For the past few years when we've been to the beach, we've hit uncrowded, uncommercialized, less developed places like Jekyll Island, Ga., and St. George Island, Fla. But this year we went back if not to the heart of kitschy Florida, which is probably Weeki Wachee and the mermaids, then at least to its liver.
We traveled to Ft. Walton Beach, the home of sugar-sand beaches, emerald-green water, Big Kahuna's water park, the Gulfarium and a main street called the Miracle Strip.
I've loved our low-key beach vacations, but driving past Cash's Liquors and Fudpucker's restaurant on the way to our beachside condo, I found myself getting caught up in the Fun, Fun, Fun that pounds you from all sides before you even see the Gulf.
A high point--two meals in three days at the Back Porch, an open-air beachfront place where shirts and shoes are optional, but the seafood is fresh and fabulous. Their grilled amberjack (a white fish caught off the coast there) sandwiches invade my dreams, both waking and sleeping, on a regular basis, so I was glad to have two of them. Plus great onion rings and something I'd never had room for before, dessert--some ultimate chocolate concoction that will accompany the amberjack dreams for years to come.
Our waitress took this picture of us looking happy even before we'd eaten our meal.
So indulge your inner teenager and visit the commercial side of Florida every now and again. It's worth it, if only for the amberjack.