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Beach Eats: Family-Friendly Waterfront Dining

One of the best parts of a family vacation is getting out of the kitchen and exploring new restaurants after a full day of sun, sand and surf. Finding a dinner option to suit everyone — ambiance, location and menu variety — can be a challenge. Often, we equate gulf-front or waterfront dining with a more mature crowd. These options, however, not only bring the views, but cater to the kids as well.

The Back Porch

A Destin favorite, The Back Porch will satisfy everyone from the littlest seafood lover to the oldest, with a view no one will be sad about. Gulf seafood has been a tradition at this establishment for more than four decades; the fresh crab cake sandwiches are a patron favorite. (The full kid’s menu features childhood favorites and even “fried fish toes.”) Sunset is, of course, the best time to try out this eatery with gulf views that seemingly stretch on forever.

Pickles Beachside Grill

This one isn’t quite waterfront, but it’s so close it was hard to leave it off the list. Especially, if you’re willing to grab your food and walk the first steps to a spot where you can not only nosh, but survey the landscape as well. This Seaside, Florida, restaurant is a favorite of tourists and is known for its burgers and fish sandwiches, in addition — of course — to its famous fried pickles. The best part about it? You can eat and have your toes back in the surf in a matter of moments.

Pompano Joe’s

Have a youngster who’s not quite ready to leave the beach? At Pompano Joe’s, you don’t have to choose. Built on the beach along Scenic Gulf Highway, this establishment is a favorite for locals and tourists alike. According to their website, “If it lives in the Gulf, you will most likely find it on our menu,” a fact sure to please the adults in your party. A complete menu for kids makes it an easy stop for the whole family.

Whale’s Tail

Located directly on the beach at Seascape Resort, you can enjoy both climate-controlled indoor dining or gulf breeze outdoor seating. This casual dining experience starts early with a breakfast and “Tail’s Bloody Marys,” continues through lunch with homemade smoked tuna and fish tacos and concludes with a variety of dinner entrees. A Little Whalers Menu ensures that those 10 and younger in your party won’t be forgotten.


LuLu’s is a break from our gulf-front picks, situated on right on the Choctawhatchee Bay. What you may think it lacks in gulf views, it makes up for in atmosphere with live music, shopping and a beach where the kids can play. LuLu’s accommodates a wide variety of dietary needs in a location where you can “boat, float or paddle up.” The kid’s menu is extensive, from burgers to quesadillas and even includes smoothies to mom and dad’s specialty drink in a souvenir bucket.

Boshamps Seafood & Oyster House

Enjoy a view of the Destin Harbor from this casual dining option in the heart of Destin. Let the kids play out back in the sand with toys and cornhole while you grab a drink from the nearby bar. Customers rave about the tuna dip, snapper and oysters, while the kids can enjoy fish or chicken fingers, among other options. Grab them a fresh, homemade and local popsicle from Swell Pops while you’re there.

The Surf Hut

The Surf Hut’s website describes it as the “perfect place to chill on the water in Miramar Beach,” and we don’t disagree. You can grab all the usual “surf” here and add in some “turf” if you choose. Their “gulf to table” menu extends to the youngsters, too, who can dine on fried or grilled fish or popcorn shrimp. And, if you get “homesick” for the beach after you go home, you can tune in to the restaurant’s live “beach cam” right on its homepage.

Shunk Gulley

With live music, great food and gulf views, what more could you need? Situated on the corner of Scenic Highway 30A and County Road 393, you’re perfectly positioned to walk to this double-decker restaurant from your vacation rental and then head over to Gulf Place for a bit of shopping or grab ice cream from Pecan Jacks. Finish off your dinner with a sunset stroll across the street at Ed Walline Public Beach Access.

Stinky’s Fish Camp

We don’t know a single kid who wouldn’t be delighted to dine at a place with a name like Stinky’s Fish Camp. Situated on 30A in Santa Rosa Beach, it has one of the more extensive kid’s menus available, with additions like buttered noodles, apples with caramel dip and root beer or Coke floats. On its website, you’re encouraged to “Stay Stinky,” and check out the live music line-up or book a trip aboard Stinky’s Fishing Charters.

Fish Out Of Water

One of 30A’s only large family-style restaurants and bars overlooking the Gulf, FOOW – Fish Out of Water — embodies the spirit of the WaterColor community: coastal, fun, and unpretentious. The kid’s menu includes the usual fare and ice cream sandwiches to complete the meal. Adults will enjoy the Carolina pimento cheese dip, banger shrimp and a daily happy hour beachfront.


If elevated beach food in Grayton Beach is what you’re after, Chiringo’s might be your new go-to spot. Lauded for its fresh, healthy ingredients, past patrons have raved about the guacamole, the Grayton Beach caviar and the poke bowl. Seasonal (free) shuttle eliminates any parking nightmares so you are free to enjoy the fresh food and salt air. Chiringo’s was inspired by a trip to Spain and its menu draws inspiration from beaches across the world.

The Bay

We’re back to the other view in town with this selection, a cool bayside hangout that is both family-friendly and buzzing with activity. Every Wednesday, the restaurants hosts a bonfire with music on its private beach; on Sundays, a brunch complete with chilaquilles is sure to satisfy. Water views, a 12-draft beer system and Southern gulf coast cuisine make it a draw the whole family will enjoy.

North Beach Tortilla Co.

Last, but certainly not least, on our list is this neighbor of The Bay at the foot of the 331 bridge in South Walton. With a saying like, “Tequila always wins,” you’d expect a comprehensive tequila “menu” and you’d be right — more than 100 options to choose from. Its open-air beach bar vibe comes complete with a kid’s menu big on tacos and churros, while its grownup menu promises a “mix of Spanish, Southwestern, and Florida cuisines.”





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