A Florida Foodie Road Trip

Take a drive down the Gulf Coast for an unforgettable, seafood-filled adventure

Photo: Courtesy of Visit Florida

From the Panhandle down to Marco Island, Florida’s Gulf Coast is one of the few places on the Eastern Seaboard to watch the evening sun set lazily over the water. And while the promise of a dazzling golden hour is incentive enough to visit the Sunshine State, a trip to Florida’s west coast—particularly the popular getaway destinations south from Clearwater—is as much about the seafood as it is the sunshine. Be it a basket of fried grouper at a no-frills haunt or hook-to-fork specialties garnering James Beard attention, the Gulf side teems with seafood worth traveling for. So grab a map and plot out your trip to these local culinary treasures—a journey along the coast you (and your palate) won’t soon forget.

Photo: Courtesy of Visit Florida

From left: The Naples Pier at sunset; fresh stone crab claws; and exploring the Gulf of Mexico by kayak.

Frenchy’s Original Cafe
Clearwater, FL

Frenchy’s is a Clearwater classic so beloved that its founder, Michael “Frenchy” Preston, went on to open five locations and purchase a fleet of fishing boats, ensuring patrons the day’s freshest catch for dishes such as the famous Super Grouper sandwich, a fried filet served with simple fixin’s and the cafe’s signature sauce on a soft onion roll.


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We’re gonna need a bigger bun #groupersandwich #seafood #clearwaterbeach #florida #beachlife

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Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish
St. Petersburg, FL

You can’t miss the mouthwatering aroma wafting from this old-school smokeshack, where Ted Peters and his descendants have been perfecting their process for generations of regulars since 1951. The unassuming roadside exterior belies a treasure: racks of smoldering red oak, upon which mullet and mackerel are slow-smoked for hours before being served with potato salad and coleslaw, or simply spread over saltines.


Birdrock Taco Shack
Bradenton, FL

Tucked away in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts, this hundred-year-old shack wows with its technicolor wonderland of mismatched chairs and jungle-worthy greenery—but the outside-the-box taco menu is the real knockout. Try the blue crab “California roll” taco with avocado, cucumber, red slaw, and lime mayo, or opt for a pan-seared Mahi variety topped with key lime, wasabi, soy, and cabbage.

Photo: Courtesy of Visit Florida

The beaches of Sarasota.


Owen’s Fish Camp
Sarasota, FL

Snag a picnic table at this local favorite named for Sarasota founding father Owen Burns, and whet your appetite with a jar of boiled “roadside peanuts” or smoked-fish spread. Then it’s time to tuck into the famed fish camp’s main event: the day’s market catch served “naked” (grilled, seared, blackened, or fried, that is) with your choice of inventive sides such as black-eyed peas with andouille sausage. Be prepared for a long line, though live music often helps pass the time.  


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Cutest little Restaurant.. perfect for a dinner with good friends. #beagoodfriend #OwensFishCamp

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Sarasota, FL

At Indigenous, the James Beard Award semifinalist chef Steve Phelps elevates seasonal, sustainable seafood—jerk-spiced cobia tartare, for instance, or wreckfish atop Florida sweet-corn puree—which means his menu is ever-changing. Order a round of Parmesan beignets for the table, then indulge in the likes of baked scallops in butter spiced with local Everglades seasoning, or crudo comprised of fish straight from the ocean.



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Omg….so good.

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Leroy’s Southern Kitchen & Bar
Punta Gorda, FL

Boasting the motto “Where Everyone’s Welcome,” Leroy’s menu of Southern comfort food certainly helps this restaurant accomplish its mission. Po’boys come every which way—including stuffed with fried green tomatoes, oysters, or Gulf shrimp, and slathered in Cajun-style remoulade—and bluesy tunes fill the barnwood-rustic space every night of the week.


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#friedshrimp #macaroniandcheese #greenbeans #puntagorda #Florida

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Photo: Courtesy of Visit Florida

Cayo Costa State Park near Boca Grande.


The Temptation Restaurant
Boca Grande, FL

This circa-1947 fish house offers the likes of grouper, snapper, and soft-shell crab, delivered daily by local Gasparilla Island fishing captains and served with citrus beurre blanc or a special housemade sauce of lemon, garlic, and apple juice. If you’re handy with a rod and reel, all the better—supply your own catch and the kitchen will doctor it up however you like.


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Flat Iron Grilled Key West Hogfish with a Blood Orange Butter Sauce & Microgreens #bocagrandefl #hogfish #itswhatsfordinner #fresh

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Cape Coral, FL

Wander to the docks of Tarpon Point Marina where this refined hideaway—picture your most tasteful friend’s beach house—awaits to serve you all day. Breakfast selections cater to early-morning boaters and include lobster-cake benedict with key lime hollandaise, while those gathering for supper will be tempted by fettuccine tossed with shrimp, scallops, calamari, and clams (paired with a craft cocktail such as a tropical lychee sangria, naturally).


The Veranda
Fort Myers, FL

The Veranda flawlessly marries white-tablecloth poise with Old Florida charm in a repurposed 1902 home, aided in no small part by gracious regional cooking. Try the signature Southern Sampler, a medley of local grilled grouper, gulf shrimp, and sea scallops over fettuccine, and a slice of key lime pie, and you’ll see why this storied restaurant is among the most awarded in Southwest Florida.

Photo: Courtesy of Visit Florida

Sanibel lsland lighthouse.


The Sandbar
Sanibel, FL

The Sandbar’s menu is small but unwavering. “Our food is straight-up simple,” managing partner Brian Silveira told the Fort Myers News-Press. “If you get the scallops, they’re done simple, pan-seared with garlic butter… as far as coating it or frying, we’re not really into that stuff.” And that’s just the way the adoring Sanibel Island set likes it. Be it king crab or black grouper, the chefs approach the daily catch with the same mentality—diners can choose their preparation, but the tried-and-true buttery glaze is a constant.



The Turtle Club
Naples, FL

Basking in the sun right on Vanderbilt Beach, the Turtle Club offers patrons the chance to enjoy highbrow dining with their toes in the sand. Old Florida effortlessly meets new throughout, from the midcentury bona fides (the Vanderbilt Beach Resort has been around since 1951) to its almond-crusted salmon and ever-popular oysters “Turtlefeller,” a play on the classic Rockefeller with applewood-smoked bacon, Parmesan, cream, and Pernod.


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🍓🐠 SALMON SALAD🐠🍓 ~with~ mixed berries, pineapple, toasted almonds, and a honey vinaigrette~

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The Oyster Society
Marco Island, FL

For almost twenty-five years, the Carvelli family has charmed Marco Islanders with dining spots focused on Italian food and steaks. Now Francesco Carvelli—a grandson of one of the original restaurateurs—has traveled from his Calabrian homeland to oversee his family’s latest offering, the Gatsby-inspired Oyster Society. Belly up to the gleaming raw bar for crudo and oysters, or, if the evening is warm, linger on the outdoor patio with one of the restaurant’s craft cocktails—a pisco sour, perhaps—inspired by Prohibition-era recipes.


A Florida Foodie Road Trip