Great American Beach Towns

by Sarah Tuff


The sand: Around these three miles of confectioners'-sugar sands, you'll see bald eagles, sea turtles, dolphins—and only a few footprints.

Marine life: Never heard of Mexico Beach? Exactly. South of Destin, on the Florida Panhandle, the 1,200 residents have avoided high-rises, strip malls, and theme parks like the plague, keeping their low-slung town to themselves. The "government" is a five-person council that's put the kibosh on anything taller than 48 feet, and the focus is on small-town fun, with gumbo cook-offs, kingfish tournaments, and fireworks fundraisers. You can kill two beach birds with one stone at the souvenirs-and-seafood shop Shell Shack. If you want to get off the beach, pop into the pool bar at the El Governor motel or take a scuba dive through a sunken oil tanker just offshore.

The sanctuary: The Driftwood Inn has four-poster beds in its rooms and DIY barbecue grills on its back deck. If you want to play at being a local, opt for one of the separate, two-bedroom Victorian houses.

The Driftwood Inn
Tel: 850 648 5126
Doubles from $140, Victorian houses from $175

The Shell Shack
Tel: 850 648 8256

El Governor
Tel: 850 648 5757

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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