I spent the better part of my high school and college summers standing at a counter inside a pizza and burger joint called Gee Gee’s, with a front-row view of the Atlantic Ocean. Wearing my bright red “We Give a Little More on the Jersey Shore” T-shirt, I’d work the 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift in a beach town called Manasquan.Three waves of customers invariably came in: families for dinner, teenagers for late-night munchies, and closing-time drunks wandering up t o the beach from The Osprey and Leggett’s bars, begging for grease and carbohydrates to soak up the booze in their bellies.
That was 30 years ago. But if you visit Manasquan today, you’ll still find The Osprey and Leggett’s Sand Bar in full swing—like every iconic beach bar up and down the mid-Atlantic coastline. From the far eastern tip of New York’s Long Island to Ocean Isle Beach at the southern border of North Carolina, great beach bars abound.
Here’s a look at some of our favorites—the best waterfront restaurants and bars along the Mid-Atlantic coastline.
Location: Patchogue, N.Y.
For more than 20 years, this waterfront spot just up the inlet from Patchogue Bay has been serving steaks, seafood and more with a view of the boats coming and going. The bar menu ranges from beer and wine to sangria and signature drinks. There are five kinds of margaritas alone; try the Tommy’s Skinny-Rita, made with Don Julio Silver tequila.
For more information, visit The Oar.
With views of the Brooklyn skyline and the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge, this 10,000-square-foot spot is a daytime favorite among New York City locals and tourists alike. There are fun concoctions such as the South Street Sour and the Tipsy Seagull on the drinks menu, but the Watermark is known for its Siren—an $80, 114-ounce frozen margarita that’s served with edible orchids.
For more information, visit Watermark Bar.
Martell’s Tiki Bar
Location: Point Pleasant Beach, N.J.
The walk to this hot spot is lined with the flashing lights and swirling sounds of arcade games, in classic New Jersey boardwalk fashion. Martell’s has been an institution here for decades, with a dance floor that jams every summer weekend (and some weekdays, too). Try the unusual Tiki Tea, which is tea-flavored vodka mixed with pink lemonade.
For more information, visit Martell's Tiki Bar.
Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill
Location: Cape May, N.J.
Live music is on tap here every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night—with Sunday dedicated to reggae from 3 to 7 p.m. Cabanas takes its craft beers quite seriously, with local and regional brews on tap for a draft pour. Bloody Mary fans will be happy here too, with several variations on the bar menu.
For more information, visit Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill.
Macky’s Bayside Bar and Grill
Location: Ocean City, Maryland
Happy hour starts at 3 p.m. here, with drafts as cheap as $3 apiece and a trio of sliders for six bucks. Macky’s “Legendary Beach Bash” cranks up on Friday nights after 10 with a disc jockey, and Sunday is dedicated to hair of the dog, with a bloody Mary brunch from 11 to 3. And could there be a more beachfront-sounding drink than Macky’s Watermelon Saltwater Taffy? It’s made with Absolute lime vodka and served with a taffy garnish.
For more information, visit Macky's Bayside Bar and Grill.
Watermen’s Bar and Grill
Location: Waves, N.C.
It’s fitting that this waterfront spot on Hatteras Island is in a community called Waves, given the kite-surfing action that is part of the scenery on any given summer afternoon. Later in the day, the water-sports fun gives way to sunsets over Pamlico Sound, and there’s a bit of Bermuda present on Wednesday nights, when Watermen’s serves up $7 Dark ’n’ Stormy cocktails.
For more information, visit Waterman's Bar and Grill.
Gibby’s Dock and Dine
Location: Carolina Beach, N.C.
The outdoor covered deck at Gibby’s overlooks the harbor, with cleats at the ready for dock-and-dine boaters who want to pull up for a bite and a brew. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served, with daily drink specials on the menu. If you’ve had a rough Friday night and are looking for a Saturday morning jolt, ask for Buzz’s Bull-Mosa: Champagne topped with Red Bull orange and a splash of orange juice.
For more information, visit Gibby's Dock and Dine.
For more of our favorite waterside bar and restaurant locations across the country, be sure to read Editor's Choice: Best Waterfront Restaurants and Bars.