Alabama has beaches. It’s true! Thirty-two miles of cool, white, sandy beaches to be exact. They are one of the top reasons vacationers come to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach year after year. It’s what brought me here, not once but TWICE this year! But I have to tell you: You may come for the white, sandy beaches, but you’ll stay for very different reasons. The area is full of great food and adventures just waiting for you to explore.
Everything for me starts and usually comes back to food. If it does for you, too, you are going to love Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Area restaurants are serving up everything from enormous custom-made milkshakes at The Yard Milkshake Bar to freshly caught Gulf seafood at places like The Gulf, Big Wave Dave’s, Anchor Bar & Grill, and Bill’s By the Beach.
One piece of advice I was given on food – and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet – is if there is a “fresh catch” option, order that! Whether you get it steamed, grilled, baked or fried, you can’t go wrong. The fresh seafood here comes straight out of the Gulf to your plate! It doesn’t get any better than that unless you head out on one of the local fishing charters and catch it yourself. A few friends and I did just that and it’s quite the experience, in a good way. I can’t wait to head out fishing again, this time during red snapper season!
It’s a good thing the area offers a variety of active adventures. Otherwise vacation calories really would count! Whether on land or sea, there is an outdoor activity here you’ll want to explore. On my last two trips, I’ve packed my schedule with everything from deep sea fishing and cat boat rides to Segway tours on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails and beach yoga.
If you enjoy hiking and nature walks, head toward Fort Morgan and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, a tucked-away gem that offers some of Alabama’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitats. The secluded beach at the end of one of the trails is spectacular and one of my favorites. It’s worth the trek through loose sand. The pristine sugar-white sand, clear water, and no one as far as the eye can see. Practically perfect in every way.
Not all the fun happens on land. The warm Gulf, Lake Shelby, and other bodies of water offer fantastic recreational options. Speed on top of the water in a cat boat, sail on a catamaran, paddleboard, kayak, swim or just dip your toes in the water. It’s all good!
One of the things that hooked me on my first trip here was that fishing charter I went on. The fishing was fantastic! But at the end of the day, a pod of 30+ dolphins found us and ended our fishing. We scrambled onto the bow of the boat to watch dolphins swim all around us. Bucket list item: CHECK!
One more thing that got me hooked on Gulf Shores and Orange Beach was something that happened at the Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar on my last trip. It was an all-girls trip and the story starts out: “There was a cowboy on a horse, dancing in a bar . . .”
That’s where I will end this story (for now). I’m hooked on Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. That’s for sure. The beach draws you here, but the Southern hospitality, food, and the fun make you want to come back again and again.