Editor’s Note: With the summer months in full swing, we sent our resident world-traveler and shameless expense account abuser Jackson Winters out on the road again, out into the wild to find America’s Best Party Beaches.
What came back was for the most part not fit to print, what one editor deemed to be “an unpleasant mash of shameless debauchery, four minor felonies and an overwhelmingly odd amount of tangential erotica.” We didn’t so much mind (except for the fact that we now know more about Jackson than we ever wanted to). We did what we always do; lash whatever we can together to get the story and charge the expenses against his earnings.
We hope you enjoy.
South Padre Island, Texas
Beach: 6/10 Girls: 8/10 Bars: 7/10 Atmosphere: 9/10
Somewhere off in the distance sits a giant American flag, a place marker to a staked claim, a rare piece of sandy real estate now lost to the onslaught of either over- or under-sexed college-age seniors sunning themselves, shot-gunning beers, skinny dipping, and celebrating the last days of Spring Break like it was the last days of their lives.
For one week of the year, otherwise quiet coastal Texas transforms from a mild-mannered fishing destination for middle-aged men into a maddening mosh pit of college kids let loose, on temporary reprieve from what, given their irregular states of sobriety, must be an oppressive and oft-boring life as a college student. And South Padre is the center of it all, America’s Ibiza for seven sun-soaked, sweat-drenched, sex-filled days. As a place to pick up, it’s unrivalled, like shooting fish in a barrel. This is where I stand now, fresh off just such a beach-side encounter with a fine, young member of the fairer sex and completely lost. Absolutely no hope of ever finding that flag again ‘til the crowds die down so best to just shower off and start again, scouring the beaches for either beers, or babes with bachelor’s degrees.
Ditch Plains, New York
Beach: 9/10 Girls: 7/10 Bars: 5/10 Atmosphere: 10/10
Way out past the crusty upper-class of New York socialite escape, past West Babylon and Bohemia, Eastport and the Great Peconic Bay, out where the last waves settle on the Long Island Sound, sits a small East Coast Surf Kingdom, a literal land’s edge tucked away in Montauk, New York, known formally as Ditch Plains but to all who live there simply as “The End.”
It’s an otherworldly place, a step out past the Earth’s usual walls; a place where the Gatsby crowds might have collapsed and found refuge if only they weren’t all so taken with and driven by the green light at the end of pier. The locals here are the ones who broke away, surfers without the dusty-haired, drawn-out West Coast vibe. Down-to-earth people who never saw the appeal of a work-a-day American Dream. It’s a place where reading Foucault wouldn’t be out of place, but neither would funneling ten beers by firelight. It is a place altogether lost to time and space, perhaps one of the last bastions of righteous living left in America.
Dewey Beach, Delaware
Beach: 10/10 Girls: 7/10 Bars: 6/10 Atmosphere: 9/10
Driving southbound down Delaware’s Coastal Highway, I pass something called the Prime Hook State Wildlife Management Area and can’t help but think: “Delaware: What a funny place.” Of course the next thought is: “What the fuck am I doing in Delaware?”
It’s a question most people with no good excuse for being anywhere out past Dover have asked themselves while driving alone down an otherwise empty state highway when suddenly it snaps back that you’re looking for a beach. In Delaware? The brain scrambles to connect what it assumes are two separate thoughts, synaptic misfires not possibly connected to one another. Are there beaches in Delaware? The hands reach down and spread the map out over the passenger’s seat. The eyes scan it, see the coast and follow the finger down the route someone has carved out to Dewey Beach, but the brain still refutes what the eyes and hands are telling it: Delaware doesn’t have beaches.
Delaware does have beaches. Pristine fucking sand beaches with some of the cleanest water in America and locals with serious penchant for skim boarding. Dewey Beach in particular, a town 341 strong, plays host every August to the Amateur Skim World Championships and is, in the short time the Skim Boys are in town, a 48-hour blowout before heading back out onto the highway and into Delaware’s great beyond.
South Beach, Miami
Beach: 7/10 Girls: 10/10 Bars: 9/10 Atmosphere: 8/10
South Beach was one of the first stops on the mainland for serial drug runners settling the Keys back in the salad days of all-night 80s cocaine. High speed, silent cigarette boats leaving a wake across the water by moonlight, chock full of fine white powder contraband and crawling into unlit harbors, then up the coast, and into the bloodstream of Middle America.
Whatever run off, both figurative and literal, from those fast days along Florida Coast still very much stoke the fires in South Beach today; it’s an expansive, upper-echelon of beach world, a blue and hot pink neon city built on sand where the music always spins and the women are forever wearing next to no clothing. It’s an abstract, Art-Deco, agoraphobic nightmare; a modern day Alice In Wonderland locale where one can at once welcome and live in total fear of losing their bearings under the ever-glow of unfamiliar lights and a place permanently stuck in another decade, in limbo, the last stop and occasional resting place for full-time members of the Too Much Fun Club.
Laguna Beach, California
Beach: 8/10 Girls: 9/10 Bars: 8/10 Atmosphere: 7/10
The Sandpiper Lounge stands out as a place I spent an inordinate amount of time in for only vacationing in Laguna Beach for a few days. Something about the place, the epitome of beach-town dive, kept me coming back. It had a realism to it, an edge that the rest of place lacked and were it not for the Piper, Laguna Beach may have never made this list.
The rest of town suffers somewhat from the drawbacks of fame, a sort of plastic mecca for Children of the 90s, burnt out and brought up on television, born too late to for grunge and Kurt Cobain but right on time to take most of their early social queues and life lessons from Rachel Bilson and Ben McKenzie of O.C. fame. But don’t mistake the point; the vast migration of the MTV generation coming of age in California makes for one king bitch blackout, balls-deep party scene (the overly-medicated, overly-enhanced cougars that come preying down from hills adds further intrigue), but for a seasoned pro like myself, salvation was found at the Sandpiper.
The only drawback is perhaps the bathroom, best described by a local with the line: “you couldn’t do the cleanest drugs in the world in that bathroom and not come out dirty.” Selah: The Sandpiper Saves.