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50 Great Waterfront Restaurants

What's the quintessential Gulfshore dining experience? While we're blessed with an abundance of fabulous restaurants, there's just something about the water-be it the Gulf of Mexico, the bays, or the rivers-that adds the perfect spice to lunch or dinner. A salty breeze from the west, shorebirds strutting along the sand, the creaking and moaning of sailboats in their slips-all flavor the palate, please the senses and evoke a sense of pity for those who are landlocked.

We've covered the waterfront, from Boca Grande to Goodland, and scouted out the spots that hold uncommon appeal to food-lovers and water-lovers alike. The rest is up to you. Go forth, get eating.

Lee County

1.Miller's Marina, Boca Grande-A favorite haunt of serious tarpon fishermen, just a long cast from Boca Grande Pass. Boat slips. 964-2283

2.Cabbage Key, Pine Island Sound-You'll need a boat to get to this legendary restaurant/inn on the backside of Cayo Costa, but it's worth the haul. Make sure to add a dollar bill to the well-papered walls and ceilings (they are contributed to charity each year). Boat slips. 283-2278

3. Barnacle Phil's Harbor Restaurant, North Captiva-Accessible only by boat (or by foot if you're staying on the island), this funky hangout is famous for its homemade black beans and rice and grouper sandwiches. Manatees and otters often play at dockside. 472-6394

4.Green Flash, Captiva-On Roosevelt Channel at the former site of the historic Timmy's Nook restaurant. Try the shrimp bisque and the grouper "café de Paris." Boat slips. 472-3337

5.Mucky Duck, Captiva-The original quirky beachside tavern-there's a second location on Fort Myers Beach-everything from pub grub to fancier fixings. Just a few steps from the beach. 463-5519

6.Mad Hatter, Sanibel-Just before Blind Pass on the beach side. The menu changes often at this place for killer sunsets, but the choices run from sushi-grade tuna to rack of lamb. 472-0033

7.Lighthouse Restaurant, Punta Rassa-Perched alongside Punta Rassa Cove at Port Sanibel Marina. A great place to duck in when you've just steered through the "Miserable Mile" on the Caloosahatchee River. Sunday brunch. 489-0770

8.Captain Con's Fish House, Bokeelia-Just drive all the way to the end of Pine Island Road and park by the long pier that stretches into Charlotte Harbor. All-you-can-eat grouper and shrimp specials, plus homemade pie to die for. 283-4300

9.Lazy Flamingo, Pineland-Part of the local chain with other (landlocked) locations in Cape Coral, Sanibel and Captiva. Great grouper sandwiches and conch fritters. 283-5959

10.Tarpon Lodge, Pineland-A newcomer to the scene, located at the site of the old Cloisters Lodge, just a quick dash in from Pine Island Sound. An eclectic menu with everything from lamb chops and veal to seafood. Boat slips. 283-2517

11.Salty's Harborside Rest-aurant, Lee County-An oasis on the long haul from Pine Island to Punta Gorda, a dockside setting with the sound of clanging lanyards and boatlines at Burnt Store Marina. Boat slips. 332-7222

12.Matlacha Oyster House, Mat-lacha-There's plenty to choose from besides bivalves on the half-shell at this longstanding favorite where the waitresses still call you "hon." Try one of several grouper specials. Boat slips. 283-2544

13.Snook Harbour Inn, Mat-lacha-A snug hangout at the foot of "the fishingest bridge in the world." Try the fresh fried mullet when it's available. 283-1131

14.Sandy Hook Fish House, Matlacha-Yet another reason why it's worth the drive to Matlacha to eat. Everything from prime rib to a wide choice of local fish and other seafood with a view of Matlacha Pass. 283-0133

15.Double Nichol, St. James City-Up a long canal from Pine Island Sound, this friendly tavern has lots of outdoor picnic tables and plenty of boat slips. Big sandwiches and a NASCAR-friendly atmosphere. 283-5555

16.The Waterfront Restaurant/ Marina, St. James City-Cruising Pine Island Sound? It's easy to tuck in at this attractive and welcoming eatery at the mouth of the main canal in St. James City. 283-0592

17.Wally's Waterfront Rest-aurant, North Fort Myers-A waterfront restaurant with a largely German menu? It works here with Warsteiner on draft and such unlikely, but well-prepared, choices as Bavarian roast pork, bratwurst and several kinds of schnitzel along with seafood specialties like crab cakes, crunchy grouper and kiwi mussels. 997-7110

18.Chart House, Fort Myers-Part of the upscale national chain, but with a decidedly Fort Myers flavor. A wonderful view of the Caloosahatchee with terrific steaks, lovingly prepared seafood and a well-chosen wine list. This is a place to kick back and spend a couple of restful, well-fed hours. 332-1881

19.Channel Mark, Fort Myers Beach-Every table has a view of Hurricane Bay. Seafood, northern Italian and steaks, with live jazz on Friday and Saturday nights. Boat slips. 463-9127

20.The Bridge, Fort Myers Beach-A sprawling, multilevel hangout that's especially popular on "reggae" Sundays. Try the broiled garlic oysters or the baked tripletail (a white-fleshed local fish seldom found on menus). 765-0050

21.Matanzas Inn, Fort Myers Beach-House specialties of stuffed grouper, conch chowder and gator tail. Cozy bar under the shadow of the Fort Myers Beach bridge. 463-3838

22.Snug Harbor, Fort Myers Beach-A longtime favorite of beachside locals. Good grouper dishes- try the grouper Popeye with spinach. Boat slips. 463-4343

23.Beach Pierside Grill-Sit on the deck, listen to live music, take in the sunset. And people-watch with all the strollers heading out on the Fort Myers Beach pier. Try the conch fritters and the "beach bread." 765-7800

24.Gulfshore Grill, Fort Myers Beach-Far and away the oldest restaurant on Fort Myers Beach (opened in 1923). The main dining room is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with open-air "Cottage" serving sandwiches and casual fare. 765-5440

25.Junkanoo on the Beach/ Anth-ony's on the Gulf, Fort Myers Beach-An all-out entertainment/ dining complex with casual eats down below and a fancy dining room (Anthony's) upstairs. The downstairs bar seems half the size of a football field. A definite party scene in season.

