Fort Pierce calls itself “The Sunrise City” because you can see magnificent sunrises on both the Indian River Lagoon and the ocean. It combines the feel of an old Florida fishing town with trendy art galleries and museums and eco activities. I recently visited some of its natural attractions.
Heathcote Botanical Gardens has a diverse collection of native plants and exotic, including the “Walk Through Bonsai” garden which has several bonsai plants found nowhere else. One of the gardens at Heathcote is a vegetable one that provides food for the needy. I got to sample some of the organically grown tomatoes, and they are so much better than those you buy in a grocery.
Oxbow Eco-Center is a great place to learn about the natural diversity here. The Exhibit Hall and Discovery Room have interactive exhibits and some of Florida’s reptiles and amphibians acting as ambassadors. We hiked out to the St. River and learned a lot about native plants from our guide who pointed out the plants people and animals can eat. Naturally, dining in Fort Pierce restaurants is more fun and filling than snacking on wild plants. Fort Pierce has some unique dining spots both on and off the water.
After we stepped off our Indian River Lagoon and Swamp boat Tour with Captain Barry “Chop” Legé on his pontoon boat, Emile, we were right next to one of Fort Pierce’s newest dining spots, Crabby’s Dockside.
The 6 Best Fort Pierce Restaurants
2 Avenue A Fort Pierce, FL 34950 // +17272101313
Naturally sitting on the water with two stories of dining space in the marina at the Indian River Lagoon, seafood is their thing. They do a unique take on the traditional Louisiana favorite. Theirs is Oysters Crabafella with a dozen gulf oysters topped with crab and spinach dip, bacon, topped with hollandaise sauce and baked on their shell.
They do a Florida Keys number also with Conch Fritters, six house-made conch fritters lightly fried and served with honey mustard.
If there are any in the group that don’t like seafood, there are lots of other choices. You can have chicken or steak or try their hand tossed pizza. Try their rum bucket, Cruzan Tropical Rums blended with orange and pineapple juice with a splash of cranberry.
Desserts are interesting here. You can get New Orleans style beignets or Key lime pie, but the favorite is their Sweet Willie’s Ice Cream.
It’s served from a stand on the first floor and offers the traditional flavors like chocolate and French vanilla or some unique choices like bubble gum, pina colada, and peanut butter swirl. The name is in honor of the owner’s daughter, Sylvia, whose nickname was Willy.
There’s a musician or band playing Thursday through Sunday.
1136 Seaway Dr. Fort Pierce // +17728829729
On the Edge really is on the edge, of the land, that is. It’s a family-owned restaurant that prides itself on hand-crafted meals so don’t expect fast food here. Sit back and enjoy a frozen drink or cold brew while you watch boaters and paddle boarders pass by just feet away. This is the perfect place to view the sunset on the inlet.
It’s pet friendly. You dine in a tiki hut or on its deck perched out over the Fort Pierce Inlet or you can settle into the sand beach at an umbrella shielded table as you enjoy your seafood and listen to the band. The day I dined there, Whiskey Trip was playing traditional country and southern rock. They did a terrific version of Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison.”
We shared the Coconut Island Shrimp served with mango salsa and the Smoked Fish Dip with crackers, jalapenos, and salsa.
The shrimp had just enough breading and was tasty.
The fish dip was made from locally sourced Mahi and tasted very fresh.
For my entrée I chose chilled Peel and Eat Shrimp.
The shrimp were huge and nicely seasoned, plus I had some lemon butter sauce and remoulade sauce to bring the seasoning up a notch. I’m from Louisiana and like my seafood spicy.
One of our group had the Fried Shrimp with fires and we all shared an order of Fried Plantains. The plantains were nice and plump slices and just enough sweetness to make them irresistible.
You can arrive by land or water as the restaurant had dockage for diner’s boats.
