Total transparency here: You may be afraid to enter just about every single dive bar on this list. We were. Whether it’s a dank, seedy exterior, or even the name (The Wet Spot!) dive bars are a world wholly unto themselves.
With beach bars – our specialty – you know what to expect. The big parking lots and the colorful exteriors, the glimpse of the waterfront outdoor deck; what’s to hold you back? But dive bars. Unless you’re a dive bar devotee, you may want to keep on driving past. If you did you’d miss out on that cheap, ice-cold beer, friendly bartenders, mouth-watering chicken wings and colorful characters telling scurrilous stories.
A dive bar visit is an experience. It’s not just about getting sloshed, or about sitting in the half dark while the sun bakes outside, or about the best/most astonishing people-watching you’ll come across. It’s not just the comedy or the pathos of their stories that you’ll take home and repeat every chance you get. It’s not just the spectacular (or unremarkable, or lack of) food, or the parade of tattoos, or the bartenders who truly will remember your name when you come back. It’s all these things and more, and we could go on and on about the booze-bags we saw, and the bottomless bonhomie of the owners and clientele, and how shocked we were that we loved just about every dive bar we visited.
But it’s your turn to have your own experience.
It would take us years (and be the ruin of my tiny liver) to list every single one. Also with over 20,000 drinking establishments in Florida you may be our guest to list them all!
Here are some of the stand-outs, for us, whether because of their colorful history, their rebellious dogma, or just because they proudly defend the right to sit and drink among friends.
By region, starting up north in the Panhandle. Alphabetical by bar name.
APALACHICOLA ICE COMPANY
250 Water St. Suite C
Open M-F 11 am-8 pm, Fri Sat 12 pm-8pm
Photo courtesy of Apalachicola Main Street Inc.
- “Founded in 1885, blown up in 1886, bankrupt in 1926, stripped and razed in 1941, re-opened in 2016.” Located in a rustic red very cool shack-like structure across from the Apalachicola River.
- The perfect place to listen to talented local musicians and kick back with friends. Beer and wine are served.
16450 Front Beach Rd.
Panama City Beach
Open daily 11 am-11pm
- More of a restaurant than a dive bar as described above – you will not be afraid to enter. But when when a place calls itself a dive bar it will probably make our list!
- Beer and wine, full menu (it’s huge), outdoor dining weather permitting. Across the street from the beach but located on a small, marshy body of water, so it does have a water view.
- Often busy with a wait for a table – and so, not exactly under-the-tourist-radar, but worth a visit.
4576 County Hwy 3280
Open 11 am-7 pm, closed Mon Tues
- Authentic biker bar – with motorcycle parts nailed to trees – way off the beaten path, but not too far from Santa Rosa Beach (12 miles) and Seaside (15 miles.) Limited menu but delicious food.
- On Black Creek, which leads to the Choctawhatchee Bay. Come by car, bike or boat.
- Live music often; check their website for the schedule.
240 Harbor Blvd.
Open daily 11 am-4 am
- With two other locations – midtown Nashville and east Nashville – The Red Door Saloon must be doing something really right! The Destin Red Door is located overlooking Destin Harbor, with indoor seating and outdoor seating under huge trees.
- Full bar, full menu – appetizers, dogs & brats, sandwiches, burgers, baskets and pizza. Smoking and vaping permitted.
731 Pensacola Beach Blvd
Open daily 10 am-3 am
Photo courtesy of Georgia Thompson
- The Sandshaker may not consider itself a dive bar – in fact it’s been voted Top 10 Florida Beach Bar for three years – but as the home of the Original Bushwacker, and the fact that they’re open until 3 am, and just that local bar feel, well, we think it’s the perfect blend of beach and dive.
- Not on the water but the beach is close by, and the second story observation deck gives you some pretty cool views.
- No food, but live music several days a week; check their website for the schedule.
1761 Beckett Way – at the end of the Beckett Way that is behind the Tarpon Animal Hospital, follow the dirt road
- Probably one of the divey-est bars on our list, the Boat Club building lists even when you haven’t had a drink, and truly looks like its about to fall into the Anclote River. Hard to find (they probably like it that way!) As you drive down the dirt road you’ll see a boat trapped in a big tree, from flooding in 1993; just a cool coincidence as the Boat Club has been around for over 30 years.
- Beer and wine in plastic cups, no food – though one reviewer mentioned free food for a donation? Hm. Music jams on Sundays and Mondays. We were cautioned to use the bathroom before visiting.
- Real old-Florida, off the beaten path, peaceful vibe under the trees. Don’t miss this one.
