Catch a Meal at These Stunning 37 Waterfront Seafood Spots
A meal just tastes better in a restaurant overlooking a body of water.
Fresh seafood in almost any environment will satisfy. Fresh seafood that you can eat next to the waters from whence it came, well, that’s especially gratifying.
We fished around the country to find some of the very best spots that deliver such an experience. Be them in simple boils and unfussy fried platters or innovative creations, these are places where we want to crack open crab legs or slurp down briny oysters.
Find in this accounting some upscale romantic options, several worthwhile tourist spots, and a couple of raw bars and crab shacks where you won’t have to shell out a ton of clams for an unforgettable meal.
Whether you’re wearing a blazer or a bib, get ready for some stunning seafood.
Abbott’s Lobster encourages fever-pitch excitement by counting down to the first lobster of the season on its website and it works: lobster fiends from all over the country are known to camp out for days, in anticipation of that first taste of crustacean. But know that this a BYOB, counter-service spot where steamers, stuffed clams, and chowder are not to be missed—as more than 100,000 visitors per year and a bunch of food writers can attest. The picnic-style lobster by the shore, or “in the rough,” is an essential life experience for anyone who loves crustaceans.
Key Largo, Florida
Along Card Sound Road—aka the scenic route from Miami to Key Largo—you’ll find a lone outdoor roadhouse set right on a mangrove-lined canal. It’s Alabama Jack’s, a time warp to Florida before the days of air conditioning and bug spray, where folks dance to a live country band and folks on their way to and from the Keys sip beers by the water. This is the seafood dive to end all seafood dives. The crowd is a perfect cross-section of Florida, with fishermen drinking next to tourists drinking next to people who’ve lived in the swamp for generations. Such is the power of legendary conch fritters, steamed shrimp, and fish fingers.
A long-standing staple of the Seaport, The Barking Crab has been serving succulent seafood long before the neighborhood became the glimmering high-rise-packed district that it is today. As you may assume from the name, The Barking Crab has mastered the art of crustacean-based cuisine, offering top-tier crab cakes, lobster rolls, and crab rolls—but the culinary prowess doesn’t stop there. Diners can take a break from the classic cuisine of New England with some citrus-loaded Peruvian ceviche, or go all in with a Fisherman’s Platter, a mouthwatering assortment of seafood that’s complete with clam strips, scallops, haddock, and a wealth of other Bay State favorites.
Appropriately for a seafood shack-slash-barn located in Vermilion Parish—“the most Cajun place on Earth,” according to the Census Bureau—Big John leans heavily toward the boil. You could order something else from the menu, but know that it’s a mere formality and you risk looking like a weirdo. Seriously, getting anything other than crawfish is like ordering a grilled cheese at a sushi joint (to be fair, the shrimp is very tempting). Orders are by the pound and sauces are prepared while you wait. Do note: It’s only open through crawfish season, which is roughly November through May, sometimes later.
Charleston, South Carolina
Remaining relevant as you age is a tightrope walk for successful restaurants—keep doing the exact same thing for decades, and you risk local apathy and a tourist takeover. At 75 years and counting, Bowens Island feels as vital to locals as ever. The rustic, family-run seafood shack digs, set on an idyllic creek with technicolor sunset views over the marsh, are pure Lowcountry. Grounds include the dining room with its wide bar, rebuilt after a 2006 fire to maximize the view, and a dock and oyster house over the water. You can even book a kayak tour from the landing before dinner. But despite the fantastic locale, it’s the seafood platters that command your attention. This is the place to gorge on Frogmore Stew or a tray of steamed local oysters during winter. Fried shrimp, fish, and oysters are the other stars—order a platter and revel in the pure perfection of the whole scene. Diners on a schedule know to arrive by 5 pm to skip the counter-serve’s long line. Singles and couples can usually grab a bar seat, or just embrace the line as part of the experience. There’s a view, after all.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Seafood doesn’t get more locally caught than this, where fishermen park right on the restaurant dock on Lynnhaven Inlet with fresh hauls from the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay. Watch your food arrive—consider the steamed hard-shell crabs known as Jimmies—and the sunset from the waterside tables while you munch on shrimp, lobster tail, and the killer crab cakes, which are put together every morning from fresh blue crab meat. The only downside with being directly on the water? Hurricanes all the way down to regular storms and high winds can put the deck out of commission. But temporarily, this expert clean-up team keeps on truckin’.
