We did get in a trip to the beach last week, and I really appreciate Keith filling in for me. We went to Orange Beach in Alabama, a very family-focused beach.
I had never been there before, but Michael had taken the kids there once before on business trip when I had the Norwalk virus and was throwing up everywhere. The kids loved the beach and wanted to return! So we did.
I am always fascinated with the vibe on different beaches and the customs and traditions. We’ve been to many beaches through the years – Miami, Dewey Beach in Delaware, Wrightsville Beach in North Carolina, Tybee Island, St. Simons, Jekyll, Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna, San Destin, and multiple beaches in Hawaii. We probably have gone most frequently to Hilton Head.
I haven’t been to the Gulf Coast in probably 10 years and the good folks at Orange Beach did some things I’ve never seen done before on a beach. Here are a few examples:
1. They put up their tents and leave them up the entire week they are there. Not only do they leave up their tents. They leave all their sand toys, beach chairs and wading pools under the tent. Apparently there is not enough of a tide or wind to worry about anything being knocked down. And it makes it so easy not having to lug your stuff back and forth. It is truly the lazy man’s way to beach.
2. On to the wading pools. I have never seen this on any other beach. They bring little plastic blow up baby pools to the beach. It’s actually really smart. The little babies can play in the water under the tent in the shade. The parents can read a book and relax and everyone is happy.
3. The love to use big shovels and little fishing nets. I have never seen more people digging in all my life. Lilina walked down the beach chatting with people and digging with their shovels. Of course we joined in. Michael has a passion for digging holes and they dug a whopper and buried Michael in the sand.
4. While I didn’t see any sharks or sting rays (take that Savannah and New Smyrna), there are tons of little fish in the shallow water and the children spend half their time chasing fish with their nets. (I don’t have a shot of this. Sorry!)
5. They also love to group grill. I think a lot of condominiums have grills that you can use, but usually in Hilton Head we have our own at the unit so I’ve never done the group grill. It was a lot of fun. Orange Beach has a lot of visitors for New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and they were very excited about their grilling and gave lots of advice. It was all men who had been drinking a little bit, and they were more than happy to tell me I was doing it wrong. (I am a good cook, a good baker but a terrible griller.) So I sat down there drinking coconut rum and letting all the men help me grill (while Michael watched the kids in the condo). I also got to taste a lot of what they were cooking. One guy made his own sausage from crawfish. It was downright tasty.
6. The condo also had large, heavy-duty plastic grocery carts that made bringing in your luggage and grocery so easy. I’ve never seen those in Hilton Head.
Not so much a trend, but a very interesting place to visit in Orange Beach is Fort Morgan. Built in the 1830s, it was used during the Civil War to defend Mobile Bay and one of the few remaining Confederate ports. The fort is well maintained and there are amazing views from the top of it. (Toddlers should be carried. There are steep steps and they need better guard rails on the top. I was worried about Lilina running off an edge.) They have a shockingly good museum there about the fort with actual photos from the Civil War of the soldiers working in the fort. They also have lots of letters from Confederate and Union troops who fought in the battle for the bay. I was just trying to get out of the sun, but the kids really enjoyed it (and learned something)!
Have you seen any of these types of things on other beaches? Do you leave up your tent? Do you group grill? What are some of your favorite traditions or customs from the beaches you have visited?