601 N Causeway, Fort Pierce, Florida 34949 // +17724682503
Little Jim Bait and Tackle is not your ordinary waterfront restaurant. Sure, it’s on Fort Pierce Inlet near the Fort Pierce Inlet State Park. It’s a great kayak launching spot and had dockage for larger boats.
The always crowded waiting line attests to the delicious food. It’s the history that makes it unique. During WWII, the building was the guard shack and checkpoint for the Naval Training Base once located here.
Little Jim’s dates back to World War II, when thousands of sailors and soldiers were being trained on North Hutchinson Island.
Only authorized personnel were allowed on the barrier island and the building that is now the bait shop was the guard shack and checkpoint at the bridge for the training site of the Navy Combat Demolition Units.
The sailors trained here were later called the Underwater Demolition Teams or Frogmen and today are known as Navy Seals.
After the war, the guard post was abandoned and later opened as a bait shop selling cold beer and live bait.
Many of the WWII vets who trained here came back to visit. Little Jim’s acquired all sorts of Navy Seal signs and memorabilia. The walls and ceiling are covered with memorabilia.
One sign, not related to the Navy, drew my attention. It read “Theo Thudpucker’s Seafood Restaurant and Raw Bar. It was an area restaurant that was destroyed by a hurricane. Its motto was “Eat it raw at Theos. It’ll put more thud in your pucker.”
Several years ago, the city (which owns the property) was going to replace Little Jim with a more upscale business. Locals rallied behind the bar and bait shop, and the city decided to let Little Jim stay.
Little Jim came after and was welcomed by locals. Several years ago, the city (which owns the property) was going to replace Little Jim with a more upscale business.
Locals rallied behind the bar and bait shop, and the city decided to let Little Jim stay.
We entered the roofed dining area with a bar and bandstand where Justin Shapiro was playing percussive guitar. He did a nice mix of rock and Americana. The bar was busy, and we checked out the little shop inside. They sell bait and souvenirs.
We got a table on the outside deck where we could watch the pelicans and other seabirds flittering around the dock and see a mangrove-lined bay called Shorty’s Slough. Lots of people were arriving by boat.
We shared Macy’s Smoked Fish Dip with red onions, pickled jalapenos, diced tomatoes, and crackers to scoop it up with. They added lemon and hot sauce to spice it up, but it was delicious as it was. Another appetizer we shared was the Pimento Cheese Spread Dip, with hot pepper and rackers. I added some jalapenos to the cheese dip, and it was perfect.
For an entrée, both the Peel and Eat Shrimp and the Blackened Shrimp Po’boy tempted me, but since I already had shrimp last night, I went with the Steak Philly.
It was big and well stuffed with sautéed onions, shredded steak, melted provolone cheese, peppers, and a touch of mayo on a fresh hoagie. More than I could eat.
One of my friends ordered LJ’s Garbage Salad with Grilled Chicken added and that thing was enormous. It had romaine lettuce, tomato, bacon, red onion, shredded cheese, celery, croutons and topped with ranch dressing.
Rum is popular all over the area and Little Jim’s special is Lost in Paradise, with Rumhaven coconut rum, Cruzan pineapple rum and pineapple and cranberry juice.
5500 St Lucie Blvd Fort Pierce, FL 34946 // +17728019302
On our way home from the trip, my friend and I stopped at a restaurant I had heard was great at Roadrunner RV Resort. You don’t have to be an RVer to enjoy Charlene’s Coyote Grill. It is an upscale place with a lot of choices. There are tables inside and out. We chose outdoor seating on a large covered porch with a view of the lake.
There were several unique items on the appetizer menu. I had to try the Corn Fritters and added fried Okra. The Corn Fritters were similar to corn nuggets, but bigger and tastier. The owner, Charlene James, makes sure everything is fresh and, if possible, local.
They topped the Mushroom and Grilled Onion Burger with lettuce and tomato, pickles, raw onions, bacon, and some sour cream. It’s a real mouthful.
