While we love spending time relaxing on our famous Florida beaches, we’re even bigger fans of beachfront dining in the Sunshine State. Because, really, there’s nothing better than pairing that toes-in-the-sand experience with a good meal and a few boat drinks.
For Floridians, the beachfront restaurant options are basically innumerable. So we decided to share our list of the best, ranging from fine dining to flip-flops casual.
These are places with amazing waterfront views where you will find iconic Florida foods like grouper, Key lime pie and oysters from the Gulf – or perhaps just a great cheeseburger or a plate of superior chicken wings.
Presented in alphabetical order, the list is culled from USA TODAY Network contributors in coastal communities across Florida, with restaurants hugging both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
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6600 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; 941-778-6444; beachbistro.com
Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Anna Maria Island’s Beach Bistro is one of the most celebrated restaurants in the state. Offering fine dining centered around Floridian cuisine that you can enjoy while dressed in your favorite smart casual attire, the bistro places guests right on the sands of Holmes Beach or indoors with its impressive new air filtration system.
Must-try items include the famed Bistro Bouillabaisse, filled with lobster tails, jumbo shrimp, shellfish, octopus and more in a broth so good it could be consumed as a standalone beverage. We also highly recommend the Lobstercargots, which are chunks of local spiny lobster slow-cooked in a crock with herbed spinach and garlic butter. You’ll see similar items on other menus, but this one’s the original!
Other popular entrees are the coconut and cashew-crusted grouper, the beef tenderloin prepared in a classic Charlemagne style, and the domestic lamb finished with a port and rosemary demi-glace – and served with a complementary sip of Warre’s Reserve Port.
Husband and wife team Sean Murphy and Susan Timmins opened Beach Bistro in 1985.
Despite the many other endeavors, though, the couple maintains the high standards that have landed Beach Bistro glowing reviews in publications such as The New York Times in 2009, the Los Angeles Times in 2019, and numerous occasions in Florida Trend, which inducted Beach Bistro into its Golden Spoon Hall of Fame.
Beach Bistro is open for dinner daily from 5 to 10 p.m. Make your reservations far in advance. – Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
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Benny’s on the Beach
10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth Beach, 561-582-9001, bennysonthebeach.com
Benny’s on the Beach in central Palm Beach County takes beachfront dining over the top, literally. The iconic spot is perched on the Lake Worth Beach pier, so it appears to soar over the waves. It’s a setting made for sipping jalapeño-mango margaritas between conch fritter bites while gazing at the ocean.
The casual beach café has been a local favorite since it opened in 1986. When new owners took over in 2013, they hired fine-dining chef Jeremy Hanlon, who rewrote the menu while keeping the beachy feel of it all. With dishes to match the glorious views, Benny’s became a dining destination.
In addition to the menu’s beach-bar classics, Benny’s offers fresh fish prepared in four yummy ways: a la plancha, fritto misto style with crispy veggies, stir-fried with pineapple and veggies and “straight up” with lemon and extra butter.
Benny’s is open daily at 7 a.m. Breakfast and lunch are first-come, first-served. Reservations are suggested at dinner. – Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant
691 First St. N., Jacksonville Beach, 904-270-0025, casamarinahotel.com
For nearly a century, the Casa Marina Hotel has offered stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean to hotel guests, apartment dwellers and diners. (Fact: It opened on June 6, 1925, the same day Pablo Beach was renamed Jacksonville Beach.)
Named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the Historic Hotels of America, the Mediterranean Revival oceanfront hotel and restaurant is a popular spot for weddings, Sunday brunch and drinks from the Penthouse Lounge, which offers a view of the Jacksonville Beach Pier less than two blocks away.
But don’t just come for the view alone. The Penthouse Lounge offers small plate options, including seared ahi tuna, Kobe sliders and shrimp tacos. And brunch staples include a variety of Benedicts, shrimp and grits, chicken and waffles, steak and eggs, The Grand French Toast – and, of course, mimosas and bloody marys.
The Penthouse Lounge is open 3 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday; and 1 to 10 p.m. on Sunday. The Casa Marina Restaurant serves Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Reservations are accepted. – Gary T. Mills, The Florida Times-Union
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Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill
7 Rockaway St., Clearwater; 727-446-4844; frenchysonline.com/frenchys-rockaway
Placing guests on the sugary white sands of Clearwater Beach, Frenchy’s Rockaway Grille excels at many seafood options but remains most famous for its fresh grouper sandwiches.
