Editor’s Note: We asked the entire boats.com team where their favorite waterfront bars and restaurants were, then we asked professional writer/drinker/eater (yes, in that order) Kim Kavin to compile the responses. Why, Kim, are there so few restaurants and so many bars? Let's find out.
Not roses, I thought. Was it tulips? Definitely not dandelions. They’re just weeds that make food for bees.
Who cares? I don’t have to cut the lawn this week. Wait, why am I thinking about cutting the lawn? Look at that gorgeous blue ocean. Hold on—is that reggae? Maybe I should get off the stool and dance.
If I get off this stool, I’m going to fall down.
Just listen to the music. Breathe in that salt air. Daffodils? Was it daffodils?
I took another gulp of my max-horsepower, rum-and-fruit-whatever special, closed my eyes and let the warm breeze soothe my skin. I then tried, yet again, to think past the reggae beats in my brain so I could remember which direction I had to walk to get back to the boat.
What the heck was the name of that marina? Sunflower? Carlition?
Is that even a flower? Carlition? Was it carnation, maybe?
Thank goodness that Great Guana Cay in the Abacos is so small, and that Orchid Bay Marina is within such easy walking distance of Nipper’s Bar—which to me, ironically, is the most memorable beach bar on the planet.
Yeah, yeah, I know, we all have our own favorite sites of glorious overindulgence, from the ever-popular Foxy’s on Jost Van Dyke in the Virgin Islands, to the rockin’ Dune Preserve that Bankie Banx owns on Anguilla, to the place that serves the best frozen daiquiri I’ve ever tasted with a view: the thatched-roof bar at Musket Cove Yacht Club on Malolo Lailai Island in Fiji.
But for me, Nipper’s in the Abacos is the one. The building’s vivid pastel paint job, wading pools for cooling off after a dance in the Bahamian sunshine, and mesmerizing oceanfront views are a combination that I have yet to find in any of the other 50 or so islands and countries I’ve visited by boat.
Then again, I haven’t tried them all—and some of our other contributors here at boats.com swear that they know better spots.
Here’s a list of our favorite beach bars and restaurants, all editor-tested and approved. No matter which one you choose to visit, just be sure to make a note of where your marina is before you order a drink. I’m going to be useless to you when it’s time get back to the boat later.
Big Dick’s Halfway Inn, Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri
Come for the “Outrageous Karaoke” sing-offs. Stay for the Porkapenos, which are fresh jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese, bacon and ham, and then wrapped in bacon and topped with cheese before they get charbroiled.
Visit Big Dick’s Halfway Inn.
Middleton Tavern, Annapolis, Maryland
A 250-year-old building where George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin used to hang out at the bar. And a tall ship for the logo! Plus the best oyster shooters for about 200 miles. A great place during the off-season when there’s no boat show in town.
Visit the Middleton tavern.
Miss Lucy’s, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Seriously—where else can you pull in late on a Sunday morning and order some fresh-grilled plantains, Bloody Marys and eggs served how you like them—straight from the chickens wandering underneath the tables?
Visit Miss Lucy’s.
Tiki Bar, Islamorada, Florida Keys
Just as there are at least 20 “original” Tommy’s Hamburgers in Los Angeles, there are hundreds of “original” Tiki Bars in the Florida Keys. This one probably isn’t any more or less original than the others, but the drinks are too strong and too sweet, and the view across the harbor into the Atlantic is too perfect.
Visit the Tiki Bar.
Pirate Cove Resort and Marina, Colorado River, California
About seven miles north of Lake Havasu, this favorite on the California-Arizona border is advertised as a “family destination”—which it is, as long as you don’t mind the waitresses being long on tattoos and cosmetic surgery, as well as short on clothing.
Visit Pirate’s Cove.
Hydronetta Bar, Hydra, Greece
“Full Moon Parties” are the stuff of legend on this island in the Saronic Gulf off the coast of Athens, but to be honest, it’s a few hours before the moon gets high in the sky that the real beauty is there to be seen. If you’re lucky enough to arrive in time for the sunset, you’ll be trying to hold the view in your heart forever.
Visit the Hydronetta.
Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant, Appleton, Wisconsin
Right on the Fox River, this hotspot has an outdoor patio that is hopping all summer. People will tell you to tie up for the fish-fry, but the more important piece of local knowledge is that this is also the home of Fox River Brewing Company.
Visit Fratellos, and ask for the Titan Porter to get you started.
Willie T’s, Norman Island, British Virgin Islands
What’s not to like about a floating bar on a mooring in the middle of a harbor? The port is a great spot to seek refuge on squally nights, the food is surprisingly good, and you can order the famous “Shot Ski” for four (yes, it’s four shots lined up on a water ski). Jump off the top of the place for a swim in your birthday suit, and rumor has it you’ll earn a T-shirt to take back to the boat.
Visit Willie T’s.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in April 2016 and updated in May 2018.