Off-the-Beach Travel Guide of Alabama's Beaches
What do you do when you vacation at the beach?
That may sound like a silly question, because the answer is typically “hang out at the beach, of course!” But if you’re taking a big family on a beach vacation, not everyone may want to keep their toes in the sand all day long!
For those who need a little break from the sun, there are other activities to add excitement to the beach vacation agenda.
1.) Nature Trails
Gulf Shores has a variety of nature trails for outdoor fun away from the waves and sand. The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail – with more than 27 miles of paved trails – are just two options. The Backcountry Trail system is perfect for biking, too! Bon Secour encompasses some of Alabama’s most precious, undisturbed habitats for endangered species and other wildlife friends.
2.) Swift-Coles Historic Home in nearby Bon Secour, AL
Step back in time with a guided tour through this historic home located under a 120-year-old Southern live oak tree. Built circa 1882 as home to Charles and Susan Swift and their 11 children, the landmark is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
3.) OWA Amusement Park
This amusement park is located in Foley, about 15 minutes north of Gulf Shores. With 22 thrill rides plus shopping and dining, this spot is the perfect location for everyone during a non-beach vacation day! Get ready for thrill rides and great food when you spend the day at OWA, centered around a gorgeous 14-acre lake.
4.) Alligator Alley
Did you know that alligators can go as long as 18 months without food? Learn this fact and more when you make a quick stop by this cool alligator farm in nearby Summerdale. Visitors can see more than 450 alligators from hatchlings to mature adults. Call ahead to find out when feeding time is. It’s a sight you don’t want to miss!
5.) The Hot Shop
If art makes you happy, you simply must swing by The Hot Shop at the Coastal Arts Center in Orange Beach to watch talented artists hard at work! And if you have some extra time, be sure to make a reservation for a “Make Your Own Glass” class!
6.) Clara’s Loom and Textile Center
If you love handmade scarves, shawls or cord necklaces, you will definitely want to add Clara’s Loom to your itinerary. You can even schedule your own weaving class! This quaint little shop has a lively owner who is sure to entertain the textile lover in your group.
7.) Lemur Experience at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
A must-do on your next beach trip, the lemur experience at the zoo is fantastic for families. The zoo not only offers a haven for beloved animals, but also has room for great animal encounters like the lemurs, kangaroos and sloths. The first ZAA-accredited U.S. zoo to be built from the ground up in more than 20 years, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo additionally offers interactive animal shows and a giraffe feeding station.
8.) Tanger Outlets in Foley, AL
Spend a day of shopping at your favorite stores neatly arranged in Tanger Outlets. There are more than 120 brand-name and designer outlet stores like Michael Kors, J. Crew, Vera Bradley, Kate Spade, Nike Factory Store and more!
9.) Say “Ahhh” at the Spa
Head over to The Spa at the Beach Club or Fusion Spa at The Wharf for a pampering good time including massages, skin care, body treatments and salon services. Leave relaxed and refreshed.
10.) National Naval Aviation Museum
Just a short drive from Orange Beach is the National Naval Aviation Museum, the world’s largest of its kind as well as one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida. Admission is free and the history is rich. Check out one-of-a-kind aircraft and other memorabilia in the 350,000-square-feet of exhibit space and the 37-acre grounds. Have lunch there and, if you plan ahead, you might be able to visit the same day the legendary Blue Angels are doing practice flights—an unforgettable experience.
11.) Coastal Segway Adventures
Fall in love with the natural side of Alabama’s Gulf Coast with a Segway tour through the backcountry trails. The expert guides will keep you comfortable and safe while you experience Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in a whole new way.
12.) Gulf Coast Ducks
Board the amphibious vehicle and learn some local history while touring by both land and sea. Bring your camera as the views are amazing, especially at sunset.
13.) Experience the Mobile Bay Ferry
Enjoy a scenic ride from Gulf Shores aboard the Marissa Mae Nichole, across Mobile Bay between Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island and Fort Morgan’s Mobile Point. The less-than-an-hour-ride offers time to see birds and other marine life.
As you can see, there is a wide array of activities for you in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach besides hanging by the water, proving that a beach vacation REALLY IS perfect for everyone.
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