530 Douglas Ave.
Open Mon-Thurs 11 am-2 am, Fri Sat 11 am-3 am, Sunday 11 am-1 am
- The Pinellas Trail runs past the back of the parking lot; arrive by foot or by car – there is plenty of parking (unusual in Dunedin.)
- Low-key locals hangout with awesome local bands and DJ karaoke. Recently renovated, with indoor NON-SMOKING (unusual for a dive) seating and outdoor for smokers.
- Dog friendly!
6519 Midnight Pass Rd.
Open 10 am-2 am
- Classic, old-school (and just old; opened in 1949, or was 1946?) dive bar and package store across the street from the beach but you won’t know that in the squatty building, sitting indoors. Or watch the cars go by from the front porch. The opposite of a tourist spot, and the cheapest place to drink on Siesta Key.
- “Classic dive bar” also means smokey. On our dive bar tour we came to expect that, and after a few cold ones you really don’t notice it.
155 46th Ave
St. Pete Beach
Open 10 am-3 am Thurs-Sat, 10 am-2 am Sun-Wed
- Delightful ramshackle orange restaurant, one building off the highway across from the beach. Sit outside or in, where the walls are all a moody dark wood. Parking lot at the side and back; parking can be tight in peak season.
- The Drunken Clam’s small kitchen puts out a lot of delicious beach food; their specialty is “naked wings.” Super attentive waitresses and staff who pride themselves in knowing all the regulars.
- No smoking inside – smoke outside on the porch. No cigar smoking please.
THE FREEZER TIKI BAR
5590 S. Boulevard Dr.
Open Sun-Thurs 11:30 am-9 pm, Sat Sun 11:30 am-10 pm
Photo courtesy of Garret L. Harrod
- Located on a tributary that leads out to the Homosassa River, and a bit of a drive from civilization but worth it. You can sit on the dog-friendly deck with water views.
- Order at the window and they bring your food to your table. Known for their steamed shrimp and generous portions, the menu also includes hot dogs, clam chowder, steamed mussels, smoked mullet, and more. Cash only, there is an ATM. Your drinking dollars go far at this charming old Florida seafood dive bar.
951 Bald Eagle Dr.
Open at 9:30 am 365 days a year
- Built out over the water beside the Rose Marina, watch the boats come and go over a cold one. Mostly New England sports memorabilia but Yankees fans are also welcome.
- Beer and wine only, hot dogs, chili, and chowder. Friendly bartenders, chill atmosphere.
- One of the few places on Marco Island where patrons are allowed to smoke.
19201 Gulf Blvd.
- Probably the most colorful dive bar on our list. People seem to either hate it or love it – be forewarned it’s not the cleanest dive bar in the world. (Who uses “clean” and “dive bar” in the same sentence?) Indian Shores is a cute little town close to more touristy spots, and Mahuffer’s is on the busy Gulf Blvd., but when you step inside you’re in another world. Lots of underwear and other weird stuff hanging from the ceiling inside; there is an outside area as well. Don’t bring your kids (who thinks of “kids” and “dive bar” anyway?) One reviewer said “If you’re a prick or an entitled snowflake go elsewhere.” Since we are neither, we loved this place.
- No food though we heard they have free pizza one night a week (Sundays maybe?). Cheap, ice cold beer comes out of a cooler, and stiff mixed drinks can be had as well.
- And yes, it’s smoky.
THE PALACE SALOON
117 Centre St.
Open daily 12 pm-2 am
- It does seem a bit unfair to call this grande old dame a dive bar, as it is Florida’s oldest bar and is classy looking from the outside. Adolphus Bush (founder of Anheiser Busch) lent his creativity to the elegantly designed interior. Early patrons included Rockefellers and Carnegies.
- The Palace checks off most boxes for a dive bar experience: Smoky. Excellent bartenders. Live music at times. Happy people imbibing. Located in a bustling touristy downtown but also a local’s hangout.
114 8th Ave.
St. Pete Beach
Open 12 pm-3 am
- Most businesses in this area list themselves as “St. Pete Beach” but Shadrack’s is actually in Pass-a-Grille Beach, a lovely not-touristy town just south of St. Pete Beach. Shadrack’s is “World famous since 1972” with the “best bartenders in the whole wide world.” We’re not positive about the whole wide world, but the bartenders are pretty awesome.
- Shadrack’s is located on the quaint little downtown street of charming, mostly residential Pass-a-Grille, less than a block to the beach.
- Some reviewers complained “they don’t have craft beers!” but hey, this is a locals’ handout, a dive bar. Head just a little north for craft brews in St. Pete.
