Some spots would bristle at being called a dive bar, others wear it as a badge of honor. Meet some of the loudest, rowdiest, most fun establishments on the water.
Without doubt the root'n toot'n-nest dive bar on our list, Flora-Bama is like a nonstop beach party housed in a building designed by M.C. Escher. The all-wood, ship-like structure towers over the sand with multiple levels, stairways and decks most of them facing the big dance floor and stage. Live music happens daily, sometimes several times a day, and the crowd certainly isn't shy (clotheslines draped with bras hang from the balconies). Outside, a tent regularly hosts wet t-shirt and bikini contests. The annual interstate Mullet toss, where Florida and Alabama residents throw fish back and forth across the state line, is legendary. Flora-Bama has its own marina (251-980-5222, fishflorabama.com), or you can dock at nearby Holiday Harbor Marina (850-492-0555, myholidayharbor.com) just a short ride down the Old river.
Don't be fooled by the froufrou name. Bonita Bill's is a dive of the highest (lowest?) order. There's nothing fancy about the joint, which is open air, cash only and dog friendly, so wear your flip-flops and drive your boat right up to the pier. An authentic south Florida atmosphere draws a congenial crowd of locals (many live-aboard boaters have their sailboats moored in the pass out back) and returning customers who can't get enough of the cheap food and drink, daily entertainment and ocean breezes. The grouper sandwich is said to be one of the best anywhere. Dock at the restaurant or just a short dingy ride away at Pink Shell Beach resort & Marina (888-222-7465, pinkshell.com) for some pampering. You know, if you're into that sort of thing.
Bert's has had a colorful 70 years of history. One of its two buildings started out as a sweet shoppe in the 1930s. stories abound about the other building, the hotel, being a brothel and, later, a gentleman's club. If only the walls could talk. These days the waterfront hideaway is known for its ultra laid-back vibe, million dollar view, dockside dining, live music and a menu that features seafood platters, burgers and sandwiches, wings and homemade chips no fries. Bring your rod and reel and fish off the back deck. The village of Matlacha has a notable artists' community and is close by the cruising meccas of sanibel and Captiva islands. A good base of operations is Olde' Fish House Marina (239-282-9577, oldfishhousemarina.com), and it is less than a half mile walk from Bert's.
We all know what goes on in Key West. so, when we say the green Parrot is the oldest and divey-est bar in town, well, that's saying something. A shady ambiance operates in stark contrast to the sunwashed beautyof the nearby beaches. Add to that a serious curio fetish beat up guitars, placards and other old junk cover the walls a self-serve popcorn machine and Root Beer Barrel shots, and you've got yourself a funky oasis.A few tips: Don't wear a collared shirt (tourist!). Get there at 5:30 p.m. on weekends for the 90-minute sound check before the band really starts. And no snivelling. The marinas at the Bight are within walking and biking distance, including Conch Harbor Marina (305-294-2933, conchharbormarina.com).
It's so salty that you wouldn't be surprised to see notorious sailor and founder of Latitudes and Attitudes magazine Bob Bitchin sitting next to you at the bar. No, really, that's him. Along with owner/musician Eric Stone, Bitchin can sometimes be found hanging out here. Maybe it's the awesome pub food street tacos like you'd find in small-town Mexico and hog handles, which are smoked pork shanks rolled in a spicy jerk sauce. Maybe it's the dark n' stormy served in a tall glass or the signature dockside punch. Perhaps it's because of the adjacent live-aboard marina. Whatever. Just be there. Tie up at Dockside Tropical Bar or at Marathon Marina & Boatyard (305-743-6575, marathonmarinaandresort.com) and dinghy over. It is just on the other end of Boot Key Harbor.
This is as Old Florida as it gets. And by Old Florida i mean faded, tilting, seaside cabin built on two floating barges. What Alabama Jack's lacks in frills it makes up for in dependability: it's been a watering hole for boaters, anglers and bikers heading from Miami to Key West and back since 1947. Dawg, the bartender, has been there forever so stay on his good side if you ever want to come back. the huge, handmade conch fritters are a must, as are the homemade conch salad and lima bean soup. there's live music on the weekends, and there's no shortage of entertainment from the crusty old guys at the bar. stay at Ocean Reef Club (800-741-7333, oceanreef.com) for all the amenities this dive does without.
