12 Best Restaurants on the Water in Fort Walton Beach

Is there a better way to dine than outdoors in the salty ocean air? We don’t think so. One of the best things to do in Fort Walton Beach is enjoy the waterfront itself! Fortunately, first-time visitors and repeat vacationers to FWB will find a wide variety of delicious restaurants where you can enjoy your entrees without missing out on that warm, welcoming Florida sunshine.

These 12 restaurants line the city’s shores and are within easy reach of our comfortable vacation homes in Fort Walton Beach.

1. Bay Cafe French Restaurant

Photo Credit: iofoto

  • Address: 233 Alconese Ave SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: instagram.com/baycafefrench
  • Price point: $$
  • Cuisine: Informal old-school French Cuisine
  • Reservations recommended.

In a sea of kitschy restaurants overflowing with rainbow nautical decor, The Bay Cafe stands alone as one of the very best restaurants not just in Fort Walton Beach but in all of Florida’s Emerald Coast.

Open for 40 years and catering to locals rather than tourists, Bay Cafe serves succulent seafood items like Grouper Wellington and classics like Escargo en Croute. Diners on their romantic patio can watch the boats cruise through the harbor and pass beneath the bridge. If you’re looking for an exceptional meal on the water, look no further than the Bay Cafe.

2. Crab Trap

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker

  • Address: 1450 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: crabtrapflorida.com
  • Price point: $$
  • Cuisine: Seafood
  • No reservations necessary

Not to be confused with Rick’s Crab Shack (a family-run inland restaurant), The Crab Shack is an expansive restaurant perched on the white sand of the Gulf serving excellent Crab Cakes, Tanner Crab, and Bairdi Crab.

The crab-focused menu doesn’t come cheap here, but if you’re looking for high-quality crustaceans without stumbling far from a beach, The Crab Shack is the place to be. They also have a second location in nearby Destin.

3. The Gulf on Okaloosa Island

Photo Credit: RFondren Photography

There is no shortage of seafood restaurants in Fort Walton Beach, or even on this list, but this crowd favorite with a full bar offers some of the best waterfront dining on the panhandle of Florida.

Here, you can indulge in a seafood boil platter of your choice or a delicious fresh-made lobster roll for lunch. This laid-back Gulf Coast eatery is especially good for people looking to pair their seafood with a quality cocktail.

4. Rick’s on the Island & Island Pizza

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker

  • Address: 1318 Miracle Strip Parkway SE, Okaloosa Island, FL
  • Website: facebook.com/ricksontheisland
  • Price point: $$
  • Cuisine: American
  • No reservations necessary

Burgers, seafood, pizza, and a full bar. What more can you ask for from a family-run establishment? The coconut shrimp keeps locals coming back, and the live music that often lights up the establishment in the evening is a favorite for visitors, new and old. Be sure to try their locally famous dessert cocktails like the Key Lime Colada!

5. The Shack

Photo Credit: Tony albelton

  • Address: 104 Miracle Strip Pkwy SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: theshackfwb.com
  • Price point: $$
  • Cuisine: Kitchy Seafood
  • No reservations necessary

From its breaded fried green tomatoes to its bright blue Fish Bowl cocktails, The Shack is a tourist favorite for travelers looking to soak up the sun on a waterfront dock and indulge in some local brews.

The Shack is locally owned and serves astoundingly good seafood for reasonable prices. It’s also one of the few restaurants in town that encourage you to arrive by boat!

6. AJ’s on the Bayou

Photo Credit: Kenny Simpson

  • Address: 200 Eglin Pkwy NE, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: ajsonthebayou.com
  • Price point: $$
  • Cuisine: Cajun-style Seafood
  • No reservations necessary

When it comes to specials, AJ’s delivers. From Happy Hour to Ladies Night to “Kids Eat Free” to all their events featuring live music performances, crawfish boils, and the bottomless mimosa Sunday brunch. AJ’s wants to make dining an experience. They don’t scrimp on the shrimp, either! Some of the foodie favorites at AJ’s are their award-winning seafood Gumbo, peel-and-eat shrimp, and the Shrimp & Grits, all done with a bit of Cajun flair.

