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.
Tom's Burned Down Café, Madeline Island
Few things are overly organized at this legendary beach bar on Lake Superior's loveliest island."We open once the snow disappears, usually in late April," says Kirsten Pedersen, who owns the bar with her friend Tom Nelson. "There's always beer to be had, though. We don't turn the locals away when they're gazing longingly, even if it's 40 degrees." The bar's name refers to the fact that original Tom's burned down back in 1992, when the owners decided not to replace the building but serve beer from a semi-trailer instead. The truck is still here along with boat lock boxes for patrons to sit on, a canvas tarp rigged with pulleys to shield everyone from the sun, and various other found objects made into décor. Cozy up around one of the outdoor fireplaces on a chilly Wisconsin night.
Feet from water: 50
Credit: Aaron Peterson / Alamy
The regulars: The old regulars' kids
What to order: Island Punch, made with three kinds of rum and a mix of juices