Archie's started in 1947 as a military shed that served beer to soldiers stationed in South Beach. Then, in 1994, Patty McGee bought the place and put her heart and soul into making it a fixture of the local beach bar scene. The ramshackle assortment of palm trees, umbrellas and bar areas sits across from the Atlantic, with license plates on the walls inside and marine paraphernalia scattered all around. Archie's is known for its killer burgers, which you can wash down with $1 happy hour drafts. There's live music most evenings, plus the biannual Hogg Wild festival with all-day bands and vendors. Stay at the Ft. Pierce City Marina (772-464-1245, fortpiercecitymarina.org) located on the west side of the ICW, about a seven-minute drive away.
A weather-beaten, tin-roofed shack on the property of Rivers Edge Marina, Hurricane Patty's is supposedly haunted and definitely can bring the ocean to your table with a finger-licking bill of fare that includes low country boil, crab legs, seafood platters and a raw and steamed bar. That's in addition to a drink list that takes up two full pages in the menu: 36 different beers, handmade hurricanes, dozens of frozen concoctions and specialty cocktails. Local musicians perform throughout the week, from southern rock to zydeco to karaoke. sit in the dark, wood-heavy dining room or out back on the covered patio. You can dock right at Rivers Edge Marina (904-827-0520, 29riversedgemarina.com) on the west side of the iCW.
It's almost like a tale of two taverns. Outside, Lou's Blues is a tidy, bright, two-story building with a wood deck running along the back facing the Atlantic. There's an open-air bar upstairs and another at ground level. Inside, though, Lou's evokes a showbiz pizza meets biker bar feel, with a retro-futuristic raised stage, a dance floor, bric-a-brac décor, neon lights, and a wraparound balcony. Every night brings live music, dancing or some other form of shenanigans (dirty bingo, anyone?). The food menu is mostly pub grub burgers, sandwiches, apps but, hey, pub grub! Telemar Bay Marina (321-773-2468, telemarbay.com) offers a convenient berth on the iCW and is just a six-minute drive from Lou's Blues.
Are you cruising to the Bahamas this winter? Stop by some of our favorite waterfront bars.
From the Gulf to the Atlantic and every bay in between, boaters and their families have plenty to look forward to on the Florida coasts this fall. Start the season with a couple of pints at Oktoberfest and spooks at a haunted ghost tour, throw in a boating event or two, and round it out with a lighted boat parade.
Learn about the haunted history in the oldest city in the United States through the lens of the undead. Get tickets for haunted pub crawls, trolly tours and walking tours. You’ll get in the Halloween spirit and learn the stories behind St. Augustine’s most spirited locations from professional storytellers with just the right amount of spook. Kids are welcome on trolly and walking tours, and pets are allowed on walking tours! Check out Ghost Tours of St. Augustine or Ghosts & Gravestones.
Where to Dock: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor
Jacksonville Beach, Tampa
Kick off the fall season with Oktoberfest on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast with Beaches Oktoberfest and Oktoberfest Tampa. With Tampa’s event ranking in the top five in the country and Jacksonville Beach’s being the largest in the state, you’re sure to find the brew for you! beachesoktoberfest.com
Where to Dock: Fort George Island Marina (Jacksonville), Westshore Yacht Club (Tampa)
Just across the Bay from Tampa and St. Pete, Apollo Beach is teeming with wildlife on land and on the water. At this four-day festival, you’ll find a free expo with nature organizations and artwork, daily field and boat trips to sites not accessible to the public, and expert wildlife and conservation seminars. Nature aficionados won’t want to miss this opportunity at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Suncoast Youth Conservation Center.
Where to Dock: Apollo Beach Marina
West Palm Beach
Has your dog always wanted to be an (un)professional racer? Now is Fido’s time to shine! Register your pup for a day full of zoomies, Doggie Costume Contest, and plenty of BBQ and entertainment for the whole family. Proceeds benefit Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch.
Where to Dock: Palm Harbor Marina
No matter your music taste, you’re sure to find something to jam out to at this three-day festival, from smooth jazz and blues to funk and zydeco. You’ll find plenty of vendors at the festival, and Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood offers old-school charm and Latin American eateries. St. Petersburg offers hip breweries, coffee shops and more.