We all know that there is very little “under-the-tourist-radar” in the Florida Keys. The Keys themselves are such a vacationer’s magnet, plus there just isn’t enough land for much to be “locals’ only” or a “best kept secret.” (But check out our Best Kept Secret Tiki Bars in the Florida Keys anyway.) Some on our list may be kind of famous (or infamous) but they are still experience-worthy.
58000 Card Sound Rd.
Open daily 11 am-7 pm
Photo courtesy of the Florida Keys Public Library. This photo is from 1987 but the place hasn’t changed a whole lot since then!
- In business since 1947, Alabama Jack’s welcomes visitors to the Keys if you take the slow, narrow, mangrove swamp bordered Card Sound Rd (as opposed to zipping down Rt. 1.) Sitting partially on a floating barge, the place may seem like a just a typical biker bar by the looks of the vehicles in the parking lot. But notable patrons like Jimmy Buffet and Billy Joel have whiled away some time here, and so should you.
- Famous for their conch fritters and entertainment like the Oldie But Goody Cloggers and a band that has played there on weekends for eons – The Card Sound Band – this first outpost for the Keys is the best way to slow down into that Keys’ state of mind.
601 Whitehead St.
Open daily 10 am-4 am, Happy Hour Mon-Thurs 4-7, Fri 4-5:30
Photo courtesy of Justin Headley
- “A Sunny Place for Shady People” and an inspirational explanation of “Why We’re Shady” (so good I want to commit plagiarism!) greets you on their website (click their name above for a visit.)
- Built in 1890, the structure has been many, many things, and the beautifully written history (again, that writing!) that may bring tears to your eyes has one important constant: the community. Whether it was early transplants from Cuba and the Bahamas buying their groceries, then World War II sailors stopping in for a drink, or later a cast of hippies, bikers, artists and fishermen all commingling, the various incarnations of the Green Parrot always welcomed everyone.
- No food served but you’re encouraged to bring food, if you’d like, from any of the many restaurants surrounding the Green Parrot.
420 Applerouth Ln.
Open daily 11 am-4 am
- Not your typical dive bar, more of a friendly neighborhood bar who love their regulars and “first timers”; we hope Mary Ellen doesn’t mind that we’ve added her to our dive bar list. The fact that we’d never heard of this place piqued our interest, and also Applerouth Street?? Sounds like it could be in a tiny podunk town one street over from Great Aunt Olive’s, but it’s just a half block off of Duval!
- With NINE different grilled cheese sandwiches – their specialty – and better-than-mom’s tomato soup, you’ll be tempted to show up in your pj’s (one online reviewer did) but there is a lot more to choose from, check out their menu by clicking on their name above. Full bar, and fun events like Drunken Spelling Bees (I am so there next visit: when I die I know someone will get up and say “She was a great mom, and nice to everyone, but I’m telling you, that girl could spell.”)
30813 Watson Blvd.
Big Pine Key
Open daily 11 am-10:15 for dining, 11 am-11 pm in the bar
Photo courtesy of Lonni Besançon
- WAY off the beaten path – they’re famous for their “A nice place if you can find it” script – when you do get there you’ll see “You Found It” on the sign. Beginning in 1931 as a general store and bait and tackle shop, the Pub was born in 1936 when the owners added a small room to serve food and drinks. To boost profits the upstairs storage room was converted to a brothel in the late 1930s, which closed a few years later because “the fishermen were reported to be better looking than the ladies.”
- You might not expect such a remote location in a colorful old building to have rave reviews for their food, but ZAGAT’s survey has awarded No Name Pub top scores in their Casual Dining category for years. Popular choices are their pizza, fish dip, and key lime pie but their menu is extensive – starters, wings, sandwiches, burgers, pasta and baskets. Beer and wine only.
HARRY’S BANANA FARM
1919 N. Dixie Hwy.
Open Mon-Sat 11 am-2 am, Sun 1 pm-2 am
- Infamous for the sign out front with its ever changing statements, often controversial – “OBAMA 2016, JUST TO PISS YOU OFF” and “I TAUGHT CHRISTIAN GREY ALL THAT STUFF” – Harry’s Banana Farm is not a farm, just a dive bar that changed its name from “Harry’s Open Door Bar” when a local athletic team wouldn’t accept sponsorship from a bar. How can that not warm your heart? Speaking of warm: “CREMATION: THE ONLY TIME YOU’LL EVER HAVE A SMOKIN’ HOT BODY.”
- Smallish and smoky, Harry’s is the Lake Worth area’s go-to locals bar where the drinks are cheap and flow as fast as you can drink them.
7 S. Atlantic Ave., Suite C
Open daily 7 am-2pm
- You can literally hide away if you’re brave enough to walk down that dark hallway… Hunker Down Hideaway is located right behind the area’s most popular beach bar, Coconuts on the Beach, but you have to search a little to find it. We’d walked past it a million times without knowing it was there.
