The 15 best waterfront restaurants in Florida, as chosen by USA TODAY Network writers
Everybody loves a great waterfront restaurant with spectacular views and Florida has many of them.
These are the special occasion kind of places where you can dine while enjoying a spectacular sunset or sip on a margarita while watching dolphins frolic in the ocean.
Just in time for spring travelers, a team of USA TODAY Network contributors throughout the Sunshine State chose 15 waterfront restaurants that are perfect to visit any day of the year, especially during the cooler springtime.
The included restaurants reflect contributors' favorite oceanfront restaurants and charming eateries which hug the Sunshine State's beautiful bays and rivers.
Florida's best waterfront restaurants
Benny’s on the Beach: 10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth Beach.
Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe: 68 W. Gorrie Dr., St. George Island.
Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille: Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, St. Pete Pier and Jungle Terrace St. Pete.
Dry Dock Waterfront Grill: 412 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key.
The Grand Marlin: 400 Pensacola Beach Blvd., Pensacola.
Kyle G’s Prime Seafood & Steaks: 10900 S. Ocean Drive, Jensen Beach.
La Mar: 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami.
Ocean Grill: 1050 Beachland Blvd., Vero Beach.
Osteria Capri: 387 Capri Blvd., Naples.
Racing's North Turn: 4511 S. Atlantic Ave., Ponce Inlet.
Refinery: 831 1st St. N., Jacksonville Beach.
Riverside Cafe: 69 Riverside Dr, St. Marks.
Star Fish Company: 12306 46th Ave. W., Cortez.
Tarpon Lodge: 13771 Waterfront Drive, Bokeelia.
Yellow Dog Cafe: 905 U.S. 1, Malabar.
You can read more on each of these restaurants below:
Benny’s on the Beach
10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth Beach
One doesn’t get much more “waterfront” than this Palm Beach County favorite. The laid-back Benny’s on the Beach is not only on the beach – it’s perched on the Lake Worth Beach pier. Cue the sounds of rolling waves, wafts of sea breeze and quintessential ocean views.
Cue as well the stellar food by executive chef and co-owner Jeremy Hanlon, a Daniel Boulud protégé whose menus offer an extensive variety of fresh fish and seafood dishes, beachy comfort classics and specials like weeknight seafood bakes and weekend evening paellas.
– Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
Blue Parrot Oceanfront Cafe
68 W. Gorrie Dr., St. George Island
The venerable cafe sits right on the beach with a front-row view of the Gulf of Mexico. Blue Parrot has a lower and upper deck and inside dining room where patrons can gaze at the Emerald water and feast on beachy fare such as conch fritters, seafood and fish platters, burgers, steaks and sandwiches.
The restaurant and bar, which started as a tiny beer and hot dog stand in the 1980s, is the host of the annual St. George Mullet Toss, which takes place the second Saturday in June.
— Rochelle Koff, Tallahassee Table (Tallahassee Democrat)
Doc Ford's Rum Bar and Grille
Sanibel Island, Fort Myers Beach, St. Pete Pier and Jungle Terrace St. Pete
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.
During a recent visit to the Doc Ford's on the spectacular St. Pete Pier, highlights included a ridiculously good Cuban black bean dip, a perfectly roasted half-chicken deftly seasoned with a Cuban chimichurri sauce, and a panko-crusted fillet of tender local grouper drizzled with a habit-forming honey papaya rum drizzle.
Dry Dock Waterfront Grill
412 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key
A nationally acclaimed Longboat Key restaurant dating back to 1989, Dry Dock places guests on Sarasota Bay in a famously scenic setting with umbrella tables and open-air covered seating, as well as an indoor dining area with a cozy bar.
The restaurant also happens to be one of the best in the region for fresh seafood, including stone crab claws, their famed grouper sandwich, and the Citrus Grouper entree.
— Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
The Grand Marlin
400 Pensacola Beach Blvd., Pensacola Beach
In Pensacola, The Grand Marlin needs no introduction. The restaurant has appeared on OpenTable’s Top 100 Most Scenic Restaurants, Top Al Fresco Restaurants and Best Brunch Restaurants. It's even had chefs nationally recognized in Garden & Gun magazine and on the Food Network.
The Grand Marlin is one of Pensacola Beach’s fanciest restaurants, but you don’t need to leave your flip-flops at home to enjoy the view. It offers a sophisticated menu in a comfortable setting with amazing views of Santa Rosa Sound.Their menus are printed daily to keep up with the freshest catches, and they even tell you where the market fish and shellfish were caught.
— Brandon Girod, Pensacola News-Journal
Kyle G’s Prime Seafood & Steaks
10900 S. Ocean Drive, Jensen Beach
Kyle Greene opened Kyle G’s Prime Seafood & Steaks in 2017 in Jensen Beach, where his eclectic, seafood-centric menu blends fresh daily catches with high-quality raw bar and shellfish.
Highlights include the Tuscan-herb-grilled rainbow trout topped with spinach, roasted tomato tapenade, jasmine rice and lemon butter, as well as the lobster mac carbonara using campanelle pasta with fresh-poached lobster chunks, wild mushroom, peas, bacon and herb-garlic-parmesan breadcrumbs.
It also has an extensive signature drink menu that includes “Kyle’s Day Off,” a 10-day pineapple infused RumHaven Caribbean rum with a splash of lime.
