best waterfront restaurants in Florida that we highly recommend.

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Angelo's Seafood Restaurant

5 Mashes Sands Road, Panacea; 850-984-5168; open Wednesday-Sunday all year; angelospanacea.com

Perched on pilings at the edge of Ochlockonee Bay in Panacea about 30 miles from Tallahassee, Angelo's has weathered its share of storms. Built and rebuilt, with a major update after Hurricane Dennis in 2005, the restaurant has been serving fresh seafood with a Greek flair since 1945. On a recent Saturday visit, the lines were already forming ahead of the 4:30 p.m. opening and the wait for a table was over an hour. But when you can sit on the breezy deck with a cold beverage and watch the water ripple and the gulls cackle it's all part of the Panhandle's "Forgotten Coast" charm.

Favorites include Broiled Flounder and Broiled Heads-on Shrimp. Other specialties are Angelo's Oysters, Char Grilled Octopus, Whole Char Broiled Snapper, Grouper Fingers and Greek Trim Side Salad. Seafood comes fried, broiled, char broiled and Greek style. Steak and chicken options satisfy non-seafood lovers, and rich pasta dishes like Alfredo, Shrimp Feta and Shrimp Scampi are tasty options. The grouper sandwich is terrific. — Martha Gruender, Tallahassee Democrat

Waterfront eateries: Take a coastal dining tour of 14 favorite waterfront restaurants near Tallahassee

Atlas Oyster House and The Fish House

600 S. Barracks St., Pensacola; 850-470-0003; fishhousepensacola.com

The Fish House's upscale dockside dining experience overlooking Pensacola Bay and Seville Harbor isn't one to be forgotten. Grab drinks and a view on The Deck, or head inside for elevated dining. Diners will find fresh, daily seafood, house-smoked meats and sushi. The most famous dish of all is Grits á Ya Ya - a plate comprised of spiced Gulf jumbo shrimp spinach, portobello mushrooms, applewood-smoked bacon, garlic, shallots, cream and smoked Gouda cheese grits - that celebrities from all over the world have popped in to taste with photographs on the wall to prove it.

While Atlas Oyster House is The Fish House's sister restaurant next door, shared deck with a sunset soaked waterfront view and all, executive chef Jason Hughes has transformed the menu to make the restaurant a destination of its own. At Atlas, you can expect to see creative, off-the wall options, like Bloody Mary oyster shooters and Maine lobster corn dogs. Atlas is a gem for fresh seafood, with options ranging from raw and baked oysters, to ceviches, chilled seafood towers, sushi rolls, seared snapper, lobster rolls, Gulf shrimp, steamed Florida clams and more. However, the land dishes are second-to-none as well, including a roasted chicken, filet mignon, pork chop, burgers and even a house duck pastrami Reuben. — Brittany Misencik, Pensacola News Journal

Beach Bistro

6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; 941-778-6444;beachbistro.com

Boasting decades of history and myriad accolades, Beach Bistro excels at fine dining done Florida-style. Secure a table on the soft white sands of Anna Maria Island, located just south of Tampa Bay, and watch the waves gently crash on the shoreline while indulging in a fabulous five-course tasting menu. It begins with a mini-co*cktail and an equally sublime shot of ice cream, and somehow, only gets better from there. Choose from iconic local dishes like the Lobstercargots and Bistro Bouillabaisse, or opt for my personal favorite, the grouper grenobloise. — Wade Tatangelo, Florida Region Dining & Entertainment Editor

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Benny’s on the Beach

10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth Beach, 561-582-9001, BennysontheBeach.com

This Palm Beach County favorite is perched on the Lake Worth Beach pier and surrounded by sea breeze and sweeping views. But that’s not the only thing that makes Benny’s on the Beach so classically coastal Florida. The menu completes the waterfront ideal.

That’s thanks to executive chef and co-owner Jeremy Hanlon, a Daniel Boulud protégé. His menus at Benny’s Pier location — as well as Benny’s newer Oceanwalk space just steps away — offer a bounty of fresh fish and seafood dishes, seafood bakes, fried whole snapper and just great beach food like mahi mahi tacos, conch fritters and fish dip. There’s plenty for those who crave burgers and Cuban sandwiches as well.

