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Labor Day weekend approaches and a friend of mine expressed a desire to go for a clothing-optional getaway. I, myself, once visited “an adult-only, clothing-optional retreat” north of Tampa – FULLY CLOTHED and carrying a NOTEBOOK – in my role as a reporter for The Tampa Tribune. (I wrote about the clothing store located in the nudist colony.) While there, I discovered most clothes-free destinations have more rules than a boarding school. Here’s the skinny on what you need to know—and what you shouldn’t do—at a nude beach.

  1. It’s not polite to stare.

Once you’re on a nudist beach, don’t stare, gawk, point, or giggle. Obviously, you will be required to look at your fellow sunbathers at some point, whether greeting them or fetching their Frisbee from your beach towel. Hint: Wearing sunglasses helps, but regulars insist that at a certain point, you simply stop noticing all the bare skin.

2. Don’t expect supermodel bodies.

Contrary to popular belief, most nude beaches are not sexy places ripped straight out of the pages of a men’s magazine. Patrons come in all sizes, shapes, and states of physical fitness, and very few look like Liam Hemsworth in the buff. (On my brief visit I noticed a lot of surgical scars, too.)

  3. Put your cell phone away.

Never, ever take anyone’s photo without their permission.  Many nudist beaches even prohibit photography.

4. Look for posted signs regarding clothing-required venues.

Pack a beach tote with readily accessible garments in case you need to suit up to use the facilities. Most nudist beaches and resorts require you use a towel to sit on public chairs as well.

Finally, don’t forget your sunscreen. Areas that are normally protected by swim trunks and bikinis will need a lot of it, preferably one that’s gentle on sensitive skin.

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of Anchored Together and The Anchor Clankers.