20 Waterfront Restaurants
St. Johns River, Florida
20 Day Trip Ideas, Maps and Photos
Food, Views, Old Florida
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Loughman Lakeside Restaurant & Bar
Emerging from wetlands southwest of Melbourne, this section of the St. Johns was once a bass fishing mecca. Drainage canals and farming destroyed much of the natural wetlands. However, river restoration projects have been underway and conditions have improved dramatically. All 5 of the venues along the river here were old Florida fish camps. Today, all 5 are making a comeback with airboat eco-tours, food, drink, and weekend music.
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
Note:: Due to flooding from Hurricane Ian, this location advises they are closed until further notice. Please check website before visiting for current status.
Salt Creek is a tributary of the St. Johns flowing through Loughman Lake. This lakeside restaurant (formerly Loughman Lake Lodge) has re-opened under new ownership with a farm-to-table, southern inspired menu. A large covered bar area overlooks the lake. Open Friday-Sunday (subject to change at a later date). Future plans include a campground and eco-tours. The upper St. Johns was world famous for bass fishing, and the property originally built as a fish camp in the 1950s. This was before marshes to the south were drained for farming (now a restoration area). The last remnants of the original fish camp were removed when a new restaurant and store were built in 2010. The property is well off the beaten path (see map) but worth the trip for the 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!
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