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The Ultimate Waterfront Dining Experience: South Hutchinson Island

Locals Know Best

 

A glittering ocean. Bright, sunny beaches. These are the two main reasons people flock to South Hutchinson Island during season. But if you’re locals like me and my fiancée Joel, your love for the island extends deep into the summer. When it’s finally time to dust off the sand and dry your hair, your stomach’s probably rumbling. Luckily, South Hutchinson packs over seven different restaurants into a three mile radius.

From the fresh catch of the day to luscious tropical drinks, it’s a joy to explore some of Florida’s finest drinks and seafood — so that’s what Joel and I did right in our own backyard.

Manatee Island Bar and Grill

Our adventure started at Manatee Island Bar and Grill, known to locals as The Manatee. Our hostess swept us into a dining room full of old Florida charm, featuring rich hardwood, tin beer signs, and mounted fish all over the walls.

The best part? The entire west wall of the Manatee has huge glass windows, offering up a great view of the sparkling ocean outside.

Joel and I chowed down on smoked fish dip and shared an Island Crasher mixed drink. We watched boats play cruise by while pelicans wheeled above. Waterfront dining — but with the added comfort of air conditioning.

Of all the fish dip on the island (and there’s plenty), the Manatee does it best. It’s a heaping scoop of locally smoked fish, garnished with tomato slices, celery, and onion, so fresh you can taste the ocean.

And the Island Crasher is the perfect mixed drink for sipping while watching the sea, with notes of coconut, tropical fruit, and an orange slice on the rim.

The Manatee’s dining room offers upbeat, old-Florida charm.

Ocean-fresh fish dip! 

Know Before You Go:

The Manatee is a little more formal than the rest of the restaurants. It can get chilly with the air conditioning. Make sure you change into something with a little more coverage than a swimsuit.

It also offers an outdoor seating area, and often features live entertainment from the island-famous Checkmate Band.

On the Edge

On the Edge features the closest seating to the water you can get without falling in. A three-building cluster shaped like tiki huts, it’s perched right where the land meets the water. Seriously. You can pull your boat up to the docks just outside the restaurant — that’s how close the water is. But no one was pulled up at the moment, unless you count the pelicans preening on the dock posts.

Joel and I settled into our cabana-style seating, enjoying the smell of salt, the fresh breeze, and the paddle-fans slowly circulating the air above us.

We ordered a drink each. His, the Dragonfly, was light pink and sweet, flavored with strawberry, pineapple, and lemon-lime soda. Mine, the Blue Dolphin, was rich, coconutty, and full of rum. The bright neon blue of my drink looked like the water of our panoramic view..

By the time we split our fried chicken tacos with pineapple salsa, we were feeling pretty good.

Sit in the sand at On the Edge!

The Blue Dolphin and the Dragonfly at On the Edge pack plenty of tropical flavor.

On the Edge’s tasty fried chicken tacos with pineapple salsa and cilantro sauce. Also pictured: light, crispy fries.

Know Before You Go:

The hostess will ask if you want to sit upstairs or downstairs. If you choose downstairs, you’ll sit at a table directly on the white sand, inches away from the water. There’s a blue tarp strung overhead to keep the sun off of you.

Also, the fries are dusted with parmesan and parsley. They’re amazing.

The Square Grouper

The sun sets on a Strawberry Daiquiri and Dirty Monkey at the Square Grouper.

We wanted to finish off our evening in style, so we headed to the Square Grouper.

The first thing locals and visitors alike notice is the lush landscaping. Walking up to the Grouper is like walking into an ancient jungle, until you get up the stairs — then it turns into tropical paradise.

We got carded at the door, and then headed for the bar in the center. The Square Grouper’s “inside” is  totally open-air, and has colorful tables strewn across white sand, and with three different bars to choose from.

While not as close to the water as On the Edge, Joel and I could still sit back and enjoy our drinks beneath towering palm trees and fairy lights while watching the water. We toasted our cups — Strawberry Daiquiri for him, banana-flavored Dirty Monkey for me — as the sun slipped below the waves.

Life and food on South Hutchinson Island is good.

Know Before You Go:

The Square Grouper offers a huge variety of tasty frozen drinks, but it’s not for kids. Patrons all get carded at the entrance. No one under 21 is allowed inside.

There’s also no wait staff, so order your own drink, wait, and then sit down at a table.

There are so many reasons to visit South Hutchinson Island, but even more reasons to stay. Who knows? Next time you visit, the island’s delicious food and drink might keep you here longer than you planned…and that’s a good thing.

Miranda Jade Friel is a freelance business copywriter under the name JFCopy. As a resident of South Hutchinson Island, she enjoys long walks on the beach and sampling the native cuisine with her fiancee, Joel. You can often find her at the Fort Pierce Farmer’s Market or local festivals.