21 Waterfront Restaurants

St. Johns River, Florida

21 Day Trip Ideas, Maps and Photos

Food, Views, Old Florida


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North Central Region

6 Waterfront Restaurants






Shortly after exiting Lake Monroe in Sanford, the St. Johns bends to the right and returns to it's northerly path. In this region, the west side of the river is mostly preserved as either State or National Forest. After passing the Ocala National Forest, the St. Johns widens as it enters a section of the river known as the Devil's Bend (Palatka FL). If you're looking for a taste of Old Florida, in a laid-back atmosphere with tall oaks and Spanish moss, then the north-central region of the St. Johns has some locations you are sure to enjoy.

Swamphouse Grill... www.swamphousegrill.com 4380 Carraway Pl. Sanford FL 32771 (next to Highbanks Marina)

This is a long way from the small fish camps in the South region. Located next to a public boat ramp, the Highbanks Marina and Camp Resort is a 25 acre complex with over 2300 feet of river frontage. Popular with boaters, the restaurant and Tiki bar do a booming business on weekends. Parking can be scarce at peak hours, so plan accordingly. Boating eco-tours operate by appointment. Huge menu. Plenty of seating inside or out. The crowd tend to lessen an hour or two before sunset. That's when we recommend visiting.

St. Johns River Grill... www.stjohnsmarinaresort.com 2997 State Road 44 W DeLand, FL 32720 (next to St. Johns Marina)

Located just off SR44 west of DeLand, the St. Johns River Grill is located riverside at the end of the drive, past campground, boat ramp, marina and marine store. The restaurant and bar are spacious, with a large screened-in patio hosting live music on weekends. For a great view, check out the cozy upper deck. The river and Seminole State Forest provide your backdrop. Near sunset, listen for forest critters rustling. This is a major wildlife corridor, with Hontoon Island and Blue Springs State Parks to the south, and the Ocala National Forest to the north. (Nearby are many places to kayak on clear spring runs: www.paddleflorida.net ).

The Old Sugar Mill Pancake House... Florida State Parks-DeLeon Springs   601 Ponce De Leon Blvd., De Leon Springs, FL 32130 (at DeLeon Springs State Park)

Located at DeLeon Springs State Park (headwaters for Spring Garden Creek, which feeds into the St. Johns River), the restaurant is famous for griddle cakes - each table is equipped with a grill and a pitcher of batter is provided. (State Park entrance fee required.) The restaurant serves until 3:00 p.m. daily, with a limited menu of breakfast items, sandwiches, and salads. The waits can be long, especially on weekends (or, a take-put window is available). This is a unique and historic place! Inhabited by Native Americans for over 6,000 years, the original mill was built in the 1800's and rebuilt in 1900. The spring became an attraction in the late 1800's, renamed from Spring Garden to Ponce de Leon Springs and the Fountain of Youth to attract tourists. (DeLeon Springs State Park is also popular for kayaking: https://www.paddleflorida.net )

Drifters Riverfront Bar & Grill... www.driftersriverfront.com 55716 Front St. Astor FL 32102 (next to bridge) (formerly, Blackwater Inn)

Drifters Riverfront Bar & Grill is located in Astor on the southwest side of the US 40 bridge over the St. Johns's, across from the Astor Marina. There are seating and bars both downstairs and up, with outside seating available upstairs - however, upstairs is for adults 18+ only. Great. riverfront views and wildlife viewing (we've seen birds, turtles and alligators). The Ocala National Forest and a State Preserve surround the tiny town, which for nature lovers makes this a worthwhile day-trip destination.

Renegade's on the River... www.renegadesontheriver.com   1171 County Rd. 309, Crescent City FL 32112

Located on the River along CR 309 (off U.S. Hwy 17) near Crescent City, this relatively new gem is being found based on the crowd we saw - on one trip the wait at the restaurant was so long we decided to pass and returned on another day that was NOT bike week. We did take a good look around. Renegade's is an updated complex on the site of an Old Florida fish camp. It has just about everything - restaurant and Tiki bar, marina, boat slips, launch, modern cabins and RV sites. This stretch of the St. Johns River is known for its bass fishing and fishing still appears to be an important component of Renegade's. Definitely an upgrade from the fish camps of old.

Corky Bell's Seafood... www.corkybellsseafood.com   185 South Highway 17, East Palatka, FL 32131

This is a beautiful location overlooking the "devil's elbow" section of the St. Johns. The restaurant is spacious. The owners have been at this for awhile. We found the food to be excellent. Large deck and outside bar, shaded by big moss-draped oaks. One of our favorites. Check it out on a cool, sunny afternoon. Expect crowds on weekends.

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