Everglades City, Florida
Though Miami has gained a worldwide reputation for its stone crabs, few people realize the vast majority of those claws come from tiny little Everglades City. As the name might imply, this town is set off US-41 deep in the Glades, a swampy hamlet of folks who choose to live surrounded by alligators and mangroves. It’s also where you’ll find stone crab claws literally just pulled out of the water, best enjoyed at this wood shack set right on a canal. The breezy, waterfront spot lets you enjoy Florida seafood in its natural environment.
No one likes to wait in lines. Especially lines famous enough in Maine that nearly everyone mentions them at some point if you come through Kennebunkport. But the thought of getting that sweet, hand-picked lobster roll (and maybe some fried dough for dessert) from a tiny shack in one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and then posting up on a lobster crate and watching the seagulls swoop in on unsuspecting tourists to take a piece of their hard-earned roll for themselves, seems to make it all worthwhile. Just remember: Keep your head on a swivel.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Like they were hell-bent on becoming the inspiration for a Jimmy Buffett song, in 1983, Jack and Belinda Flanigan saw an ad for a fish camp, bought it, left their lives in Atlanta, got their boat captain licenses, started charter-fishing operations out of the marina, and then, eventually, launched The Crab Shack. While it sounds like a gamble, starting a seafood shack at a large fishing camp on a city-island, teeming with Atlantic seafood, is a very smart move indeed. Go with the Shack Specialty shellfish platter—it includes all the shellfish that comes in just off the pier where you’re eating, plus all the corn, potatoes, and sausage of a Lowcountry boil.
Pismo Beach, California
At the Cracked Crab, you might hear customers exclaim “holy shit” or some other sailor-adjacent phrase when the signature dish hits the table. Literally. The Bucket for Two is like a seafood buffet jammed into a pail and dumped directly onto the table for you to pick at a pile of corn, Cajun sausage, and potatoes mixed with the shellfish of your choice: choose snow or Dungeness crab, mussels, or clams—or upgrade to Maine lobster tails and get to work. There’s a wealth of other options, but honestly, they’d probably be upset if you decided to dump your crab bisque or cioppino on the table, so just stick with the bucket if you want to keep it real.
Da Poke Shack is tiny and located within a condo complex and may look like a place to leave your spare key, but its Japanese-influenced seafood bowls and Hawaiian beer beat out even the most upscale copycats. There are 14 different kinds of poke to choose from, but the move is really to go with the spicy Pele’s Kiss, or the avocado aioli-topped Dynamite. And maybe get some of that fresh, fresh sashimi while you wait, which is cut to order and served on its own or as part of a platter.
For quite possibly the most immersive riverview experience, the Moshulu is a historic ship outfitted with plenty of space to eat and drink on the open-air Wheelhouse Deck. Soak in views of the Delaware River, whether you’re here just for drinks in the lounge area, light bites, or a full dinner. Specialties include seafood, sushi, and seasonal cocktails—all very appropriate for the warm-weather deck. If you’re feeling extra fancy, stop by for brunch and order the Seafood Plateau and a cocktail party shaker to share with friends.
Check out the top waterfront restaurants in all of Philadelphia.
Orange Beach, Alabama
We think Orange Beach should give Doc’s, which sits underneath the light where Highway 161 T’s with Canal Road, a tax cut: There is no stronger inducer of end-of-vacation blues than being forced to sit and stare for half an hour at the place that served you the best damn fried shrimp and crab claws of your life. You will come back to Orange Beach and to Doc’s and you’ll sit at their long, ruddy tables and order a half-dozen giant, briny Gulf oysters and then a basket of crab claws for your table and then those fried shrimp, and you’ll wash it down with a cold bottled beer. And later in the week you’ll curse your sunburn and the sand still stuck to your car seat while you sit at the light, and you’ll stare at Doc’s and the whole process starts over again.
Los Angeles, California
If you picture in your mind the au-courant fish house, the kind of place that a recent transplant would take a skeptical visitor to say “See, LA isn’t so bad,” you’d end up with something very much like Dudley Market. So there are tinned conservas and natural wine, wild-caught fish by the pound to take home, a menu that changes too much to be listed online but always includes a fresh crudo, dim lighting and a thumping soundtrack and extremely cool merch. But don’t be intimidated by the obvious hipness—the energy is chill and the fish is perfect, sourced as well as they claim and prepared with a deft hand and a clever touch.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Half of everything at Cannon Beach is named “Ecola”-something (it’s derived from the Chinook word ehkoli or ékoli for “whale”), so be sure to ask specific directions to this seafood shack in the middle of the dog-friendly town or risk ending up at a gas station—which, to be fair, probably at least has some pretty good smoked fish. This shack is a family affair, and has been for the past 22 years; they fish the Washington and Oregon coasts daily, so you can be sure that whatever is on your plate was swimming a very short time ago. Unusual for a seafood shack, Ecola is open year round, frying up whatever “seasons, weather, and fisherman’s luck” is serving up. You should hope it’s salmon and halibut. Take some salmon jerky and a Dungeness crab cocktail to go and post up on the beach near Haystack Rock (the one from The Goonies) for one of the most purely Oregonian experiences you can have.
