Girlfriends in Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

The Fab Four. The Travel Posse. The Fearless Foursome. Those are just a few of the nicknames my travel-loving girlfriends and I use to describe ourselves. Otherwise, we are known as Sandi, Peggy, Susan and Mary.

Since we live in various parts of the country (Susan and Sandi live near Philadelphia, Peggy lives in Chicago and I live on the Gulf Coast), we take turns hosting the “posse” for girlfriend getaway weekends. The four of us met several years ago on a 12-day tour of Europe, and instantly bonded over a shared love of travel, fine dining and meaningful conversation. 

When it was my turn to host, I couldn't wait to show my girlfriends what the Alabama Gulf Coast has to offer. None of them had been to Alabama before, and I knew they would be very pleasantly surprised.

Four girls walking and shopping
Group of girlfriends shopping in Orange Beach

Getting the getaway underway

I picked up everyone at the airport Friday afternoon, and we were in our Orange Beach condo breathing salt air within the hour.

Eating is a high priority for girlfriend getaway weekends, and I was eager to give them a taste of what Gulf Coast cuisine is all about.

Seafood was the consensus vote for Friday night dinner, so I took the girls to one of my favorite seafood restaurants, Cayman Grill, where Chef Greg Buschmohle serves up some of the freshest red snapper, grouper and mahi mahi in town.

Following dinner and a moonlit walk on the beach, we decided to turn in early so the ladies could recoup from their long travel day and we could hit the ground running on Saturday morning.

Shopping and a Southern lunch

In true Travel Posse, ahem, fashion, shopping was on the agenda. The girls were delighted to explore some of the unique boutique shops on the Gulf Coast—they’re unlike anything Susan, Sandi and Peggy have back home.

Our first stop was SanRoc Cay—a marina with restaurants, shopping, a spa and more—where Peggy (the shopaholic of the group) found the perfect sandals at Jane Loves Shoes and a swimsuit cover at Blue Lagoon Swimwear. Then, it was on to The Wharf to make the rounds of its boutique shops.

Lunchtime was an opportunity to introduce my friends to another local gem. Dining on the coast is as much about ambiance as it is food, and Fisher’s has plenty to offer on both fronts. Sitting dockside gave us a chance to watch yachts and fishing boats pulling in and out of Orange Beach Marina.

Eager to immerse themselves in Southern culture, Susan tried fried green tomatoes for the first time, and Sandi and Peggy expanded their knowledge of Southern cuisine by ordering shrimp and grits. After sampling each dish, Susan wondered aloud “what else have I been missing out on all my life?”

Three girlfriends laughing and relaxing on the beach
Alabama Gulf Coast Beaches

Beach time and Saturday night on the town

Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to hit the beach. After relaxing for a few hours under beach umbrellas, we decided to work off some of the delicious food we’d been consuming all weekend. Peggy and Susan stretched out their muscles by joining a beach yoga class, while Sandi and I opted to try our hand at stand-up paddleboarding. I’ve been waterskiing and skiing on snow since I was a teenager, so I thought paddleboarding would be a piece of cake. It turns out I slightly over-estimated my balance and coordination, and took a couple of unplanned dips in the Gulf. It didn’t take us long to figure out it’s helpful to have a buddy steady the board until you find your sea legs. We had a blast once we got the hang of it.

Following our rejuvenating afternoon at the beach, we all got dolled up for a good old-fashioned girls night out. None of my big-city girlfriends had ever seen a true roadside bar, and there was no way I would let them leave the Gulf Coast without a trip to the Flora-Bama. They quickly understood the allure of the Bama, and why it’s known as the place where “bikers sit next to millionaires.” We spent the evening tapping our toes, listening to the band and laughing until our sides ached. It was a perfect night out.

Sunday brunch and crafts

One of the reasons I’d picked this weekend to host the girls, was that it coincided with the 41st annual Orange Beach Festival of Art. After Sunday brunch, we headed over to spend our final day together browsing the booths of the more than 100 fine art vendors who were selected to participate in the juried event. Everything from artwork and handmade jewelry to pottery was on display and for sale. Of course, Peggy found some earrings and a necklace she couldn’t live without.

Another highlight of the festival was watching a live demonstration of glass blowing at the Coastal Art Center Hot Shop. The Hot Shop is the only public access glass studio in Alabama, and I was excited to learn that they offer classes as well as demonstrations.

On the drive back to the airport, the inevitable question came up about who should host our next reunion. Susan was the first to suggest a repeat trip to the Gulf Coast, and her suggestion was met with a chorus of “Great idea,” “I’m in,” and “A couple of days wasn’t nearly long enough.”

Then Peggy took it a step further. “You know, I could definitely see myself spending the winter in a Gulf Shores beach condo instead of shoveling snow in Chicago.”

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Mary Story blog
Mary Story (1323 Posts)
Mary Story is an award-winning writer who has been published nationally in Reader’s Digest and Woman’s Day. After spending 25 years leading the marketing and communication efforts of a Fortune 500…