Where to Dock: Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina
Join in a celebration of life at the Water Lantern Festival this fall. Start the day with food trucks, music and family- friendly fun, and end by releasing your personalized lantern on the water at sunset.
Where to Dock: Marina Jack
The largest in-water boat show in the world offers viewings and demos of everything from superyachts to kayaks and fishing gear. Stop by the Superyacht Village to sip a cocktail on one of the most luxurious boats in the world, the Convention Center for watersport and innovative boating gear demos, and take the family to a kid-friendly fishing seminar.
Where to Dock: 17th Street Yacht Basin, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Pier 66 Hotel & Marina
Join the Old Naples Waterfront Association in the historic center to kick off stone crab season! Eat stone crab to your heart’s content in a prime harvesting location of the tasty crustacean and enjoy plenty of entertainment, from live music to local galleries and craft vendors. floridarambler.com/florida-festivals/ florida-seafood-festivals-calendar
Where to Dock: Naples Bay Resort & Marina
Cruise to the charming Apalachicola, tucked away among expansive wildlife reserves and just a bay away from the Gulf. Along with some of the best oysters and seafood you can eat, the whole family will enjoy a parade, carnival, Blessing of the Fleet, hours of live music every day, and competitions such as the oyster shucking contest and blue crab races.
Where to Dock: Apalachicola Marina
Celebrate the annual return of the North Atlantic right whale to the coasts of Florida and Georgia to give birth and nurse their young in historic Fernandina Beach. Learn about threats and conservation efforts for these gentle giants, participate in a beach clean-up, and enjoy family fun at educational exhibits, athletic events, and food and craft vendors.
Where to Dock: Oasis Marinas at Fernandina Beach
Cruise to Key West for three days of epic racing and a full week of family-friendly fun. Don’t miss the World’s Fastest Boat Parade on the first Sunday, or any three of the races throughout the week: the Truman Waterfront Cup, Southernmost Continental Champion, and Championship. Use downtime to explore the Race Village at Truman Waterfront and try out local pubs, shops and restaurants.
Where to Dock: Conch Harbor Marina
Visit Siesta Key Beach to watch sculptors from around the world turn piles of white sand into sculpted masterpieces. Professional competitors have 24 hours to build their pieces, and visitors have the chance to participate in amateur sand-sculpting competitions and see the masters at work.
Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Siesta Key
Art connoisseurs and amateurs alike will love this boutique art competition and festival in the scenic cultural center of Sarasota. Masters of different media—ceramics, jewelry, graphic art, painting, and more—will put the best of their work on display for patrons to browse and buy to their hearts’ content.
Where to Dock: Marina Jack
November 19-January 31
Ready to get in the holiday spirit? Cruise back to St. Augustine as early as before Thanksgiving for a dazzling display of more than 3 million lights in the historic district. Gaze in awe at the twinkly lights and find photo ops at the Bridge of Lions and the Christmas tree at the center of Plaza de la Constitución. Enjoy the sounds of the All Star Orchestra on the first night and stroll to businesses open later than usual.
Where to Dock: St. Augustine Municipal Marina
Since the 1970s, this annual art extravaganza brings works of contemporary and modern pieces by renowed and emerging artists from around the world to showcase in Miami. Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, for three days the public can gaze upon unique masterpieces presented by leading galleries from five continents.
Where to Dock: Sunset Harbour Yacht Club
Key Largo, FL
This annual four-day event showcases classic antique yachts, automobiles and aircraft to celebrate those who restore vintage collections. Experience a full schedule of events kicking off with a welcome party and dinner buffet on Thursday, then a weekend packed with drive-bys, shows, dinners, cocktail receptions, a costume party and more.
Where to Dock: Ocean Reef Club
With so many spectacular lighted boat parades on the coasts of Florida, we couldn’t choose just one! Dock at any of these coastal towns on the first three Saturdays of December to ring in the season on the festive Florida waterfronts.
