With thousands of waterfront restaurants in Florida scattered along the shoreline, finding the right place for you isn’t an easy task. It’s like sifting through all the beautiful seashells on Sanibel Island to pick one that suits your taste. To help narrow down the myriad of options, Marinalife consulted the experts — our readers. In our exclusive survey, they voted for their favorite places to dine after a day in the sun, nibble on local seafood and witness spectacular sunsets.
Below please a list compiled by our seasoned travelers of the top 12 waterfront restaurants in Florida. Pick one and enjoy- we wish you bon appe´tit along Florida’s magical waterways.
1. PALM VALLEY FISH CAMP, PONTE VEDRA BEACH
Palm Valley Fish Camp might sound rural rustic, but it’s cooking up some swanky dishes in its kitchen outside Jacksonville. Chefs add innovative twists to Southern favorites, where pimento cheese spread and fried green tomatoes rest comfortably on a wooden table next to trout with arugula and deviled egg sauce. The charming restaurant has a quaint neigh- borhood tavern vibe, as shing poles and aquatic art garnish the walls. Sunsets viewed from Adirondack chairs near the water’s edge are heavenly.
2. GRILLS SEAFOOD DECK & TIKI BAR, MELBOURNE
When bands start to play and palm trees begin to sway, you feel a tiki groove take hold at Grills Seafood. It’s an upbeat place along the Indian River with bold tropical flowers painted on tables and a thatched roof rustling above the dock bar. From the huge outdoor deck, you can watch glorious sunsets or dolphins playing in the waves. It specializes in seafood, steaks, ribs and chicken. The cooks developed a recipe for lionfish to encourage everyone to eat this invasive species that threatens the south Atlantic ecosystem.
3. U-TIKI, JUPITER
If you’re seeking Polynesian-style pleasure, then U-Tiki is the go-to place. Swaying palm trees and sea grass welcome you to this tropical getaway. While you sip cocktails along the water, feel free to dig your toes in the sand. Inside, fans whirl high above smooth wooden tables laden with a cornucopia of regional catch. Seafood rules the menu with dishes ranging from cool oysters and sushi to coconut shrimp and mango mahi mahi. Steaks, burgers and chicken keep your meat eaters happy.
4. NAUTI DAWG MARINA CAFE, LIGHTHOUSE POINT
People and pets are welcome to join the festivities at Nauti Dawg, an island-style casual eatery north of Pompano Beach. This waterfront delight hosts a Yappy Hour, serving grilled meats without spices for canine companions. The one-story building with pale green walls and a striped canvas awning stretched over a waterfront deck specializes in cold beer and Hair of the Dawg Bloody Marys. Its family-friendly menu presents fresh seafood, sandwiches, salads and steaks.
5. SHOOTERS WATERFRONT, FORT LAUDERDALE
Since 1982, Shooters has been a staple along the Intracoastal Waterway. Recently renovated, the modern de´cor features wicker chairs with cream-colored cushions on the patio shaded by white umbrellas and lazy palm trees. Three outdoor bars shake craft cocktails and pour Shooters Ale, made by Biscayne Bay Brewing Co. An updated menu underscores relaxed elegant dining on coastal cuisine. Specialties include fresh seafood, grilled steaks, meaty pork ribs and maple-bourbon fried chicken.
6. THE BEACH CAFE AT MORADA BAY, ISLAMORADA
Morada Bay feels like a slice of tropical heaven. Blue and red tables and chairs are set in sand, the beach is encircled in palm trees, and walking paths wind through plush foliage and flowers. Every month, full moon beach parties electrify the night with music, bon res and entertainers. Inspired by Hawaiian and California surf culture, the walls are garnished with surfboards and vintage 1960s beach posters. The food marries Caribbean and American cuisine with innovative dishes featuring local seafood and produce.
7. LOUIE’S BACKYARD, KEY WEST
If you’re looking for an ideal spot to catch the famous Key West sunsets, reserve a seat at Louis Backyard. This restored Victorian home’s multilevel deck presents panoramic views of the Atlantic waves and craft cocktails to toast Neptune’s glory. Fine dining enhances the seaside experience. The menu changes 4-5 times a year, chasing the season’s best ingredients. House special Bahamian conch salad and lime scented pork meatballs are culinary delights.
8. CABBAGE KEY INN & RESTAURANT, PINELAND
The dining room at Cabbage Key is covered with thousands of autographed $1 bills taped to the ceiling, walls and every possible surface. Paste up your own dollar to join the ranks of past visitors ranging from fishermen to Hollywood stars and presidents (Carter and Kennedy). It’s a quirky tradition that makes this island retreat a boaters’ paradise. Cuban laurel trees with moss dangling from the branches surround the inn and restaurant buildings that date back to the 1930s. The food — mainly local seafood, burgers, pasta and steaks — is well-cooked and reasonably priced. The old Florida experience here is priceless.
9. THE PINK ELEPHANT, BOCA GRANDE
For 60+ years, the Pink has occupied a sweet spot on a pencil-thin barrier island along the Gulf Coast. It’s an upscale getaway inside a lovely resort. The upstairs dining room presents fabulous views of the water in a graceful setting. On the ground level, you find a more relaxed vibe at the pub and patio where bright pink umbrellas echo the color of the tropics. Classic American cuisine with creative twists comes in small plates and big seafood entrees.
10. CROW’S NEST MARINA & RESTAURANT, VENICE
Crow’s Nest is nestled in the middle of a lively marina where fishermen pull big fish out of coolers and friends gather for merriment among the boats. On the first floor lies a tavern with an easy-going attitude and polished oak walls with brass rails. It’s the spot for washing down chilled oysters with icy beer before heading upstairs for a hearty meal. The dining room’s tall windows display a terrific view, and an open deck is cooled by ocean breezes. Fresh seafood, steaks and sandwiches are frequent favorites.
11. SALT ROCK GRILL, INDIAN SHORES
Located on the Intracoastal Waterway south of Clearwater, Salt Rock is a legendary landmark known for hand-cut aged steaks and just-caught seafood. Its carefully curated wine list ensures a perfect vino pairing for your meal. The chilled seafood tower invites you to sample local lobster, shrimp, crab, oysters, clams and mussels. Near the bar, tropical plants and cozy couches are placed around stone repits with strings of white lights overhead. Warm amber lighting inside creates a relaxed fine-dining experience.
12. FISH OUT OF WATER, SANTA ROSA BEACH
Located on Florida’s northwest coast, Fish Out of Water is part of the gorgeous Water Color Resort. The restaurant’s warm contemporary design reflects life in the sun and the sea. The expansive outdoor deck provides an ideal vantage point for watching families dash through sand dunes and jump into the Gulf ’s warm waters. You’ll be tempted to join them. An extensive wine collection accompanies a menu chock full of regional seafood and Southern treats.