While the people-watching is good here — Benny’s has become a regular lunch spot for rocker Jon Bon Jovi — the seascape is not too shabby. — Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post

More: 18 best waterfront restaurants in central Palm Beach County

Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House

414 Harbor Blvd., Destin; 850-424-7406; boshamps.com

Located on Destin harbor, Boshamps is the culmination of more than 40 years in the restaurant business. Allen and DeeDee Phillips offered white-tablecloth dining in Destin for nearly 30 years at the Flamingo Cafe. But with Boshamps, their son Miller has gotten rid of the tablecloths and ties, and now offers a more casual, comfortable dining experience with Gulf to Table southern cuisine.

“Our most popular item is our Snapper Destin,” Miller said. “That dish has been in our family for over 40 years. It was created in the '80s at mom and dad's restaurant, the Flamingo Cafe, and has been tweaked and perfected to the Snapper Destin we know today.” Snapper Destin features a little bit of everything the Gulf has to offer. It is made with fresh snapper, lump crab, Gulf shrimp, house-made collard greens and mashed potatoes. They also offer corn and crab chowder that was the original recipe from the Flamingo Cafe. — Tina Harbuck, Destin Log

Eating on the water? 5 places for waterfront dining in Destin

Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille

Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, St. Pete Pier and Jungle Terrace St. Petersburg; docfords.com

No trip to the west coast of Florida is complete without dining and drinking at Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille, which offers four waterfront locations with outdoor seating from Sanibel Island to St. Petersburg. Named after the hero in local author Randy Wayne White'sbestselling series of crime fiction booksand co-owned by White, Doc Ford's offers a bright, beach-y sports bar setting elevated by gourmet finger foods and brilliant boat drinks. Highlights include the Cuban black bean dip, fresh fish entrees such as the Macadamia Nut Crusted Grouper, and their tasty and potent rum-laced libations like the Sanibel Sunset and Doc's Cure. In September, Doc Ford's was ranked the No. 1 "Everyday Eats Restaurant" in the U.S. by Tripadvisor. — Wade Tatangelo, Florida Region Dining & Entertainment Editor

Doc Ford's ranked No. 1 'Everyday Eats Restaurant' in U.S. by Tripadvisor

Island Gypsy

292 Capri Blvd., Naples; 239-394-1111;theislandgypsy.com

If any restaurant in Naples is worthy of a "quintessentially Southwest Florida" title, it's the Island Gypsy. When explaining to a local restaurant group CEO why I love the ultra-casual Gypsy so much, I said the food is so much better than it has to be given the lovely waterfront setting. My usual order is a lobster Reuben, but the cheeseburger and grouper sandwich are pretty great, too. My husband and brother-in-law usually opt for a fish special. Don't miss out on onion rings, a worthy upcharge, and the legendary carrot cake that seemingly weighs as much as a newborn; both are perfect for sharing. Reservations via Resy, but it’s hard to find any time available after 5 p.m. through May. Don’t let that stop you from adding your name to the list upon arrival — even when there’s more than 50 milling ahead of you. Grab a tropical co*cktail and chill while waiting because tables turn quickly. Outdoor seating only. Open daily. ‒ Diana Biederman, Naples Daily News

Lucky Shuck

1116 Love St., Jupiter, 561-532-3331, LuckyShuckJupiter.com

When I want to dine by the water, my thoughts drift to the beach, someplace by the ocean. Then I remember the Jupiter Lighthouse, and head to the cluster of restaurants that offer some of the most iconic Palm Beach County waterfront vignettes: the lighthouse, the surrounding waters and the passing boats.

There are several waterfront restaurants on Jupiter Inlet, and all of them have their charms. I find Lucky Shuck Oyster Bar & Taphouse to be a good pick for its extensive, seafood-focused menu, raw bar and pub-grub options. (The fresh catch of the day is a nice choice, as the fishing boats unload nearby.)

The restaurant is part of the Charlie & Joe’s at Love Street waterfront complex, which is co-owned by football icon and local resident Joe Namath.

