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.
Thurston's Lobster Pound, Mount Desert Island
Open from Memorial Day through mid-October, this lobster pound perches on stilts over a working harbor on Mount Desert Island. Flannel-wrapped locals come for the succulent shellfish and fresh lobster, which is dropped off by passing boats. Once you've chosen your victim and feasted, stay to sip a cold one and enjoy the sailboat-dotted harbor from the restaurant's screened-in porch. "This is the quiet side of Mount Desert Island," says Eve Overby, who summers nearby. "It's a backroads kind of drive from Bar Harbor to get here and full of local color."
Feet from the water: 0
Credit: Steven Radcliffe
The regulars: MDI locals entertaining their cousins from New York or Boston
What to order: Pitchers of Lobster Ale from Maine's Belfast Bay Brewing Co.