For boating in southwest Florida, the Intracoastal Waterway offers smooth waters, ample sightseeing and a number of waterfront restaurants where you can dock your boat and enjoy an excellent meal before setting sail again.
Our guide to local spots where you can dine by boat travels south on the Intracoastal Waterway from the northernmost Anna Maria Island to Longboat Key, City Island, Siesta Key, Casey Key and finally the Island of Venice
ANNA MARIA ISLAND
The area’s northernmost barrier island borders Tampa Bay.
When the weather’s right, the Rod and Reel Pier at the northeastern tip of Anna Maria rewards boaters with edge-of-the-world views. Casual, Old Florida food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including plenty of fried fish favorites.
Fresh seafood meets Southern cheer in an informal, easygoing atmosphere means that what you’re wearing already meets their dress code. The lively and convivial gathering spot is enhanced by attentive and gracious service. Located on Holmes Beach.
CORTEZ VILLAGE, MARKER 48
On the mainland just east of Anna Maria, Cortez Village is one of Florida’s oldest and last remaining working waterfronts.
Fresh seafood as provided by neighboring professional fishermen, alongside carefully prepared chef’s favorites like chicken and andouille sausage gumbo and freshly smoked grouper spread.
Star Fish opened nearly 100 years ago as a wholesale fish market, and now the dockside restaurant is known for serving up simply delicious grouper sandwiches, among other fresh catches. (Cash only.)
Located right on the Manatee River, Whiskey Joe’s serves up Floribbean food and specialty cocktails that complement the waterfront views.
This 11-mile barrier island with no direct bridge to the mainland has dockside dining options at its northern and southern tips.
Head to marker 39 to find an historic Old Florida pub and romantic alfresco dining under an old oak tree. Elevated seafood menu includes cioppino, Gulf bottarga and grilled octopus.
At the south end of LBK by the boathouse, Dry Dock has a famously fun, casual environment and a reputation for killer grouper sandwiches. Dockside patio and second-story dining available.
The second outpost of this popular St. Armands Circle restaurant opened on Longboat Key in October 2019, with Chef Dylan Elhajoui’s creative menu immediately earning rave reviews. The stunning views of Sarasota Bay (and the craft cocktails) don’t hurt, either.
Originally produced by nearby dredging, this manmade “island” now connects directly to the northern part of Lido Key and represents the southern border of New Pass, which flows between here and LBK.
A local favorite for hamburgers and a hangout vibe, New Pass serves breakfast and lunch alongside the bait shop that’s been here since 1929.
An old English pub with a southwest Florida twist, the Old Salty Dog is famous in part for its eponymous quarter-pound, batter-dipped, deep-fried hot dog. (Of the three Salty Dog locations in the area, City Island’s is the only accessible by boat.)
Right on the bay by Ringling Bridge, downtown’s Bayfront Park draws people from everywhere.
Right in the heart of downtown Sarasota, Marina Jack is a hub for live music, drinks and dining on the dockside patio, plus an indoor lounge and second-floor dining room.
Even as you head south of the area’s hub, you’ll still find these great waterfront options.
Head inland up the creek at marker 72 to find this local favorite with an expansive menu of much more than oysters.
Famous for its romantic setting and gourmet fare, Ophelia’s (by marker 48) serves elevated Continental cuisine and an award-winning wine list. A perfect spot for anniversaries and other special occasions.
Just south of the Blackburn Point Road bridge at marker 32, locals love Casey Key Fish House for its Old Florida seafood menu and fun tiki bar vibe.
This spacious destination at the southern coast of the Venice Inlet draws sports fans to its waterfront tavern, plus a sophisticated upstairs dining room serving an expanse of carefully crafted seafood dishes and other fare. Don’t miss the famous raw bar.