Hammock-strung, rum-stocked, and only a lime's throw from the water, beach bars are to summer what roaring fires are to winter – the best places to have an unhurried drink. Unfortunately, finding a good one can be tough. For every authentic outpost, there are a dozen dives decked out in flotation devices, tiki torches, and pun-filled, wall-mounted menus. Avoid all that spring break nonsense. From an island in Lake Superior to the wilds of the Eastern Caribbean, we've unearthed North America's hidden gems, the 25 most memorable establishments around.
Ocean Grill & Tiki Bar, Carolina Beach
Hurricane Fran destroyed most of Center Pier in Carolina Beach back in 1994. But the North Carolina spot still surges with life during the summer months, when this lime-hued tiki bar atop the weather pilings pours cold drinks and pumps live surf punk music. Snag a bar stool and look for dolphins breaching off shore. "It can be a wonderfully sunny, sweaty time, but the drinks are incredible and go down easily," says local Melody Granger. "It's the best place to be in the summer."
Feet from water: 10
Credit: Harry Taylor
The regulars: UNCW students, surfers and wealthy southerners who own beach homes nearby
What to order: Singapore Sling