Daytona Beach Christmas Boat Parade
Palm Coast Yacht Club Holiday Boat Parade
The Seminole Hard Rock Winter Boat Parade
St. Augustine Regatta of Lights
Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade
Northwest Cape Coral 2nd Annual Boat Parade
The Caribbean is well known for its clear blue tropical waters. But as rich as it is in beauty, the islands have an even greater wealth of his- tory. Luckily, museums are located across the region to share the stories and significant events that can provide glimpses of what maritime life was like throughout the years. Their exhibits, relics and archives will have you looking at the region in a whole new light.
You can find this treasure trove of artifacts in the Atlantic Ocean 650 miles east of North Carolina, the nearest land mass to this collection of islands. The museum shows how maritime events shaped the history, people and culture of Bermuda. It is located at the historic Royal Naval Dockyard within Bermuda’s largest fort. Exhibits cover 500 years of the country’s history from how the German U-505 submarine was captured by the U.S. Navy and concealed in Bermuda to how sailing races from North America to Bermuda have influenced the development of ocean-worthy boats and blue water sailing. Be sure to experience the museum’s unique spaces by strolling through the two-story boat loft to catching a dolphin show at the Keep Pond Terrace to taking in the expansive ocean views at the flagpole.
Where to Dock: Kings Wharf or Heritage Wharf
Turks and Caicos National Museum opened in 1991 to store artifacts found in the excavation of the Molasses Reef shipwreck, an unknown Spanish ship that sunk in 1515 on the Caicos Bank. The museum spans two locations: the Guinep House on Grand Turk Island, believed to be more than 180 years old and named after the large guinep tree on its property, and the Village at Grace Bay on Providenciales, where visitors can tour the Heritage House, an historically correct rendition of a typical 1800s Caicos dwelling. In addition to showcasing shipwreck artifacts, visitors also learn about the evolution of The Grand Turk Lighthouse as well as the rise and fall of the island’s salt industry. On Museum Day, the first Saturday in November, visitors can tour the exhibits for free, and in May, the Village at Grace Bay holds a “Back in the Day” event with activities reflecting historical life on the island.
Where to Dock: Blue Haven Resort & Marina
If you like to take in history outdoors, these exhibitions are for you. The trail consists of 36 stops across all three islands (Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands) and is best traveled via car. Each stop is marked by a road sign that shares a notable historic event or contribution related to the maritime industry. Learn how turtling shaped the islands’ early economy, how ships were cleaned and repaired before boat lifts by a process called “careening”, and hear stories of notable shipwrecks. If you prefer to learn Cayman Island history in one place, you can check out the Cayman Islands National Museum, housed in Cayman’s oldest surviving public building, which has a series of permanent and rotating exhibits.
Where to Dock: The Barcadere Marina
Completed 500 years after Christopher Columbus arrived on the island of La Hispaniola, the Faro a Colon (aka The Columbus Lighthouse) is one of the Dominican Republic’s most popular attractions. Constructed in the shape of a Latin cross spanning the width of two soccer fields, the lighthouse was created to recognize the first “encounter between two worlds.” It includes a mausoleum that houses Christopher Columbus’ remains as well as a museum displaying original and replica artifacts from the time of Columbus’ voyage. The lighthouse also has a library containing documents and maps displaying some of the earliest drawings of the Americas.
Where to Dock: Marina Zarpar
The Antigua Naval Dockyard, now named Nelson’s Dockyard, was built in the mid-1700s to serve as a strategic post and support the Royal Navy battle against the French and protect trade routes in the region. The dockyard officially closed in 1889 and reopened in 1961 as an historic site. In addition to exploring the dockyard, take advantage of the park’s 12 miles of hiking trails, two forts, and tours such as the “Rum in the Ruins” where you can listen to stories of the dockyard while sipping on a cocktail. If traveling by boat, get the best view of the gorgeous English Harbour and snag a slip at nearby Nelson’s Dockyard Marina, the only continuously working Georgian Era dockyard in the world.
Where to Dock: Nelson’s Dockyard Marina
Opened in 2020, the Bequia Heritage Museum includes the Boat Museum and Annexe that display and educate visitors about the boatbuilding and whaling industries as well as artifacts dating back to the period of the island’s European settlement. Vessels on display at the museum include a traditional Amerindian dug-out canoe and the decommissioned boat, Rescue, that was originally used for whaling.
