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  • Writer's pictureMelody Dunn

It's A Shore Thing...Gulf Front Dinners At Sunset!

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

Ahhh…. local seafood restaurants strategically poised on the beautiful Emerald Coast shoreline evoke a nostalgia of “seafood love” and “beach trips of yesteryear” that are ingrained in the memories of those who grew up frequenting the Florida coastline. You know…the lively beachside hot spots with family friendly tables under umbrellas sitting directly seaside so you can enjoy that calm evening breeze and sunset right from your table. Most seem to have a little age on them, kind of like your favorite jeans or an old sun bleached t-shirt. The familiar squeak of the wooden front door readies you for the breathtaking ocean view as you enter from the sandy parking lot. The cool conditioned air hits you in the face and lingers only a minute until you walk toward the back of the restaurant and welcome the sweeping views and warm salty air. Just beyond the centrally located bar you begin to notice the perfect spot...Here you can watch the emerald waters change from blue green to sparkling silver, witness the beauty of the setting sun and enjoy the freshest from the Gulf seafood! Long after you return home from vacation, the memories will linger. Be sure to try at least one of these on your next trip to one the North Florida Beaches. The atmosphere is “relaxed beachfront,” so... wear the flip flops, let the freshly showered hair dry in the breeze and enjoy the gorgeous scenic views.

Runaway Island

“When you come to the beach, you come to Runaway!” Listen to the soothing sound of the waves and the steel drum band as you sip on cocktails during the 4-6 p.m. daily Happy Hour. Local Crab, Raw Oysters, Coconut Shrimp, Asian Sashimi Tacos, Grouper Sandwiches, BBQ shrimp, hand cut steaks and more are served at this causal beach bar and grill. Kids will love the playground and the fact that you can step right out on the beach. The picturesque location, lots of kid’s menu items and great seafood make this a perfect choice for memorable beachside family dinners while the sun sets.

14521 Front Beach Rd. Panama City Beach, FL

Hours: Fri. & Sat. 11-11, Sun.-Thurs. 11-10

Price range: $11-30


This longtime favorite has been serving beachside seafood love for over 30 years. It has grown to over 15,000 sq. ft. of deck and dining space overlooking the beautiful Gulf coast emerald waters and is home to the largest Tiki Hut in the United States. Over the years, many have dined and danced under this open air “palapa.” There is inside dining, covered beachfront dining and patio dining under umbrellas. The Tiki bar, outdoor stage and live entertainment are sure to help you transition to “vacation mode,” while the whimsical coastal décor, two playgrounds and gift shop offer fun for the whole family. There’s a large beer menu, good selection of specialty drinks and delicious “fresh from the Gulf seafood” prepared in a variety of ways. The menu has everything from seafood baskets, raw oysters and crab legs to burgers and pasta. This one is always a sentimental must on our vacation bucket list. Our first dinner there was as newlyweds, and last summer our youngest daughter and her husband celebrated their anniversary there. This is a good place to start your own vacation traditions.

15201 Front Beach Rd., Panama City Beach, FL

Hours:: Everyday 11 a.m. -12 a.m.

Price range: $8-18

Pineapple Willy’s

This is another “on the sand” hot spot that opened in 1984. It looks a little like a dive from the front parking area, but if you can get a table on the pier or patio, the views are magnificent. They are known for their po’boys, frozen drinks and sports on big screen TVs. Although they specialize in seafood, music and fun, they're quickly becoming famous for having “the best ribs on the beach.” The Mahi is always good and the Caribbean Salad is a must try. There’s an assortment of sandwiches and a good kids menu. Enjoy a “Pineapple Willy” specialty drink at the pier bar and sit on the patio enjoying live music. Be sure to stop by the gift shop for a souvenir or t-shirt. Pineapple Willies hosts events supporting and giving back to the local community. Where else can you find $5 craft beers and refillable Daiquiri drinks?

9875 S Thomas Dr. Panama City Beach, FL

Hours: Everyday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.

Price range: $12-30

Harpoon Harry's

When Hurricane Michael stormed through, Harpoon Harry’s took a hit and seized the opportunity to re-build and present something new and updated. This waterfront café has new indoor dining as well as beachside dining on the outdoor decks and outdoor bar stations. You might want to try their new Giant Seafood Bucket, Grouper Fingers or Firecracker Shrimp, but Harry’s Crab Cakes and the Jumbo Seafood Platter are always good selections. They do have live events which usually begin later in the evening, as you’ll see noted on the neon sign out front. Some of the events may not be appropriate for families or suited for anyone under 21. This is a great place to stop for lunch or an early dinner.

12627 Front Beach Rd, Panama City Beach, FL

Hours: Everyday 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.

Price range: $9-35

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