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 delightful city; you can also enjoy high-end shopping, challenging golf courses, and a town that is full of rich history.
Why do visitors come to what is known as the Paradise Coast in southern Florida? Is it the sun, sand, seashells, or the beautiful historic downtown Naples? Yes, they come for all those things, but for me, it’s the waterfront dining and delicious seafood that keep me coming back year after year.
Why choose to dine on the water in the evening while staying in Naples? One reason is the exquisite sunsets that grace the sky night after night. There is something truly enchanting about sipping some wine as the sky changes from bright blue to dusky reds and vibrant oranges.
Some of my restaurant visits were hosted by Paradise Coast CVB. All opinions are my own.
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 oasis by the Gulf for a seafood meal like no other in town.
Curl your toes into the sand while seated in the outdoor dining area overlooking the beautiful horizon that seems to float over the waves. You might be taken off guard when your server comes to take your order, and you have not even looked at the menu yet. Once your eyes move from the water to the selections, you will find that The Turtle Club holds the market for some of the best seafood choices in Naples.
Start the meal off with the creamy lobster bisque or their Famous Turtlefeller Oysters served with baby spinach, applewood smoked bacon, cream, and parmesan. 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 day’s chef specialties before you decide. However, The Sea Harvest of pan-seared gulf fish, shrimp, jumbos scallops, and lobster with a citrus beurre blanc sauce, grilled asparagus, and jasmine rice is an absolute delight, and you can’t go wrong with it. Before ending your evening at The Turtle Club, have some of their micro brewed pirate java rum, an aged rum finished in coffee barrels giving it a distinctive blend of rich molasses. Dinner dining here is truly magical, with the view of the Gulf that spans for miles and food that will leave you wanting more.
2. Take A Meal With Island Gypsy Cafe
If there was ever a hidden gem in Naples, I would say this place is it, and you’ll find it located on the Isle of Cari. With its casual nautical feel, the Island Gypsy will have you sitting back on the outdoor deck, enjoying the views without a care in the world. The locals will tell you this is their go-to place for lunch or dinner, and when the locals love it, you know you are in for a treat.
Start the evening off with some island impairments from the drink menu (the restaurant’s it’s-5-o’clock-somewhere atmosphere will have you feeling the vibe). Try the Gypsy Punch for a delicious hint of light rum, infused with dark tropical schnapps and flavored Brandy, encased in fresh fruit juice.
I can’t come here without ordering a side of the giant fresh-cut onion rings to get the meal started. They are hand-breaded and served with a chipotle aioli dip that will have you licking your fingers! Follow up the onion rings with the Island Grouper. Grouper is a full-flavored meaty fish caught in the Gulf and is a local favorite. They serve it here grilled with a heaping portion of cilantro-lime rice, mandarin chili reduction, delicious mango salsa, and blistered asparagus.
Pro Tip: If you want to be right on the water, arrive before 5 p.m. — it’s the right time to grab dinner and be there just as the sun is setting in the winter season.
3. Have An Amazing Culinary Experience At T-Michaels Steak And Lobster House
If you’re looking for fine dining on the water, T-Michaels Steak and Lobster House is just the place. When you open the door into the restaurant, the first thing you see is the beautiful water of Venetian Bay, and then you’ll notice the quiet and stunningly decorated dining room. The view here is one of the best; while enjoying dinner, you will see the boats coming in and the local dolphins swimming around to say hello.
Along with the best lobster in town, the menu is filled with local catches and some of the top USDA prime steaks. It’s no surprise that the Seafood Trio is one of the favorites, and they are known for their live Maine lobster. For guests 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 Crabby At Pinchers
Pinchers is located in the historic Tin City, and its upbeat and cheerful atmosphere has vacationers and locals returning often. Grab a seat on the water indoors or outdoors for an evening of delicious bites along the Gordon River.
Out of all the restaurants that serve seafood on the water, Pinchers has the most extensive menu of items to choose from. This is one of my personal favorites, and that is because they serve some seriously 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 if I did not mention it is happy hour all the time, so take advantage of a glass of sangria as you watch the sailboats go by.
Pro Tip: Tin City was the center of Naples’s fishing industry and oyster processing plants. Today, Tin City still gives off old historic Flordia charm along the Gordon River, a bustling destination of fantastic food, boutique shopping, and port of call for Pure Florida dolphin tours and sightseeing trips.
5. Relax By The Water At Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar
Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar has been locally owned and operated since 1990, and since its opening, it has become one of Naples’s most loved seafood restaurants. With its upper and lower level dining options, you can have an upscale dinner in the cafe or a casual lunch on the upper deck and grille overlooking the calm blue waters of the Venetian Bay.
Lunchtime is a perfect time to come and enjoy the more laid-back atmosphere at Bayside, where you are still served perfection on a plate — just in the sandwich and small plate form. Crispy Fish and Chips served golden brown and fresh from the sea, and house cut chips with a Bayside salad can quench lunchtime appetites.
Around sunset, the ambiance completely changes as Chef Able Gonzolas brings out the dinner plates and the evening air is filled with live music and happy cheers of wine glasses. With the dinner menu in hand, you will have difficulty making your final choice because everything is a temptation. However, the bouillabaisse will probably win your order with its colossal shrimp, fresh lobster, from-the-sea fish, mussels, and clams served with the tomato-saffron broth.
Don’t leave without dessert; it is the perfect way to end the evening with the sun setting, a delectable treat, and coffee as the last rays of the sun sparkle on the bay.
Pro Tip: Bayside is located in The Village, which has become known as the crown jewel of Naples. You’ll find high-end shopping for men, women, and children, galleries for home, and salons and spas to cap off your vacation.
6. Take A Boat Ride Out To Just Beachy Burgers
You can’t get any 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 is 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 deliciousness will have you ordering one of everything because the food is seriously off the charts. Since we are talking seafood, you should try the bang bang shrimp. The flavors are simple but powered by the spices, making this dish something that keeps 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 out of Naples or taking a water taxi over to the island. After your lunch at Just Beachy Burgers, you can enjoy shelling on the beach of this barrier island in the Gulf.