As a travel journalist, I see a lot of state parks and have stayed in more lodges than I care to think about. The Lodge at Gulf State Park is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and thoughtfully designed facilities in the entire country. But, even more impressive is the food at Perch, the upscale (yet down to earth) restaurant that's part of several dining options within The Lodge. And, the sunset views atop the deck looking over the beach are the cherry on top of the cake.
At the other end of the beach, near Alabama's state line, is the world-famous Flora-Bama Lounge and Oyster Bar. Of course, the bar itself is no secret, it's been around since 1964. But, you may not know that each Sunday morning, the Flora-Bama has its own church service - and it's a hoot! The place is packed with nice people from all around the country and the speakers and musicians make it a worthwhile experience. Did I mention the bar is open, too?
If you'd like to squeeze in a history lesson between your game of beach volleyball and sun tanning - take a short ride down to Fort Morgan. The historic fort was built starting in 1819 and played a role in several major conflicts, most notably "The Battle of Mobile Bay" in 1864. The site also offers picnic areas, boat access, and guided tours.