Truth is, Florida has some of the best beach bars you'll ever visit, and each spot has its own personality (and story). No matter if it's on the ocean or Intracoastal Waterway, they're all fun — and luckily, there's enough to offer a little something on the water for everyone.
Swanky spots like Serafina and Kaluz offer a high-end experience with a water view. On the opposite end of the spectrum, places like Le Tub have perfected waterside laid-back chill. And still more are the old faithfuls, restaurants like Coconuts and Blue Moon Fish Co. that have been serving up Intracoastal Waterway views and seafood for years.
But there are so many more places to consider, and this list of waterfront spots will get you a strong drink or delicious dish, and a boat-bobbing view for almost any occasion. Be it a tiki bar time-out, live music hotspot, or a sports bar with all the action, here it is: our updated list of the best spots in Broward County.
10. Aruba Beach Cafe
1 E. Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Call 954-776-000, or visit arubabeachcafe.com.
As far as bars go, Aruba Beach Cafe is quintessential South Florida livin'. It hasn't really changed much since it opened in 1983. Both tourists and locals frequent this classically Floridian (read: pastel-colored), upbeat eatery located on the water next to the Commercial Boulevard Pier. In addition to a menu of delectable seafood entrées, two bars offer fruity cocktails, serious cocktails, and the company of locals and tourists. The menu includes seafood favorites like conch fritters, a fresh mahi-mahi sandwich, and a blackened seafood trio, plus turf specialties like the Aruba burger and a goat cheese salad. Watching the beach through the vast ceiling-to-floor windows may be the main draw, but people also love the laid-back atmosphere. Flip-flop your way in to hear live music any day of the week. Steel drums provide island versions of your Top 40 favorites. The hardest choice you'll have to make will be between indoor seating with a view or outdoor seating overlooking the beach. After all, Aruba's sandy spot next door to the Commercial Boulevard fishing pier makes it the bona fide beach spot in a village of beach spots.
9. Bahia Cabana Beach Resort
3001 Harbor Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-524-1555, or visit bahiacabanaresort.com.
South of the commotion at Beach Place, Bahia Cabana is an oasis of local Fort Lauderdale culture. Tucked away between docks, the Bahia Cabana resort/hotel the bar boasts strong drinks and a ceiling littered with knickknacks, such as street signs and Florida license plates. With the beach across the street, locals and tourists alike drink and eat at the bar, in the attached restaurant area, or out on the dock overlooking yachts. For those arriving via water, dock space is free for bar and restaurant patrons. Tourists, to remember they're in the tropics, order specialty drinks like the World's Best Frozen Pina Colada or the Frozen Pink Lemonade. Throw one back with an order of conch fritters before you walk across A1A for a day in the sun.
8. Bokamper's Sports Bar & Grill
3115 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-900-5584, or visit bokampers.com.
Sports fans, we got you. This is the ultimate waterside sports bar, complete with a dock, expansive waterside patio seating, and a giant interior space with water views throughout. The Fort Lauderdale location is the second from Dolphins veteran (and Plantation resident) Kim "Kimbo" Bokamper, who originally started with a neighborhood hangout farther west to indulge his sports fetish. And it shows. More than 50 plasma TVs stream every sport, and any team, all day and night. The place gets points for its loud and energy-filled atmosphere, and the food and drink selection has it all, from burgers and sushi to dozens of draft beers and martinis. A few entrées, like the blackened swordfish sandwich, stand out on the menu. But beers, wings, and football: That trusty trifecta is always going strong at Bokamper's.
7. Dania Beach Bar & Grill
65 N. Beach Road, Dania Beach. Call 954-923-4148.
The aptly named Dania Beach Bar and Grill has been around for quite some time and has subsided on a beautiful blend of no-frills charm, cheap food and drink, a great live music lineup, and stunning water views. The owners clearly didn't spend a lot of time and money coming up with an elaborate theme, an intricate menu, or a host of "themed" nights in a bid to bring in different crowds. Rather, they created a laid-back bar that feels as though you're hanging out in your friend's backyard — if your friend's backyard was on the water, that is. The seating is a mix of wooden tables, chairs, and benches. Throw in the occasional umbrella for some shade (shade is overrated, though, right?). The menu is simple too: burgers, boiled peanuts, and hot dogs. The bar keeps the simple thing going, serving a handful of bottled and draft beers, wine, and soft drinks. No liquor, no drink-till-you-drop college kids, and, most important, a simple localish crowd of people who won't make you feel uncomfortable for showing up in flip-flops from the beach.
6. Jimbo's Sandbar
6200 N. Ocean Drive, Dania Beach. Call 954-927-9560, or visit jimbossandbar.com.
Right on the water in Dania Beach you'll find Jimbo's Sandbar, a tiki bar overlooking the Intracoastal. The bar is long and narrow, and there's not a single seat that doesn't have a great view. There's also an indoor bar area, but it's rarely packed; most patrons can be found outside, soaking up all that salty sea air and sun. Part dive bar and part waterside hideaway, Jimbo's has a mixed crowd downing drinks at the bar and enjoying some of the restaurant's more colorful dishes. At the self-proclaimed "Home of the Redneck Cuisine," you can enjoy everything from a Key West reuben sandwich and heat attack or flatliner burger to wonton tuna nachos and a crab cake sandwich. Completely casual, this open-air watering hole has "Sunday afternoon" written all over it. Whether traveling by boat or car, this is one of the best waterfront restaurants in Broward County to spend a sunny summer (or spring, winter, and fall) afternoon.
