Traveling to Florida means dining by the water. These top 10 scenic waterfront restaurants in Sarasota, Siesta Key and Longboat Key are offering a variety of food from fresh seafood to vegan dishes.

There are many great restaurants in the heart of downtown Sarasota and other places throughout the city. Sometimes, though, you want to be right on the water, with a view as delightful as any fresh seafood or creative vegan dish.

With that in mind, we compiled a list of our 10 favorite spots for waterfront dining in Sarasota. These are restaurants enjoyed by tourists and locals alike, the kinds of places we bring our out-of-town guests when we want to make a special memory, or, you know, just show off. These are restaurants with first-floor dining areas, many accessible by land or sea. 

For this Sarasota list, we’ve included Siesta Key as well as the Sarasota County portion of Longboat Key. We’ll be showcasing the most scenic restaurants in South Sarasota County (Venice-Osprey) as well as Manatee County in the near future.

The Boatyard Waterfront Bar and Grill

1500 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota; 941-921-6200; boatyardwaterfrontgrill.com

About a mile west of that monster intersection of South Tamiami Trail and Stickney Point Road, you'll find the The Boatyard, nestled on the Sarasota side of the Intracoastal Waterway, adjacent to the south Siesta Key bridge. Featuring a cozy inside bar and indoor dining area as well as an open-air deck, it's a fun place for a laid-back lunch, dinner or perhaps cocktails paired with the popular "island nachos."

Dry Dock Waterfront Grill

412 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key; 941-383-0102; geckosgrill.com/dry-dock-waterfront-grill

Recently named one of the “100 Most Scenic Restaurants in America for 2019” by OpenTable, Dry Dock is tucked away at the Boathouse marina. Offering second story dining area as well as dockside patio seating, it's best known for fresh seafood dishes such as the grouper sandwich and grouper tacos — and don't forget about the daily happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m.

Jack Dusty

1111 Ritz Carlton Drive, Sarasota; 941-309-2266; ritzcarlton.com

Offering waterfront seating, indoors and out, on the first floor of the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Sarasota, Jack Dusty has done a fine job of creating a nautical-themed space that's at once casual and chic, with an inviting, Florida feel. The menu largely focuses on Gulf seafood and the spectacular bar overlooking the water serves some of the city's best craft cocktails.

Marina Jack

2 Marina Plaza, Sarasota; 941-365-4232; marinajacks.com

The only fine-dining destination on downtown Sarasota's Bayfront, Marina Jack's second floor is where to have steaks, seafood and pasta in a more formal setting overlooking the bay. The most popular spot, and our favorite, is downstairs on the Blue Sunshine Patio, where T-shirt, shorts and flip flops are totally acceptable. Have a sandwich (such as the California chicken with bacon and avocado on a pretzel bun, $15), a tropical drink or two, and enjoy the view while listening to great local live music, which starts daily between 5 and 7 p.m.

New Pass Grill and Bait Shop

1505 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota; 941-388-3050; newpassgrill.com

If you're seeking Old Florida charm in Sarasota, you have to stop by New Pass Grill and Bait Shop on City Island. Sit dockside while enjoying the beloved burger and cold beers (at very reasonable prices) or perhaps breakfast at this local landmark that dates back to 1929. Take note: It's open daily at 7 a.m. and closes every day at 5 p.m.

Old Salty Dog

1601 Ken Thompson Parkway, Sarasota; 941-388-4311; theoldsaltydog.com

Also located on City Island overlooking the New Pass Inlet, Old Salty Dog serves a full menu of fresh seafood, delicious bloody marys and much more we recommend. But at least once you must try the "Famous Salty Dog," a quarter-pound hot dog dipped in batter and fried to a golden brown. Feeling brave? Order the "Loaded Salty Dog" featured on a classic episode of “Man v. Food.” 

O’Leary’s Tiki Bar and Grill

5 Bayfront Drive, Sarasota; 941-953-7505; olearystikibar.com

Located right on Bayfront Park by sister restaurant Marina Jack, O’Leary’s provides a most-welcome tropical retreat from bustling downtown Sarasota, located basically right across the road. Enjoy a margarita and cheeseburger while one of the local singers plays a familiar song — yes, maybe one of those Jimmy Buffett ones — and survey beautiful Sarasota Bay, dotted with moored sailboats occupied by folks who have likely quit the rat race. Pro tip: The ice cold $3 Bud Light drafts at the tiki bar are definitely one of the better deals around, at least for waterfront drinking.

Ophelia's on the Bay

9105 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota; 941-349-2212; opheliasonthebay.net

There are lots of great dining options near world-famous Siesta Beach, but if you want fine waterfront dining on Siesta Key, be sure to make a dinner reservation at Ophelia's, which also serves Sunday brunch. Looking for a great deal on food and drinks? Perhaps some mouthwatering lobster poutine for just 12 bucks? Stop by between 5 and 6 p.m. for the daily hour deals served in the bar and lounge.

Phillippi Creek Village Restaurant & Oyster Bar

5353 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota; 941-925-4444; creekseafood.com

Spend any time driving along South Tamiami Trail and you're bound to notice the sign for the dining destination on Phillippi Creek, which, once you’re seated down there on the water, feels far removed from the highway. It's an Old Florida setting with picnic table options for families or an inside bar for adults. Fresh seafood and oysters are the main attractions on the menu filled with platters, pots, sandwiches, soups, salads and various appetizers including fried gator.

Turtles Restaurant

8875 Midnight Pass Road, Sarasota; 941-346-2207; turtlesrestaurant.com

Open since 1986, Turtles on south Siesta Key overlooking Little Sarasota Bay, offers waterfront dining in an Old Florida setting replete with coconut palms and parakeets. The menu ranges from seafood to prime rib, all at reasonable prices. Plus, there's happy hour, with $2.99 bar appetizers, from 3 to 6 p.m., as well as an entire early dinner special menu during the same time period with meals priced from $10.99 to $14.99. Also, don't forget about the $10.99 Sunday brunch with complimentary bloody mary or mimosa.

This story originally published to heraldtribune.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network.