People know Flora-Bama as a popular, wild and woolly coastal canteen straddling the state line of Florida and Alabama, but the bar is so much more than that.
This iconic oceanfront bar, which has been around since 1964, has a lot going on. Not only is it open 365 days a year, but there are five stages of live music, 30 bars pouring all kinds of concoctions and three restaurants serving burgers, seafood and snacks.
There are two well-attended Sunday church services, lively afternoon bingo, boat rentals and assorted, oddball special events through the year.
An estimated one million people visit Flora-Bama every year. And many of us who have vacationed in the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Perdido Key and Pensacola areas have darkened the doors of this one-of-a-kind honky-tonk more than once.
Flora-Bama is an easy place to like
With no cover charge during the day and a modest $5 cover after 6 p.m., checking out Flora-Bama is a worthy bucket list goal, provided you have a sense of humor and don't mind being around a little rowdiness or in a room with hundreds of brassieres hanging from the ceiling.
"The Flora-Bama is a must-see for anyone visiting the area," said Jeff Pennington, co-founder of Nashville-based Pickers Vodka, which is Flora-Bama's best-selling vodka.
Pennington described Flora-Bama as "a true American treasure" and marveled that it manages to attract all ages and all walks of life all day, every day.
"We work with bars around the country, and Flora-Bama is probably the most unique. It is a laid back beach bar," Pennington said, adding that, from a business perspective, "it is a well-oiled machine."
Coastal Living, CNN and Southern Living have all named Flora-Bama — also known as "America's Last Great Roadhouse" and ground zero of the "Redneck Riviera" — among the best beach bars in the country, and even the world.
Touring the 20,000-square-foot Flora-Bama bar, marketing director Jenifer Parnell said the Flora-Bama complex on the original site on the Gulf of Mexico can accommodate as many as 2,500 patrons at a time. It consists of the main bar, the Bra Bar, the oyster bar, the tent bar, the top deck and the gift shop.
Across the street, on the Intracoastal Waterway, is the newer Flora-Bama Yacht Club, Old River Grille, Package Store and the Flora-Bama Marina that rents pontoon boats, jet skis, paddle boards and kayaks and offers fishing "adventures."
Affordable food and drink
Flora-Bama's best-selling drink is its Bushwacker, a $7.50 "adult frozen milkshake" which contains five types of liquor. Nashville's Pickers Vodka goes into about 250,000 Flora-Bama drinks a year. Domestic beers are $3.75.
Food in all three restaurants is affordable. At the Oyster Bar and Grill, the Bama burger with fries is $12; a dozen oysters is $13; a fried shrimp basket is $11; and a half pound of peel-andeat shrimp is $12. The food is served as "grab and go" to pick up and eat it anywhere you want.
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Count on live music
The Flora-Bama offers live music between 11 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. daily. Hours on the five stages vary, and performers include locals, songwriters and up-and-comers. Big names who have played on Flora-Bama stages include Jimmy Buffett, Billy Currington and John Rich.
There was a free Kenny Chesney concert on the Flora-Bama beach in 2014 that drew 40,000 people and 400 boats. Coming up is a beach concert featuring Justin Moore and Easton Corbin on Sept. 1.
Oddball events highlight the Flora-Bama calendar.
In the annual Interstate Mullet Toss every April, competitors throw dead mullet, a local fish, across the Alabama-Florida state line. It attracts more than 30,000 people, and the mullet used in the event are donated to a local zoo to feed animals.
The Polar Bear Plunge, which has been going on for 35 years, typically attracts about 5,000 people who get the new year started by running into the frigid Gulf. Santa lands on the beach via helicopter at Christmastime. The Easter Bunny makes a similar grand entrance and hides eggs on the beach. There is also a Fishing Rodeo and an annual Chili Cook-off. Coming up is the Miss Flora-Bama Bikini Contest Finale on Aug. 31.
Flora-Bama gets considerable attention for its longstanding "do it on the line" motto, which presumably refers to its distinctive location on the state line of the western border of Florida and the eastern border of Alabama. It is where Orange Beach, Alabama, meets Perdido Key, Florida.
The complex is spread across both sides of two-lane Perdido Key Drive.
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'Relax and just have fun'
Parnell said Flora-Bama has welcomed visitors from all over the U.S., plus Australia, Belgium, Jamaica and other countries.
When asked what she thinks makes Flora-Bama popular with visitors, she said, "When they walk in, their guard comes down. They relax and just have fun without any worries.
"It's a place where all walks of life are in the same area hanging out together, making memories, and having a good time. Then you add in the amazing musical talent we have daily and our beautiful white sandy beaches, which is just icing on the cake."
Yes, this beach bar deserves its irrefutable fame. I'll definitely be going back before too long.
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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Flora-Bama: Iconic Gulf Coast beach bar is worth your bucket list