Venturing on a culinary exploration within the Emerald Coast is always a delight. In most places, the restaurant scene is diverse, vibrant, and uniquely influenced by the region’s coastal geography.

Whether you’re looking for a place to have a hearty breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you’ll be spoiled for options, and they vary from an impressive array of laid-back establishments to fine dining spots. Also, as this is the Emerald Coast, there’s plenty of al-fresco and beachfront dining, which means you can have a lovely meal feeling the sea breeze or even soaking in the views — what more could you want for a holiday dining experience on the Gulf Coast?

Wondering what are the top restaurants to hit in the Emerald Coast? This blog will bring Emeyou a curated selection of the best restaurants in Panama City Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, & Miramar Beach.

Get ready to feast!



The Best restaurants in Panama City Beach, FL


Sitting a few steps away from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this romantic and upscale seafood spot offers a lovely dining experience in a spacious area under a lit-up oak tree.

The ever-evolving menu is an interesting fusion. For instance, starters like the jumbo lump crab cake and Kobe carpaccio are potent to get you prepared for mains that include a rack of elk, grilled Gulf grouper, and smoked bison short rib. Wondering about dessert? The chocolate frangipane tart and the crème brûlée are must-tries.

The place is famous for Chef Derek Langford’s interpretation of “gulf to table” dishes. There’s a sushi bar and an excellent list of wines and cocktails. The food is fresh, native, and flavorful, and the service is impeccable. Not just any beach restaurant!



Bella Roma Tuscan Grill

Craving some authentic Italian cuisine in Panama City Beach? Head to Bella Roma Tuscan Grill. The chef learned his tricks from his mom and Nona on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, so you’re guaranteed a treat.

The intimate diner-style booths in the dining room are lovely, and you can also choose to sit on the patio, both with a chill atmosphere. The menu features premium pastas and pizzas, all with traditional flavors and an exciting twist. An all-time favorite is the Spaghetti Pescatore. We also highly suggest you leave some space for dessert — they have some amazing classics like tiramisu, cannoli, and zesty limoncello cake.

The service is great, and if you have any dietary restrictions, the staff is usually pretty accommodating. In the end, do as the Italians do, order an Espresso Martini!


The Grand Marlin

Coastal cuisine with views over the water, anyone? Located in the picturesque Port Lagoon area, The Grand Marlin in Panama City Beach is the place to go.

Besides some delicious island cocktails, the menu features the highest quality cuisine, from crispy lobster fingers and Oysters Rockefeller to seared swordfish and fried Gulf shrimp. Desserts like key lime pie and red velvet cake are also popular. Everything is fresh, as the menu varies daily to reflect what comes from the sea. There’s an oyster bar, and the cocktail list is great. The vibe is island-like and casual, so you can sport your beach fashion and even flip-flops if you’d like.

Oh, sunset dining is a true hit in this one — you’ll get the first-row seat for nature’s daily spectacle, but be sure to book in advance.



Pineapple Willy’s 

Serving fresh seafood since 1984, this on-the-sand spot is a local favorite, offering po’boys, alligator bites, and frozen drinks while boasting big TVs for sports enthusiasts.

They are very well known for their Caribbean salad, “world-famous” barbecue ribs, and their Chilly Willy Daiquiris. Another good part? The restaurant is housed in a piece of history that was once a pier opened in 1936 for sightseers and fishermen. Now it has become a dining area with some of the best views of the Gulf Coast; you’ll be right above the sand and the water while enjoying a quaint and tranquil Florida setting.


The Best Restaurants in Fort Walton Beach, FL

Stewby’s Seafood Shanty

A long-time local favorite, this casual family eatery spot is all about offering a laid-back experience without compromising the cuisine. The menu offers a diverse selection of seafood classics at reasonable prices.

In the outdoor seating area, you can enjoy the warm breeze at picnic tables, or opt for cozy indoor seating.

Their fish tacos are a must-try. Other great options include grilled shrimp, grilled flounder, grouper and flounder sandwiches, and fish tacos. Most options come with good sides like coleslaw and potato salad.

For most mains, you can choose baskets, or platters, or opt to enjoy them as a sandwich or tacos. Most options go well with good sides like coleslaw and potato salad. Everything is fresh and locally sourced, coming straight from the docks nearby. Not a fancy place, but definitely one that carries the locally approved seal.


