Opened in 1958 by Pat Gilmore, the Islander Lounge is the oldest continuously open beach bar from Destin, Florida to Orange Beach, Alabama along that 70+ miles of Gulf coastline.
To put that in perspective, it was opened the same year as the Tonga Hut in North Hollywood, California.
The Islander has expanded over the years. A game room area with its own bar was built years ago to adjoin the main bar. The club added an upstairs bar, the Cypress Bar, long ago, which is used for private parties and charity events, and open to the public on weekends. It leads out to an outside deck that looks south toward the Gulf of Mexico.
However, the striking remodeling from an immaculate 1950s Polynesian themed bamboo bar to a generically decorated neighborhood dive bar is disheartening for purist tikiphiles to look at. The gray walls and floor, not to mention the blaring televisions and signs for lotto and whiskey -- make it tough to spot any semblance of the former Polynesian theme.
Despite this, the bar is a survivor and still sports a few more modern tikis at the entrance and the upstairs deck. It is also much beloved by locals and doesn't need approval from outsiders who might disapprove of its decor.
The Tonga Hut in North Hollywood also saw a slide into generic dive bar status for several years, though, before being updated and refreshed. So, too, did the Bahi Hut in Sarasota, Florida. Perhaps the Islander Lounge also has a tiki remodel in its future?