Florida's 15 Best Dive Bars
It’s hard to find a good dive bar anymore! We have Florida’s 15 best dive bars we have found so far. Of course, Florida Travel Blog continues our in-depth research!
It seems a combination of regulations, owners selling out and covid-19 has created havoc for the good old American dive bar. Even some of the old reliable dive bars are gone.
The Green Parrot in Key West was one of the most famous dive bars. The owners sold out, they kicked the dogs out, raised the prices and generally elevated themselves to just another tourist attraction.
Then there was the Beachcomber over on St. Augustine Beach. This was my favorite beachfront dive bar. They remodeled the inside, leveled the floors, new bar top and a bigger menu. Generally, they relegated themselves to just another beach bar!
Then, there is the No Name Pub off Big Pine Island in the Keys. The No Name got so much publicity they put in a new kitchen, remodeled, started advertising, and lost their dive bar identity with so much success. All of these places are on many dive bar lists, but they are too commercial for us.
We always struggle to define a “dive bar”. Someone once said a dive bar is hard to describe, but you know it when you see it. That pretty much sums up the definition, but we have a few parameters we would like to propose.
Definition of a Florida Dive Bar
- ü You know it’s a dive bar when the brightest thing in the room is the pool table, but the patrons are well-lit!
- ü You know it’s a dive bar when today’s soup is TEQUILA!
- ü You know it’s a dive bar when today’s drink special is $1 PBR cans.
- ü If there are no “colorful” locals, it is not a dive bar.
- ü If the barmaid doesn’t call you “sweetie”, it may not be a dive bar.
- ü If there is nothing in a big jar that is pink, red or purple, it may not be a dive bar.
- ü If everything in the bathroom works and there are no holes in the wall, it may not be a dive bar.
We have traveled in Florida from the panhandle to the Keys. No, we haven’t seen every dive bar in Florida, but we feel obligated to share the gems we have found, so far. So, here you have—
Florida’s 15 Best Dive Bars in Florida
FLORA-BAMA – Split between Florida and Alabama in the panhandle, this dive bar is the largest you will ever find. They say they have crowds for events of up to 5000 people. Don’t be fooled, they may be the biggest multi-level dive bar you find, but they fit the bill. From messages on walls, uneven floors, sassy bartenders, and questionable repairs made due to many hurricanes. They are one of the few on our list that has headliner concerts and stars that love the place. FLORA-BAMA is on the beach so the sea breezes disguise the smell of stale beer! Must see – the world’s largest and, arguably, the best dive bar in Florida.
The Bull, Key West – The soup of the day here is always tequila. Debbie the bartender has been there for at least 25 years (and probably a few more that she won’t admit to). She won’t call you “sweetie”, but her key word is “honey”. There is no food. The bathrooms were “cleaned last week”. The two-for-one cheap margaritas are about the size of a small white wine pour – in a plastic cup! The Bull has the best people-watching in Key West. Huge, garage door-size windows open onto the street where you can watch the strange world of Key West walk by day and night.
Harry’s Bar and Package, Carrabelle, Florida – Just before you get to Apalachicola, Florida in the big bend area there is a little town called Carrabelle. Along a waterside street stands, what could possibly be the perfect dive bar in Florida. They serve $2 Milwaukee’s Best, and the bartender calls everyone sweetie. The food comes from a place next door. The brightest lights are on the pool tables. Plenty of friendly local fishermen for company. –
Shorty’s Place, Punta Gorda, Florida – what can we say about a place that has PBR in a can, $1,75 hot dogs and $3 pretzels, homemade beer can lights over the bar, and a barmaid that reluctantly has to put her cigarette down to serve you? This dive bar had tons of locals having a good time indoors and outside in the gravel. Not to mention a few tables in the mud from recent rain.
Alabama Jacks, Key Largo – Arguably, this could be second only to FLORA-BAMA as the most famous dive bar in Florida. On Card Sound Road, an alternative backroad to Key Largo is the waterfront (on the bay) Alabama Jack’s. The crowd here will be bikers to bankers heading to the Keys. The typical dive bar attributes are augmented by to front that looks like the last hurricane dropped a bunch of wood in a parking lot. The inside is somewhat improved. The food here isn’t their overall specialty, but their conch fritters are! Must visit coming to or getting the heck out of the Keys.
Caribbean Club, Key Largo – As you enter Key Largo, just a few miles from Alabama Jacks, is one of our favorite dive bars, The Caribbean Club. This bayside bar says they are historic because part of the Humphrey Bogart movie was partially shot there. They have all the signs of a dive bar – no food, cheap beer, a pool table, and very friendly locals. Don’t mind a couple of dogs hanging around about the size of a small horse. We have had some great times at The Caribbean Club talking with patrons about their varied lifestyles here in the Keys. You can’t miss this one if you are a dive bar fanatic.
The Palace Saloon, Fernandina Beach, Florida – 441 miles away from the Caribbean Club, due north to Amelia Island is the oldest bar in Florida. If it weren’t historic, the Palace Saloon may not be on our list. No, they don’t serve food. Yes, they have a rustic interior, and they get a few locals, but tourists flock here when on the island. During prohibition, the bar was converted to an ice cream parlor that was quickly converted back after prohibition ended. The tin ceiling and marbled floors haven’t changed much. They may not be the best dive bar in Florida, but they are the oldest.
The Shipwreck, Clearwater Beach, Florida – We know way too much about the Shipwreck! Since we live on Clearwater Beach, we have seen the changes for the last forty years – none! This dive bar has all the essentials – pool table, colorful locals, tourists, rich and famous, a few infamous and the best food comes from a pizza place across the street. About thirty years ago they were serving food, but it seemed no one was motivated to clean the kitchen. This has been a haven for late-night hospitality workers on the beach who could always find a party place after midnight. If you are on the west coast of Florida, this is your best bet.
The Ocean View Inn, Islamorada, Florida – We wouldn’t know about the Ocean View if after a late night in Key Largo we were headed early one morning to Key West. We pulled up to the front door and my wife peaked inside. A voice behind the dimly lit bar hollered, “honey if you are looking for breakfast, the best thing we can do for you is a Bloody Mary!” Right then we knew the Ocean View may qualify as a dive bar. They have all the essentials and within a few minutes the locals started coming in for shots and some early morning plays on the jukebox. They are owned by a former Pittsburgh Steeler player who retired to the Keys.
Long Branch Saloon, Live Oak, Florida – We couldn’t find a website for this place, but we did find the bar! We were traveling across Florida on the Spanish Trail. Just a couple blocks off the main road we saw a big lighted sign that said “The Long Branch Saloon” and underneath in big black letters it stated, “Soup of the day – Whiskey”. Yep, we had a good idea of what was inside. This north Florida saloon had all the trademarks – no food, big bar, tired but friendly bartender, pool table and $1 Yuengling draughts. Locals were friendly and the place was clean.
The Drunken Clam, St. Pete Beach, Florida – Frankly, we don’t know how this dive bar survives in the midst of St. Pete Beach. Most bars have given way to new fancy places that chains have devoured. The Drunken Clam has a consistent following from the locals and seasonal guests. Nothing fancy, but they care about their guests. Fun place with friendly bartenders full of the happenings on one of the largest beaches in Florida. They have food, but the highlight is being off the beaten path with the friendly staff.
The Old Mill Tavern – Homosassa, Florida – This was a great dive bar find. We were visiting the area and the State Wildlife Park when lunch became our focus. We walked into a mostly empty bar, at about 11:45 one morning. We did realize they had all the requirements for a good dive bar. By the time we ordered our lunch, the place was filling up for lunch. The full bar had workmen coming from everywhere to eat and drink their lunch. The food was good basic bar food, but the atmosphere turned quickly into a local’s place as the bartender had the drinks on the bar before the patrons could sit down. Friendly dive bar with food and $2 Busch Beer – great spot.
The Lighthouse Tiki Bar, Ft. Myers Beach, Florida – You can find a dive bar in the strangest locations. In the middle of the Lighthouse Resort on Ft. Myers Beach is the Tiki Bar. It is a thatched roof tiki but calling the Lighthouse a resort is a big stretch. The Tiki Bar is poolside in the motel (a better name than “resort”). We discovered this is one of those gems the locals find and make it their hangout. They do have nightly entertainment which fills the place with late-night beach residents. They have a fun atmosphere with $2.50 Bloody Marys and Screwdrivers, but friendly locals and entertainment are the attraction.
Castaways Bar & Grill, Crystal River, Florida – Hypothetical question – can you have an upscale dive bar? If so, Castaway’s is it. What makes it upscale – it’s clean, very clean. No, it’s not new and it does have the other requisites – pool table, friendly locals, smokers outside, and long-term friendly bartenders. In the afternoon, retired people come in for their daily fraternization. By happy hour time, the retirees and veterans are replaced by workers from the local power plant and businesses in Crystal River. Castaways is in a freestanding building outside of Crystal River. No water views or attractions other than good people enjoying a friendly bar. They do have food, which we haven’t tried, and inexpensive drinks. Great stop if you travel US 19/98 north out of Crystal River.
Anclote River Boat Club, Tarpon Springs, Florida – If a bar is hard to find, does that make it more likely to be a dive bar? If that is a qualification, this place is at the top of the list. Down an old dirt road is what appears to be a shack falling into the river is Anclote River Boat Club. First, there is no club. We don’t know if no one joined or if it was just a bad thought. It is the epitome of a dive bar (with an emphasis on pit!). There is no redeeming value about his place. Go to the restroom BEFORE you arrive, unless desperation sets in. The only thing you can say about the place is there is a sign that says,” These are the Happiest People in the World”. We agree. Just a bunch of friendly people throwing down cheap beers in a river shack. What else could you want?
Honorable Mention - Best Dive Bars in Florida
We are keeping a list of some dive bars that just didn’t quite make the list.
Ragged Ass Saloon – This place could easily be on our list of the best dive bars in Florida. The Ragged Ass Saloon is on Pine Island in southwest Florida.
Big Deck Bar & Grill – This notorious place is on the main drag on Cedar Key.
Latest addition to our honorable mention list is the Green Turtle on Amelia Island, Florida. Out latest visit in April 2023, confirmed their addition! Fun and entertainment outside and in.
Florida’s 15 Best Dive Bars – What is your Best Dive Bar in Florida?
That’s Florida’s 15 Best Dive Bars we have found so far. There is a good chance we may add a few more on one of our next trips. We would love to hear from you about the best dive bars in Florida you have found.