Flora-Bama is Alabama’s Best Dive Bar, Claimed by Residents

You don’t become the Gulf Coast’s most revered beach bar without a touch of divine intervention. “When you look at where God put the Flora-Bama, it’s in the middle of where all kinds of demographics gather—that’s what makes it special,” says John McInnis III, co-owner and lifelong Alabama resident.

“You’d see fishermen and locals alongside tourists, bicyclists, and military folks from the [Pensacola Navy] installation. They found themselves hanging out in this small cabin outside a booze store. That’s how it looked in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Now in its 60th year, the destination’s siren pull of live music, fresh oysters, and boozy milkshakes (known as Bushwackers) continues to entice the same ragged group of revelers as it did in its early years.

Flora-Bama is Alabama's Best Dive Bar, Claimed by Residents

But the snowbirds, spring breakers, and all the groups in between have one thing in common, says co-owner Cameron Price, an Army Airborne Ranger veteran who first came to the area as a graduate student fleeing the Massachusetts winter: “Every single person who walks into the Flora-Bama wants to have a good time.”

And it’s not hard to see why people named Flora-Bama the best dive bar in Alabama in 2024 South’s Best Awards of Southern Living.

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What to Expect at Flora-Bama?

There’s white sand between the floorboards, love notes written in permanent marker on the walls, and a clothesline of ladies’ undies stretched over the dance floor (this is a dive bar, after all). Children can enjoy the surroundings until 6 p.m., while everyone else can stay until they close at 2:30 a.m.

On Sunday mornings, you can attend church at 9 or 11 a.m. Everyone is welcome at the Flora-Bama, and for many people, their first visit to this enormous shack on the beach inspires a second—and even a hundred more.

Flora-Bama is Alabama's Best Dive Bar, Claimed by Residents

The beloved dive has been a staple on the Alabama-Florida border since 1964 (a few years after the Perdido Pass Bridge was erected) when a local family established an unpretentious package store.

The late Joe Gilchrist purchased it in 1978 and converted it into a live music venue, bringing in country performers from the rodeo circuit. Pat McClellan joined him as a partner in the mid-1980s, and they began adding some of the bar’s signature events, such as the annual Interstate Mullet Toss (people throwing fish in the name of charity, which raises thousands for area youth organizations each year) and the Frank Brown Songwriters’ Festival (the largest and oldest of its kind in the country, attracting big names in music).

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Overcome Obstacles

The Flora-Bama has gone through some difficult times, as do most sites with interesting stories. After Hurricane Ivan devastated the area in 2004, the original beachside building was completely destroyed. For almost three years, the bar was housed in a variety of tents and trailers.

Flora-Bama is Alabama's Best Dive Bar, Claimed by Residents

Nonetheless, loyal customers continued to show up. “You probably had close to a million people going through there every year and having the time of their lives,” says McInnis, who became a majority owner alongside Price in 2009. “That’s love.”

They subsequently rebuilt the Flora-Bama, this time raising the rambling wooden hut 22 feet above the flood level. Other than that, they haven’t changed much. “Our goal was to make it better without changing it because it’s such an iconic establishment,” McInnis said.

That includes a continued commitment to charitable organizations (they donate to over 30 organizations each year, ranging from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation) and a dedication to redefining hospitality, providing a welcoming space for all types of sunseekers to gather season after season.

“You’re more a shepherd of the Flora-Bama than you are an owner of it,” Price adds. “When you look at all the people who have made memories here over the years, that’s the magic of this place.”


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