Back in 1981, Michael “Frenchy” Preston opened his namesake cafe in a little spot near Clearwater Beach. He specialized in fresh fish, mostly grouper sandwiches, and within a couple of years of opening the restaurant bought his first boat and started Frenchy’s Seafood Company. It has grown into a fleet of commercial fishing boats, supplying Preston’s impressive empire of local Frenchy’s restaurants with fresh grouper, snapper and other fish.
An open-air destination with two large bars overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, Rockaway Grill opened in 1991 and ranks as the largest of the Frenchy’s restaurants. It’s a top spot for enjoying seafood with, say, a rum runner, in a positively casual setting typically filled with live music.
While it seems almost sacrilegious to enjoy the grouper sandwich any way other than grilled, there are lots of options like Buffalo, Cajun and The Original “Grouper” Reuben, which finds the fish covered in sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese. Other popular menu items include the she-crab soup and Frenchy’s Garlic Crab Fries (beer-battered fries tossed in garlic butter and parsley, topped with garlic aioli, Old Bay and snow crab).
Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill serves lunch and dinner daily, starting at 11 a.m. – Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
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Lou’s Blues Bar & Grill
3191 N. State Road A1A, Indialantic, 321-779-2299, lousbluesbarandgrill.com
By day, Lou’s Blues is a relaxed beach cafe. Amble up the back stairs to the second-floor veranda and, if you’re lucky, snag a table along the railing overlooking the Atlantic. Diners arrive with sandy feet and furry friends, fresh off the nearby dog beach.
By night, it’s dinner and a show. Enjoy some of the area’s favorite blues and rock bands, performing on a stage that floats somewhere between the first floor and the second-story gallery.
The menu features hand-breaded calamari, oysters on the half shell and steamed clams. Some dishes pay homage to musical royalty, like the Steve Thorpedo, a meatball sub named after the late blues guitarist Steve Thorpe; and the Johnny Winter Funky Chicken sandwich.
Lou’s opened in 2002 in a 1955 building with a storied past as the Dragon Lady Lounge. While tales of her bordello history are little more than gossip now, a chandelier hangs heavy with brassieres left by guests who enthusiastically enjoyed the drinks and music.
– Suzy Fleming Leonard, FLORIDA TODAY
The Ocean Deck
127 S. Ocean Ave., Daytona Beach, 386-253-5224, oceandeck.com
The Ocean Deck has been a popular place since sometime around the 1950s. It’s had the same reggae house band since the 1990s. And it’s right on the beach. You can walk out the back door and step onto the sand. This makes it Daytona Beach’s most timeless beachfront dining and drinking destination. A hangout for both tourists and locals.
The business changed hands from its longtime owner in 2012, but the new partners have kept their pledge to stick with the same island, beachy vibe. The bottom floor is a bar with a deck out on the beach; the upper floor is a quieter restaurant. It serves seafood, burgers and sandwiches, but whatever you order, have it with their celebrated Rasta sauce.
Open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Parking is tight, so it’s best to go with the valet parking in front. – Mark Lane, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Peg Leg Pete’s
1010 Fort Pickens Road, Pensacola Beach, 850-932-4139; peglegpetes.com
Peg Leg Pete’s just celebrated its 30th birthday on Pensacola Beach. The restaurant and bar has become an institution when it comes to go-to, casual seafood spots that magnify the beach’s beautiful scenery and encapsulate its culture.
Nestled comfortably between Fort Pickens and the central-most stretch of Pensacola Beach, Pete’s is annually in the running for best oysters and best chicken wings in town. And that crown goes for all of Pensacola, not just the beach.
The pirate theme is subtle enough that it’s not too gimmicky, but serves its purpose of projecting a fun feel for tourists and locals. Speaking of which, one mantra of Peg Leg’s is “tourists are treated as if they lived here.” The restaurant’s owners also run Sidelines, Pensacola Beach’s eldest sports bar, and Maria’s Seafood downtown, arguably the second-most trusted seafood market in the 850 behind the historic Joe Patty’s Seafood.