Broadway Joe fans may want to know there’s a burger here in his honor. The Broadway Burger is topped with cheddar, fried green tomatoes, grilled red onion, gem lettuce and rémoulade and served on a brioche bun.It comes with a side of lighthouse views! — Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post

More: Looking for a table with a sparkling view? Best waterfront restaurants near Jupiter

Mar VistaDockside Restaurant

760 Broadway St., Longboat Key; 941-383-2391;marvistadining.com

There might not be a more enchanting waterfront dining experience in Florida than being seated at the wrought-iron tables located under the buttonwood trees overlooking Sarasota Bay at Mar Vista, which also offers a charming covered deck for seating that overlooks the restaurant's 14-slip dock. To complement the Old Florida settingwith more than 100 years of history, Mar Vista serves delectable Southern cuisine including the Lemon & Herb grouper entrée that features a fresh filet of fish covered in a superior beurre blanc, served with a side of smartly seasoned rice and delectable sausage made from Florida wild boar via Shogun Farms in Seffner. Local resident Ed Chiles, son of former Gov. Lawton Chiles, owns Mar Vista along with the nearby Anna Maria Island waterfront restaurantsBeach HouseandSandbar. — Wade Tatangelo, Florida Region Dining & Entertainment Editor

More: 18 best waterfront restaurants in central Palm Beach County

Next Door

5971 Silver King Blvd., Unit 114, Cape Coral; 239-984-2453; nextdoorcape.com

It’s easy to forget Next Door is a waterfront restaurant. Yes, the intimate, chic, year-old Cape Coral venue has unobstructed views of docks and boats in Tarpon Point Marina. And yes, breathtaking sunsets are often reflected in the rippling water of Glover Bight. But the moment dishes of homemade pasta and seafood begin to arrive at your table, your focus shifts. The colors and textures creatively arranged on those plates in front of you are more spectacular than the waterfront view. You’ll sit transfixed from the first bite of amuse bouche to the last taste of Jessica Shoemaker’s towering layer cakes. If we had to choose between Chef John Hill’s sunset ravioli with gorgonzola dolce, walnuts and a roasted squash velote or watching the sun set over the marina, 10 out of 10 times we're taking the pasta. Go for the waterfront views, but keep coming back for the food. — Robyn George, The News-Press

Outriggers Tiki Bar and Grille

200 Boatyard St., New Smyrna Beach; 386-428-6888, outriggersnsb.com

Outriggers Tiki Bar and Grille is as it claims, a taste of the “ultimate Florida lifestyle.” With an expansive covered deck overlooking the water and passing yachts, this popular tiki bar and grill feels easygoing and beachy, yet altogether classy, captivating and carefree. From its first-rate service and live entertainment to its sunset dock views and artfully crafted cuisine, Outriggers is my “taste of Florida” go-to when visitors are in town or when I'm simply craving a sunny Sunday afternoon bite. Its menu of mostly seafood plates includes the peel-and-eat shrimp; crispy crab and lobster cake sandwich; marina tacos; Korean BBQ Sticky Ribs — crispy, fall-off-the-bone baby back ribs smothered in a rich, sticky Korean BBQ sauce and accompanied by bamboo rice and house-made kimchi; and walnut-encrusted fresh catch — a thick, flaky serving of fresh swordfish topped with pineapple and peppadew rum butter and served with creamy red bliss mashed potatoes and perfectly crispy, caramelized Brussels sprouts. Helena Perray, The Daytona Beach News-Journal

More: Best waterfront restaurants in Volusia County? Here are 10 of my favorites

Pop's Sunset Grill

112 Circuit Road, Nokomis; 941-488-3177;popssunsetgrill.com

Pop's offers a tropical getaway along the Intracoastal Waterway by the Albee Road Bridge connecting Casey Key to Nokomis in south Sarasota County. Originally opened as Urbanek’s Fish Camp in 1954, Pop's produces a winning combination of Old Florida charm and modern features, such as the three-level, full-liquor tiki bar. While stopping by Pop's for libations and daily live music is always fun, be sure to bring your appetite. Personal favorites include the smoked mahi spread,fresh grouper cooked on the open-flame grill, and a veggie skewer that is not to be dismissed.— Wade Tatangelo, Florida Region Dining & Entertainment Editor

10 best waterfront restaurants in Sarasota and Manatee counties

Singleton's Seafood Shack

4728 Ocean St., Mayport, singletonsseafood.com

For more than a half-century, Singleton’s Seafood Shack has attracted residents, tourists – and even celebrities – to the shoreline of the St. Johns River in historic Mayport Village. Owner Dean Singleton carries on the tradition started by his parents, Capt. Ray and Ann Singleton, in 1969: serving up some of the area’s freshest seafood, including Mayport shrimp, unloaded by local anglers at the dock just steps away from the restaurant. Food Network star Guy Fieri showcased Singleton’s signature Minorcan chowder, blackened sheepshead, fried gator tail and his mom's classic shrimp burger in a 2010 episode of "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." During the pandemic, the restaurant underwent extensive renovations, including improvements to an outdoor dining area that offers views of the river and its traffic of local ships, cargo ships and the St. Johns River Ferry, which operates just a few hundred yards away.- Gary T. Mills, Florida Times-Union

