Pirates. Treasure fleets. War ships. Indians. Submarines. Wayward mariners, and sailors in distress.
All led to a need during the 1800s to establish “watch houses” atop the coastal dunes to monitor the sea lanes, protect the coast and rescue crews of ships that ran aground during storms.
These watch houses were also safe havens for land travelers seeking to dodge the fierce natives who sought to protect their Florida from invasion by white settlers.
One of the last of these watch houses still remaining on Florida’s coast still lives on the beach about five miles north of the Sebastian Inlet.
The Sebastian Beach Inn was built around 1900 and served as a watch station during both world wars. Although recent hurricanes have wiped out the once-proud lookout tower, the original barracks remain.
Coastal “watch house” now a popular beachfront bar
Today, the SBI’s primary role is to entertain. It’s official name is Coppola’s Bar & Grille at the Historic Sebastian Beach Inn.
A huge outside deck overlooking the beach is popular when the weather is nice, and when it’s not, the party moves inside the inn to the ample dining room and classic well-worn mahogany bar.
Over the years, some of the great bluesmen have performed here, including Dr. Hook, Edgar Winter, Dave Brubeck, J. Geils, Koko Taylor, Leon Russell, Gregg Allman, Maria Muldaur, Savoy Brown and Spirit. Their pictures are on the walls, signed.
Bands perform Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
The inside of the building retains some of its historic charm, and the beach outside is mostly deserted. Looking north and south from the SBI, you see the dunes, sea oats, sea grape trees, palms and a few hidden houses.
Beachcombers prowl the beaches in hopes of finding treasures carried in by the tides from Spanish galleons that sank offshore. Treasure hunter Mel Fisher’s divers have uncovered treasure here, and divers can still be seen returning to the shipwrecks.
But most people just come here to enjoy the oceanfront setting, libations and the music.
The menu is basic bar food, but it’s good and prices are reasonable. My wife and I enjoyed the $15 fish and chips platter, featuring North Atlantic haddock. They also serve local fish. Mahi mahi sandwiches and tacos are on the menu.
Camping at nearby Long Point Park or Sebastian Inlet State Park
Over the years, we have frequently visited the SBI from our campsites at Long Point Park, an island campground and park in the Indian River Lagoon with more than 170 RV campsites, most of which are waterfront.
Long Point is my preference, but Sebastian Inlet State Park on the south side of the inlet is also a good choice for campers.
You can read more about both campgrounds in my related story: Sebastian Inlet: Two great campgrounds.
What else is nearby?
Kayaking opportunities abound. About a quarter-mile north of the SBI is Honest John’s Fish Camp, where you can rent a kayak or ghenoe for paddling and/or fishing in the lagoon. Kayaks and canoes are also available at the Inlet Marina, just north of the entrance to Sebastian Inlet State Park.
If you cross the inlet to Wabasso Beach Road, you can go west until you see signs for St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park, where you can hike or bike a huge wildlife preserve maintained by the state and the regional water management district.
You can read more about St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park in my related story: “Roughing It”