While we love relaxing on our famous Florida beaches, we’re even bigger fans of enjoying the same warm and sunny setting while seated at a beach bar. Because, really, there’s nothing better than elevating that toes-in-the-sand experience with a tropical cocktail or ice-cold beer and perhaps a light bite or two.
For us Floridians, the beach bar options are basically infinite. So we decided to share our favorites. From hidden gems to Sunshine State icons, all feature an array of adult beverages – plus some tasty food options – in a fun, waterfront setting.
Presented in alphabetical order, the list is culled from USA TODAY Network contributors in coastal communities across Florida, with bars hugging both the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
►Which EU countries are open to US tourists?: A breakdown of EU travel restrictions by country
►Come explore with us: Subscribe to our Travel newsletter
Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe
4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; 941-778-0784; amibeachcafe.com
One of the best kept secrets in the Sunshine State, the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe is a beach concession stand but way better. There's live music daily at 5:30 p.m. and a bunch of tables that place guests right on Manatee Public Beach – with a full-liquor tiki bar also right on those sugary white sands.
Soaking wet from a recent dip in the Gulf of Mexico? No problem. Grab a stool and the bartender will hand you a drink. If there are no barstools open, take a spot in line where you'll have time while to decide if you're going to order, say, a Marvelous Margarita, Captivating Colada or Electric Lemonade – and contemplate whether you're going to get it served in a hand-carved "monkey coconut."
Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the cafe serves a popular pancakes and sausage special with other favorites including comforting beach classics like the cheeseburger, Chicago-style hot dog, chili cheese fries or their yummy onion rings. Seeking something more healthy? Try the blackened chicken wrap with mango chutney or one of the many salads. – Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Coconuts on the Beach
2 Minutemen Causeway, Cocoa Beach; 321-784-1422; coconutsonthebeach.com
Does it get any better than sipping a pina colada while your T-shirt flaps in the salty breeze? If so, we don’t know how. Add an Atlantic view and some of the best people-watching around, and you’ve got Coconuts on the Beach.
Coconuts is on Minutemen Causeway, right in the heart of Cocoa Beach. Bands play tropical music and servers offer up seafood dishes and rum drinks. Claim a table on the deck, and order something frozen. Go ahead and get that extra shot of rum. You’re on vacation, even if it’s just your lunch hour. Or mingle at the bar, where you’ll find regulars and tourists alike. You never know. You could meet an honest-to-goodness astronaut, or some college kid who drove over from Orlando for the afternoon. Either way, you’ll go home with a story to tell.
Visiting the Space Coast at Christmas? Coconuts on the Beach is Ground Zero for the town’s quirky Christmas Eve celebration. Hundreds of surfers in Santa suits take to the waves the morning before Christmas, with up to 15,000 spectators watching from the beach, many of them crowding into Coconuts to buy drinks and make use of the facilities. Regardless of the day, crowded Christmas Eve or Tuesday afternoon in May, you’ll find a jolly good time at Coconuts.– Suzy Fleming Leonard, FLORIDA TODAY
Doc’s Beach House
27908 Hickory Boulevard, Bonita Springs; 239-992-6444; docsbeachhouse.com
Doc’s Beach House is something like an old friend.
You might wander away from time to time, exploring other options on Florida’s hundreds of miles of coasts, but you know Doc’s Beach House – not to be confused with Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille – will be waiting for you.
This Bonita Beach gem dates back to 1987 with sunset views dishes bar fare like charbroiled burgers, chicken tender baskets, pizzas, salads and soups, too.
Doc’s Beach House also has a sister company: Bonita Jet Ski and Parasail. Really, you can make a day out of visiting Doc’s Beach House. Spend the heat of the day skimming gulf waters on a rental or soaring high in a parasail. When you’re well and truly tuckered out, meander into Doc’s, grab a beer and a bite, and make your way back out to the still-warm sands to enjoy one of the spectacular sunsets Southwest Florida is known for.
This friendship is sure to stand the test of time. – Andrew Atkins, Naples Daily News
The Golden Lion
501 N. Oceanshore Blvd., Flagler Beach; 386-439-3004; goldenlioncafe.com
Founded in 1992, Flagler Beach's Golden Lion is a destination beach bar with a rich history. Now in its second generation of ownership, the bar and restaurant got its name from the local British pub owned by founder Tony Marlow’s father. Its second-story deck with umbrella tables is a great place to watch the waves and have a beer – or perhaps the Golden Lion's signature drink the Suntanned Surfer Girl (coconut rum, pineapple juice and Coke). The Lion’s fish and chips are a specialty, cooked in beer batter. Try it with the Lion’s key lime tartar sauce. It’s mostly outdoor seating and a laidback surf-town vibe that draws travelers and locals to spend time “Limin’ at the Lion.” Live music most nights and reggae on Sundays. – Mark Lane, The Daytona Beach News-Journal
Jimmy B's Beach Bar
6200 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach; 727-367-1902; beachcomberflorida.com
Regularly voted best beach bar in Florida, Jimmy B's places guests right on St. Pete Beach, which was the big winner this year on Tripadvisor's annual list of best beaches in the country. Part of the iconic Beachcomber resort originally opened in 1949, Jimmy B’s features multiple indoor and outdoor bars, an open-air patio, two stages for live music and paved pathways that take patrons right from the pool area and wood deck to the powdery white sand of St. Pete Beach.