The Gulf Okaloosa Island

Perched on the edge of Okaloosa Island, this stylish bayside hangout for seafood and cocktails combines breathtaking views with fresh seaside cuisine – a match made in heaven. They have both indoor and outdoor areas, with open-air seating providing the classic Emerald Coast experience that people look for.

The decor boasts shipping containers and reclaimed recycled building materials, all set against palm trees and beach sand, giving the impression of eating in someone’s quirky backyard.

The menu changes with the seasons and features options like the Lobster Shrimp Roll or the Voodoo Pasta. Like many of its peers, there is a commitment to serving locally sourced and fresh food.

This is another great option for beautiful sunset dining, and the atmosphere is always enhanced by great music and staff friendliness.



The Best Restaurants in Destin, FL

Boshamps Seafood and Oyster House

Located on Destin’s harbor, Boshamps, as this spot is called by locals, offers casual seating with two bars and very nice water views with boats moored. You can sit indoors or outdoors.

Got kids in tow? They usually like this place, especially because they can play on the sand while you have your drink by the bar listening to some live music.

The menu features southern-style seafood and Angus steaks. The pan-roasted Gulf grouper is a favorite option, as are the Oysters Rockefeller. But you should also try their sandwiches, especially the southern-style seafood and Angus steaks. The staff is also happy to suggest kid-friendly options and vegetarian alternatives.

The bar has a variety of drink options. This one is all about kicking back and enjoying the laid-back Florida vibes.

Captain Dave’s On the Gulf

Captain Dave’s is a typical seafood eatery, a pretty airy restaurant with more water views for you. In business since 1968, they focus on American seafood with a Gulf Coast twist, offering classic fried, grilled, and broiled seafood dishes. Make sure to ask what the daily special is.

Their floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel like you’re right on the shore, even if you sit inside, and their welcoming hospitality will make a real difference in your dining experience. Oh, there’s also a full-service bar with a spacious lounge, perfect for a drink after a satisfying dinner.



Harbor Docks

Another fantastic waterfront hangout with deck seating, great seafood, and sushi, this time in Destin, is Harbor Docks. In business for nearly 45 years, this one is a total local gem. The restaurant has its own local market just below the dining area — talking about fresh food, right?

The Fried Seafood Platters are a great order; they serve the catch of the day together with hand-cut fries, coleslaw, and hushpuppies. They also infuse their offering with a well-suited Asian flavor. The Japanese menu includes rolls, pokes, sashimi, and nigiri, and the Thai Pad Thai is very popular.

With its nice atmosphere, longstanding tradition in service, and good views of the Destin Harbor, Harbor Docks is a go-to spot in Destin, especially if you are into sushi!


The Best Restaurants in Miramar Beach, FL

Lillie’s Q

In the mood for some smoked meats, mouth-watering sauces, and rubs? Lillie’s Q is for you then. This rustic Thai spot is a favorite of locals and visitors alike for its BBQ meats, Southern fare, and housemade moonshine cocktails.

Among the must-tries are the excellent BBQ pulled pork sandwich, the potato salad, the baked beans, the brisket, the homemade sauces, and the cole slaw, but really, everything is cooked to perfection, so do try around. If the day is nice, it’s a great idea to sit on the outdoor porch, enjoy your meal, and just soak in the environment around you.


Best Restaurants in Panama City Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, & Miramar Beach

Hungry yet? With these tips for the best restaurants along the Emerald Coast, you will make your visit to the region worthwhile for the culinary experience alone. Whenever you plan to visit this Florida paradise, make sure to look for a guide on the best eateries in Panama City Beach, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, & Miramar Beach.

Every now and then, a new place pops up offering a new take on local cuisine and bridging more experimental flavors from across the world.



Wondering where to stay on the Emerald Coast during your visit?

Book your stay with Emerald Coast Vacation Rentals. We offer an unmatched selection of vacation rental properties to suit every traveler’s taste. Whether you’re looking for a beachfront condominium, pet-friendly rentals, or a charming beachside cottage, we have you covered.

Our properties are strategically located, which means you’ll be steps away from idyllic beaches, great dining options, exquisite golf courses, and an array of outdoor pursuits like deep-sea fishing, dolphin tours, and more. That’s the secret to a perfect Emerald Coast Gateway!