21 Waterfront Restaurants

St. Johns River, Florida

21 Day Trip Ideas, Maps and Photos

Food, Views, Old Florida


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South River Region... Dine with Gators

5 Waterfront Restaurants

Emerging from wetlands southwest of Melbourne, FL, the South Region (aka "upper section") of the St. Johns River was once a bass fishing mecca. The eateries here were once old Florida fish camps. Then drainage and farming destroyed much of the wetlands. Today, river restoration projects have been underway for years and conditions have improved dramatically. Former fish camps are now laid-back restaurants and entertainment venues, some with weekend music. Airboat eco-tours are increasingly popular.

Camp Holly... www.campholly.com 6901 U.S. 192, Melbourne, FL 32904 (2.8 mi. west of I-95)

First built in the 1920s, this fish camp is undergoing a reincarnation. The parking area has been raised and improved. The colorful and entertaining new look includes a Tiki bar, gift shop, boat launch, observation deck, and weekend music. An indoor restaurant is in the works, but for now a food truck on site provides sandwiches and other fare. Tour boats include a few smaller (some say more fun) airboats. (Latest update: August 2020).

Lone Cabbage... www.twisterairboatrides.com/fishcamp.html  8199 SR 520, Cocoa, FL 32926

West of Cocoa, near Orlando and Disney, airboat tourism is big here. Great water view, weekend music, and a variety of inexpensive food make this a popular getaway with locals. Beer is cold. Wine comes in plastic cups; the two options are red and white. A few "old Florida" buildings remain, providing fond memories. Tip: On the opposite side of the highway is a County Park with sweeping vista (and maybe a gator), with boardwalk/fishing pier next to boat ramp.

Loughman Lakeside Restaurant & Bar... www.facebook.com/loughmanlakesiderestaurant  1955 Hatbill Rd., Mims, FL 32754

Featuring expansive views, this lakeside restaurant is a hidden gem, with a farm-to-table, southern inspired menu. An outdoor covered bar area overlooks the lake, which feeds into the St Johns. Open Friday-Sunday (may change at later date). We enjoyed the grouper, gator bites, chowder, and fried green tomatoes, and the generous portions. Friendly staff and great views - a fun daytrip.

Surrounded by a vast scenic preserve, this is easily the most remote restaurant in Central Florida. The upper St. Johns was once world famous for bass fishing, and in the 1950's a fish camp and lodge was built on the property. The last remnants of the original fish camp were removed when a new restaurant and store were built in 2010. The property is off the beaten path (see map), but worth a trip for the food and views.

Jolly Gator... www.facebook.com/thejollygator  4650 E. State Rd 46, Geneva, FL 32732

This location offers expansive, unobstructed views along the waterway. Here the river becomes slightly larger, as the Econlockhatchee River enters about a mile upstream (south). For eats, definitely try the swamp cabbage. We also enjoyed the gator, a rare opportunity for blackened not fried. Most locally raised, but wild gator too during hunting season (8/15-11/1), so occasional chewier pieces in season, but still tasty.) The jam sessions on the 1st and 3rd Sundays are fun. (Jolly Gator, 11/20/2017, 2 min. Jam Session Video , a "cornucopia of musical talent.") Independent airboat tours operate from County Park.

Black Hammock... http://www.theblackhammock.com   2356 Black Hammock Fish Camp Rd, Oviedo, FL 32765

Near Oviedo, located off the main river channel on Lake Jesup, this former fish camp has reinvented itself as a mini-attraction that kids of all ages will enjoy. Feed the parrots. Use a hot dog to "fish" for alligators. Take an airboat ride. Cool off in the bar and gift shop. Plus, a restaurant that uses real plates, metal utensils, and wine glasses. Civilization at last!

Locator Map... South River Region
Food, Drink, Airboats, Gators

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