Not many people can stay they’ve dined on five-star cuisine while trying to balance on a floating deck in the middle of a tropical lagoon, or under the stars while drifting downstream. Stepping even a few feet off solid land to enjoy your meal can completely change the quality of your dining experience and turn your dinner into an adventure.
Floating restaurants are fast-gaining prominence in destination travel, but you don’t always have to travel to get that surreal float-and-dine experience. One great option for dining on water is to try a restaurant on a boat: once the provenance of sailors and pirates, and completely utilitarian, these days eating on a boat is really much more of an enjoyable experience, the focus being on providing a good meal while treating diners to spectacular views and local entertainment. No matter where you are in the world, from San Francisco to Dubai to Australia, as long as there is a body of water nearby you will be able to find a floating restaurant on a boat.
The history of dining on the high seas (or rivers) is a long one. As far back as the 1800s, cooks, chefs, and stewards would travel to far-off lands to learn more about foreign cuisine, which they would bring back home; it became common practice to take a meal aboard a newly returned vessel to sample the latest in global culinary cuisine.
Showboats also offered guests unique dining and local dishes along major arteries like the Mississippi River or the Amazon. As these “dinner cruises” grew more popular, so did the dining decks. Before long, some vessels offered exemplary riverside or bayside dining as their primary attraction.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing though — dining on a boat can sometimes be quite hazardous! In 1969, a thunderstorm in St. Louis ripped the Becky Thatcher Riverboat from its moorings and propelled it downstream, onto the opposite side of the Mississippi. Luckily, all 100 passengers were rescued hours later but there’ve been many incidents of sinking ships and capsized boats, particularly for those afloat during bad weather. Since then, floating eateries have instituted much stricter safety measures and it’s unlikely you’ll end up in the water during your meal.
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to sample of the best that floating dining has to offer, there are plenty of more unique options… there are floating barges, pontoons, flotillas and 13th century dhows to entertain and awe while you savor the best local cuisine. Here are some of the most amazing floating restaurants the world has to offer.