Restaurants on the Water

By Judy Lawrence

Cuisine with a view: Restaurants on the water

The Paradise Coast is not called that just for its beaches and attractions—it’s also a succulent paradise for fresh seafood sourced straight from the Gulf of Mexico and the Everglades. So when you’re visiting or vacationing on the Paradise Coast of Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades, you’ve just gotta try the gator, grouper, snapper, mullet, frogs' legs, blue crab and stone crab claws. Add a waterfront restaurant to the equation and you have a winning combination: exotic, fresh and unforgettable!

The best way to enjoy it is right on the water. Ask any local to recommend some of their favorite waterfront restaurants. They know where to go for local, fresh cuisine—like fresh-off-the-boat, caught-this-morning seafood. You can drive your car, of course, but you can also dock your boat outside many local restaurants or even walk up from the beach with sand still between your toes. You can also pick up a copy of Where Should We Eat by Sharon Kenny at the Barnes & Noble at Waterside Shops in Naples. It includes lists of restaurants with waterfront views and recommendations on where to go by boat

Listed below are just a few of the many seafood palaces that locals frequent. (FYI: Before you make plans to crack open a stone crab claw, you should know they’re only available October 15 to May 15. The closed months between May and October gives the species a break during its annual spawning season. Fresh Florida blue crab is available year round.)

Waterfront Dining in the City of Naples

Historic Tin City sits on a marina overlooking the water. Visitors love to browse the unique boutiques and souvenir shops, but locals go for the two eateries with their waterfront views of the Gordon River/Naples Bay. It’s a laid-back atmosphere in both—not to mention the fresh, locally-caught fish, crab, seafood and more: Pinchers Crab Shack and Riverwalk at Tin City. Whether its grilled, seared, roasted, barbecued, fried or raw, you will find new favorites on the menus. Pinchers, which owns its own regional fishery, has actually trademarked the slogan “You Can’t Fake Fresh!™

A  Naples tradition since 1976, The Dock at Crayton Cove on 12th Ave. South is a casual open air restaurant accessible by boat with views of Naples City Dock and Naples Bay. The seafood is prepared with Caribbean and Latin influences and the raw bar is open any late afternoon or late evening.

The Boathouse, located next to the Cove Inn  is an “over-the-water” waterfront restaurant on Naples Bay with a panoramic view, whether you’re dining on the open air breezy deck or inside the fully air-conditioned split-level dining room.

Tavern on the Bay in Bayfront is a sports bar and grill with live entertainment. Located where Goodlette-Frank Road meets U.S. 41, it is accessible by boat, with outdoor and waterfront dining.

Kelly's Fish House has been open since 1952, making it the oldest seafood restaurant in Naples. Located directly on the Gordon River, it has an open-air dining/cocktail area running the length of the dining room. You can’t miss it—the fishing boats moored next to the restaurant belong to Kelly’s—one fishes for grouper daily and the other goes out for stone crabs (in season). 

The Turtle Club on Gulf Shore Drive North at Vanderbilt Beach Resort offers beachfront dining and is ideal for sunset dinners. Its ambiance is casual elegance with a Gulf view from indoors. You can even dine with your feet in the sand while watching the nightly sunset.  This restaurant is a top local favorite.  Be sure to call ahead to reserve your beachside table.

T-Michaels Steak & Lobster House boasts upscale waterfront dining in The Village on Venetian Bay. It was previously known as Cloyde’s Steak & Lobster House. It now offers whole Maine lobster and fresh Scottish salmon as well as grouper and other local seafood.

Baleen Naples at LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort offers a fine dining experience with a toes-in-the-sand attitude. Baleen spills out through grand doors to a terrace with tables overlooking the sweeping beach with more tables for cocktails where diners can go barefoot.

Mereday’s Fine Dining at Naples Bay Resort offers the ultimate in beautifully prepared and presented dishes using the freshest ingredients available.  Both lunch and dinner menus offer three, four or five course prix fixe menus.  Just remember, that the house rule is that one of those courses must be dessert!

Not a local? Don’t want to drive or pilot your own boat? You can dip your toe in the Naples waterfront restaurant scene with a progressive dining experience at several of Naples' picturesque waterfront restaurants via the Naples Bay Water Shuttle. It provides convenient transportation between Naples' main waterfront shopping and dining locations, including Naples City Dock, Tin City, Naples Bay Resort and Bayfront. Hop on and off as many times as you like for $5 per day.

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