5. Sea Watch
6002 N. Ocean Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Call 954-781-2200, or visit seawatchontheocean.com.
Near hidden, Sea Watch has been a longtime waterfront restaurant occupying a majestic strip of bluff just 50 yards from the Atlantic Ocean. Since 1974, the restaurant balcony and patio has offered breathtaking views of the shore framed by swaying coconut trees, rolling sand dunes, and tufts of natural sea grass. Over the past few decades, Sea Watch has remained one of Fort Lauderdale’s most popular seafood restaurants, and with a recently revamped look, killer seafood menu, and progressive bar program, it's the place to be in our books.
3033 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-566-2855, or visit shooterscafe.com.
For many years, Shooters has been one of Fort Liquordale's favorite waterside stomping grounds. Since it anchored on the Intracoastal in 1982, the casual, fun atmosphere was the place to be for a superhot weekend (remember those Hot Bod contests and those crazy Halloween costume contests, anyone?). Today, after a recent remodel, Shooters has decided to shed the party life and mature considerably. The restaurant, one of the Intracoastal Waterway's most popular, has turned a new leaf under the ownership of the Grateful Palate's William McIntyre and is now helmed by Meghan Leckey and her team. Gone is the famed pool and its debauchery, and in its place is a new alfresco dining deck with 300 seats that is poised to take full advantage of the skyline and waterway with its panoramic views of the water in a distinguished, beachy-chic setting. Aside from the aesthetic renovations, the restaurant has hired chef Chi Chan, a Le Cordon Bleu graduate, to remodel its lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch menus as well as luxury resort veteran interior designer Deborah Frustino to oversee the restaurant's new decor. Enjoy it all from a dockside table to catch a glimpse of the Florida boating lifestyle: Rows of yachts and cigarette boats tie up here, creating a scene like no other.
3. Joe's Tiki Bar Grill & Sushi
1318 N. Ocean Drive, Hollywood. Call 954-929-9897.
As you drive down A1A in Hollywood, out of nowhere, an enormous tiki bar will catch your eye: You've found Joe's Tiki Bar & Grill. Because the bar is completely open-air and on the Intracoastal, there really isn't a bad seat in the house. You may even see a dolphin or two. Completely authentic in decor, this drinking destination is no tourist trap. Wearing only a bathing suit and flip-flops? No problem; everything is casual inside at Joe's. The massive tiki hut bar is open seven nights a week, and there is always live music and drink specials for everyone's taste. It's the place to go when you want to wear your Polynesian bikini on a Wednesday night, hear some live music, and drink a coconut- and rum-laced cocktail. Of course, it should come as no surprise that the place fills up with boaters and South Pacific enthusiasts on a regular basis, so get there early and claim your spot.
2. Rustic Inn Crabhouse
4331 Anglers Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-584-1637, or visit rusticinn.com.
The Rustic Inn is a Fort Lauderdale landmark: After 55 years in business, the cavernous restaurant is still packed daily with folks looking to release their aggression on the backs of blue crabs. The restaurant sits on a canal overlooking a busy boatyard. It's draped in thick, seafaring rope and signs reminiscent of Old Florida dive bars and seafood joints. The tables, both inside and out on the covered dock, are the folding metal variety, and the chairs are too. They're unilaterally covered in white butcher paper that's kept from blowing away by wooden mallets. It's the perfect setup for garlic crab — blue, golden, or Dungeness crabs steamed and then sautéed in garlic-infused oil. Today, the waterside restaurant (which began as a roadhouse saloon) is a go-to hole in the wall and locals' favorite. Keeping with the demand for steamed crabs, seafood, linguini with homemade sauces, and other popular seafood dishes, the place also serves some killer frozen drinks. Pull up by boat and tie up to the dock, then enjoy some seafood in the main dining room that offers water views.
1. Nauti Dawg Marina Cafe
2841 Marina Circle, Lighthouse Point. Call 954-941-0246, or visit nautidawg.com.
When it comes to water views, it doesn't have to be an ocean or Intracoastal view. Sometimes, a quiet escape is the best place to enjoy the lap and lull of the waves. And in Broward County, it doesn't get much better than Nauti Dawg in Lighthouse Point, open six days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This peaceful dockside eatery has a relaxed Key West vibe, tucked into a peaceful cove and next-door to an quaint, family-owned marina. The best part: You can enjoy the water views, cocktails, wine, and food with your best friend (your four-legged best friend, that is). Not only can dogs enjoy the sunshine and a bowl of water on the patio too but they can also indulge in a full meal from a special "K9 Cuisine" menu. Menu selections include four strips of bacon, a six-ounce chicken breast, a six-ounce mahi fillet, and a six-ounce skirt steak. "Yappy hour" specials are available all day Monday for both people and canines.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.