Sip on a well-made margarita, rum runner or perhaps mai tai while noshing on their beloved beach burger, chicken wings, or fish tacos. And be sure to get a good spot for the daily live music featuring many of Florida's top rock bands. – Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Junkanoo on the Beach
3040 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach; 239-463-6139; junkanoobeachfmb.com
Situated on the white-sand shores of Fort Myers Beach, Junkanoo is a family friendly hot spot for tourists and locals alike. Ice cold beers and fruity, rum-fueled cocktails balance out this beach bar's beverage offerings, while the food side of the menu is home to shrimp tacos, thick burgers, and the hand-tossed pizzas owner Franco Russo and his Italian family have been making for decades.
The Russos, who owned and operated restaurants in Boston and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, headed south to build Junkanoo in 1998. Located mid-island, the restaurant offers stunning, palm-tree-framed views of the Gulf of Mexico. Its outside tables and chairs allow customers to sink their toes and in the sand and listen to the crashing waves while eating and drinking. Life doesn't get much beachier. – Annabelle Tometich, The (Fort Myers) News-Press
Lemon Bar & Grille
2 Lemon St., Neptune Beach; 904-372-0487, lemonbarjax.com
The Lemon Bar checks all the boxes when it comes to beach bars. Cold beer? Got it. Surfboard/lifeguard tower-themed chairs? You betcha. Location right next to a public walkway so you can watch people haul way too much stuff to and from the beach? Check.
The Lemon Bar (it’s at the end of Lemon Street and sports bright yellow awnings, so what else would you call it?) has long been a favorite for Jacksonville-area beachgoers. It’s around the corner from Pete’s Bar, another iconic local favorite, in a funky, artsy neighborhood. You’ll have to pay to park in the neighborhood, and spots can be scarce at peak times.
The Lemon Bar doesn’t even have indoor seating. A couple dozen tables are sprinkled around a large concrete-paver deck. Awnings cover the bar, kitchen and a few seats, but nearly all the seats are out in the open, like they should be at a beach bar, with a handful of palm trees providing a bit of shade A small stage stands in one corner of the deck for live entertainment.
Frosty and frozen drinks, not surprisingly, are all over the menu but the Lemon Bar also offers beer on tap or in a can. The menu offers beach bar sort of fare, with tacos, fish sandwiches, burgers and BLTs. – Tom Szaroleta, The Florida Times-Union
Morada Bay: 81600 Overseas Highway, Islamorada, 305-664-0604; moradabaykeys.com
Sure, you can drive all the way to Key West and applaud the sunset at Mallory Square. But you’ll pass one of the best places to celebrate the sunset in the Florida Keys: Morada Bay, the beachy bar and café just south of Mile Marker 82 in Islamorada.
Brightly colored wooden tables and Adirondack chairs dot the sand. Coconut palms flutter in the bayside breeze. And that Key Lime Colada you ordered arrives with a graham-cracker rim.
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m, Morada Bay offers a dining menu that ranges from local snapper sandwiches to Key West pink shrimp tacos to heftier meat entrees, shareables and sweets.
You’ll want to kick off your flip-flops at this place, which takes on dreamscape tones as the late-afternoon pinks heighten just before sunset. And because Morada Bay sits on the western side of the Overseas Highway, you get that full-on sunset extravaganza. – Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill
5 Bayfront Drive, Sarasota; 941-953-7505; olearystikibar.com
An island oasis found right on the waterfront edge of downtown Sarasota, O’Leary’s is the charmingly casual sister bar of neighboring Marina Jack – a 300-slip marina and multi-dining room complex opened in 1968. Featuring its own white-sand beach dotted with picnic tables as well as a dock, O'Leary's attracts a welcome mix of tourists, boaters and local office workers looking to decompress on the water during happy hour or perhaps lunch.
Open daily starting at 8 a.m., O’Leary’s is the ideal spot for a vacationer's bloody mary morning or to watch the sun set over Sarasota Bay while sipping a margarita. It's also a fine spot for discount day drinking thanks to the plastic cups brimming with ice-cold Bud Light that cost a mere three bucks, which is still one of the better bar deals in Sarasota. As for food, you can’t really go wrong pairing one of their burgers with curly fries. Also, there's a great rotation of daily live music acts performing all of your favorite tropical tunes and beach ballads. – Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Racing’s North Turn
4511 S. Atlantic Ave., Ponce Inlet; 386-322-3258; racingsnorthturn.com
Florida has hundreds of beach bars, but there cannot be a lot of beach bars with the North Turn’s NASCAR bona fides. The bar/restaurant sits on the beach, literally at the point where early NASCAR racers made the north turn on the original Daytona beach track until they moved to the superspeedway up by I-95 in the late ‘50s.
It’s full of NASCAR memorabilia, of course, and its not uncommon to find actual drivers sitting at the bar during race week.
►Disney World prices keep going up, but is it worth it?: Here's why die-hard fans keep going back.
'It's like you're climbing the gallows': The 'walk of shame' some theme park visitors dread
The bar has indoor and outdoor seating and a full menu (try the shrimp and grits). There’s a steady flow of customers coming in the front door and wandering in from the beach side. They have live bands several nights a week and a live radio show, “Legends of Racing,” is done from the bar every week.
The bar has kind of a tiny parking lot, but that’s OK – there's a big public beach lot right across the street. – Tom Szaroleta, The Florida Times-Union
5121 Gulf Drive, Panama City Beach; 850-235-3555; schooners.com
Known as "The Last Local Beach Club," Schooners originally opened as The Beach Party in the late '60s. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico with steps to the sand, Schooners still knows how to throw a beach party. Some guests even arrive by boat.
During the annual week-long Lobster Fest, Executive Editor Chef Konrad Jochum showcases 10 different lobster specials (from lobster mac and cheese to lobster and grits) - some dating back to his years in Key West, culminating with the weekend's all-you-can-eat Lobster Feast on the Beach. The feast even features freshly caught native Spiny Lobster (aka rock lobster) or Shovelnose caught in the annual Dive Tournament, paired with live music on the beach stage and a sand-sculpting contest.
►'It’s slim pickings right now': Why travelers may have to settle for alternative vacations
►Vaccine requirement: Domestic flyers may need to show proof of vaccination if Senate bill passes
From the "Beach Party," a trio of deep-fried mahi, oysters and jumbo shrimp, to seared ahi tuna steak and crab cakes, menu entrees will get your mouth watering. The 10-ounce Angus beef burger is "Legendary." Wash it down with the Sunset Special (Schooners' mix of raspberry vodka, peach schnapps, mango, pineapple and orange juices) or Cannon Blast (rum and fresh juices with a 151 floater).
Nightly sunset celebrations cap off the day with the firing of the old cannon. Schooners has three beach cams viewable from their website: Sunset Cam - just off the back steps leading to the sand under the swaying palm trees; the Beach Cam of the sand and surf; and Hill Bar Cam showing the inside of the open-air restaurant. – Jan Waddy, Panama City News Herald
Sharky’s On the Pier
1600 Harbor Drive S. Venice; 941-488-1456; sharkysonthepier.com
Another place routinely voted best beach bar in Florida, Sharky's is a south Sarasota County landmark dating back to 1987. Located at the base of the Venice Fishing Pier first built in 1966, Sharky's places guests right on the sand of Brohard Beach overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.
The drink menu includes a bunch of signature frozen beverages such as the made-from-scratch Sharky's Citrus Margarita featuring fresh Florida orange juice and Grand Marnier floater. Another favorite is the Pier Pressure, which is made with house-infused pineapple and habanero Jose Cuervo silver tequila.
Sharky’s also serves a full food menu of fried shrimp, chicken fingers, grouper sandwich and such. Looking for something fancier? Sister restaurant Fins at Sharky’s is located right next door offering a more upscale dining experience centered around steaks and sushi. – Wade Tatangelo, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Topside at the Beacon
1116 Love St., Jupiter, 561-532-3270, topsidejupiter.com
Welcome to the rooftop bar with the most sparkling views of the iconic Jupiter Lighthouse. Topside at the Beacon is part of the months-old, Joe Namath-backed restaurant complex known as Charlie and Joe’s at Love Street. The NFL icon, who has lived in the area for 33 years, partnered with developer Charles Modica to bring two full-service restaurants, a seafood market and the rooftop bar to the waterfront dining scene on the Jupiter Inlet.
Topside is one of those made-for-South-Florida waterfront bars. It’s loungey, dotted with fun hanging-basket chairs. Lush greenery punctuates the place, allowing for cozy, open-air nooks. The bites are appropriately festive and tapas-size. (Think robata-grilled garlic shrimp, wood-roasted local fish dip and dessert churros.) The drinks are thoroughly glammed-up tiki.
Yes, there are more casual beach bars to be found in the area, funky spots like the Square Grouper next door and Guanabanas across the street. Topside, which opens at 3 p.m. on weekdays and 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, gives you that postcard-from-paradise view from above.– Liz Balmaseda, The Palm Beach Post
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Best beach bars from all across Florida: Tampa Bay, Miami, Sarasota