Where to Dock: Bequia Marina
Located in a mansion built in 1729 on the Waaigat inlet, the Curaçao Maritime Museum shares with visitors the story and events that influenced Curaçao’s involvement in the maritime industry. Learn how trade ebbed and flowed in and out of Curaçao’s ports, reflective of the events happening around the world to the arrival of the first cruise ship in 1901 from New York, sparking the cruise tourism industry until the 1970s when air travel took over as the primary way for tourists to visit the island. Visitors can explore the museum at their own pace or take a guided tour.
Where to Dock: Seru Boca Marina
With a decent internet connection, you can visit the Grand Bahama Museum from the comforts of your remote anchorage or mooring. Bahamian history and culture are explored through digital exhibits ranging from the islands’ natural landscapes and the history of the port authority to the role the Bahamas played during the Golden Age of Piracy. Learn about the first recorded piece of mail sent from the Bahamas in 1761 and the evolution of mailboats. Or savor a dark and stormy while reading about the Bahamas’ role in the rum-running industry during U.S. Prohibition. The Grand Bahama Museum was originally housed at The Garden of the Groves but was unfortunately destroyed by weather and time. To reach a wider audience and share Bahamian history and culture, the museum decided to move to a digital platform.
Where to Dock: Grand Bahama Yacht Club or Flamingo Bay Hotel & Marina
WHICH OF THESE RENOWNED SEAFOOD TOWNS WILL HOOK YOU?
Beaufort lies on an inlet leading south to the Atlantic and is considered part of North Carolina’s “Inner Banks” and the Crystal Coast. The Crystal Coast spans 85 miles of stunning coastline in southern North Carolina, including 56 miles of protected beach of the Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Located on historic Amelia Island, Fernandina Beach is the northernmost city on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Visitors will find easy access to Jacksonville, the mouth of the St. Mary’s River, and coastal destinations in southern Georgia such as Cumberland Island.
Established in 1709, Beaufort was originally known as Fishtown, having been a fishing village and port of safety since the late 1600s. In addition to fishing, Beaufort was a hub for whaling, lumber, shipbuilding and farming. The earliest settlers made their mark by building Bahamian and West Indian-style homes, and the Plan of Beaufort Towne can still be seen in a 12-block historic district.
First settled in 1562, this town on historic Amelia Island went through many transformations under eight flags before it became what it is today. After the Civil War, Fernandina Beach became a bustling seaport and popular destination, called “The Queen of Summer Resorts” by many Northerners. Today’s visitors find themselves surrounded by the town’s lovely relics of the past — an historic district, Civil War port and the first cross-state railroad remain.
Beaufort has a thriving scene for anglers. Cast your line off a dock downtown, book a charter or head north to Cedar Island Wildlife Refuge to catch flounder, trout and redfish. Boat tours and private charters are a popular way to experience the stunning views and wildlife of the Crystal Coast. See porpoises, dolphins and wild horses on the beach. Better yet, book with Cruisin’ Tikis Beaufort to imbibe while you observe. Dock at Beaufort Docks.
Pier fishing is huge on Amelia Island, and anglers should head to the George Crady Bridge, which spans one mile of Nassau Sound. Snag a variety of fish in the area, including redfish, whiting, seatrout, tarpon and flounder. Boaters can start aquatic excursions in either the Atlantic Ocean to the east or Amelia River to the west. Go on a solo adventure, or join a tour or charter by boat, kayak or watersport with the likes of Amelia River Tours, Amelia Adventures & Kayak or Riptide Watersports. Dock at Fernandina Harbor Marina.
History buffs will feel right at home in Beaufort. Visit the Beaufort Historic Site to learn the town’s story through nine preserved historic homes in the middle of town. Three different maritime museums, including the North Carolina Maritime Museum, and the Bonehenge Whale Center offer marine merriment for the whole family. And for a taste of Crystal Coast wildlife, head over to the Rachel Carson Reserve where wild horses and countless birds, reptiles and aquatic mammals roam free.
Fernandina Beach is known for its easy living. Amelia Island Welcome Center is a great place to revisit Fernandina’s history and plan your day. Make your way to Centre Street on the water to browse eclectic shops and bustling art galleries, taste wild-caught shrimp at a bistro, or grab a pint at the Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest tavern. If you’re in town on a Friday, you might stumble upon Sounds on Centre, a local concert series.
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