When you take a beach vacation year after year, you learn the ins-and-outs of coastal living. Then again, on your first trip to the emerald waters and white, sandy shores of Northwest Florida and Coastal Alabama, you may find yourself surprised by a few things. A life-long beach bum, who has spent almost every day of the last 30 years living on the water, tells us a few things that beach locals have to explain.

  1. Flip-flops Are A Religion

We don’t just wear flip flops to the beach. We wear them to the movies, out to eat, for bike rides and nature hikes—even to school and (gasp!) work. Ok, ok, not everywhere allows flip flops at work, but honestly, you’d be surprised just how many places do. In short, we wear them religiously. What’s more, everyone has a certain type of flip-flop they swear by. Rainbow, Sanuk, OluKai, QuikSilver.  Bring up flip-flop brands, and you’re likely to get into a lively debate.

2. We’re Beach Snobs

Hey, there’s a reason Dr. Beach has listed the beaches of the Gulf Coast on his “Best Beaches of America” list multiple times. The sand is pristine and sugar white, and the water is a stunning shade of aquamarine. Celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Keith Urban, Jim Carrey, Emeril Lagasse, even former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee vacation here all the time; some even scoop up beach homes.  What can we say, we’re spoiled. Other beaches, well, they’re nice. They just don’t measure up to the beaches of Northwest Florida and Coastal Alabama.

3. Lizards Won’t Hurt You

It was a Saturday morning, and my friend who had just flown in from Pennsylvania and I were having brunch on the patio. It was sunny and 70, in February no less. Iced tea in hand and mid-sentence, she suddenly yanked her legs up onto her chair, spilled her tea, and screamed, “What is THAT?!”

Well, that was a lizard.  Those color-changing reptiles we don’t give a second thought to are not so popular once you leave our subtropical region. It was the first time, in fact, my friend had ever seen a lizard. To her, it was like stepping into a mini-Jurassic Park. But don’t neurontin-gabapentin worry, no T-Rex here.

  4.  Everyone Says “Hi” And Moves At A Slower Pace

It’s been said that when you live by the water, you operate on beach time. Somehow, the slow, lulling rhythm of the waves has seeped into our very DNA. We still have to drop the kids off at school and go to work, just like our inland friends. But there’s something about driving along scenic coastal highways that reminds us life is about more than a time card. So we tend to move a little slower, and wave (with all five fingers) in traffic.

 5. ‘Don’t Go In The Water’ Means Just That

Typically, the first question people ask if you live at the beach is, “Aren’t you afraid of sharks?” While the answers to that will vary, one thing doesn’t: the rules to play it safe. We’ve lived here long enough to know there are certain times of day you don’t go in the water. Stay on shore at dawn, dusk, and nighttime because those are prime feeding times. Plus visibility is limited during those hours.

And you have to obey the flag warning system and posted signs. Without fail, there’s a news story every year about someone who ignored the double red flags. Just because our waves aren’t huge doesn’t mean the current isn’t just as strong. Even on a beach vacation, you have to follow safety guidelines.

6.  Everyone Doesn’t Surf

Sure, we love the water; that’s why we live here, after all. If the average person is 60% water, we’re at least 60% saltwater. But that doesn’t mean we’re all vying for the next role in Endless Summer or Point Break.  The waves of the Gulf of Mexico just aren’t that big, and plenty of water sports are as popular, if not more so, than surfing. Paddle boarding has to take the top spot. It’s like surfing’s younger brother—instead of riding the waves, per se, you ride the board, paddle in hand. Not only is it a killer workout, it’s a great vantage point to see the marine life, like sea turtles and sting rays, through our crystal clear waters.

Ready to beach like a local? Book your beach vacation now.