You know what’s better than heading South to the beach in the fall? Heading South AND adding fun stops all along the way.
If you’re used to making the drive down the stretch of the I-65 corridor, you might be asking: “Where can I stop?” We’ll fill you in on unique sights to extend your road trip from Tennessee down to Alabama’s beaches.
Make it an epic beach road trip and add a few of these stops when you head down to Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Top 6 Places to Stop from TN to Alabama's Beaches
Known as Rocket City, Huntsville is the site of the world-renown Space and Rocket Center. However, few travelers know that Huntsville has so much more to offer than just that. There are numerous local breweries, mountain hiking trails, like beautiful Monte Sano State Park with gorgeous views in the fall overlooking the city, and memorable places to eat. If you go, don’t miss these distinctive eateries:
- Stovehouse is known as Huntsville’s food garden. It’s a complex of restaurants designed to make you never want to leave. There’s plenty of live music and yard games.
- A.M Booth’s Lumberyard is a popular local spot in town where you can listen to live music, including dueling pianos and local bands. Plan ahead and you can even enjoy dinner on a historic train.
- Campus 808 is another must-see stop with numerous restaurants. Established in an old school building, this preserved campus is quite quirky and will bring you back to your school days. Ask a local diner to show you the hidden speakeasy behind the secret lockers.
Many travelers consider making a stop in Birmingham in order to see its rich history of the Civil Rights movement. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is an important and impactful place to visit and learn from. Other places to stop in Birmingham include a zoo and the 67-acre botanical garden. You can even spend the night in a castle of sorts at the Ross Bridge Resort and Spa.
3. Clanton Peach Park
For a quick stop to stretch your legs and let the kids run around, you may want to check out Peach Park in Clanton. Here, you can buy produce and locally made goods, but also homemade peach ice cream! Many make this stop a sweet family tradition.
If you’re a history buff, you should make a stop in Selma, which is just an hour’s drive from Peach Park. Visit the Selma Interpretive Center and the Brown Chapel AME Church. You can even retrace the somber steps across the bridge where the tragic Bloody Sunday occurred.
5. Priester’s Pecans
Another popular stop is Priester’s Pecans. Here, you can try free samples of this southern delicacy! Additionally, there is a viewing area to see how the candies are made, a cold and hot food bar to enjoy some lunch, and a gift shop to buy souvenirs to take home (or eat along the way, if you can’t wait).
Two excellent stops for families who love pairing hands-on learning with travel experiences are Mobile’s GulfQuest: National Maritime Museum and the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Both attractions are worth the price of admission! Plan on spending a few hours at both locations.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
After road-tripping from Tennessee to Gulf Shores, no doubt you’ll be craving a heaping helping of fresh seafood. One of our favorite spots to stretch our legs is at LuLu’s. If you arrive before your condo is ready, it’s the perfect spot to spend a couple of hours. There’s plenty for the kids (and kids-at-heart) to do, including sand volleyball, the Mountain of Youth ropes course, and of course feasting on a shrimp po-boy.
After recharging overnight, we love to hit the waterways with a pontoon boat rental in Orange Beach from Flora-Bama Marina & Watersports. For our family, there’s no better way to see the area. Amp up the fun and opt for a boat rental with a slide!
Cruise the back bay and Ole River or anchor at Robinson Island for a few hours of boat and beach fun. When you’re done boating, pull up a chair at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club for the area’s signature drink, a bushwacker. This cold, creamy concoction is what vacation dreams are made of!
The quintessential road trip would not be complete without souvenirs. You’ll have no trouble finding the perfect t-shirt or hat along the beach road at a number of souvenir shops. But, your keepsake vacation photos have to include a snapshot in the shark’s mouth at Souvenir City. What better way to commemorate your Tennessee to Gulf Shores road trip?
Of course, you’re on a beach vacation, so don’t forget to put your toes in the sand and enjoy the scenery. The white-sand beaches that stretch for miles make the road trip from Tennessee worth it!