When it comes to dining out, South Florida's best assets are its waterfront bars or restaurants. Florida has some of the most picturesque seaside eateries you'll ever visit, and every spot has its own personality, be it an Old Florida establishment or a hidden gem on the Intracoastal Waterway.
Swanky spots like Serafina and Kaluz offer a high-end experience with a water view, while old faithfuls like Fifteenth Street Fisheries and Blue Moon Fish Co., have been serving up seafood and Intracoastal Waterway views for years. And, further north, waterside establishments such as Boynton Beach's Two Georges and Banana Boat draw crowds for their live music lineups, potent cocktails, and lively atmospheres.
To pay tribute to the quintessential South Florida waterfront bar, this list offers a little bit of everything, from a casual happy-hour spot overlooking a marina to a fine-dining establishment with an upmarket menu and an Atlantic Ocean panorama. Be it a tiki bar time-out, live music hotspot, or a sports bar with all the action, here is our list of the best waterfront spots in South Florida.
Photo courtesy of Coconuts
The "best" restaurant doesn't have to be the one with the fanciest decor, the frou-frou
-est ingredients, or the most popular chef. Instead, it's the one you're drawn to — over and over and over — again. It's the one where you meet friends or take out-of-towners. It's often the place where you can feel the stress melt from your body the moment your butt hits the seat. For years, Coconuts has been among the best dockside restaurants on Fort Lauderdale's Intracoastal Waterway, and it's just a jump away from the touristy crowds on the beach. Here, the seafood-heavy menu is just a touch fancier than the average shoreside snack shack, and Sunday brunch is divine with selections like the lobster BLT or lobster, crab, and shrimp seafood frittata. So go to Coconuts for the food: try the outdoor paella or a comfort bowl of sriracha cheese sauce-drenched pasta topped with fresh lobster meat. Or go to Coconuts for the drinks: they have house-made sangria and frozen mojitos. And last, go to Coconuts for the view and vibe: a covered outdoor patio and dockside tables permit room for your puppy pals, too. 429 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-525-2421; coconutsfortlauderdale.com.
Photo courtesy of Shooter's Waterfront
For years, Shooters has been one of Fort Liquordale's favorite waterside stomping grounds. Since it anchored on the Intracoastal in 1982, the casual atmosphere was the place to be for a superhot weekend with a splash (who remembers those poolside Hot Bod contests?). Today, following a complete remodel, Shooters has shed the party life and matured considerably. Gone is the famed pool and its accompanying debauchery, and in its place is a new alfresco dining deck with 300 seats and a lounge-worthy strip of lawn; all of it poised to take full advantage of the panoramic views of the downtown Fort Lauderdale skyline and waterway. Inside isn't too shabby, either: an all-new lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch menu and luxury resort-style redesign make for a great experience all the way around. 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. 3033 NE 32nd Ave., Fort Lauderdale; 954-566-2855; shooterswaterfront.com.
3. Le Tub.
Before it was heralded by GQ
as one of the nation's best burgers, this Old Florida dockside eatery was serving locals some pretty good made-to-order bar food for a very laidback crowd. For over 40 years, the best offering this Hollywood restaurant has been serving up, however, is some serious chill vibes with its Intracoastal water views. If the notorious 13-ounce charbroiled, ground top sirloin burgers aren't enough to get you here, the restaurant's kitschy charm will. A meandering path leads you through fauna and flora festooned with ocean-tilled treasures including a bathtub and toilet bowl planters all picked up over a four-year period of combing the sand at nearby Hollywood Beach. While there's always a long wait time almost all year long now thanks to a never-ending barrage of tourists, Le Tub still manages to epitomize the South Florida waterside restaurant mantra: get drunk, eat some grub, and just hang out. 1100 N. Ocean Dr., Hollywood; 954-921-9425; theletub.com.
4. Benny's on the Beach.
Photo courtesy of Benny's on the Beach
Not just another beachside dive, this longtime Lake Worth establishment is more than meets the eye. For starters, it's located directly on the city's pier with indoor and outdoor oceanfront views. For twenty-five-plus years this has been the ultimate breakfast-eating beachgoer hangout, but these days the menu has come to be known for its lunch, dinner, and raw bar options after the pier's renovation in 2011 (and the addition of executive chef Jeremy Hanlon). Also a partner in the popular beachside eatery, he's been mixing a lineup of gourmet-style dishes along with the restaurant's classic favorites, offering Thursday and Friday seafood bakes, weekend paella, and a long list of house-made baked goods and desserts. Show up while the sun's rising for a plate of one of those Eggs Benedict variations, including the California with fresh-sliced avocado, tomato, and crispy bacon. Rather eat cake by the ocean? Wash it down with a Tiki Ono cocktail
and lounge in the open-air beachside bar. Sure, sometimes folks get rowdy, but the people-watching is topnotch — old sunburned guys in Speedos and hotties in bikinis. Cheers to Benny's for keeping the same beach-shack charm, killer views, and creative comfort fare. 10 S. Ocean Blvd., Lake Worth. Call 561-582-9001, or visit bennysonthebeach.com.