An annex on the original Fisherman’s Inn, which has been cracking claws on the bay since before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was open, the deck offers up an open-air, boat-up, live music experience and some of the best crab cakes in the region. And crab nachos. And crab pizza, dips, melts, salads, nachos... basically crab everything. But for the best experience, get the steamed variety pot, a classic boil with two hard crabs, some snow crab legs, and some clams, shrimp, and mussels for variety. Get crab cakes on the side though. You’re in Maryland.
Newport, Rhode Island
If you’re a kid, a trip to Flo’s often results in finding yourself awkwardly entranced by the lady clam mascot in the tight red dress. As an adult, you’re often fascinated by the history of Flo’s, which mainly just tells the story of the many hurricanes (curse you Carol, Donna, Gloria, and Bob!) that have knocked it down over its eight decades of existence, only for it to re-emerge stronger, or at least with more expensive windows. There is only one way to do Flo’s, and it involves getting half-a-dozen clam cakes and some fried clams, with a delicate breading and homemade coleslaw. Just watch out for those hurricanes.
For years, the industrial stretch of the Miami River just west of downtown wasn’t visited by anyone unless they were looking to illegally export a mattress. The lone exception was Garcia’s, an outpost of fresh-caught seafood where Miamians could enjoy a stone crab claw and watch debris float by. Flash forward to today, and the neighborhood has become a hotbed of day parties and rosé brunches, but Garcia’s is still its old self—and that’s a good thing. The family-run seafood restaurant and market has its own fleet of boats, hauling in better quality stuff than any of its swanky neighbors. You’ll enjoy said catches upstairs, with a stunning view of the Miami skyline and the considerably cleaned-up river.
As the name implies, this fifth-generation, family-run shellfish farm looked to laid-back dive bars for inspiration when it decided to invite customers to stop by for a drink and oyster snack. More picnic tables on the beach than actual restaurant, the natural beauty of Hood Canal, the Pacific Northwest mountains, and a fence made from oyster shells provide all the ambiance necessary. The all-ages, dog-friendly spot sits just in front of the tideflats where the oysters and clams grow, giving visitors a chance to taste them in situ. The small menu focuses on Hama Hama’s signature bivalves done a few different ways. Most importantly, all dishes come with the seasoning of the fresh salt air—and the option to order local beer or wine to wash it all down.
Located just north of Seaport Boulevard, the storied James Hook & Co. is eagerly awaiting its centennial in 2025. The secret to their long-term success? Fresh lobster delivered daily, courtesy of the company’s family-owned fishing business operating up in the icy waters of Maine. Lobster is offered in roll, mac and cheese, and bisque format around here, and while it’s certainly the star attraction, there’s a plethora of other seafood dishes to dine on as well. Guests are welcome to spring for a serving of shrimp cocktail or a hearty crab roll, both of which pair perfectly with a cold local IPA courtesy of the restaurant’s deep beer menu.
San Diego, California
Both locations of Ketch Grill and Taps have outstanding ocean views; Portside Pier has lovely sunset vistas, especially from the second story deck, while Point Loma’s serene harborside location soothes with bobbing sailboats against the glittering skyline. Ketch of the Day is a solid choice—there’s usually two to three varieties to pick from that can be grilled or fried, then added to a salad, folded into a taco, stuffed into a sandwich, or ordered as a plate. Sweet, chili-glazed salmon comes with a hearty kale and bacon hash, and locally caught, seared big-eye tuna tops yellow curry cauliflower and sweet sake mushrooms.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Lakeside has a seafood menu that not only matches, but surpasses the beauty of its environment, which includes an open-air dining room and large patio overlooking the Wynn's Lake of Dreams—a watery man-made spectacle that deserves to be on any bucket list of Las Vegas dining experiences. Chef David Middleton takes his sourcing seriously, whether it's mahi-mahi and snapper from Hawaii or wild tiger shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. The salmon, farmed from remote, pristine New Zealand waters, is as good as it gets. Maine lobsters—steamed, split, and roasted—are especially good with basil yuzu butter. As great as things are, Lakeside is only getting better.
Just over on the other side of the river, chef Nicholas Elmi’s Lark offers a coastal Mediterranean menu and rooftop views of the Schuylkill. Situated on the seventh floor of the Ironworks at Pencoyd Building, Lark is an elevated option for handmade pastas and sustainable seafood dishes. Lark is a sister companion to The Landing Kitchen, Elmi’s other Ironworks concept, featuring an all-day menu and equally picturesque riverside views from the lower level.
You will see other larger oyster companies en route to The Marshall Store up in Tomales Bay, and you will be inclined to say, “Wait, those places are crowded and popular looking! Maybe I should go there.” But that would be a mistake. Instead, have your party find a spot at one of the tables sitting on barrels overlooking the bay, go in and grab a six-pack or some wine from the refrigerator, and order up every kind of oyster (fresh from their nearby farm, Tomales Bay Oyster Company) available. No joke, you need to get all of them: the raw, grilled, barbecued, chorizo, Kilpatrick with bacon and Worcestershire, Rockefeller, and whatever else is available at the time. They have other things and they are delicious (particularly the chorizo fish stew), but you have some serious oyster-based work to do.
This seafood tasting experience comes with 360-degree views of Virginia’s Rappahannock River. That’s because Merroir from the folks who founded Rappahannock Oyster Co. want you to experience the sea (mer) and land mass (terroir), where they grow and harvest oysters on-site. The two words combined together formulate the tasting room’s ethos of “merroir,” a place where oysters and other seafood staples are eaten raw or cooked on an outdoor grill in small-plates fashion. Oysters come served on the half-shell or roasted in garlic herb-smoked butter. Either preparation pairs perfectly with wines sourced locally from Virginia and around the world. Plus, there is a robust menu of Virginia craft beer, including an Oyster Stout with bivalves right in it.
You’ve probably had fried catfish before: it’s a simple dish, easy to make with a few spices and breading thrown onto a thick slice of the river fish before it hits the fryer. But if you haven’t had it at Middendorf’s, then you have yet to discover just how exquisite catfish can truly taste. The restaurant cuts their catfish wisp-thin. It’s salty and flaky and piled so high on the plate. You’ll want to tuck your napkin into your shirt and have your bottle of hot sauce close at hand. You’ll never be able to eat other catfish again.
Riva and Pasadena, Maryland
This family-owned crab house has been anchored on the South River for more than six decades, and it’s a favorite with Chesapeake boaters who drop anchor at the pier and walk a few hundred feet to some of Maryland’s freshest crabs. No disrespect to Old Bay Seasoning, but Mike’s uses its own proprietary blend—a perfect balance of heat, spice, and salt. The main reason you’re here is to feast upon jumbo crabs, served by the tray-load, but don’t overlook the sides. Hushpuppies served with a warm honey butter add a sweet touch to a finger-licking-good experience. The original Mike’s Crab House is located about 15 minutes south of historic Annapolis, and it’s the more popular of the two locations (all seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis). Mike’s North, located about 30 minutes north of Annapolis, sits on scenic Rock Creek in Pasadena, Maryland, and the wait time is less of an issue. Of course, an Orange Crush at the bar should help pass the time until it’s time to get your crab feast on.
San Diego, California
Mitch’s Seafood is best known for their fish tacos, made with your choice of several varieties of local fish, but it’s got a full roster of ceviches, pokes, crudos and cocktails, oysters to slurp and crab poutine to savor, plus grilled plates, fried platters and bowls of steaming seafood stew or mussels in white wine and herbs. Nearly all the seafood Mitch’s serves is either caught in-house or by fishermen almost exclusively from San Diego or northern Baja waters. Order a local craft brew, grab a seat along the water and enjoy one of life’s perfect moments.
After earning national attention for Erizo, his fine-dining seafood spot with a focus on bycatch and invasive species, chef Jacob Harth decamped to tiny Netarts, Oregon, 30 minutes away, where he operates a three-day-a-week pop-up from a local shellfish farm. But in the transition, he retained the focus on ultra-sustainable seafood, serving local standards and lesser-known seafood in simple but stunning fashion. The menu changes constantly depending on what is getting caught or foraged nearby, but includes dishes like tomatoes on toast with cultured butter and red sea urchin, mackerel ceviche, octopus skewers, peel n’ eat barnacles, and of course the local oysters—on the half shell or barbecued with XO miso chile sauce.
The dozy bayside town of San Leon became a little less so when this pretty young thing opened up shop. Sporting a patio and waterfront dining room that is plenty pleasant on the peepers, the coastal kitchen and bar is the brainchild of second-generation oysterman turned restaurateur Raz Halili (VP of his family’s world-renowned fishery, Prestige Oysters), and he tapped talented Executive Chef Joe Cervantez (who sharpened his knife at standouts like Brennan’s of Houston and Killen’s Steakhouse) to run the ship. Start with oysters, chilled and served raw with all the goodies or done up on the grill with extras like Crab Gratin and Habanero Butter; share some Creamy “Dock” Shrimp; and go big on mains like Wood-Grilled Yellowfin Tuna, Crispy Red Snapper, and the seriously tasty Pier 6 Burger.
Brooklyn, New York
Sustainably sourced oysters on a vintage schooner is the vibe at Pilot, a seasonal seafood engagement parked by Pier 6 at Brooklyn Bridge Park. Think stunning Manhattan skyline views and plates of chilled seafood, like sea bream ceviche, and hot preps like a lobster roll, along with lighter-style fruit-forward cocktails.
Los Angeles, California
The Reel Inn is a rugged fish shack right off of PCH, a refreshing antidote to the shimmering excess of much of the rest of the Malibu coastline. The menu is expansive, an entire aquarium with most of it under $22. Choose your fish from among halibut, seabass, ahi tuna, trout, mahi-mahi, and more, then choose how you want the fish prepared—grilled, sauteed, or blackened—and your two sides. Portions are generous, as are the wine pours and the pricing on pitchers of decent craft beer.
Seafood doesn’t get any chicer than this swanky riverside icon, a multi-level hot spot owned by local celebs Bill and Giuliana Rancic. And while you’ll likely need to have a celebrity income to comfortably dine here, it’s well worth the expense for some of the highest quality—and unabashedly glam—seafood in the Midwest. We’re talking full-blown caviar service with all the traditional accompaniments (blinis, crème fraîche, egg, shallots, chives, and Amalfi Lemon—gang’s all here), Washington oysters with zesty yuzu granita, escargots-style scallops with lemon hollandaise, and artful plates of meticulously arranged prawns in olive oil. Still hungry? Try the 24-ounce bone-in swordfish rib-eye, and wash it all down with a $3,500 bottle of 1971 Dom Pérignon.
While this spot is a local favorite for fueling up near Nationals Park, the top-notch seafood menu makes it a good pick whether the Nats are at home or away. With a menu of New England meets Chesapeake coastal fare including fried clam bellies, seafood towers, and plenty of brews on draft, it’s sure to please. The waterside eatery offers a covered patio and bar area for that inevitable rain-delayed game, and you can also kick back in an Adirondack chair for a leisurely afternoon.
Suburban Yacht Club bills itself a “coastal cantina,” which makes sense if you consider a pond-facing boardwalk on the “waterfront.” (We’ll allow it.) The space is inspired by Southern California, with green plants, breezy vibes, and a glass door that opens to the patio. The menu features all the things you want to eat in such environs, like ceviche, tuna tostadas, and fish tacos, and drinks include a handful of frozen cocktails, like an icy Cuba Libre and Watermelon Frosé.
Jokes, as well as dreams, can come true. Just ask Tracy LaBarge, a Juneau transplant who used to joke about selling crab legs from a hot dog cart (look, it wasn’t a coherent plan yet). Nearly two decades later, the real-life result goes way beyond, with the “best legs in town” and award-winning king crab bisque. There are countless crab shacks across Alaska. That LaBarge parlayed her joke into arguably the best of the bunch is perhaps the best punchline imaginable—especially when it comes dripping in butter.
Posted up in the former Terrible Beauty and BluWater Bistro space, WS features an outdoor patio that's perfect for watching seaplanes land on Lake Union and spending an evening enjoying a seafood platter of raw oysters, cooked prawns, steamed mussels, and salmon rillette or indulging in its luxurious Shells & Champagne, which includes up to two dozen oysters and a bottle of bubbles.
Writers: Mary Beth Abate, Daisy Barringer, Amber Love Bond, Stephanie Burt, Tim Ebner, Kevin Gray, Matt Kirouac, Robert Kachelriess, Ben Mesirow, Marielle Mondon, Tiffany Ran, Naomi Tomky, and Brooke Viggiano.