Stroll the beach on Anna Maria Island and you’ll find yourself right smack in front of the BeachHouse. Bright blue umbrellas, lights draped like Christmas garland and jetty-style rocks mark the spot. At this laid-back, open- air restaurant, you can dig your toes in the sand, sip a frozen mango margarita and nibble on coconut shrimp. One of the flip-flop crowd’s favorite places to watch Gulf sunsets, this spot grooves after dark when John Rinnell breaks out his steel drum and plays everything from Jimmy Buffett to Frank Sinatra.
On South Beach, “the Cleve” is still as cool as ever. The 70-year-old Clevelander Hotel at the corner of 10th Street and Ocean Drive attracts the sun-soaked with its poolside bars complete with cooling misters. Order a frozen Miami Vice — a half rumrunner and half piña colada blend. The drinks are just as seductive as the bikini scene. Hear reggae on Sundays and catch the go-go dancers doing their thing at the winding perimeter fountains. When hunger strikes, order mini Angus beef sliders.
When it opened 25 years ago, Bud & Alley’s was the beachfront bar on Scenic Highway 30A in Northwest Florida — and it’s still the most popular place to chill before or after hitting the powdery white Gulf sands. Its roof top bar — prime seating for views of lush pink sunsets — offers a vista of Seaside’s eclectic homes, where tin roofs with weather vanes and second-floor wraparound porches poke out of greenery. If you’re feeling like a tourist, order a Key lime freeze (lime-flavored rum, Licor 43, sour mix, fresh lime juice and ice cream), but if you want to drink like a local, then the Grayton India pale ale, a local craft beer that takes its name from the neighboring beach town, is for you.