- Super friendly bartenders, with seasoned smokers/drinkers hanging out for a relaxing day (or early morning!) of drinking. Indoor and outdoor seating, some outdoor games. One of the best Bloody Mary Bars in Brevard County
- Live music often, check their Facebook page by clicking their name above.
201 Taft Ave.
Open Mon-Thurs 10 am-12 am, Fri Sat 10 am-2 am, Sun 12 pm-12 am
- Located a block and a half from the beach in a mostly residential neighborhood, Jumps is one of the area’s best kept secrets. Smallish on the inside, with the kind of kitschy decor that keeps one entertained while swilling the ice cold beer. The spacious side yard has outdoor seating along with a horseshoe pit, fire pit, corn hole etc.
- The bartenders are so welcoming and down to earth, the place feels like home (except for the smoke; the inside is smoky.) Our bartender wrote down a bunch more dive bars in the area we needed to check out. We felt like locals, even though a certain member of the Triple B team decided to dress like a tourist, as if he’d gotten lost on his way to a Jimmy Buffet concert… They didn’t blink an eye when we strolled in.
- Beer and wine only, live music on some nights.
KEY WEST BAR
2286 Florida A1A
Indian Harbour Beach
Open daily 11 am- 2 am
- We have to laugh because Key West Bar isn’t in Key West, and in fact is six hours away. But the colors are kind of Key West-y… Located right across the street from the beach, in front of a trailer park.
- “A five star dive bar” one reviewer heard the owner say he’s going to have printed on a t-shirt (I want one!) Friendly bartenders (yes, they all are on this list; otherwise we wouldn’t mention them) smoky inside, decent bar food, and live music on occasion. You will feel at home even if you do dress like a tourist.
LAST CHANCE BAR & PACKAGE
35800 S. Dixie Hwy.
Open daily 8 am-2:30 am
Photo courtesy of Martin Casado
- Your last chance for cheap drinks and a dive bar experience before entering the Keys. The fact that they open at 8 am tells you something (we’re not quite sure what…) A sign out front reads, among other amenities, “Inside Toilets.”
- Not beautiful from the outside – what dive bar is? – but don’t just drive by because of the plain jane face. Relaxed atmosphere, good friendly bartenders, and you can buy more booze for the road (to remain unopened, of course, until you reach your destination!)
5812 S. Ridgewood Ave.
Open Mon, Wed & Thurs 10:30 am-12 am, Tues 11 am- 9 pm, Fri & Sat 11 am-11 pm, Sun 10:30 am-12 am
Photo courtesy of Laureen @laureebell
- “Home of ice cold beer and killer women:” serial killer Aileen Wuornos drank her last beer and was arrested here after that beer in 1991. The 2003 film “Monster” is Aileen’s story. Starring Charlize Theron, some scenes were filmed at Last Resort.
- Many people visit because of that gruesome history, but Last Resort also has that friendly dive bar vibe and plenty of outdoor seating. Beer and wine only, no food. Cash only, bring yours as there is no ATM on site.
1942 Hollywood Blvd.
- Octopus Garden is located on the lovely tree lined Hollywood Boulevard surrounded by shops and restaurants; the last place you’d expect to find a pirate-themed dive bar with go-go dancers (is that what they call hiding in plain sight?) One rave review said “You can be yourself without judgement there. It’s a great place to make family!” while another cautioned “Great place not to find a wife or girlfriend.”
- As with all the dive bars on our list, the bartenders are friendly, the pours generous, and the vibe is welcoming and homey.
117 1st St.
- One of the most historical and infamous dive bars in Florida, in business since 1933, Pete’s is the oldest continuously operating tavern in north east Florida. Mentioned in John Grisham’s The Brethren, Pete’s is also on the list of places where Ernest Hemingway is rumored to have tipped back a few. Situated in the middle of a revitalized and hip downtown filled with upscale shops and restaurants, Pete’s has stubbornly preserved its authentic character and dive bar soul. Read more about Pete and how he may have been a bootlegger during prohibition (don’t you love people with a checkered past?) on JaxPsychoGeo, and also on Jacksonville.com.
- Smoky inside, heavy pours and no-nonsense bartenders. Cash only; there is an ATM. No food here, but step outside, stroll around Beaches Town Center and you’ll have almost more choices than you can handle.
We know we’ve left out many of your favorites! So may dive bars, so little time. Let us know in the comments. Just don’t suggest we add the one in south Florida with no windows and adult movies playing on the televisions.
Oh and, The Wet Spot is located in Palm Bay, and though we’ve read good reviews, we were afraid to go in… What about you?