Best Beach Tips & Must-Haves

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School is out, summer is almost here, and the beach is calling your name! 
We're right on the brink of the summer beach season here along the Emerald Coast. Having lived here for decades, we've become pretty good at narrowing down the best beach items, tips, and tricks. So here's a list from us long-time locals that will make the most of your beach days! 

Beach Day Must-Haves

A good tote bag. 
We prefer to use canvas bags like this one. Any sand shakes right off, they last us season after season and can be thrown in the wash whenever needed, making them a more sustainable option. There are also highly rated mesh bags that allow sand to fall right through great for items that need rinsing like beach toys, snorkels, and masks. For families, wagons are a great investment to tote and transport beach gear – just make sure it has wide wheels to get through the sand!
Of course, you'll need sunscreen! There are many options out there for sunscreens, but in the past few years we've switched over to reef-friendly ones. Why? Marine sanctuaries are home to some of the ocean’s most biologically diverse and culturally significant marine areas, and we need to ensure that these critical areas are protected from harmful chemicals. If you can, go for a mineral (zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) based lotion sunscreen to reduce your impact on coral reefs, fish, and other marine life. Mineral sunscreens can be pricey but this is one area we splurge without thought. Anything to save our seas! Some of our favorite brands that we can snag at our local Whole Foods, Target, and Publix are Bare Republic, Badger, All Good, and California Baby.
Invest in a good pair! This might seem like a no-brainer, but for years I either wore cheap ones or didn't bother to wear any at all. My eye doctor informed me I now have an eye freckle. Needless to say, I invested in a good polarized pair of Costas and I'll never go back to cheapies again! The extra bonus is they cut through the glare on the water and bring out the beautiful vibrant colors. 
A hat. 
My face is always the first to burn, no matter how much sunscreen I apply. Hats are beneficial for sun protection on your face and shade over your eyes. This can ease eye strain and keep potential headaches at bay. It can also protect your hair from sun damage! We like to shop local and grab a few fun mesh snapbacks, but this is a great unisex wide-brimmed hat to wear if you're really feeling the sun.    
Beach Towels. 
They don't have to be anything special, but we are liking Turkish towels recently. Sand shakes off them easily, they dry fast, and they're much thinner so they take up less space in your tote. If you're traveling to the beach by car, I would bring plush towels for the seats.
Cooler & Insulated Drink Tumbler. 
Ice melts fast and drinks warm up quickly on the beach. As long as you have a decent cooler, even a soft one, you will be good to go. The biggest trick we've found is to make sure and keep it in the shade. It helps tremendously! We also never go without our insulated tumblers. We use these daily for cold drinks and they keep ice for 24+ hours!
Waterproof speaker. 
There's nothing better than sipping a cold drink, with your toes in the sand, listening to some music to match the beach mood. You'd don't need a massive speaker to get the job done, but your phone doesn't quite cut it. This little speaker is perfect for on the go, and at its price point, you won't be afraid to put it to use at the beach. We've had it for a few years now and it's still going strong! 
A beach umbrella or canopy. 
One of the best parts about vacationing at the beach is getting that glowing tan, but trust us, you'll be so thankful you brought an umbrella or canopy for those breaks in the shade. Some umbrellas offer SPF protection, and it's loads cooler under there when the heat is really intense. If it's just the two of us we'll just pack the umbrella, but if we know we're meeting up with friends or family we'll bring along the big canopy. It can get pretty breezy by the beach, so make sure you're anchoring your umbrella or canopy correctly to avoid the wind carrying it away. We always anchor our umbrella deep, slightly leaned into the wind, and hang our tote on it to weigh it down so it's extra secure. 
A beach chair. 
You can either bring your own beach chairs and umbrella, or rent them from any of the local beach chair rental companies like La Dolce Vita, White Diamond Beach Service, or Sunset Beach Service. You can also grab your own from nearly any store – Publix to CVS, Alvin's Island, Walmart, or Target. Many perfectly good chairs end up as waste in dumpsters since visitors don't have any need for them back home. Consider offering them to other beachgoers on your last beach day!  

Beach Day Tips

If your rental or home doesn't include deeded beach access, use this map to find the beach accesses in South Walton! The handy map will also let you know which accesses have public restrooms, bike racks, parking, and if they are ADA accessible. You can find a Destin Beach Access map here as well!
If you want an easier day by the beach, choose a beachfront restaurant to set up near! Some of our favorites are Pompano Joe's, Whale's Tail, and Back Porch. You can go up and dine in the restaurant, or order to-go and enjoy your meal down on the beach. Pompano Joe's and Whale's Tail also have a beach bar making refreshments an easy grab.
 Bring a good book, beach games – we love Kubb and Cornhole, and if you plan on listening to music, have a playlist downloaded on your phone so you don't have to worry about cell service. 
Stay or come back for the sunset if you can! When we beach we usually try to go all day, staying for the sunset. Over the years we've watched, season after season, that many beachgoers leave by late afternoon. They miss one of the best parts! Just before the sun dips below the horizon the air starts to cool, the sky fades to different colors, light beams dance around the clouds – it's magic. It is one of our favorite things to do and all of my best memories, from childhood to now, revolve around beach sunsets! 


Things to Remember

 Leave no trace! Don't forget to bring a trash bag. We always bring a small washable tote, or grocery bags with us and collect trash as the day goes. On our walk up to leave the beach we'll drop it in the public trash bins at the beach access entrance.
If you're digging holes in the sand, don't forget to fill them in! People walking at dusk or night can fall into them and get injured. Sea turtles also come ashore at night and can become trapped.
 You can always bring just-in-case items, but leave them in the car. This might include a first aid kit, extra swimsuit, change of clothes, etc.    
 Enjoy the moment, be present, have fun, and make awesome memories! 
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