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Best bars in Florida: the strangest, wildest places to visit across the state

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You’ve heard of Florida Man, now get ready for the Florida Bar.

Photo courtesy of Flora-Bama

Make whatever Florida jokes you want, but one thing we do better than any other state is pure fun. Where else can you watch alligator wrestling in the morning, ride the Incredible Hulk roller coaster in the afternoon, and end the day with a walk on the beach and probably more alligator wrestling? Since these activities are often associated with alcohol from our inordinate number of weird bars, it’s pretty hard not to have a good, albeit weird, time.

These tropical waterholes are Sunshine State legends – iconic spots that sit tiptoe between the dive bar and the fish shack, with tons of history and an unrivaled atmosphere. From the Panhandle to the Keys, here are a dozen Florida bars not to be missed.

Photo courtesy of Flora-Bama
Key Perdido
If the stateline pun isn’t your best topic, here’s an introduction: This bar sits right on the Florida-Alabama border at the Florida end, a destination for spring breakers, bikers or anyone who wants to see what a seaside truck stop would look like if MC Escher designed it. The multi-story Flora-Bama complex is a labyrinth of license plates and hanging bras, with several music stages and bars stretching from the main entrance to the sand. It is also the house of the annual Mullet Throw Weekend Festival, a competition to see who can throw a fish the furthest across state lines. And if you want to experience the Bama with a side of the gospel, the place also hosts weekly church services on Sundays. And yes, the bar is open.
Nap key
While this luxury island off the coast of Sarasota has become synonymous with privileged teens thanks to the television show of the same name, the legendary Siesta Key Oyster Bar couldn’t be further from this scene. Here you’ll find residents of the Salt Gulf Coast stationed under a forest of dollar bills, just steps from a stretch of sand once considered the best in the world. It was also the site of one of Florida’s most committed crimes, when Florida man Danny Limongelli broke in and stole $ 150 in singles from the walls. He was arrested when he attempted to use the stolen memorabilia to buy – what else – a sub-pub.
Jupiter
Floridians know that the name of this waterfront bar on the Intracoastal has nothing to do with fish. It’s a reference to a Coast Guard term for the floating cannabis balls, dropped with alarming regularity into the waterway during the height of cannabis smuggling to Florida in the 1970s. further than that; in the 1890s it was a hotel and lounge for snowbirds on trains and steamboats. Today it’s a spacious tiki bar and live music patio, the efficient social hub of northern Palm Beach County, and pretty much the best place to hang out in Jupiter. It was also the backdrop for Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet’s video for “It’s five o’clock somewhere. “
Lantana
This bright green Bahamian icon sits next to Ocean Avenue, where guests enter through a historic house built in 1889 in the now extinct Dade County Pine. And just like in 1889, there is no air conditioning, with only the wind from the waterfront patio and the cold beers behind the bar to keep you cool. You’ll also be shaded by an authentic Seminole Chickee hut, built under the supervision of Seminole chef James Billie to replace the old roof after Hurricane Wilma ripped it off in 2005. Even without a roof, owner Wayne Cordero opened the next day to help first responders respond to the storm.
Marco Island
Stan’s has the distinction of being the only bar on this list with its own dance: the infamous Buzzard lope, named after a song written by founder Stan Gober. The bar even hosted a beauty pageant in honor of the tune, crowning a Queen Buzzard Lope at the end of the festivities. Stan passed away in 2012, but his son Steve keeps the legacy alive, packing this sprawling two-story bar with live bands and thirsty patrons every day of the week except Mondays. The big annual event here is the Mullet Festival, which has nothing to do with early ’90s hairstyle and everything to do with three days of fresh fish and Florida-style partying.
Ft. Lauderdale
No Bar Captures Ft. Lauderdale’s Spring Break legacy looks like the 83-year-old Elbo Room. It was a filming location for the classic Where are the boys, and the march following his release saw nearly 400 students arrested as thousands flocked to the now famous seaside dive. Next year, Life magazine famous captured another student swing on a lamppost outside the bar. The two-story icon always hosts groups on a regular basis, and while Laurderdale Beach never runs short of great dives, none are as steeped in young American history and fueled by bad decisions like Elbo Room.
Miami Beach
Some iconic Florida bars are crossed by a cool ocean breeze. Mac’s has a constant cloud of smoke which everyone agrees has been around since the 1950s. The Deuce is a South Beach legend, opening its pastel and neon doors in 1926 and living through the Rat Pack era to back in the days of cocaine cowboys and South Beach glamor. Miami vice held its closing night here. It has stayed open during hurricanes, avoided development, and still welcomes guests for its morning happy hour from 8am to 7pm.
Property
“Last Chance” is a bit of a misnomer, as anyone driving from the southern tip of mainland Florida to the Keys knows there is no shortage of places to find alcohol. But this is the last place to buy liquor that is priceless Keys so it’s basically the tradition to stock up here for a weekend on a boat or at a beach house. It’s also a classic pre-game spot for the descent (drivers excluded, obviously), as deer heads, skeletons, kitschy signs, and sarcastic bartenders make it easy to transition from city life to laid-back islands.
Largo key
Humphrey Bogart takes his bars seriously – and if the life-size statue of the 1940s movie legend in this Key Largo landmark isn’t enough, you may need to adjust your standards for oceanfront dive bars by. Florida. The original Caribbean Club was built as an exclusive getaway for the rich and famous, and was a major filming location for the 1947 Bogey and Bacall classic. Largo key. Apparently, it was also a meeting place for the stars during the filming..
Today, it’s a sunny bar on the bay side of the Overseas Highway, where a breezy indoor-outdoor setup allows daytime drinkers to soak up the sun without further shielding their skin. The Key Lime Rum Punch is the drink for you, but beware: more than one may require a nap under a palm tree on one of the oversized chairs in the back.
Large pine key
No one stumbles upon the No Name Pub, as the bright yellow bar inhabits a long drive off the Overseas Highway on the little-visited Big Pine Key. The ceiling dripping with dollar bills will tell you a lot of people have managed to find the place, but it’s far enough off the beaten track that, unless you’re walking past a big pack of bikers, it there are rarely people. It is also the best stop for lunch on a road trip in the Florida Keys. Pizza is rightfully the best bar pie in the state and arguably the best pizza of all kinds in all of the Keys. Roll for a cold and a slice on your way to Key West, and it will instantly become a must stop on any drive on US-1.
Key West
The entire island of Key West is pretty much a giant dive in Florida, but none so steeped in legend and lore as that of Captain Tony. Ernest Hemingway stole a urinal from here. The building was once a mortuary and still has bodies under the floor. The ghost of an adulterous woman lurks in the hallways. The tree in the middle of the bar was once the city’s gallows. The list goes on. Plus, Jimmy Buffet made his debut here, and even gives it his ode in “Last Mango in Paris”.
His Route Map
Savvy Southern Floridians know that on busy Florida Keys weekends the best place to wait for traffic to end is Alabama Jack’s. Tucked away a few miles on Card Sound Road – the alternate route from Florida City to Key Largo that bypasses the two-lane Overseas Highway – this swampy fish shack is like a trip back to pre-dredged Florida. On weekends, live bands and dancing make this a lively respite from the endless road. And the other days, it’s a cozy place to enjoy a fish sandwich and a cold beer on the water, and let the tourist masses clear before continuing.

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Matt Meltzer is a contributing writer for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram @ meltrez1.



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