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Welcome to Florida’s Historic Hotels Treasures from a Golden Era Graced with Modern Amenities BY SUSAN ELNICKI WADE, Author, Chesapeake Oyster Lovers’ Handbook, weloveoysters.com
Imagine entering a hotel lobby with such breathtaking design
that presidents, celebrities and royalty gasped in awe. Picture a place so lively that Prohibition couldn’t stem the flow of champagne into delicate crystal glasses or silence jazz tunes that made flappers’ toes start tapping. Then envision all this splendor set along sugar-white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and plush gardens. These vivid images, peppered with intriguing tales, serve as a backdrop to luxurious historic hotels built during
Florida’s Gilded Age where these grande dames of resorts reached a heyday in the early 1900s. Over time, some suffered from neglect but were lovingly restored to meet the needs of today’s discerning traveler and give a glimpse into a time of opulence and ambitious dreams.
THE MAN BEHIND THE VELVET CURTAINS
When visiting tropical resorts on Florida’s Atlantic coast, it’s hard to believe that a Cleveland oil tycoon was the mastermind
behind their initial development. Henry Flagler, who helped John D. Rockefeller found Standard Oil, came to St. Augustine in 1880 seeking a hospitable climate for his ailing wife. Flagler became enamored with the area’s pristine beaches but was dismayed by lodging and transportation options. Seeing potential among the palm trees, this visionary planned to create a “new American Riviera” by turning fishing villages into world-class resorts and erecting a train system that would run all the way down to Key West. Mile after FA LL 20 17
mile down the Atlantic coastline, Flagler laid tracks for the Florida East Coast Railroad and built or bought hotels along the way. In some towns he established schools, churches and hospitals that sparked local business growth. Key West, the last stop on Flagler’s line, was connected to the mainland by 1912. In 1883, Flagler made St. Augustine his new home and the location for his first luxury hotel, Casa Monica. Built in 1888, the architectural gem was designed in Moorish Revival style and is famous for intricate balconies, Spanish tapestries and a stunning red roof. The owner ran into financial trouble, so Flagler bought it and tacked on the new name, Cordova. When the stock market collapsed, Flagler abandoned the hotel and closed its doors in 1932. The structure sat vacant until 1962 when St. Johns County purchased it for use as a courthouse. At one point, the lobby housed police dogs trained to combat civil rights protesters. Fortunately in 1999, an Orlando developer got his 92
hands on the property and restored Casa Monica to her former grandeur. Flagler next set his sites on the barrier island of Palm Beach. On a 140-acre oceanfront property facing the Atlantic, he constructed a magnificent resort called The Breakers in 1896. Decked out in Renaissance Revival style with Italian art on the ceilings and a 200-foot long main lobby, this hotel attracted wealthy industrialists and socialites such as Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, American presidents and foreign royalty. Fires damaged the building in 1903 and 1925, but each renovation was more opulent than the next. It stands today as a monument to grand and gracious living. Flagler continued to build hotels until his death in 1913, then others latched on to his dream of cultivating Florida’s coastline. The Roaring Twenties’ prosperity brought affluent visitors to glamorous new resorts along Flagler’s train trail. Movie stars, sports heroes, tycoons and politicians sipped iced cocktails on palm-lined
verandas, and developers built Gatsbystyle mansions to meet the rich and famous’ ravenous desire for lavish lodging. One of the most extravagant resorts, The Biltmore in Miami, opened in 1926 to great fanfare. Exquisite frescos on vaulted ceilings, marble columns and mahogany furniture catered to America’s most noteworthy from Ginger Rogers and Bing Crosby to Franklin Roosevelt and Al Capone. The 400-room hotel was surrounded by posh gardens, a golf course, polo field and a 23,000 square foot swimming pool that hosted bathing beauties, synchronized swimmers and alligator wrestlers. Delray Beach residents marveled at the vibrant splendor of Mediterranean architecture when Colony Hotel & Cabana Club premiered in 1926. Its twin domed towers mirror the colors of the red and yellow awnings hung above arched windows. The original manual elevator is run by a uniformed operator, and sun shines through wide skylights on
FROM FISHING CAMPS TO FASHIONABLE RESORTS
Florida’s West Coast didn’t have a billionaire oil baron to invest in historic hotels. Instead, the state’s quieter side experienced more subtle growth by wealth generated from bustling ports, exceptional seafood, abundant natural resources and agriculture. Stunning beaches, pristine waters and world-class fishing have attracted adventurous travelers to its shores for centuries. Staying at vintage resorts in this enchanting region gives
visitors a taste of Old Florida’s grace and tranquility. Up north on Florida’s panhandle in Apalachicola, Gibson Inn has epitomized Southern charm since 1907. Built during the Steamboat Era out of native pine and black cyprus wood, this bayside beauty was acclaimed as the only first-class hotel between Pensacola and Jacksonville heated entirely by steam. During World War II, it was used as Army officers’ quarters and then forsaken for years. Recent renovations restored its high ceilings, antique furniture and wrap-around porches with rocking chairs. Overlooking Tampa Bay stands a spectacular model of Mediterranean Revival architecture, known as The Vinoy. Its distinctive rose-colored walls have drawn in notables such as Babe Ruth, Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Stewart since its launch in 1925. Like many resorts, it was seized by the Army and used as a training facility for military cooks and bakers. Some claim a ghostly gentleman strolls the grounds in old-fashioned formal attire. Perhaps he wants to derive a little paranormal pleasure from the luxurious estate, marina, golf course and spa. Tarpon Lodge has had almost as many lives as a curious cat. Located at a secluded 32-acre estate on an island west of Fort Myers, this lovely hotel began in 1926 as a fishing lodge amid untouched natural
vintage wicker furniture, exotic orchids and tropical trees in the lobby. Flagler only lived one year after his Overseas Railroad connected Key West to Florida’s mainland in 1912. He never saw his dream hotel open in 1920, but architects insisted the resort, Casa Marina, pay tribute to his achievements. To this day, Flagler’s portrait hangs in the elegant lobby flanked by arched French doors and dark mahogany pillars. The U.S. Navy bought the property in 1942 for officers’ quarters during World War II. After decades of decline, the luxury hotel was fully restored in 2008. Today with chilled drinks in hand, guests gather at 6 acres of oceanfront beach to witness rosy Key West sunsets.
beauty and crystal clear waters. Renamed Pine-Aire Lodge from 1945 to 1968, it became a favorite rural retreat for both business and labor leaders. Owned by American Bible College for over a decade, it became a learning center for the clergy. In 1980, Medical Management Institute bought and renovated the hotel to serve as an alcohol and drug rehab center, ironically on top of a wine cellar that was installed under the lobby during Prohibition. Today it’s held in family hands and offers a serene getaway from the mayhem of modern life. On a picturesque seaside property between Pine Island Sound and the Gulf of Mexico stands Tween Waters Inn. No surprise how it got its name, but the splendor of this hotel can be astonishing. Built in 1931 from a string of fishing cottages where the likes of Anne Morrow Lindbergh and Teddy Roosevelt signed the guest book, its rustic ambience is alluring. The long stretch of white-sand beach presents an idyllic playground for sun worshipers and seashell collectors. ml
To view this article online, visit marinalife.com/historicresorts
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Naples Stone Crab Festival
FLORIDA SEAFOOD Florida Stone Crabs
Best Time to Get Them: Stone crabs are only legal for harvest from October 15-May 15, with ninety-eight percent of them coming from Florida. The Florida stone crab is usually fished near jetties, oyster reefs and other rocky areas.
Best Time to Get Them: There are two Florida lobster seasons; the 2-day mini season (the end of July) and the 8-month regular lobster season (August-March).
About: Unlike the blue crab, you only eat the claws of Florida stone crabs, which are considered a delicacy. Fishermen take only the claws and return the crab back to the water where their claws regenerate the next time they molt.
BEST PLACES TO EAT STONE CRABS: Joe’s Stone Crab Miami (305-673-0365, joesstonecrab.com) As the top buyer of stone crab claws, Joe’s Stone Crab started with humble beginnings in 1913 as a small lunch counter in Miami Beach.
Stone Crab Festival Naples (stonecrabfestival.com) As the 8th annual Stone Crab Festival draws near, the Old Naples Waterfront prepares with plenty of fresh stone crab claws, music, events and activities for all ages. (held October 27-29)
About: Just the opposite of the Maine lobster, the Florida lobster is smaller in size, does not have large front claws, and is described as “spiny”. Florida lobster is also considered a warm water crustacean and is well known for its delicious tail meat.
BEST PLACES TO EAT FLORIDA LOBSTER: Keys Fisheries Market & Marina Marathon (305-743-4353, keysfisheries.com) As the Middle Keys most popular restaurant, seafood market and wholesale fishery, they serve up some great seafood. The renowned Lobster Reuben consistently keeps Keys visitors migrating to this seafood hot spot.
A&B Lobster House Key West (305-294-5880, aandblobsterhouse.com) Combining a stately atmosphere, stunning views, and locally caught lobsters, A&B Lobster House offers several different takes on Florida Lobster. It’s no wonder that A&B has been a tradition for Key West visitors since 1947.
About: It’s been said that oysters are like wine, in that they draw their unique flavors from their environment. Ninety percent of Florida’s oysters are produced in the 30 miles of Apalachicola Bay on the panhandle. Apalachicola is also the last place in the U.S. where wild oysters are still harvested by tongs from small boats. Best Time to Get Them: Florida oysters are available year-round, but harvest ramps up in the fall months as temperatures begin to drop — the cool months are when Florida oysters taste the best. BEST PLACES TO EAT FLORIDA OYSTERS: The Owl Cafe & Wine Room (850-653-9888, owlcafeflorida.com) In the heart of Apalachicola, The Owl Cafe has an Old Florida vibe, offering local seafood, unloaded at the docks just a stone’s throw from the kitchen.
Up The Creek Raw Bar (850-653-2525, upthecreekrawbar.com) Directly along the Apalachicola River sits Up The Creek Raw Bar. Known for keeping up with culinary trends, Up The Creek is “not just your father’s oyster bar” with both raw and cooked oyster creations. ml
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Kid-Approved for Fun in the Sunshine State BY SUSAN ELNICKI WADE
any parents think that family vacations in Florida mean spending blissful days at spectacular beaches or paying a pirate’s ransom for wild rides at Orlando’s colossal theme parks. Every year, millions of visitors follow that vision and have a grand old time. But locals say you don’t have to wear a black cap with mouse ears to find fun in the Sunshine State. Between the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico’s blue waters are plenty of unique places that unleash kids’ imaginations and evoke laughter from all ages. For example, after watching Little Mermaid a thousand times at home, you can take your daughter to a city inhabited by living mermaids. Or picture the joyful face of a boy, whose room is covered with dinosaur paraphernalia, when he runs through a tropical forest filled with prehistoric creatures. And you’ll relish the childlike smiles of teens who put away their cell phones to have a high-speed zipline race above a canopy of cypress trees. To show that Florida’s hidden gem destinations offer enchantment beyond the magic kingdom, here are 12 special places to entertain your entire family.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
1. ST. AUGUSTINE PIRATE & TREASURE MUSEUM
St. Augustine Calling all scallywags to step back in time 300 years to the glory days of rogues on the high seas. When you come aboard the replica pirate ship, you’re transported to Port Royal, Jamaica, in the 1700s and are surrounded by oodles of artifacts ranging from an 18th century blunderbuss cannon to Jack Sparrow’s sword. Interactive exhibits include a captain’s cabin, treasure chests and an execution dock with the world’s oldest wanted poster.
Titusville On a barrier island on the Atlantic Coast, your future astronaut’s dreams of spaceships and intergalactic travel come true. At this enormous facility, tours are organized into Mission Zones in chronological order from Mercury, Gemini, Shuttle and beyond. Meet past heroes of flight who reached for the stars, visit historic launch 98
sites, walk among gigantic aircraft that defied earth’s gravity, see exhibits about the race to the moon, strap in for a shuttle lift-off simulation and ponder what’s next in space exploration.
3. FOREVER FLORIDA ZIPLINE ADVENTURES St. Cloud Push off a 70-foot high platform and you glide through the treetops at speeds of up
2. KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX
Phillip & Patricia Frost Museum of Science
Photo Courtesy of Lion Country Safari
Lion Country Safari
to 30 miles per hour. The exhilarating bird’s-eye view offers a unique perspective of the nature preserve’s cypress, palms and wetlands. Seven different ziplines include Florida’s longest straightaway zipline racetrack, an on-track zip coaster and moonlight zip trips under the stars. The park also offers horseback riding, nature tours and camping
4. LION COUNTRY SAFARI
Loxahatchee Be sure to pack a camera when you visit Florida’s only drive-through safari filled with 900+ animals from alpacas and buffalo to wildebeests and zebras. Located near West Palm Beach, the park invites you to explore in your own car seven sections of grasslands and woodlands. When you’re ready to stroll about the menagerie of exotic creatures, you’ll find animal exhibits, a giraffe-feeding platform and a petting zoo. Other attractions include water slides, mini-golf, rides and more.
5. JUNGLE ISLAND
Miami In the heart of downtown Miami awaits an 18-acre zoological park filled with exotic creatures from cockatoos and kangaroos to pink flamingos and ferocious felines. Young explorers wander through
winding trails under the shade of lush tropical trees to discover rare animal exhibits and captivating shows. Pose for photos with parrots and primates, or enjoy hands-on time at the petting barn. A fantastic floating obstacle course lets kids cool down in the waves.
6. PHILLIP & PATRICIA FROST MUSEUM OF SCIENCE Miami Whether your kids are stargazers or marine biologists, everyone will enjoy a trip to Miami’s bastion of science. The 250-seat planetarium unveils the mysteries of the heavens, while the three-level aquarium explores the region’s aquatic ecosystem. Other engaging exhibits investigate issues such as living in outer space without gravity, the story of flight from feathered creatures to rocket ships, and the complexities of vision in robots and humans.
7. KEY WEST SHIPWRECK TREASURE MUSEUM Key West In the 18th century, over 100 ships per day sailed through Key West’s treacherous waters, and about one vessel per week would smash on the Florida Reef. Scavenging for precious items among the wreckage became a key industry for island residents, and this one-of-a kind museum documents their maritime heritage. Actors and guides tell tales of wrecks and recovery in this tropical port. Guests examine nautical artifacts and survey the sea from a 65-foot watch tower.
8. BAILEY-MATTHEWS NATIONAL SHELL MUSEUM
Sanibel With about 275 different species of seashells, Sanibel is a mecca for beach combers scouring the low tides for Poseidon’s treasures. On this island is a delightful museum that celebrates mollusk mania. Its 30 permanent exhibits display world record sized specimens and the role shells play in history, art, religion, medicine and more. Kids will love the learning lab’s shell games, scavenger hunt, live tanks and other engaging activities.
9. DINOSAUR WORLD
Plant City This young paleontologist’s paradise presents a unique Jurassic experience with 150+ life-sized prehistoric creatures on display outdoors amid trails through plush tropical plants. Kids can climb on a stegosaurus or T-Rex for terrific photo ops. You can bring along a cooler or the dog to this central Florida attraction. Inside its dinosaur museum are fossils, dinosaur exhibits and science shows.
10. LEGOLAND FLORIDA RESORT Winter Haven For all the children who love clicking together those little plastic blocks, this is a budding builder’s heaven. In the quaint town of Winter Haven, they go bananas over the 150-acre theme park assembling contraptions from millions of tiny bricks, seeing sculptures of LEGO master crafters FA L L 2 017
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
and strolling around exhibits of the toy supersized. When they’re ready to rest their imagination, they can let off steam with roller coasters, rides, shows and water park activities.
11. WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS STATE PARK Spring Hill Watch magic unfold in an enchanted spring that’s a city of live mermaids. Since 1947, audiences have descended into an underground auditorium to peer through glass walls at ladies with colorful tails performing underwater shows while swimming among tropical fish in coral reefs. Afterward, kids can ride kayaks, take a boat cruise or splash around Buccaneer Bay to hone their own mermaid maneuvers.
12. GULF WORLD MARINE PARK
Panama City Beach Taking your children to swim with dolphins in the warm Gulf of Mexico waters creates memories your family will never forget. At this Panama City Beach wildlife sanctuary, you interact with marine mammals — dolphins, manatees and sea lions — in an upbeat educational environment. Additional activities include shark, stingray and turtle feedings, as well as presentations about coral reefs, waterfowl and other amazing aquatic creatures. ml To view this article online, visit marinalife.com/familyfriendlyfl
Chip Litherland Photography
LEGOLAND Florida Resort
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A Thousand Boats in Three Days? Yes, You Can See It All at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show! BY SUSAN ELNICKI WADE
To avoid the hassle of parking your car or docking your boat at this jam-packed event, buy an all-day water taxi pass and eliminate transportation woes. After you cruise with ease up the New River to Riverwalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale, keep an eye out for Briny’s Riverfront Pub or The Historic Downtowner for lunch on the waterfront. With a belly full of fresh seafood, you can hop back on the water taxi and arrive at the FLIBS entrance ready to roll. After picking up a copy of the boat show directory, take time to study the map and walk the docks from Bahia Mar Yachting Center to Las Olas
Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show
Marina. This should help you get the lay of the land and a clear picture of what’s exhibited inside the white tents and presented on the water. FLIBS has conveniently set up floating bars on the docks, which are perfect places for scanning the directory, seeing what each exhibit area offers and devising strategies for what you want to find at the show.
Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show
Fort Lauderdale International
exhibitors 1 04
boats on display (both on land and in water)
Photos: Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau; Icon made by Vectors Market, Madebyoliver, Freepik, Chanut is Industries, from flaticon.com
t’s wise to pack comfy walking shoes when you come to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) from November 1-5. With 1,500 boats on display, 1,200 exhibitors and six miles of floating docks to hoof around, you won’t want aching feet or blisters to slow you down. As one of the world’s largest boating events, FLIBS can be overwhelming without a solid game plan for navigating your way around the nautical products, exhibit tents and watercraft. To maximize your experience and chart an easy path through the crowds, Marinalife staff pulled together an itinerary, a few trade show tips and local hot spots that we learned from years of attending this exciting boat bonanza.
Sunrise at the beach in Fort Lauderdale
The beach at Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale weather offers sweet relief from the winter doldrums. Mornings are glorious, but the afternoon temps can get a bit steamy. So, it’s best to hit the exhibits right when they open and make the rounds before noon. You’ll see thousands of boats and nautical products that you never knew existed or always wished you had. With so much ground to cover, keep a wish list of things that catch your eye and mark their locations on your FLIBS directory map. When you’re ready for food and refreshments, grab lunch at Coconuts waterfront restaurant. It’s located next to the Swimming Hall of Fame and steps away from the beach where you can catch some sun and relax after a busy morning. That evening, head over to Shooters Restaurant, famous for craft cocktails, fine
dining and stunning sunsets. It’s perched on the Intracoastal Waterway, offers an ideal vantage point for people watching and has 340 feet of dockage.
