One of the greatest pleasures in life is sitting at a beach bar, drinking something with a silly name and watching the sun sink into the ocean like a big, fiery sinking thing. That’s why we’ve listed some of our favorite beach bars in the country. Spoiler alert: Not all of them are by the sea…
1. Ritz-Carlton Gumbo Limbo – Naples, FL
Gumbo Limbo boasts the "best bar food and view in Southwest Florida." Its open-air seating offers stunning views of the Gulf and the sunsets that go along with it. Offering casual "Floridian" cuisine, tropical drinks, and sultry desserts, you’ll realize the Gumbo Limbo is a textbook beach bar as you wander back and forth from the beach to refresh your drink. Lush indigenous tropical vegetation like Sea Oats and Cabbage Palms surround the area, and you might even catch a glimpse of native wildlife, such as the loggerhead turtle - possibly shuffling along faster than you, if you’ve had a few too many Mai Tais.
2. Tom’s Burned Down Café - Madeline Island, Lake Superior, WI
Speaking of places where "beach bars" don’t necessarily spring to mind (let alone "beaches"), bordering Lake Superior on the Wisconsin side is Tom's Burned Down Cafe. Sure, all the beach bars listed so far have been on the oceans, but lake beaches are the Midwest’s best-kept secrets. What's not so secret is that Tom's Burned Down Cafe was once an old tavern that, well, burned down. Instead of rebuilding it, owner Tom Wilson pulled a trailer to what remained and served beer from the back of the truck. More people came, and more decks and a bigger bar were built. Beyond the whole "burning down" aspect, the place is rich with history, lake lovers, and if nothing else, beer. And that’s the most important thing, right?
3. Old Tony’s Bar - Redondo Beach Pier, CA
Featuring live music six days a week and spectacular views all the time, Old Tony's Bar has become a landmark of the Redondo Beach Pier. Tony Trutanich, whose family still owns and operates the beachfront gem, opened the restaurant it sits atop in 1961. Traveling up the spiral stairs from the restaurant to the bar, customers are graced with pictures of all the famous people who have walked those very stairs. After passing the warming glares of famous people, sit in the octagonal bar up top, and take in the 360-degree open-air view from Tony's. Just please don’t force your terrible fake Italian-Californian accent on everyone around you.
4. Marshside Mama’s - Daufuskie Island, SC
Rich with South Carolinian culture, Marshide Mama's feels like it’s straight out of a movie. The owner cooks shrimp and grits, while you can literally watch the fishermen pull the catch of the day onto the dock. What makes Marshside Mama's special is that it isn't another ritzy beach bar attached to a ritzy hotel - it takes a 45-minute ferry from Hilton Head to get there, and that's if you actually catch it. Once you’re there, you'll find the crowd consists mostly of local boaters listening to live music and enjoying delicious drinks unaffected by tourist inflation.
5. House Without a Key - Honolulu, HI
Sitting just beyond the luxurious Halekulani Hotel's orchid-shaped pool, the House Without a Key is actually an open cocktail courtyard in Waikiki. Enjoy a wide range of cocktails while listening to Hawaiian music under the century-old Kiawe tree - a tree you will recognize as the most photogenic of single-tree-in-front-of-a-sunset trees (seriously, Google that tree right now, we'll wait). Once you're significantly buzzed to flood your social networks with pictures of said tree, enjoy the fact that you're in Hawaii, at the bar immortalized in the 1925 Charlie Chan novel House Without a Key. If you haven't read it, it's about social class structures and customs, rather than a brutal murder mystery that takes place at a lavish hotel with a fancy tree. Although if anyone wants to write the latter, we’d be happy to give it a read.
6. The Wayfarer – Canon Beach, OR
The chilly coast of Oregon isn't the first place you think of when casually pondering America's best beach bars, but on first view of The Wayfarer, you'll know you want to go there. Whether you want to get the beach experience and lounge on the outside deck, or sit in the glass-enclosed dining room, the local drink and fare – including pinot noir salmon, Oregon hazelnut-seared rex sole, and Dungeness crab cakes - will have you thinking this is the best beach bar you've ever been to. To add to The Wayfarer's unique appeal, you're treated to the view of giant waves crashing into the colossal Haystack Rock. Trust us: It’s impressive.
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