Our server didn’t have to twist our arms when she told us freshly made Key Lime Pie was one of the dessert choices. That pie was so melt-in-your-mouth delicious; we finished the whole large slice.
Inside, there is a small convenience store. The restaurant has live entertainment on the weekends. It’s open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and offers free delivery in the area.
2650 US-1 Fort Pierce, FL 34946 // +17724664222
You’ll find the perfect dessert in Fort Pierce. Chocoholics will drool when they enter Bruno Cholate Factory. Just the smell is enough to capture you.
Evelyn and Carmen Bruno, the founders, learned to create the highest quality Swiss chocolate from the master chocolatiers at The Montreal National Institute of Confectionery. They opened their chocolate factory here in 1952. That alone says a lot. Nobody stays in business that long unless they are special.
I was almost hypnotized as I wandered around. Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, turtles, peanut butter cups, clusters, chocolate walnuts all set in four large glass cases. Then there was the fudge section with great squares of various fudges waiting to be cut into blocks.
Behind me were wall shelves filled with novelty chocolate gift boxes, like the chocolate alligator or white chocolate alligator. Through a glass window, I saw a worker preparing a larger-than-life chocolate bunny. It looked about five feet tall.
There were tons of other candies like jellybeans and gum drops, but the chocolate got me. I went with just a few of my favorites: dark chocolate raspberry cream, dark chocolate covered Hawaiian, and a chocolate praline.
If you are on a diet, this place is guaranteed to crash it, but they do have sugar-free chocolates, too.
141 Melody Lane Fort Pierce, FL 34950 // +17726724401
Carlo Sacco was born in Italy and always dreamed of one day opening a gelateria. Around 25 years ago, his dream came true when he opened Uncle Carlos Gelato on the waterfront in Fort Pierce. His sister came up with the name “Uncle Carlos” and it stuck.
The mural on the wall makes you feel like you are in Italy. Or you can sit outside for a water view.
He has all the standard flavors and some unusual ones like Olive Oil and Basil and Flordilatte. I sampled the Strawberry and the Toasted Marshmallow, but you can’t beat good old chocolate.
Besides the gelato, he offers freshly baked cakes, cookies and more.
Best Fort Pierce Restaurants: Wrap Up
Located on Florida’s southeast Atlantic Coast, Fort Pierce fits the name of Treasure Coast. It has a small-town atmosphere, perfect climate, little traffic, and any kind of dining you desire. If you long for the big city, Orlando, Tampa, and Miami are all just two hours away.
Visiting other destinations in Florida? Check out our other guides:
- 9 Must-Try Marco Island Restaurants
- 13 Fun Things To Do In San Marco Island
- The 9 Best Amelia Island Restaurants & 9 Fun Things To Do In Amelia Island
- 7 Best Kissimmee Restaurants
- 7 Must-Try Clearwater Florida Restaurants
- 7 Best Celebration FL Restaurants
- 10 Must-Try Cape Coral Restaurants
- 9 Must-Try Madison FL Restaurants
- 10 Must-Try Restaurants In Palm Beach Florida
- 6 Must-Try Indian Rocks Beach Restaurants
- 13 Best Disney Springs Restaurants
- 12 Fun Things To Do In St. Augustine
I’m Kathleen Walls, former reporter for Union Sentinel in Blairsville, GA, currently publisher/writer for American Roads and Global Highways. I live in Middleburg, FL but travel extensively, mainly in the U.S. I’m the author of travel books, Georgia’s Ghostly Getaways, Finding Florida’s Phantoms, Hosts With Ghosts, and Wild About Florida series, and several novels. All available at my site, katywalls.com/.
Publications I write for include Travel the South, Roadtrippers, Travel Awaits, World Footprints, Snowbirds and RV Travelers, Family RVing, Deep South, Florida Country, and more. My photographs appear in many publications. I also do videos. I’m a proud member of International Food, Wine, and Travel Writers (IFWTA), Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), and North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA).