Traveling to a new destination means immersing yourself in the culture. Life at the beach involves more than wearing flip-flops and a perpetual tan. In fact, the Gulf Coast has strong cultural ties that paint the people of this area the way the breathtaking sunsets paint the sky.

To experience the culture of the Gulf Coast, explore these three places from the 30A all the way to Orange Beach.

The Justin Gaffrey Mountain in Blue Mountain Beach

You’ve likely seen a Justin Gaffrey painting, even if you didn’t know it. His work hangs in restaurants, coffee shops, doctors’ offices. His unmistakable subjects—flowers, waves, birds’ nests—leap off the canvas, literally. Gaffrey is a tour-de-force in South Walton. Known for capturing the local landscape with a trowel and acrylic paint, Gaffrey’s work exudes the simple tangibility of beach living.

Palafox Street in downtown Pensacola

While on vacation in Pensacola Beach, you have to explore downtown Pensacola. Palafox Street has experienced a renaissance in recent years. Once filled with desolate shops struggling to stay open, this area is now a lively urban center, filled with galleries, craft bars, specialty shops, and live music. The historicity of Palafox adds to its charm. Named in 1812 for General Palafox, a Spanish nobleman, the Spanish influence on architecture is undeniable.

Flora-Bama Loung in Orange Beach

If the beach equates to fun, then there’s no place that captures the spirit of that more than Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar. Established in 1962, its mission is to “ensure guests enjoy the magic of Flora-Bama.”

In that aim, the lounge hosts annual events like the Mullet Toss (the fish, not haircut) and the Polar Bear Dip.

In addition to lying on the beaches of the Gulf Coast, explore any of these places. You’ll leave with an expanded definition of beach life culture. They add another dimension of beauty to the Gulf Coast.