5. Beach House Pompano.
Photo courtesy of Beach House Pompano
Opened in March 2018, Pompano Beach House is not only the city's first oceanfront restaurant. It's also the largest: the establishment boasts 12,000-square feet of a South Florida-meets-Mediterranean atmosphere, complete with second-floor stadium seating that offers unmatched ocean views for an incredible outdoor dining experience. Feast on favorites like the Beach House clams, a bowl of littleneck clams served in a piquant shallot-and-garlic-infused white wine reduction served with grilled French bread. It's a nod to the wide variety of seafood offerings, ranging from sushi and cedar-plank salmon to shucked-to-order oysters and fresh catch of the day. The best spot in the house is the rooftop lounge, complete with a second full bar and eight stadium-seated banquettes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and offering views of the nearby lighthouse. Each banquette comfortably seats six to eight guests, who can access their own ottoman-style cooler, perfect for six bottles of beer or a chilled bottle of wine. 270 N. Pompano Beach Blvd., Pompano Beach; beachhousepompano.com.
6. Old Key Lime House.
Photo courtesy of Old Key Lime House
If you want to feel like you're in the Keys — minus the five-hour drive — head to this pastel-hued waterfront structure. Originally built in 1889, the restaurant itself didn't come around for another century. Today, the Old Key Lime House is a huge draw for tourists and locals, who frequent the Chickee-hut bar on the water by both car and boat. The island-themed eatery is known for its Caribbean flair: shrimp gazpacho, Caribbean lobster tails, and coconut fish fingers are typical starters, but clams, fish dip, and peel-and-eat shrimp make for the perfect bar bites or small meal. The place rocks on weekends, with boaters and beachgoers coming in for drinks and appetizers and staying until the wee hours to hear live music. Expect a wait for dining tables indoors on weekends in season. And a final word of advice: save room for the signature Key lime pie. 300 E. Ocean Ave., Boynton Beach; 561-582-1889; oldkeylimehouse.com.
7. Nauti Dawg Marina Cafe.
Nauti Dawg Marina Cafe
Photo by Candace West
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, 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. 2841 Marina Circle, Lighthouse Point; 954-941-0246; nautidawg.com.
8. Serafina Waterfront Italian.
Photo courtesy of Serafina
With classic Italian and Mediterranean fare, attentive Italian-speaking staff, amorous music in the background, and an intimate outdoor patio set right above the Middle River, this Victoria Park neighborhood restaurant is one of the most idyllic around. It's not all about the setting here, however. The food is just as good as the view. Swoon over your date and dishes like Osso Buco D'angello, slow braised lamb shank served in a demi-glace bola sauce over wild mushroom risotto. Go on a Wednesday before the summer special ends on October 1, and you can slurp down the $25 pasta special: a sampling of the chef's three favorites including a homemade fettucine with house-made pesto sauce, a homemade linguini with fresh tomato pomodoro and prosciutto, and bucatini with carbonara. With a glass of Barbera d’Asti in hand, a trip here will have you feeling like you've landed a free vacation in the old country itself. 926 NE 20th Ave, Fort Lauderdale; 954-463-2566; serabythewater.com.
When this Jupiter restaurant first opened in 2004, it wasn't much more than a surfer hangout where you could grab sandwiches on the go. Today, Guanabanas is one of Jupiter's most popular restaurants — not just for it's food, but also for its live music lineup, that tropical waterway vibe, and a robust selection of Island-style cocktails. The most unique feature is the restaurant's outdoor, tiki-style seating, one that's been carved into a jungle-like grotto overlooking an inlet waterway just west of A1A, making a meal here seem downright idyllic. A stellar Caribbean- and Latin-inspired menu offers dishes that are hyper fresh, local, and sustainable. Favorites like Floridian fritters are the chef's sustainable take on the conch fritter made with local shrimp. And your trip to Guanabanas wouldn't be complete without a tropical drink, perhaps one made with one of the restaurant's more than 30 rums from around the world. There's also a section devoted to unique tequilas. Try the white and red sangria, grab a pastel Adirondack chair overlooking the water, and take a moment to remember why you live in South Florida. 960 N A1A, Jupiter; 561-747-8878; guanabanas.com.
10. Aruba Beach Cafe.
Photo courtesy of Aruba Beach Cafe
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 Fort Lauderdale's Commercial Boulevard Pier. In addition to a menu of delectable seafood entrées, two bars offer an array of cocktails and the colorful company of a spot where locals and tourists unite. 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 fishing pier makes it the bonafide beach spot in a village of them. 1 E. Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea; 954-776-000; arubabeachcafe.com.