Naples is located on the Gulf Coast and is considered the “crown jewel” of Southwest Florida. You don’t just find fabulous seafood in this charming town; you can also enjoy upscale shopping, challenging golf courses and a city rich in history.
Why do visitors come to what is called the paradise coast in South Florida? Is it the sun, the sand, the seashells or the beautiful historic city center of Naples? Yes, they come for all of those things, but for me, it’s the waterfront dining and delicious seafood that keeps me coming back year after year.
Why choose to dine on the water in the evening when staying in Naples? One reason is the beautiful sunsets that adorn the sky night after night. There’s something truly enchanting about sipping wine as the sky turns from bright blues to dark reds and vibrant oranges.
Some of my restaurant visits were arranged by Paradise Coast CVB. All opinions are mine.
1. Join the Turtle Club
No trip to Naples is complete without visiting The Turtle Club, located at the Vanderbilt Beach Resort. They have a rich history of welcoming guests to their gulf-side oasis for a seafood meal like no other in town.
Wrap your toes in the sand while sitting in the outdoor dining area overlooking the beautiful horizon that seems to float above the waves. You might be caught off guard when your waiter comes to take your order, and you haven’t even looked at the menu yet. Once your eyes have moved from the water to the selections, you’ll find that The Turtle Club holds the market for some of the best seafood choices in Naples.
Start the meal with creamy lobster bisque or their famous Turtlefeller oysters served with baby spinach, applewood smoked bacon, cream and parmesan cheese. The salads are big enough to make a meal; my go-to is the Shrimp and Crab Napoleon with a smoked tomato vinaigrette. It might be a challenge to decide what to have for your main course; Ask your server for the chef’s specialties of the day before deciding. However, The Sea Harvest of Seared Gulf Fish, Shrimp, Sea Scallops and Lobster with Citrus Beurre Blanc Sauce, Grilled Asparagus and Jasmine Rice is an absolute delight, and you can’t go wrong. Before ending your evening at the Turtle Club, sample some of their micro-infused pirate java rum, an aged rum finished in coffee barrels that gives it a distinctive blend of rich molasses. Dining here is truly magical, with the view of the gulf stretching for miles and dishes that will leave you wanting more.
2. Have a meal with Island Gypsy Cafe
If there was a hidden gem in Naples, I’d say it’s this place, and you’ll find it on the island of Cari. With its relaxed nautical spirit, the island gypsy will have you sitting on the outdoor terrace, enjoying the view without a care in the world. Locals will tell you it’s their go-to spot for lunch or dinner, and when the locals love it, you know you’re in for a treat.
Start the evening off with a few island handicaps from the drink menu (the ambiance of the restaurant it’s 5 o’clock somewhere will make you feel the vibe). Try the Gypsy Punch for a delicious splash of light rum, infused with dark tropical schnapps and flavored brandy, coated in fresh fruit juice.
I can’t come here without ordering a side of the giant fresh cut onion rings to start the meal. They are hand breaded and served with a finger licking chipotle aioli dip! Follow the onion rings with the island grouper. Grouper is a meaty fish full of flavor caught in the gulf and is a local favorite. They serve it here grilled with a big helping of cilantro lime rice, mandarin chili reduction, delicious mango salsa and puffed asparagus.
Pro Tip: If you want to be by the water, arrive before 5 p.m. It’s a good time to dine and be there as the sun goes down in winter.
3. Have an amazing dining experience at T-Michaels Steak And Lobster House
If you are looking for a good meal on the water, T-Michaels Steak and Lobster House is just the place. When you open the door to the restaurant, the first thing you see is the beautiful water of Venetian Bay, then you will notice the calm and beautifully decorated dining room. The view here is one of the best; while enjoying dinner, you will see the boats arriving and the local dolphins swimming by to say hello.
In addition to the best lobster in town, the menu is filled with local catches and some of the best USDA steaks. It’s no surprise that the Seafood Trio is a favorite, and they’re known for their live Maine lobster. For customers who want to try something other than seafood, the Japanese Waygu is a unique entree, offered at market price.
Pro tip: Reservations are highly recommended, and when making those, ask for a table by the windows to give you the best views in the house.
4. Get grumpy at Pinchers
Pincers is located in historic Tin City, and its upbeat and cheerful atmosphere keeps vacationers and locals returning often. Take a seat on the water indoors or outdoors for an evening of delicious bites along the Gordon River.
Of all the restaurants that serve seafood on the water, Pinchers has the most extensive menu to choose from. This is one of my personal favorites, and that’s because they serve some really delicious stone crab claws that are to die for. They are locally harvested and own their fleet of boats, so these claws are served fresh daily. I would be remiss not to mention that it’s happy hour all the time, so enjoy a glass of sangria while watching the sailboats go by.
Pro tip: Tin City was the center of Naples’ fishing industry and oyster processing plants. Today, Tin City still exudes the old historic charm of Flordia along the Gordon River, a bustling destination of fantastic food, shopping, and a port of call for dolphin tours and Pure Florida sightseeing.
5. Relax by the water at Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar
Grill and seafood bar by the bay has been locally owned and operated since 1990, and since opening has become one of Naples’ most beloved seafood restaurants. With dining options on the upper and lower levels, you can enjoy an upscale dinner in the cafe or a casual lunch on the upper deck and grill overlooking the calm blue waters of the Venetian Bay.
Lunchtime is the perfect time to come and enjoy Bayside’s more laid-back atmosphere, where you’re always served to perfection on a plate – just as a sandwich and a small plate. Crispy Fish and Chips served golden and fresh from the sea, and house fries with a Bayside salad can quench the appetite at lunchtime.
As the sun sets, the mood changes completely as Chef Able Gonzolas clears the plates and the evening air is filled with live music and cheery wine glasses. With the dinner menu in hand, you’ll have a hard time making your final choice because all is temptation. However, the bouillabaisse will probably win your order with its colossal prawns, fresh lobster, fish from the sea, mussels and clams served with the tomato-saffron broth.
Don’t leave without dessert; it’s the perfect way to end the evening with the sunset, a delicious treat and a coffee as the last rays of the sun glisten over the bay.
Pro Tip: Bayside is located in The Village, which has become the jewel in the crown of Naples. You’ll find upscale men’s, women’s and children’s boutiques, home galleries, salons and spas to top off your vacation.
6. Take a boat ride to beach burgers
You can’t get closer to dining on the water than in a boat pulled up to the beach on Keewaydin Island. Seriously, this is the most unique “restaurant” in Naples. Why? Because it’s a food boat! Don’t let the food boat vibe turn you away; Just Beachy Burgers creates some of the best shrimp and grouper tacos in Southwest Florida.
This family-run boat of delights will have you ordering one of everything because the food is truly out of this world. Since we are talking about seafood, you should try the bang bang shrimp. The flavors are simple but fueled by the spices, making this dish something to keep people coming back for more.
Just Beachy Burgers was featured on the Food Network and they created the Island Burger for the show. So while they have fantastic seafood, the burgers are to die for too.
Pro Tip: You can get to Keeywaydin Island by renting a boat in Naples or taking a water taxi to the island. After your lunch at Just Beachy Burgers, you can enjoy some beachside shelling on this Gulf barrier island.
For more inspiration, consider 11 fantastic things to do in historic old Naples and My 9 favorite restaurants to discover in Naples.