From Romantic to Rowdy, Waterfront Dining Options in Fort Myers Satisfy

When you're in the mood for ambience as much as food, satisfying restaurants can be hard to come by. After all, you want the whole package. Fortunately, Fort Myers and it's surrounding islands deliver in spades. The area promises a superb selection of restaurants to satisfy your desire for Waterfront Dining. These places take care of the details, make you feel welcomed, ply you with wonderful dishes and do it with a fantastic natural backdrop. For unspoiled mangroves and playful dolphins, Bayfront Bistro is sure to please as much as Gulfshore Grill will tease, with it's views of sunbathers on Fort Myers Beach.

The Fort Myers area beaches are obvious spots for finding a restaurant with a great water view. But don't forget there are bays, rivers and canals here too. Most of these spots also have dock space so you can arrive to your waterfront destination by boat as well as car. If you don't mind getting wet, the more casual spots have lots of room for you to toss an anchor and wade in, just keep an eye on the changing tides. 

While there are lots of bars with waterfront views, 10Best will guide you to the best places to enjoy good food with your cold beverage.

Joe's Crab Shack
One of the best views of the Caloosahatchee River is located in downtown Fort Myers at Joe's Crab Shack. The historic, stilt building extends over the water just enough to give the feeling you are floating. The bar is big and it's a good place for a sunset happy hour. However, there is no outdoor seating here. If you have a big appetite try one of the many seafood platters. Joe's is a fun place to celebrate birthdays, as the staff has fun with pogo stick ponies and cowboy hats. Just don't warn the birthday girl or boy in advance. (239-332-1881)

3 Fishermen
There are two locations of 3 Fishermen, but it's the one in North Fort Myers has the view. On the banks of the Caloosahatchee River, you not only have the waterfront scenery but the best view of the skyline of Fort Myers. You can watch the sun go down and the party lights of Fort Myers come up. The outdoor seating here is the best so hope for good weather. Try a couple of southern classics like the smoked mullet, cheese grits or take a walk on the wild side and try the Gator bites. Happy hour gets started early at Fishermen, 3:00. Cheers. (239-599-8568)

Pinchers; The Marina at Edison Ford
This downtown restaurant is the newest addition to the Pincher's family, a local seafood restaurant that while based in the Fort Myers area, has expanded as far south as Key West. With a wide-open view of the Caloosahatchee River, this space has a large terrace for lots of outdoor seating. Even the indoor tables provide diners with lovely waterfront views. The restaurant owns half of a local seafood company to assure that the catch you are served is the freshest possible. Make sure to try the stone crabs here when they are in season. If you happen to be touring the historic Edison & Ford Winter Estates, there is a back gate that gives direct access to Pinchers, a welcomed new partnership. (239-245-7049)

Nervous Nellies
Sitting at the base of the Matanzas Pass Bridge leading to Fort Myers Beach, Nervous Nellies has three levels of food and fun, all with views of the Estero Bay. Two out of three also boast live music. The restaurant's close proximity to the tip of the island provides diners with a steady parade of watercraft idling to the Gulf of Mexico; from shrimp boats and gambling boats to speedboats and rowboats, you will see them all. The menu reads like a newspaper, with enough options to please even the pickiest eater in your party. Arrive by car or boat and expect to have a good time. (239-463-8077)

Gulfshore Grill
The Gulfshore Grill is a local landmark, one restaurant with two great vibes. The indoor portion provides quiet, the comfort of air conditioning and views of the Gulf of Mexico from every seat. The outside deck, also called The Cottage, serves the same menu, however, shirts are not required here. You can find live music at the cottage almost every night. No matter if you sit in or out, you'll enjoy front row seating for some of the best parties on the beach. Start with the famous Beach Bread then try the Grouper Platter. The Gulfshore Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Take advantage of the free valet parking as the spots are limited and tow trucks seem to love the beach. (239-765-5440)

