Fall is a great time to head north and explore the shores near where Florida’s Panhandle meets Alabama. The weather is still warm enough to take a boat cruise to dinner, but with school back in session, you will have the beaches to yourself during the day. The area has untold options for drinking, eating and creating your personal party, but two of the best have been here the longest.
In late afternoon, head to Pirate’s Cove. Stepping onto a dock here during a Saturday happy hour just might induce flashbacks of spring break ’87. Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley are staples on the stereo. Old nautical paraphernalia is strewn haphazardly, and the scenery inside the bar is beautifully beaten — faded T-shirts hanging from the walls, Sharpie graffiti signatures and picnic tables that have seen better days, but will suffice to hold up your cheeseburger and plastic cup of Miller Lite.
Outside is the real draw, with white sand, roped-off swimming holes and the island’s native canines, who will gladly do tricks for bites of that cheeseburger. The local dogs are so popular that they spawned their own holiday each October called The Cove Dog Olympics. Pack your appetite for Pirate’s and plan for sunset.
• Check out: The band listing on the website before you go. Live music means a great crowd.
• Details: 6664 County Road 95, Elberta, Ala. 251-987-1224; http://piratescoveriffraff.com
PERDIDO KEY, FL.
One of the most famous dive bars in the country, the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package and Oyster Bar, straddles the state line between Florida and Alabama. This place was originally all sand floors, a few lean-to walls, with no roof, and a tarp covering part of it. It took a bad hit from Hurricane Ivan a few years back, and sadly gained a real roof in the remodel. Nevertheless, it’s still a great place to grab a drink and a view. Whether it’s watching one of Flora-Bama’s infamous bikini contests or a fantastic regional band, there’s almost always something fun happening.
• It’s a: One-stop shop. Flora-Bama sells a bit of everything, including para-sailing trips at the water sports headquarters, bottles of vodka at the package store, a souvenir T-shirt in the front trailer or fried pickles at the bar inside.
• Details: 17401 Perdido Key Dr., Perdido Key, Fla.; 850-492-0611; www.florabama.com.