While you sip your morning coffee and clear your head from Shooters’ craft cocktails, review your wish list from yesterday’s exhibits. Now’s a good time to decide what you really want, chart a course for your treasures and circle back to their booths. Boat show buying can be thirsty business. So, when your transactions are complete, grab your trusty all-day water taxi pass and zip over to Las Olas Boulevard. This vibrant area is teeming with restaurants, specialty shops, boutiques and galleries. Two dining standouts: Louis Bossi’s Ristorante, celebrated for
Wild Sea Oyster Bar
old-school Italian seafood, meat and pasta, and Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille, known for its sleek contemporary décor and spectacular grilled seafood. When the day comes to an end, raise a glass at sunset to toast a successful trip to the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and start making plans for attending again next year. ml
To view this article online, visit marinalife.com/flibsitinerary
Boat Show Quick Stats
miles of floating docks
35 countries represented
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Florida’s Top 12 Waterfront Restaurants BY SUSAN ELNICKI WADE Louie’s Backyard
ith thousands of seaside eateries scattered along Florida’s shoreline, finding the right place for you isn’t an easy task. It’s like sifting through all the beautiful seashells on Sanibel Island to pick one that suits your taste. To help narrow down the myriad of options, Marinalife consulted the experts — our readers. In our exclusive survey, they voted for their favorite places to dine after a day in the sun, nibble on local seafood and witness spectacular sunsets. Our seasoned travelers recommend 12 dining establishments as tantalizing as a dozen Gulf Coast oysters and wish you bon appétit along Florida’s magical waterways. 1 08
1PALM VALLEY FISH CAMP
PONTE VEDRA BEACH Palm Valley Fish Camp might sound rural rustic, but it’s cooking up some swanky dishes in its kitchen outside Jacksonville. Chefs add innovative twists to Southern favorites, where pimento cheese spread and fried green tomatoes rest comfortably on a wooden table next to trout with arugula and deviled egg sauce. The charming restaurant has a quaint neighborhood tavern vibe, as fishing poles and
aquatic art garnish the walls. Sunsets viewed from Adirondack chairs near the water’s edge are heavenly.
2 GRILLS SEAFOOD DECK & TIKI BAR
MELBOURNE When bands start to play and palm trees begin to sway, you feel a tiki groove take hold at Grills Seafood. It’s an upbeat place along the Indian River with bold tropical flowers painted on tables and a thatched roof rustling above the dock bar. From the Louie’s Backyard
Visitors tape dollar bills on every surface at Cabbage Key’s main dining room
huge outdoor deck, you can watch glorious sunsets or dolphins playing in the waves. It specializes in seafood, steaks, ribs and chicken. The cooks developed a recipe for lionfish to encourage everyone to eat this invasive species that threatens the south Atlantic ecosystem.
JUPITER If you’re seeking Polynesian-style pleasure, then U-Tiki is the go-to place. Swaying palm trees and sea grass welcome you to this tropical getaway. While you sip cocktails along the water, feel free to dig your toes in the sand. Inside, fans whirl high above smooth wooden tables laden with a cornucopia of regional catch. Seafood rules the menu with dishes ranging from cool oysters and sushi to coconut shrimp and mango mahi mahi. Steaks, burgers and chicken keep your meat eaters happy.
5 SHOOTERS WATERFRONT
FORT LAUDERDALE Since 1982, Shooters has been a staple along the Intracoastal Waterway. Recently renovated, the modern décor features wicker chairs with cream-colored cushions on the patio shaded by white umbrellas and lazy palm trees. Three outdoor bars shake craft cocktails and pour Shooters Ale, made by Biscayne Bay Brewing Co. An updated menu underscores relaxed elegant dining on coastal cuisine. Specialties include fresh seafood, grilled steaks, meaty pork ribs and maple-bourbon fried chicken.
THE BEACH CAFÉ AT MORADA BAY
ISLAMORADA Morada Bay feels like a slice of tropical heaven. Blue and red tables and chairs are set in sand, the beach is encircled in palm trees, and walking paths wind through plush foliage and flowers. Every month, full moon beach parties electrify the night with music, bonfires and entertainers. Inspired by Hawaiian and California surf culture, the walls are garnished with surfboards and vintage 1960s beach posters. The food marries Caribbean and American cuisine with innovative dishes featuring local seafood and produce.
NAUTI DAWG MARINA CAFÉ
LIGHTHOUSE POINT People and pets are welcome to join the festivities at Nauti Dawg, an island-style casual eatery north of Pompano Beach. This waterfront delight hosts a Yappy Hour, serving grilled meats without spices for canine companions. The one-story building with pale green walls and a striped canvas awning stretched over a waterfront deck specializes in cold beer and Hair of the Dawg Bloody Marys. Its family-friendly menu presents fresh seafood, sandwiches, salads and steaks.
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Fish Out of Water
7 LOUIE’S BACKYARD
9 THE PINK ELEPHANT
11 SALT ROCK GRILL
8 CABBAGE KEY INN & RESTAURANT
10 CROW’S NEST MARINA & RESTAURANT
12 FISH OUT OF WATER
KEY WEST If you’re looking for an ideal spot to catch the famous Key West sunsets, reserve a seat at Louis Backyard. This restored Victorian home’s multilevel deck presents panoramic views of the Atlantic waves and craft cocktails to toast Neptune’s glory. Fine dining enhances the seaside experience. The menu changes 4-5 times a year, chasing the season’s best ingredients. House special Bahamian conch salad and lime scented pork meatballs are culinary delights.
PINELAND The dining room at Cabbage Key is covered with thousands of autographed $1 bills taped to the ceiling, walls and every possible surface. Paste up your own dollar to join the ranks of past visitors ranging from fishermen to Hollywood stars and presidents (Carter and Kennedy). It’s a quirky tradition that makes this island retreat a boaters’ paradise. Cuban laurel trees with moss dangling from the branches surround the inn and restaurant buildings that date back to the 1930s. The food — mainly local seafood, burgers, pasta and steaks — is well-cooked and reasonably priced. The old Florida experience here is priceless. 110
BOCA GRANDE For 60+ years, The Pink has occupied a sweet spot on a pencil-thin barrier island along the Gulf Coast. It’s an upscale getaway inside a lovely resort. The upstairs dining room presents fabulous views of the water in a graceful setting. On the ground level, you find a more relaxed vibe at the pub and patio where bright pink umbrellas echo the color of the tropics. Classic American cuisine with creative twists comes in small plates and big seafood entrees.
VENICE Crow’s Nest is nestled in the middle of a lively marina where fishermen pull big fish out of coolers and friends gather for merriment among the boats. On the first floor lies a tavern with an easy-going attitude and polished oak walls with brass rails. It’s the spot for washing down chilled oysters with icy beer before heading upstairs for a hearty meal. The dining room’s tall windows display a terrific view, and an open deck is cooled by ocean breezes. Fresh seafood, steaks and sandwiches are frequent favorites.
INDIAN SHORES Located on the Intracoastal Waterway south of Clearwater, Salt Rock is a legendary landmark known for hand-cut aged steaks and just-caught seafood. Its carefully curated wine list ensures a perfect vino pairing for your meal. The chilled seafood tower invites you to sample local lobster, shrimp, crab, oysters, clams and mussels. Near the bar, tropical plants and cozy couches are placed around stone firepits with strings of white lights overhead. Warm amber lighting inside creates a relaxed fine-dining experience. SANTA ROSA BEACH Located on Florida’s northwest coast, Fish Out of Water is part of the gorgeous Water Color Resort. The restaurant’s warm contemporary design reflects life in the sun and the sea. The expansive outdoor deck provides an ideal vantage point for watching families dash through sand dunes and jump into the Gulf ’s warm waters. You’ll be tempted to join them. An extensive wine collection accompanies a menu chock full of regional seafood and Southern treats. ml
To view this article online, visit marinalife.com/flwaterfront