There are more upscale options on the beach, sure, but if you’d rather not throw on that dress or button-up, the food quality, trusted brand name and breathtaking views at Peg Leg Pete’s have made it a perfect-medium dining experience on the beach for three decades. – Jake Newby, Pensacola News Journal
Redfish by Chef Adrianne
9610 Old Cutler Road, Miami, 305-668-8788, redfishmiami.com
Forget South Beach. For a unique beachfront experience, drive on. Ride south on Old Cutler Road, where a canopy of banyan trees leads you to Miami-Dade County’s lush Matheson Hammock. This 91-year-old public park is home to Redfish by Chef Adrianne, a seafood-centric restaurant that sits on the park’s beach. It’s not the kind of ocean-edge beach one might expect, but a man-made saltwater lagoon that’s refreshed by Biscayne Bay. Still, the view is pure beach, sparkling waters and sky.
There’s good food to match that view. Adrianne Calvo is a celebrated Miami chef who built a solid foodie following in the suburbs at her California-style Chef Adrianne’s Vineyard Restaurant and Bar. At Redfish, her appetizer menu offers such delights as Bahamian conch fritters, ceviche and littleneck clams in fried garlic and sofrito broth. Main dishes include whole crispy snapper, cioppino with grilled bread and steaks, plus raw bar bites and sandwiches. And, yes, there’s Key lime pie for dessert.
Last summer, Redfish revived the park’s historic coral rock building, which took a serious beating during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The damage was so bad that the previous tenant (the unrelated Red Fish Grill) had to close for good, leaving the structure uninhabited for three years. Now it’s back in a big, Miami-splashy kind of way. (Think waterfront cabanas and a rooftop observation deck with sweeping water views.)
The building is a character of its own. You may have seen it in the 1998 Farrelly brothers movie “There’s Something About Mary,” when Matt Dillon’s character eavesdrops on Mary (Cameron Diaz) as she lunches with friends at the then Red Fish Grill. The current restaurant is the setting for the latest Pitbull music video. That’s Chef Adrianne bringing Mr. 305 a waterfront seafood feast as he sips on chilled tequila blanco. How Miami is that? – Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
Shucker’s at the Gulfshore & The Cottage Bar
1250 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, 239-765-5440, shuckersfmb.com
This charming clapboard cottage has been serving up food and Gulf of Mexico views for more than a century. Owned by the same families since 1972, the multi-level, multi-functional space never seems to stop.
Known to locals simply as The Cottage, this is one of the rare spots on Fort Myers Beach where you can start your day with mimosas and eggs Benedict in the sand, lunch on tacos and burgers on an umbrella-shaded patio, head inside for steaks, oysters and local seafood for dinner, catch a spectacular Gulf sunset from the deck, and then dance the night away with live music and rum-fueled cocktails.
The something-for-everyone menus range from vegan smoothies to Gulf shrimp po’ boys and New Zealand rack of lamb. But it’s the views – lapping waves, sugar-white sand, diving pelicans – that consistently take your breath away. Just as they have for 100 years.
The Cottage is open from 8 a.m. to midnight daily. – Annabelle Tometich, The (Fort Myers) News-Press
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Waldo’s Restaurant & Bar
3150 Ocean Drive, Vero Beach, 772-231-7091, historicwaldos.com
The historic Waldo’s Restaurant and Bar, billed as “The Last of the Great American Hangouts,” is part of the Driftwood Inn, now called the Driftwood Resort, on Florida’s Treasure Coast. It was built in 1935 out of driftwood by Waldo Sexton, a Vero Beach pioneering settler. There’s a delightfully rustic indoor dining room and then ample outdoor seating overlooking the beach as well as the trendy pool scene.
Waldo’s presents a menu jam-packed with appetizers, salads, sandwiches, baskets and entrees for lunch and dinner. Popular items include the chicken wings, smoked mahi fish dip, shrimp and scallop scampi, the cheeseburger topped with French fries and coleslaw, and the captain’s platter (shrimp, oysters and mahi-mahi beer battered and deep-fried to a golden brown).
In addition to the truly unique setting with a bar that does double duty serving guests indoors and outside, Waldo’s offers an interesting lineup of libations and features live music by top-shelf local musicians nearly every day.
The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The bar is open until midnight Monday-Saturday and until 11 p.m. Sunday. – Laurie K. Blandford, TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers