Hint: It involves her beautiful family and one sweet ride.

By Lindsey Ellis Beatty and Rachael Burrow
May 10, 2018
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Photo: David Tsay; Styling: Lindsey Ellis Beatty and Rachael Burrow; Hair and Makeup: Rolland's Beauty Bar

For interior designer Erika M. Powell of Urban Grace Interiors and her family, summer is all about long days on their home sands of Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, that spill into dinners at dusk with friends.

Erika, her husband, Chance, and their daughters, Sloane, 8, and Whitney, 5, set up their beach landing zone out of their 1977 Ford Bronco. But this isn't just any family car—these wheels have history.

It was on Florida's Grayton Beach that the couple first met and where three years later Chance surprised Erika with a wedding proposal and the Powells' green beach ride. "We have since shared many memories on that beach with that Bronco nearby," says Erika. Here's how to pull off a party like the Powells (with or without the cool vintage truck).

  • Pack like a pro. The right setup is key for making the most of any day by the water. For Erika, that means easy-to-serve food like chicken salad and chips, a Bluetooth speaker for playing jams, a cooler with pellet ice for making drinks, comfy chairs, and Sunbrella blankets for when the sea breezes get chilly.
  • Stake out the right spot. Because Grayton Beach is one of the only stretches of sand on Florida's Scenic Highway 30A that allows cars, it's ideal for parking by the water and hanging for the day. "We almost always try to find a spot by the dune lake," Erika says. "It's shallow, safe for younger children, and usually warmer than the Gulf." And thanks to the large beach, there are always friends to be found nearby.
  • Make it an all-day affair. Wake up early and plan to stay until the sun goes down. Soaking up a sunset is part of the magic of a summer day on the shore.

Related: A Perfect Weekend of Florida's 30A

Erika's Beachside Tailgate

Hit the sand for a laid-back, all-day picnic.

Fabric: Robbie Caponetto; Cooler and Basket: Courtesy of Manufacturers 

(starting from top)

Coleman 54 Quart Steel Belted Cooler in Turquoise, $200; coleman.com

sea & grass Handwoven Picnic Tote, $78 (small); food52.com

Erika M. Powell Textiles Cypress Knot Fabric in Mineral, $145 per yard; erikampowell.com