Why We Love the Gulf

For generations, sun worshippers and sportsmen have flocked to the Gulf Coast’s sugar sands, barrier islands, wild marshes, and grassy flats for tranquility and adventure. but those aren’t the only reasons to go. For starters…

Photo: Taking a break on a beach walkover at Rosemary Beach, Florida. (By Amy Dickerson)

Taking a break on a beach walkover at Rosemary Beach, Florida.

Screened-Porch sitting is an art here.

The Alabama coast has changed, but the simple pleasure of the evening breeze remains. Author Winston Groom reflects on his upbringing in Mobile Bay and the finer points of screened-porch sitting.

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Backwaters run deep. 

Some of the best parts of the Gulf are the inlets and channels leading to it. Kim Cross looks back on her childhood in Poquito Bayou.

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Jimmy Buffett drinks here.

Photo: sara essex bradley


The Shark Attack at Lucy’s.

The son of a son of a Mississippi sailor, Jimmy Buffett got his start bouncing around Biloxi dive bars and New Orleans drinking dens before finding fame in Key West. So what are the Gulf Coast bars he loves the most? See the Margaritaville mogul’s six favorite watering holes. 

>Get the list

Photo: Cedric Angeles

A dozen Apalachicolas at Hole in the Wall.

The Oysters. Enough said. 

Oyster buffs may have recently noticed a marquee bivalve missing from menus: the Apalachicola. The eponymous bay on the Florida Panhandle—once the source for 90 percent of the state’s oysters—is suffering from upstream population growth and drought. Learn what makes these oysters special, why they’re in danger, and where you can shuck one at its freshest.

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The Panhandle’s beach towns have style to spare. 

Photo: Amy Dickerson

The entrance to Caliza Pool at Alys Beach.

When Florida aficionados hear “30A,” snow-white sand and pastel sunsets leap to mind. The scenic byway winds through sixteen seaside villages, each with distinct appeal. So where should you plant your umbrella?

>Get to know three of 30A’s standout beach towns

Everybody has a comeback story. 

Travel with G&G to Biloxi, Mississippi, home of the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, as author Helen Ellis describes an annual father-daughter poker trip that captures what it means to be down but not out.

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Photo: Carlton Ward Jr.

A paddler navigates a creek off the Chassahowitzka River.

The wild places endure. 

No matter your pleasure, there are pockets of pristine coastline to discover—from birding to fishing to paddling and more. Get to know some of the Gulf’s best parks and campgrounds.

>See the guide

The past rolls in with the tide. 

The Laguna Madre, a 130-mile crescent of hypersaline, super-shallow waters, lies between Padre Island and the Texas mainland, down near the border of Mexico: sand, sand, yucca, sand. Heat, wind, shimmer, sand—a fever dream made manifest. Memories abide for writer Rick Bass on this lazy stretch of Texas coast. 

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The Dive Bars are gloriously gritty.

Ah, the Flora-Bama Lounge, five-star honky-tonk of the Redneck Riviera, immortalized in song by Jimmy Buffett and in prose by John Grisham. Its greatness is agreed upon by all who gaze upon it in wonder, some of them seeing two of it. Over Bushwackers and Budweiser, a relationship takes root at the famed Gulf Coast dive in this essay by writer Beth Ann Finnelly. 

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Photo: Matthew Coughlin

A view of the Flora-Bama’s oyster bar from the pier.

The stories are rich. 

From the plate tectonics that created the Gulf to the oystermen, tarpon chasers, and artists who have shaped its story, historian Jack E. Davis’s new book, The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea, is the first to tell the full tale of the region. Here, Davis picks his favorite Gulf-set beach reads.

>See the reading list

Old Florida never gets old. 

Shell Island is and always has been a family business, so naturally they say that when you come there, you become family, too. It’s a place where you feel thousands and thousands of people’s memories to be floating around in the air visiting each other. Vereen Bell, Jr. captures the magic of one of the last true fish camps on the Florida Gulf coast. 

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Photo: Alicia Osborne

Shell Island Fish Camp adventures start right here