Rum Runners
Rum Runners is just over the Caloosahatchee River, in Cape Coral. Diners can dock their boats and dine on the outside deck, the screened in terrace or inside where the air condition is comfortable. The restaurant sits on a scenic canal with direct access to the river. There is also a rather large marina here so you can bet there is almost always a steady stream of boats passing by. The menu has seafood, pastas, steaks and the chef is constantly cooking up delicious daily specials. The owners and chef have a long history of operating successful restaurants all over Southwest Florida. Once you dine here, you'll understand why. (239-542-0200)

Lighthouse Restaurant
The Lighthouse is an impressive white structure with beautiful landscaping and a relaxing waterfront view. Tucked just off of the main road to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, it's at the entrance of the even more exclusive Connie Mack Island. The large, screened in lanai is comfortable even in the hot summer months. But if air conditioning is your preference, the inside tables still provide a nice view of the water. The Lighthouse serves a plentiful selection of seafood, steak and pastas but the Lobster Bisque is a pre-requisite. Enjoy live music on the weekends (and most weeknights) and a peaceful Sunday Brunch the next morning. (239.489.0770)

Mad Hatter
This beach side dining spot has been an island favorite for the perfect combination of food and ambiance, for three decades. With only about a dozen tables, each one has a spectacular view of the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. The vibe is cozy, with dim lighting and exquisite attention to detail. The menu changes frequently with lots of fish offerings, always a hit, and the bouillabaisse consistently gets rave reviews. Start with a glass of bubbly or another selection from the high-end wine list and perhaps order the foie gras. Other tempting specials include lamb, duck and decadent homemade desserts. Sunset seatings fill up fast so by all means make a reservation. This is a true, waterside gem. (239-472-0033)

Bayfront Bistro
In the middle of Estero Island, Bayfront Bistro has great views of the mangroves in what locals call the "back bay". Get there at dusk for the best chance of seeing dolphins at play. Or dine on the the breezy, outdoor terrace for romantic views of the moon rising, shimmering on the water. Bayfront sits above a marina so you can arrive by car or boat. Wine lovers will be in heaven at the great selections offered here. The food is consistent and fresh and the service spot on. Bayfront is also the proud winner of coveted awards like "Best Dining on the Beach" and "Best Romantic Dining." (239-463-3663)

Flippers on the Bay
Part of Lovers Key Resort, Flippers On The Bay is a hidden gem between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Springs. The dining is alfresco and more upscale than one might imagine after considering a restaurant on stilts. It's the only spot on the beach giving diners a view of both the sunrise and the sunset, while serving food for both. Try the Lobster Eggs Benedict for breakfast and the Miso Seabass for dinner, it will melt in your mouth. Sitting on the Estero Bay, you still have a clear view of the Gulf of Mexico and it's one of the best spots to see the dolphin show, presented by Mother Nature. This small space fills up fast on the weekends so call ahead for seating. You can also arrive by boat. (239-765-1040)

Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for 22 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality.  Besides brandishing a microphone, Gina is good with a camera and computer, publishing a restaurant guide for Lee County called FLAVOR. Gina is a self-proclaimed Oenophile, traveling to wine regions all over the world to sip what she calls "the nectar of the Gods." When not in the vineyards she loves to explore beautiful beaches and new restaurants. You can find more of her musings in her blog "The Birch Beat" (

Read more about Gina Birch here.

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Maps and Directions

Joe's Crab Shack 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Seafood
Neighborhood: Downtown
3 Fishermen 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Seafood
Neighborhood: North Fort Myers
Cost: $$
Pinchers; The Marina at Edison Ford 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Seafood
Neighborhood: Downtown
Nervous Nellies 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Seafood
Neighborhood: Fort Myers Beach
Gulfshore Grill 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Local Specialty, Seafood, Steakhouse
Neighborhood: Fort Myers Beach
Cost: $$
Rum Runners 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, New American
Neighborhood: Cape Coral
Lighthouse Restaurant 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American, Seafood
Cost: $$
Mad Hatter 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Neighborhood: Sanibel Island
Cost: $$$
Bayfront Bistro 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: American
Neighborhood: Estero
Flippers on the Bay 10Best List Arrow
Cuisine: Seafood
Neighborhood: Lovers Key
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