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Ski Beach Bar & Grill

1 Dozier Circle, Leesburg; 352-973-0793; skibeachleesburg.com

Ski Beach offers a beautiful view of Lake Harris and a clever array of Floribbean foods mixed with Cajun elements and a blend of contemporary Caribbean-Southern fare. The décor recalls a backyard shanty with waterfront gear, most strikingly those signature water skis that the lake is known for. Skis are everywhere at this eatery, which covers 9,600 square feet on the docks of Lake Harris. If you're feeling decadent, try the Cajun sweet fried chicken, which features tender boneless chicken breasts that are deep-fried in a secret batter and fried crispy with sugar and spicy seasoning and comes served with smashed potatoes and coleslaw. Or try an option that is just as flavorful but not as caloric: the redfish filet finished with crawfish in ham cream sauce and served over Balaya rice. If you have room for dessert, consider their bread pudding with vanilla ice cream, praline sauce and pecans. — Julie Garisto, Leesburg Daily Commercial

Lake County: The Top 5 local waterfront restaurants of 2024

Star Fish Company

12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez; 941-794-1243;starfishcompany.com

Nestled along Sarasota Bay in the fishing village of Cortez,Star Fish Companyoffers exceptional Gulf seafood with a generous serving of Old Florida charm. Credit Karen Bell, a third-generation Cortezian dedicated to preserving her family's commercial fishing heritage. She not only owns Star Fish and its adjoining fish market, but also a fleet of commercial fishing boats and the adjacent “fish house.” While dining at her dockside restaurant boasting a century of history, you'll be captivated by the fishermen working alongside seabirds and the occasional dolphin. Star Fish serves expertly prepared Florida favorites like grouper, shrimp and oysters. However, the restaurant is particularly renowned for its mullet, a fish best enjoyed fried or blackened with a side of cheese grits. Bell is also co-owner of the equally excellent, nearby waterfront restaurant Tide Tables, which is perhaps best known for its fish tacos featuring blackened fillets of mahi-mahi and a show-stopping sesame ginger sauce.— Wade Tatangelo, Florida Region Dining & Entertainment Editor

Star Fish Company in Cortez named one of the best restaurants in the U.S.

Stumpknockers on the River

13821 SW State Road 200, Dunnellon; 352-854-2288; https://www.facebook.com/p/Stumpknockers-on-the-River-100057354350655/

No ocean? No problem. Situated off State Road 200 at the Marion/Citrus County line, Stumpknockers is a great place to kick back, hang out and chow down on classic Florida seafood and freshwater specialties. This is old-school Southern cooking with a casual and laid-back feel — the kind of place that invites you to sit down and hang out for a while. Tucked among the trees on the north bank of the Withlacoochee River, the rustic riverside hideaway is perfect if you want a secluded place to go for a balmy afternoon among friends. The name comes from the Stumpknocker freshwater fish, which is an insectivore in the sunfish. But at Stumpknockers the house special is catfish: hand-rolled in Stumpknockers’ cornmeal breading and fried to golden, crispy perfection, then served with corn on the cob, hush puppies and potatoes. — Angela Durrell, correspondent, Ocala Star Banner

No ocean? No problem! Five best waterfront restaurants in the Ocala area

Marker 99

4263 Harbor City Blvd., Melbourne, 321-253-1369, marker99restaurant.com

Brevardians may know this location as the old Captain Katanna’s. Now it’s a sunny, tiki-hutted, revitalized restaurant with views of the Indian River. An added bonus: you can arrive by boat and park right at the restaurants' docks. There are plenty of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options if your dining group has varying needs. The extensive menu includes dishes like seafood bruschetta, salmon and shrimp penne alla vodka, Caribbean fish tacos and much more. Your camera may be out to take photos of the artistic looking dishes, but keep that camera on the ready to snap shots of dolphins and other marine life frolicking in the water. Check the restaurant’s Facebook page for special deals and live entertainment. - Michelle Spitzer, FLORIDA TOADY

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What's the best waterfront restaurant in Florida? 17 favorites for food, drinks and fun! (2024)

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