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.
The Shanty, Cape Charles
Way down south along Virginia's Eastern Shore, Cape Charles in artsy beach town full of characters. On any given summer night, they converge at the Shanty for live music, beer, banter, and some of the tastiest crab cakes and oyster po'boys around. Fronting the local marina and just a few hundred feet from the beach, the bar has a huge patio overlooking the water. "Everyone has a view of the spectacular sunsets here – you cannot beat them," says Sunny Trippel, who lives nearby. "It's literally a shanty, with a shipwrecked dingy outside the front door, a high ceilinged tin roof and concrete floor. Absolutely hip in a shore kind of way."
Feet from the water: 0
The regulars: Locals with names like Freshwater Frank and D.C. weekenders
What to order: Pina Colada