Chart Your Course: The Boathouse Oyster Bar, an Iconic Destin Restaurant

January 12, 2024

The road to becoming an iconic restaurant isn’t a short one. It takes real grit. Those who withstand the ebbs and flows of staffing changes, rotating menu items, and evolving landscapes are a testament to the perseverance and resilience that only a select few embody. And behind every renowned restaurant lies a few essential elements that catapult it to iconic status.

Consistency is at the forefront, and a few signature menu items will ensure folks return again and again. Throw in a unique customer experience and a robust behind-the-scenes operation that readily adapts to changes, and you’ve got all the makings for something exceptional. 

In short, you’ve got The Boathouse Oyster Bar, an iconic Destin hotspot that resonates far beyond its physical presence on the Destin harbor.

Humble Beginnings at The Boathouse 

Founded in 1986, “The Boathouse” in Destin started as a small, unassuming bait shack on the harbor. Nestled amidst tiny cottages and a few bars, many of which began as former residences, The Boathouse quickly became a focal point for anglers eager to snag pompano, grouper, cobia, tuna, and dozens of other species inhabiting the local waterways. In those days, fishermen backed up to The Boathouse dock, and employees scooped bait into their boats. They would then head out for a long day of fishing in the shallow coastal waters, nearshore reefs, and the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Those who were successful would sell their catch and return the next day, hoping for another fruitful day on the water. 

If The Boathouse owners weren’t around, fishermen would grab their own bait, maybe a six-pack or two, scribble their name on a couple of dollars, and staple them to the wall for reimbursement. It was an honor system built on trust, reflecting the tight-knit, trustworthy fishing community that characterized those early days on the harbor. This simple yet honorable tradition embodied the camaraderie among anglers and community members living off the water, showcasing mutual respect for this small fishing village that was, and remains, the heart of Destin’s maritime culture.

Destin’s Evolution and The Boathouse Legacy

Businesses have come and gone through the years, the weather has altered the landscape, and infrastructure changes have reshaped the community. No more a sleepy fishing village, Destin has grown exponentially through increased tourism and a thriving fishing industry, now hosting several world-class fishing tournaments and boasting the largest charter fishing fleet in Florida. Swelling each summer as tens of thousands descend on its sandy shores for sun-soaked days and boundless outdoor adventures, Destin becomes a hub of activity. With the completion of the Destin Boardwalk in 2012, Harborwalk Village, as it’s known today, is busy year-round, with shops, water sports, and family-friendly restaurants and activities luring visitors to the Destin harbor each season. 

Through it all, The Boathouse has remained steadfast, weathering the test of time and evolving into one of Destin’s favorite hangouts alongside the community it proudly serves. Current owners, Missy and Chris Schofield, continue to serve ice-cold beer, fresh oysters, and incredible views, just as they did when they bought this family-friendly restaurant back in 2018. And fishermen still share tall tales with fellow patrons each evening while listening to live music and watching the sun sink into the harbor at day’s end. 

The Destin Boathouse Menu

From the catch of the day to simple yet tasty dishes, The Boathouse consistently offers food that resonates with its customers. You’ll find nothing pretentious here, just good eats in a cozy spot that feels like home with a view. 

Missy started working at The Boathouse in 1998, serving stints as both bartender and line cook, and her philosophy of preparing scratch-made food still resonates today. “We started by putting dishes together with only fresh ingredients we could utilize in more than one way,” says Schofield. You’ll find the flat iron steak on melt-in-your-mouth sandwiches and tacos, while the smoked tuna dip is available as an appetizer, a refreshing salad, and served open-faced on an onion roll. Crafting each tasty morsel from high-quality ingredients means every bite is fresh, flavorful, and authentic.

Popular items include hand-pattied hamburgers, prime rib sandwiches, and cajun-style hot-boiled peanuts, washed down with a Boathouse Breeze or what Missy calls their “house wine,” a Busch Light. But the gumbo, available for takeout in sizes from pints to gallons, and the oysters, served raw, steamed, baked, and chargrilled, continue as mainstays, consistently landing them on “Best Oysters and Gumbo” lists for the past 30 years. 

Entertainment and Events at The Boathouse in Destin

At The Boathouse, it’s not just about serving tasty seafood; it’s about having fun, listening to live music nightly, and giving back to the community. Many signature events help raise money for local charities, including Road Dogg Rescue, Food for Thought, and Children in Crisis.

The Boathouse offers a  lineup of Slacker events geared towards embracing life’s lighter side. Locals on the Harbor occurs the first Friday of every month, encouraging visitors and locals to come out, enjoy a free beer, and spend some time on the harbor. The Slacker 0.5K offers a little amusement regarding fitness, featuring light-hearted challenges like donut hole eating and oyster shooting. June brings the Forrest 5K Run/Walk and Kid’s Fishing Day, treating 50 kids to swag, lunch, and six hours of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Whether dressing in costume for the annual Turkey Trot and Dock the Halls or participating in the many fishing tournaments The Boathouse hosts and sponsors, it’s all about bringing folks together, having a blast, and making a difference in the community—all while soaking up those sweet Destin vibes by the water.

Visit The Boathouse in Destin on Your Next Trip 

As new chapters unfold, this family-friendly restaurant remains a local joint, offering delicious seafood, breathtaking views, and a relaxing time for all. They’re open seven days a week, and you’ll probably see the same staff each time you visit, as most have worked here for years. With room for about 100 patrons, you’ll no doubt make a new friend, whether at a table, watching a game on one of over a dozen TVs, or outside on the dock.  And you can guarantee dollar bills will still be hanging, hundreds of them now, charming reminders of visitors commemorating special events at The Boathouse, including birthdays, anniversaries, or a first (or tenth) trip to Destin.

If you’re looking for a  place to kick back, savor fresh seafood, and soak up laid-back vibes by the water, try The Boathouse. More than a destination, it’s an experience and a must-see on your next trip to Destin

Photo Credit: The Boathouse Oyster Bar

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