7. Angler’s Beachside Grill

Photo Credit: Supaleka_P

  • Address: 1030 Miracle Strip Pkwy SE, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: anglersgrill.com
  • Price point: $$
  • Cuisine: Family-friendly Seafood
  • No reservations necessary

Tuck in for a pancake breakfast or scrumptious seafood combo basket on the wooden deck overlooking the placid waters of the Gulf at Angler’s. The seafood here leans more toward Creole than Cajun and is best enjoyed by indulging in their build-your-own seafood platters with freshly caught Grouper or tuna. While some other destinations on this list offer more high-end dining, this restaurant is beachy without the fuss.

8. G.I. Jade Tiki Bar and Grill

Photo Credit: Teri Virbickis

  • Address: 38 Miracle Strip Pkwy SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: gijadetikibarandbistro.com
  • Price point: $$
  • Cuisine: Tiki-bars & tacos
  • No reservations necessary

Enjoy fish tacos, empanadas, a killer Cuban sandwich, and, of course, seafood favorites like oysters, shrimp, and mussels in their outdoor seating area. This little spot is another hidden gem that most tourists miss out on. The family-friendly environment welcomes kids to play around on the beach while you indulge in a classic tiki-style cocktail.

9. Vincenzo’s Italian Bistro

Photo Credit: Visionsi

  • Address: 414 Santa Rosa Blvd, Okaloosa Island, FL
  • Website: vincenzosbistro.com
  • Price point: $$
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • No reservations necessary

Switch up the seafood! While most menus in the region are stacked with fresh-caught favorites from the Gulf, sometimes you’re more in the mood for some Mexican or Italian cuisine.

Vincenzo’s offers high-end Italian cuisine like farm-to-table crawfish, octopus, or pork osso buccu while celebrating the Gulf of Mexico with panoramic views of the blue water and coastal dunes. Located inside the Marriot Hotel, you can expect the highest quality of service from the staff.

10. Phantom Tacos

Photo Credit: Joshua Resnick

While not a traditional “restaurant,” if Mexican food by the water is what you seek, you won’t get better or more affordable than Phantom Tacos. Right up the street from an inland favorite, Burrito Del Sol, enjoy a trio of traditional tacos while sitting in the sand.

Restaurants Just Off the Water

These restaurants are more “water-adjacent” than “water-front”. Because of their scenic outdoor dining experiences, they deserve consideration for your next coastal meal.

11. Old Bay Steamer

Photo Credit: Midori Photography

  • Address: 102 Santa Rosa Blvd, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: oldbaysteamerfwb.com
  • Price point: $$$
  • Cuisine: Steamed Seafood
  • No reservations necessary

This is true Floridian-style seafood: Snow Crab, Red Shrimp, Oysters, and piles of Maine Lobster tails stacked high for family-style or personal dining. Specializing in steamer baskets filled with fresh, hot, and buttered seafood, Old Bay Steamer offers excellent service and is also known for its steaks.

12. Stewby’s Seafood Shanty

Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker

  • Address: 235 Santa Rosa Blvd, Fort Walton Beach, FL
  • Website: stewbys.com
  • Price point: $
  • Cuisine: Southern Seafood
  • No reservations necessary

This lovely little shanty is a local favorite when it comes to affordably priced seafood. Their shrimp-packed seafood gumbo, hush puppies, cheese grits, and freshly fried catch of the day are fan favorites. It’s fresh seafood with a Floridian flair.

While Stewby’s has no luxurious waterfront patio, it’s close enough to the water (and delicious enough) to land on this list. With nearly 3,000 5-star reviews and counting, it’s one of the most highly acclaimed restaurants in the area.

Where to Stay Near in Fort Walton Beach 

Beachfront dining is commonplace in Florida due to the temperate year-round climate. Be sure to check out all there is to do on Fort Walton Beach before you go!

Our vacation rentals are centrally located so that you can take advantage of these local favorites and tourist-friendly classics.