By Kellilynn Hann
Nothing fancy: That could be the motto of the classic fish shack in Florida. You know the kind of place we mean -- outdoor seating, cold drinks, funky style and, of course, fresh local seafood that gives you a taste of the real Florida.
Here are some favorites, loved by locals and travelers alike, that are worth a stop on your travels.
Palms Fish Camp Restaurant, Jacksonville
A popular Jacksonville hangout since 1950, Palms Fish Camp serves only wild-caught seafood sourced from local fishermen; they’ll even cook your catch of the day. The views are as great as the food; the large deck overlooks Clapboard Creek and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.
Aunt Kate’s, St. Augustine
Like most places in St. Augustine, Aunt Kate’s is steeped in history. Started by the Usina family in the early 1900s, the restaurant is nestled in a grove of live oaks on the bank of the Tolomato River. Still owned by the Usina family, it’s a local favorite for its casual waterfront atmosphere and memorable food. Gator tail and fried green tomatoes with key lime? Yes, please.
JT’s Seafood Shack, Palm Coast
While it’s not directly on the water, JT’s Seafood Shack in Palm Coast has everything else fish shack lovers adore. Campy décor, a bar, outdoor seating, live music and, of course, incredible seafood. Grab a brew, settle under the oak trees, dig into a steamer bucket of crab and shrimp, and let all your worries slip away.
Central East Coast
High Tides at Snack Jack, Flagler Beach
Started in 1947 right on the beach, this place was a popular surfer hangout. It hasn’t changed much—you can still watch surfers ride the waves, enjoy a cold one from the restaurant’s extensive beer menu, and fill up on traditional seafood favorites. Dogs are welcome, too!
JB’s Fish Camp, New Smyrna Beach
At JB’s Fish Camp, the seafood is as fresh and local as it gets. Live crabs are cooked to order, the restaurant has its own leased oyster beds, and clams are often harvested right from the lagoon. The outdoor deck overlooks the bays and islands of the Intracoastal Waterway. Arrive at sunset for Instagram-worthy photos.
The Old Fish House Bar and Grill was originally a fish processing house and has been a fixture on the Indian River Lagoon for over 100 years. Staying close to their history and community, The Old Fish House works closely with local fishermen and farmers to showcase authentic Florida flavors. Grab a table outside and look for dolphins while tapping your feet to live music.
Lynn’s Quality Oysters, Eastpoint
It’s the kind of place you’d drive by without noticing, but one you definitely don’t want to miss. One of the longest-standing packing houses in Florida (and a TripAdvisor award winner), it’s a fresh seafood market, raw bar and restaurant all in one. Get Apalachicola oysters, mullet, blue crabs, and slipper lobster -- all straight from the Gulf -- as well as other seafood classics. Lynn’s doesn’t have a big menu, but what they do they do very, very well.
Schooners, Panama City Beach
You can plan your whole day around a visit to Schooners. Arrive early to relax on the beach or play volleyball. Then, when you need a little refreshment, stroll into the restaurant for cocktails and local seafood delights like Gulf grouper or shrimp with lime sauce. Stay for sunset and join a local tradition– every night the crowd counts down and, just as the sun dips below the horizon, they blast an old cannon. Cue the epic beach party.
Floyd’s Shrimp House, Fort Walton Beach
Right on the boardwalk in Fort Walton Beach, Floyd’s isn’t your typical old-time fish shack. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a taste of authentic Florida. All of their seafood is from the Gulf and delivered fresh from their very own fish processing facility. To get a taste of all the local delights, try the Captain’s Platter with Gulf shrimp, oysters, and fish.
Peace River Seafood, Punta Gorda
Located in a 1927 Cracker cabin, Peace River Seafood is an open-air joint with newspapers on the tables, a parrot squawking on the porch, and customers using mallets to crack open delicious crabs. The fresh seafood here is sourced from local fishermen and if you to cook up something later, you can get the catch of the day from the attached wholesale market.
Owen’s Fish Camp, Sarasota
It’s a bit like you went to someone’s house for a fish fry. Lawn chairs and creaky porches, picnic tables and split log benches, a tire swing and a makeshift fire pit… Owen’s is dripping with Southern charm and hospitality. The food is all Southern comfort as well, with treats like fresh fish straight from the bay, low- country boils, and catfish with spicy collard greens and grits.
The Bait House, Clearwater Beach
Since the 1940s, The Bait House was just what the name suggests— a bait and tackle shop. In 2009, the owners decided they wanted to, “preserve Old Florida” and expanded the business to include a restaurant on the dock that serves locally caught seafood. Don’t let the name dissuade you, The Bait House is a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Award winner and a favorite with locals.
Lazy Flamingo, Bokeelia
This little seafood shack on the north end of Pine Island has a pretty view of the marina and fresh fish cooked to order. Other favorites are “The Pot,” a bucket of two-dozen clams and oysters steamed in beer and special spices, a delightful conch chowder, and a hearty grouper sandwich.
Dixie Fish Company, Fort Myers Beach
Established in 1937 as a fresh fish market, Dixie Fish Company is now hailed as one of Fort Myers’ best waterfront eateries. Housed in the original building, it has an open-air deck that overlooks Matanzas Pass Preserve, so you can enjoy water and wildlife while you feast on some fresh Gulf shrimp. Live island acoustic music nearly every night adds to the chill vibe.
Triad Seafood Market & Café, Everglades City
With a location right on the Barron River, Triad Seafood is located on the docks through which Florida’s best stone crabs pass (in season October 15 to May 15). “Don’t let the outside scare you,” says one customer, “the food was great.” In fact, Triad is a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice award winner. In addition to the stone crab, favorites include fresh local fish, conch fritters, and key lime pie.
Alabama Jack’s, Key Largo
You know Alabama Jack’s is an authentic Old Florida seafood shack because nobody would open a restaurant on Card Sound Road today. Fifty years ago, it was home to a fishing community, but the only thing left is the ramshackle collection of shacks, docks and two barges that constitute Alabama Jack’s. They serve seafood comfort food like conch fritters and crab cakes. On weekends you can get even more of the Old Florida experience; the Country Music band has been playing here for nearly 30 years.
Hogfish Bar & Grill, Stock Island, Key West
Hogfish Grill is as close to the Key West shrimp docks as you can get, and those fresh Key West “pinks” – the local shrimp– are one of the two must-haves at the Hogfish. The other, of course, is the hogfish (a sweet, mild, local delicacy caught only via spear-fishing). Previously a locals-only spot, it’s been discovered and is listed by Travel & Leisure as #2 on a list of the 30 best seafood restaurants in America.