Top 5 Waterfront Dining Spots Range from Picnic Tables to Fine Dining

By: Hilda Mitrani


Waterfront dining in Florida’s peninsula is both spectacular and varied. Our early pioneers found stone crabs, oysters and shrimp, still plentiful today. The views are among the best in the USA, from the aqua waters of the beaches of Santa Rosa to the rugged shoals of the Atlantic.

To savor our state’s signature delicacies like smoked fish and stone crabs, waterfront dining is my preference. Here are my five top spots for filling all your senses with the delectable food in the Sunshine State:

The Old Marco Lodge Crab House is a historic restaurant in Goodland, a famed fishing village near Marco Island. In a county of picturesque restaurants, the panoramic views of Goodland Bay and the Marco River make it a standout. Built in 1869, it’s been in the current location since the 1960s. You’ll find several types of crab dishes, including stone, snow, soft-shell blue and king, and a variety of preparations, too. The fish is the freshest in all of southwest Florida and the restaurant is open for lunch and dinner. Whatever you do, leave room for their authentic key lime pie. It’s indescribably good.

Long considered to be one of Florida’s finest restaurants, The Old Captiva House on Captiva Island has inimitable views of the Gulf. It’s romantic and graceful here, from the piano player to the service, with the added thrill of watching many varieties of birds and dolphins frolicking in the nearby surf. Try the crab cakes (best on the Gulf Coast) and Captiva salad and, for entrees, either the mixed seafood over linguini or the grouper. Another treat is the on-site baker providing mouth-watering freshly baked breads and pastries. Arrive by foot, car or boat, if you choose. This place earns its reputation for both amazing food and sunsets.

Boss Oyster in Apalachicola is an authentic Old Florida restaurant that has drawn residents and tourists alike for more than a hundred years. Here the oysters are harvested with tongs rather than dredged or farmed, and you’ll only get premium single-cup oysters. These eco-conscious fishermen take care to ensure sustainability, too, using different oyster bars for winter vs. summer harvests. In addition to my favorite preparation  (freshly shucked with a bit of lemon), there are dozens of mouth-watering baked versions and unique treats like Oysters Japonnaise, with wasabe, fish roe and Ponzu sauce. Indescribable!

On an idyllic lake in Central Florida you’ll find Chalet Suzanne, a family-owned Victorian-style inn and restaurant. It’s easily accessible from major roads such as I-75 and via its own airfield. Come for a unique lunch or dinner, starting with the broiled grapefruit. Both the halibut and the rack of lamb are tastily prepared. The Gateau Christina is worthy of a crown. But their signature Romaine Soup owns my heart. Made with 18 herbs and spices, it’s been served everywhere from the Florida Governor’s mansion to the Apollo moon flights. Whatever your taste, you will be rewarded: This Lake Wales restaurant earned the coveted Mobil Three Stars distinction.

Which former 1920s speakeasy has hosted Franklin D. Roosevelt, George Harrison, the Temptations, Mariah Carey and even Tom Hanks? I’m talking about Cap’s Place off of Lighthouse Point in north Fort Lauderdale, where eco-tourism takes a different twist. Located on a secluded island of coastal pine and pecky cypress, this rustic restaurant serves local dolphin, wahoo, and snapper plus stone crab and lobster. Fish is prepared to your liking. My preference is grilled or blackened. Both the Old Florida smoked fish dip and key lime pie have earned kudos. I find it rather exhilarating to travel back to the era of rum runners at this landmark spot near the fabled Hillsboro lighthouse, the most powerful beacon in the United States. Take the Cap's Place ferry or your own boat for a meal like no other.
Florida’s waterfront restaurants cover quite a range. Select a spot to create your own culinary memories.

Old Marco Lodge Crab House
    401 Papaya St.
    Goodland, FL 34140

The Old Captiva House
    15951 Captiva Dr.
    Captiva Island, FL 33924    

Boss Oyster Restaurant
    123 Water St.
    Apalachicola, FL 32320

Chalet Suzanne 
    3800 Chalet Suzanne Dr.
    Lake Wales, FL 33859

Cap’s Place 
    2765 NE 28th Ct.
    Lighthouse Point, FL 33064

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