A lot of people don’t equate Alabama with great beaches, but the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area has over 32 miles of uncrowded, wide, white sand coastline. You’ll get more for your money here too as rates are much lower than in the neighboring Florida Panhandle.
Things to Do and Places to See
Try your hand at Glass Blowing in The Hot Shop at Orange Beach Arts Center. In addition to daily glass blowing demonstrations by artist-in-residence Sam Cornman, visitors can make their own glass creation. The center also has an art gallery with displays by local and visiting artists, housed in what used to be the first hotel in Orange Beach.
Or, hop on a 24-foot pontoon boat and take a Nature Tour with Captain Skip of Sailaway Charters. You’ll cruise around Wolf’s Bay for two hours and learn about how shrimp boats pull in their catch and even throw out some shrimp nets. You’ll also learn how to rake in oysters and maybe even see some dolphins. Captain Skip has been giving tours for over eleven years and is very knowledgeable about the local wildlife and conservation efforts in the area.
Shop till you drop at SanRoc Cay. This is one of the few places in Orange Beach where you can find boutique shopping. Shops such as Blue Lagoon offer designer swimwear and Sweat Dreams has earth-friendly bath and body products. In addition to great shopping, San Roc Cay offers a marina and several restaurants. Take a cooking class, a painting lesson or even record your own album in the listening room at Beach CITE Studios.
Get close to Nature and take a hike at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge showcases one of Alabama’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitat. Several endanger species make their home here such as the Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the Alabama Beach Mouse and the American Alligator. The park has several miles of trails (but no facilities) that meander through a maritime forest alongside Little Lagoon and Gator Lake.
The area also offers Golf, Deep Sea Fishing, Parasailing, Glass Bottom Boat Tours, Dolphin Tours, and much more.
Where to Stay
Rent a beachfront condo at Turquoise Place. Managed by Spectrum Resorts, this great ocean-front property is in the heart of Orange Beach. There are tennis courts, multiple swimming pools, hot tubs, and a fitness center. The condos themselves are all state of the art with sub-zero refrigerators, convection ovens, laundry rooms, jetted tubs and flat screen televisions. The units range from three to five bedrooms and have a balcony, a hot tub and outdoor kitchen with sweeping Gulf views.
For a more intimate experience, head inland to Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast. This fabulous B&B built in the 1890’s is tucked away in Magnolia Springs, a quaint little river community where residents still get their mail delivered by boat. The woodwork and original construction details at the Inn are amazing and owners David Worthington and Eric Bigelow make each guest feel welcome and at home with true southern hospitality.
What to Eat
Lulu’s at Homeport Marina is owned by Lucy Buffet (sister of Jimmy Buffet) and has an easy-going, kick back and relaxed beach vibe. Cold beer and good burgers are the motto here and they do both right. They’ve got live music almost every night and during the day on Saturdays. This is a kid-friendly place and fun for all. Be sure to pick up a souvenir t-shirt at the on-site gift shop.
If you’re looking for a fine dining experience, Cobalt Restaurant offers upscale dining with breathtaking views of the bay and Perdido Pass. Tuna Sashimi is a popular appetizer along with fresh oysters on the half shell. Popular entrées include Grouper and hand-cut steaks. Cobalt’s offers an extensive wine menu even winning a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2009 for their selections. .
Back over in Magnolia Springs, Jesse’s is an unexpected surprise. There’s not much in this small town but Jesse’s blends fine dining with a laid back atmosphere. Jesse’s Whiskey Steak was voted one of the “100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die”.
Amazing beaches, great food and activities for everyone makes Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama a great place to hang out and enjoy life.