— Laurie K. Blandford, Treasure Coast Newspapers/TCPalm
At the Mandarin Oriental hotel, 500 Brickell Key Drive, Miami
One comes to La Mar to be transported to Peru, homeland of the restaurant’s globally acclaimed culinary leader Gastón Acurio. One also comes to La Mar to be reminded of Miami’s own magical setting.
The Michelin-listed restaurant, which sits on the waterside level of Mandarin Oriental hotel, offers sweeping views of the city and the surrounding Biscayne Bay. The water views are fitting for a restaurant named La Mar, which is Spanish for “the sea."
Acurio, one of Peru’s most famous chefs and restaurateurs and poetic in the ways of ceviche, debuted this waterfront restaurant in Miami’s Brickell Key neighborhood in 2014. His reverence for the majestic flavors of his native country resound throughout La Mar, where the kitchen is in the hands of Peruvian-Japanese executive chef Diego Oka.
— Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
1050 Beachland Blvd., Vero Beach
This iconic Vero Beach steak and seafood restaurant opened on New Year's Eve in 1941, built by the eccentric Waldo Sexton with mahogany, pecky cypress, wrought iron and Spanish antiques. In the 1920s, he also built the road leading to it using mule teams.
In addition to an upscale menu with Florida seafood favorites, there's a gift shop that sells appetizers, dressings, seasonings, desserts and to-go drinks.
— Cheryl Smith, TCPalm/Treasure Coast Newspapers
387 Capri Blvd., Naples
The romantic allure of the water beckons guests to chef AJ Black’s Osteria Capri where modern Italian cuisine is served in an old school Florida fishing community.
When dining alfresco, herbs and flower shrubs envelop guests in a setting that offers lingering views of the sun setting on Johnson Bay and a few bobbing yachts parked alongside the adjacent dock. At lunch, pelicans, herons and other feathery creatures fish nearby and soak up the sun on the piers. You might spot dolphins too.
Inside, this jewel box of a restaurant is prettier than ever with a sophisticated refurbishment (and full bar) following Hurricane Ian’s crashing waves and storm surge just two years after opening its doors.
– Diana Biederman, Naples Daily News
Racing's North Turn
4511 S. Atlantic Ave., Ponce Inlet
Another one of Florida's most famous beach bars, Racing's North Turn on the shoreline in Ponce Inlet is filled with NASCAR memorabilia and also serves delicious Key lime pie.
This waterfront eatery is exactly what you picture when you think of a beachside restaurant: awesome views, live music and good food. The menu has many seafood dishes as well as burgers and such, but a favorite is the pulled pork nachos that could feed a family of four.
– Caroline Hebert, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
831 1st St. N., Jacksonville Beach
Located four blocks north of the Jacksonville Beach Pier, multi-concept restaurant Refinery offers something for everyone – with an ocean view.
On the first floor, there’s the Ocean Bar and First Street Pub, perfect for meeting friends for a drink or a quick bite to eat in a casual setting, each with a patio offering views of the beach or First Street. Upstairs, expect a more refined dining setting with a menu of “Euro-American-inspired cuisine.”
— Gary T. Mills, Florida Times-Union
69 Riverside Dr, St. Marks
The birds not only swoop by this mellow cafe perched on the edge of the St. Marks River in north Florida, sometimes they invite themselves for dinner. Notice the sign: “Please do not feed the birds from inside the restaurant.”
Still, it’s part of the relaxed atmosphere, along with the river view and menu of seafood, including smoked mullet and oysters, as well as chicken and burgers. The cafe, which looks like a giant tiki hut, gets its stone crab claws right off the boats, and traditionally, sponsors the St. Marks Stone Crab Festival.
— Rochelle Koff, Tallahassee Table (Tallahassee Democrat)
Star Fish Company
12306 46th Ave. W.
Nestled on the docks of the historic Cortez village along north Sarasota Bay, Star Fish Company offers diners an authentic old Florida experience.
Guests can relish fresh catches such as grouper, shrimp, and mullet, served in a cardboard box (cash only), while observing commercial fishing boats returning to the international seafood distributor A.P. Bell next door, amidst the presence of pelicans and the occasional dolphin.
— Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
13771 Waterfront Drive, Bokeelia
Built in 1926, Tarpon Lodge lives and breathes old Florida charm with creaky floorboards, brick-lined fireplace and one of the coziest bars around. With a seafood and locally focused menu, the restaurant is upscale and elegant, yet welcoming and comfortable.
Eat on the spacious porch with water views, in the elegant lodge-based dining room, grab a bite in that charming bar or head to the spacious lawn and drink in the view.
— Robyn George, Fort Myers News-Press
Yellow Dog Cafe
905 U.S. 1 Malabar
There's a reason Yellow Dog Cafe has been around more than 25 years. Yes, it's got stunning water views. Yes, it's a fine-dining, date-night kind of place that still manages to feel homey. And yes, the food and service are consistently top-notch.
Chef Stuart Borton and his wife Nancy opened the restaurant perched on the banks of the Indian River in 1997. Since then, it's become a Space Coast go-to for special occasions, business lunches and afternoon tea.
Borton describes his menu as "comfort food with flair." You can't go wrong ordering any of the seafood dishes, and don't even think about leaving without dessert. (We recommend the Dog Bone Brownie.)
— Suzy Fleming Leonard, FLORIDA TODAY
Wade Tatangelo is the Florida-Georgia Regional Dining and Entertainment Editor for the USA TODAY Network.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Best waterfront restaurants in Florida: Miami, Naples, more make list