Waterfront Dining in the “Water Capital of America”

When living the water life, it’s hard not to stumble across waterways of all shapes and sizes. Woven throughout our region are flowing rivers, lakes, Intracoastal and 87+ miles of Atlantic coastline, making JAX the perfect destination for dining alongside crashing waves or calm streams. So, it’s no wonder that patrons are gravitating to waterfront dining at establishments from upscale bistros to down-home fish camps. And even though fall is approaching, the weather in JAX is ideal for al fresco dining and locally caught seafood.

Truth is, when the water plays a starring role in the meal, the pleasures of dining extend far beyond the fantastic food and the special someone sitting across the table. Who knows? Maybe even a manatee or dolphin might pop up as if to say “bon appetit.”

Not sure which water feature or cuisine is right for your palate? Here’s a few of our favorites:

Atlantic Ocean

wine Atlantic Ocean rooftop sunset

  • Casa Marina Hotel & Restaurant, Jacksonville Beach. While the restaurant downstairs offers an award-winning Sunday brunch (with nearly 10 types of mimosas!), upstairs provides views for daaaayys! Enjoy the salty Atlantic breezes while dining on tapas and cocktails three stories above the ocean at Penthouse Lounge. Live music is often performed in the lounge or on the hotel’s oceanfront courtyard.
  • Funky Pelican, Flagler Beach. This casual eatery is most known as the building sporting the town’s moniker on its rooftop, but the expansive views at the Flagler Beach Pier and the food are hard to beat. Stop by for “Funky Hour” and enjoy equally funky cuisine from funky flatbread to the funky fried combo.
  • The Sandbar & Kitchen, Fernandina Beach. Dine indoors, on the deck or on the sand with casual eats from seafood to wood-fire pizzas. It’s also home to Northeast Florida’s largest collection of bourbon and scotch in the oceanfront restaurant’s Whiskey Library with more than 975 varieties. Sip, sip hooray!

River/Intracoastal

  • Corky Bell’s Seafood & Steaks, Palatka. Don’t let the unassuming surroundings fool you…Corky Bell’s is all about quality dishes and high standards, from Corky’s stuffed shrimp and seafood alfredo to gator tail and frog legs. Corky Bell’s Palatka location offers prime viewing of what locals refer to as the “Devil’s Elbow” – where the St. Johns River bends.
  • Cap’s on the Water, St. Augustine. This “Old Florida” mainstay is a must visit for any local or their out-of-town visitors with its Southern-flared coastal cuisine. Keep in mind, there is ALWAYS a wait (and no reservations). However, with the sunsets bouncing off the Tolomato River from the waterfront deck at the sunset bar, the chance to relax with a cocktail will make even the wait worth it.
river rooftop fine dining

Photo Credit: Ketterman Photography

  • Cowford Chophouse, Jacksonville. One of the few restaurants on our list where seafood isn’t the main attraction. While it does have a well-rounded raw bar, Cowford Chophouse is one of the premier steak houses in JAX and perfect for an upscale dining experience. Housed in the historic Guaranty Trust and Savings Bank in downtown Jacksonville, the interior details include a gallery leading up three flights (don’t worry, there is also an elevator!) to the rooftop overlooking the St. Johns River.
  • Sandollar Restaurant & Marina, Jacksonville. Situated within view of the Mayport shrimp boats that have been traversing our waters for centuries, The Sandollar serves up locally caught seafood that can be enjoyed on the expansive deck overlooking the St. Johns River. In addition to the fresh seafood, the restaurant is great for watching an active working river, with passing cargo and cruise ships and the Mayport Ferry, which connects A1A from Mayport Village to Ft. George Island.
waterfront at sunset

Photo Credit: Ketterman Photography

  • Palm Valley Outdoors Bar & Grill, Ponte Vedra Beach. Located under the 210 Bridge to Nocatee, PVO tends to feel reminiscent of a tropical party along the Intracoastal Waterway with raw oysters, fish tacos, crab cakes and more. The outdoor deck, adorned with a mix of brightly colored picnic tables and high tops, is a perfect spot to watch watercraft sail or paddle by. And if you get the itch to get on the water yourself, the restaurant’s outdoor sports shop offers kayak and SUP rentals as well as fishing charters and equipment.

Lakes/Creeks

waterfront dining fish camp seafood

  • Whitey’s Fish Camp, Fleming Island. “Eat Mo’ Fish” isn’t just a slogan at this dockside seafood restaurant where they serve up all-you-can-eat catfish nightly for under $20. Whitey’s is a local tradition off Doctors Lake with boat slips, a bait and tackle shop and RV park. Under the palapa roof is the tiki bar complete with tropical- and swamp-inspired cocktails with names like blue gator, water moccasin and kick-butt punch.
  • Julington Creek Fish Camp, Jacksonville. Creekside setting meets Southern-inspired seafood dishes like shrimp and grits and brook trout with bacon and deviled egg sauce at Julington Creek Fish Camp. Whether driving or sailing up in a boat, the lively atmosphere and the consistent cuisine are appealing for date nights, happy hours and family dinners.
craft beer creek brewery outdoors

Photo Credit: Wicked Barley Brewing Company

  • Wicked Barley Brewing Company, Jacksonville. Sure, its motto might be “naughty ales for noble souls,” but this Goodbys Creek-adjacent spot is much more than a brewery. The scratch kitchen offers more than your run-of-the-mill bar bites from kimchi pork belly fries to cheese curd burgers to chorizo tacos. The Creekside beer garden is also a kid- and dog-friendly spot to chill with a craft beer or mead.

Whether interested in a evening overlooking one of our peaceful rivers, or an afternoon inhaling the salty ocean air, JAX has got you covered with just the right food to accompany the best of views. Read more about our food and beverage scene.

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