26.Fernando's of Martha's Vine-yard, Fort Myers Beach-At the Mid-Island Marina. Family-style Italian with fresh seafood specialties and a view of the bay. Boat slips. 463-0026

27. & 29. Fish House Restaurant, Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Beach-No-frills seafood served up in healthy portions at fair prices. Try the smoked fish dip for starters (made from yellow fin), the fried oyster basket and the spicy Bahamian conch chowder. Boat slips. 756-6766 (Fort Myers Beach) and 948-3636 (Bonita Beach).

28.Doc's Beach House, Bonita Beach-It opens for breakfast and keeps cranking into the evening with a steady stream of diners from the nearby public beach. A bustling, two-story hangout which, during football season, caters to a Chicago Bears crowd. 992-6444

30.Vincenzo's on the Bay, Bonita Beach-Elegant, but reasonably priced Italian specialties with a twinkling setting on Fish Trap Bay. Several pan-seared fish dishes and pastas with shrimp and scallops. Awesome fried calamari. 992-1159

Collier County

31.Bay House, North Naples- Nestled on a quiet cove near the Cocohatchee Preserve, you'd hardly know U.S. 41 was just a couple of blocks away. Good food in a serene atmosphere. 591-3837

32.Turtle Club, Vanderbilt Beach-If you're lucky, you can grab a table smack-dab on the beach, but the dining's fine and comfy inside, too. Try the grilled grouper on Caesar salad with steaks also available and a terrific, very affordable wine list. 592-6557

33.Seawitch Restaurant/Marina Grill, Vanderbilt Beach-The Seawitch is downstairs and the Marina Grill is upstairs, but both treat you right with a nice view of the lagoon. The "Pretty Big Fried Shrimp" are exactly that. 566-1514

34.Maxwell's, Naples-Elegant dining on Venetian Bay. Try the nut- crusted grouper or lobster salad. The Sunday brunch is a Naples favorite. 263-1662

35.Cloyde's Steak & Lobster House, Naples-At the Village on Venetian Bay. Dinner only. Florida lobster in season, local fish and prime steaks. 261-0622

36.Marie-Michelle's,Naples-Surely one of the most romantic dining spots in the region with a glittery view of Venetian Bay. Daily specials and elegant preparations. 263-0900

37.Bill's Pier on Fifth, Naples-One of the most original, well-executed menus around-kalamata olive and fresh oregano crusted yellowfin tuna, lobster and pistachio crusted grouper with avocado-lime butter. Good wines, too. 261-1811

38.Riverwalk Restaurant, Naples -Old Florida flavor at Tin City, founded in 1979. Popular raw bar. Boat slips. 263-2734

39.Kelly's Fish House Restaurant, Naples-Heading into its 50th year, this is the oldest seafood restaurant in Naples. Stone crab in season. All the basics done just right. 774-0494

40.Charley's Crab Shack, Naples-This is the part of town where it seems like there's a fine place to eat at the end of every street. Right on Naples Bay with fresh fish specialties. Boat slips. 430-1357

41.The Boathouse, Naples-A panoramic view of Naples Bay, just down Broad Avenue from the Cove Inn. Local seafood with plenty of northern varieties, too. 643-2235

42.The Dock at Crayton Cove, Naples-Now in its 25th year, it's also the site of one of the region's favorite "sporting" events-the Great Dock Canoe Race. Boat slips. 263-9940

43.Blue Heron Inn, Isle of Capri-A small, quiet place that is so popular with locals that it is sometimes hard to get a reservation. Fine snapper dishes. 394-6248

44.Backwater Nick's, Isle of Capri-An open-air hangout on the back bay. Shrimp and oyster baskets. Casual and fun. Boat slips. 642-5700

45.Pelican Bend, Isle of Capri-Just about every kind of seafood, except lobster. Try the grouper in lemon sauce. Fun and low-key. Boat slips. 394-3452

46.Snook Inn, Marco Island-The little fishing shack that grew and grew. It's now one of the liveliest spots around-especially on weekends. One of the few waterfront restaurants that considers vegetarians. Boat slips. 394-3313

47.Tides, Marco Island-It's in a condo (the Apollo) but the dining is just fine. Seafood and steaks, with outside seating for the sunsets. 389-0509

48.Stan's Idle Hour, Goodland-A bona fide Southwest Florida "original." Home of the "Buzzard Lope" (that's a dance) and one of the liveliest places around on the weekends. Gotta try the mullet. 394-3041

49.Old Marco Lodge Crab House, Goodland-It's not just crabs. The extensive menu at this atmospheric restaurant ranges from teriyaki shrimp to lobster ravioli. But the crabs-especially the garlic blue crabs and soft shell dishes-are well worth a try. Boat slips. 642-7227

50.Moran's Restaurant, Good-land-On the Marco River, at the foot of the Goodland Bridge, this restaurant boasts "no freezers, no microwaves" and is typically open from November to late April. Prime steaks and seafood. Boat slips and boat rentals. 642-1920

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