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Top 10 beach bars in Southwest Florida

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  • Sandbar CROP
    The Sandbar Restaurant is on the beach in Anna Maria.
    Top 10 beach bars

    Southwest Florida has plenty of drinking destinations, but only a select few hug our world-famous shorelines of powdery white sand. In alphabetical order, our list of the Top 10 beach bars from Boca Grande to Anna Maria Island.

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    200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach; 779-2222; beachhouse.groupersandwich.com
    The BeacHhouse Restaurant

    A hub of indoor and outdoor activity, people pack the BeacHhouse for lunch, dinner, drinks, weddings and, most famously, spectacular sunset watching. Haven’t been in a while? The 20-year-old restaurant recently completed seven months of renovations including an expansive bar featuring large windows allowing for better views of the freshly re-nourished beach and Gulf of Mexico. Of course, you can always eat and drink al fresco for the ultimate, toes-in-the-sand experience.

  • 2GulfDriveCafe
    900 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach; 778-1919; gulfdrivetiki.com
    Gulf Drive Café

    What began as a little café frequented mostly by locals has grown into one of the largest, full-menu and full-bar attractions on Anna Maria Island. The new centerpiece of the Gulf Drive Café is the Kokonut Hut, a massive open-air structure adorned with flat-screen TVs that puts you right on the sand without having to worry about getting blasted by the sun or missing the big game. Outdoor tables take you even closer to the water.

  • 3LidoBeachResortTiki Bar
    700 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota; 388-2161; lidobeachresort.com
    Lido Beach Resort Tiki Bar

    Even if you’re not one of the fortunate guests at the Lido Beach Resort, you can still enjoy first-rate treatment at its tiki bar, which is situated within view of a wide stretch of white sand on Lido Key. The drink menu features a long list of tropical cocktails including mojitos that come in flavors such as raspberry, mango and watermelon. The tiki bar also serves sandwiches, salads and appetizers to complement the umbrella drinks and beachfront setting.

  • 4LidoKeyTikiBar
    1234 Ben Franklin Drive, Sarasota; 309-2577; ritzcarlton.com
    Lido Key Tiki Bar

    Tucked behind the members-only Ritz-Carlton Beach Club, which has operated the Sarasota landmark since 2001, the Lido Key Tiki Bar is a bastion of Old Florida amidst the hotel and condo towers. A favorite among Lido locals for decades, the open-air bar right on the beach serves beer, wine and mixed drinks in a relaxed, rustic setting. Bereft of parking, this hidden gem is best reached by boat or on foot.

  • 5O'leary's
    5 Bayfront Drive, Sarasota; 953-7505; olearystikibar.com
    O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill

    Located within walking distance of downtown’s arts and entertainment district, O’Leary’s occupies a fantastic swath of shoreline along Sarasota Bay. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s a fashionable spot for enjoying frozen drinks and burgers in a Key West-style setting. O’Leary’s also regularly hosts guys and gals with guitars performing all the Jimmy Buffett and other beach songs you know by heart.

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    875 N Shore Drive, Anna Maria; 778-1885
    Rod and Reel Pier Restaurant

    I have spotted numerous dolphins, a manatee, tarpon, shark and a loggerhead sea turtle about the size of a Prius in recent years while seated at the downstairs bar of this iconic restaurant that has been around for more than six decades. Soak up the amazing vistas, which also include the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, while sipping an ice-cold beer and noshing on fresh seafood items such as the delicious grouper Reuben sandwich.

  • 7Sandbar
    100 Spring Ave, Anna Maria; 778-0444; sandbar.groupersandwich.com
    The Sandbar Restaurant

    Part of the Chiles Restaurant Group that includes the BeachHouse and Mar Vista Dockside on Longboat Key, The Sandbar boasts a gorgeous mix of indoor tables offering pristine waterfront views, seating right on the sand and banquet areas nestled in the shade of the trees that line the beach. For beverages, go with one of the restaurant’s “Crop to Cocktail Drinks,” which use produce from Chiles’ farms to create libations such as a garden-fresh bloody mary and jalapeno-juiced margarita.

  • 8Sharky's
    1600 Harbor Drive S., Venice; 488-1456; sharkysonthepier.com
    Sharky’s On the Pier

    Voted the best beach bar in the Sunshine State last year by readers of FloridaBeachBar.com, Sharky’s On the Pier is where patrons rinse off the sand before taking a seat under a ceiling fan to munch on, say, mahi-mahi tacos or slurp up snow cones infused with liquor while gazing at the Gulf of Mexico from above the beach. For fans of fine dining, the Venice favorite recently expanded with the more upscale Fins at Sharky’s.

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    777 Gulf Blvd., Boca Grande; 964-0765
    South Beach Bar & Grille

    Bordered by a pair of state parks that provide parking and a nice buffer, this restaurant looks like it washed right up on the sand and offers amazing views from pretty much every seat. South Beach Bar & Grille serves full-liquor libations – if you want to drink like a local order a rum runner. The respected food menu includes popular dishes like seafood strudel, grouper Gaspar, Caribbean cioppino and the limoncello shrimp appetizer.

  • 10Waterfront
    111 South Bay Blvd., Anna Maria; 778-1515; thewaterfrontrestaurant.net
    The Waterfront Restaurant

    Separated from the beach by narrow South Bay Boulevard, this beloved island restaurant features covered, outdoor tables that overlook the Gulf of Mexico and the 103-year-old Anna Maria City Pier. Enjoy the view while sipping the bar’s many superb craft cocktails and eating ahi sliders the size of baseballs. In addition to creative cocktails, The Waterfront also has an impressive wine list and craft beer selection, making it the ideal place for post-sunbathing leisure.

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