When you think about where to go for a beach vacation, southern California and Florida seem to be the iconic destinations in America. Unbeknownst to many, there are 30 miles of sugar-white sand beaches that hug the Gulf of Mexico. This pristine beachfront is the setting for a perfect Alabama beach vacation and encompasses the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Plan a Perfect Alabama Beach Vacation: Where to Stay in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
Getting to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach involves a flight to either Pensacola, Florida or Mobile, Alabama.
Approaching the coastline from highway 59, the waterfront property is a familiar scene of high-rises. In Alabama, however, 85% of these properties are individually owned condos and vacation rentals, not hotels.
A majority of the properties are managed by Brett/Robinson. Founded in 1982 by the Brett and Robinson families, there are currently 19 high rises managed by Brett/Robinson in the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores area. Two more buildings are expected to be completed by 2018. For those who don’t enjoy the hustle and bustle of high rises, Brett/Robinson also manages over 50 condominiums and beach houses in Orange Beach and the Gulf Shores.
When I visited, I stayed at Phoenix West II. Built in 2012, it is currently the newest multi-unit property in the Brett/Robinson catalog. With three and four bedroom options available during peak season, rentals are completely furnished and perfect for multi-day and longer stays. For the waterbugs, it includes a lazy river, water slide, indoor and outdoor pools. Other recreational activities include tennis courts and communal grills.
What to do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Some people are perfectly content sunning by the beach reading a book or floating on a lazy river. Those are two great options in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. FYI: the purple flag on the beach means there are jellyfish in the area so you’d do yourself a favor to stay out of the water when that is flying. For those looking for more activities, there is plenty to do. For the nature lover, consider taking a bike tour or segway tour of the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry trail. With over 25 miles of trails and six different ecosystems along the way, it is a great spot to experience the diversity of the area. You can look up and spot eagles’ nests and look down to see alligators and loggerhead turtles. In particular, there is a resident gator named “Lefty”, named as such because she lost her left front foot.
Activities by Land and by Sea
For those looking for a more competitive form of fun, the Alabama coast offers plentiful options for competitive and recreational golf. In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, there are seven golf courses, three of which are championship length. No matter what your skill level is, there is a golf course that will suit you.
After a packed day, there is nothing like a quick nap and shower before a night out. In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, there are plentiful options for an evening activity. A sunset cruise with Sail Wild Hearts is a lovely way to wrap up a day on the water. There is something so special about sailing on the calm gulf water that really ties a bow on a day of fun. The beautiful sunset on the water and against the backdrop of homes along the gulf is truly a treat.
Where to Eat in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
If you have ever been on a bad vacation, I’d take a guess and suggest that among other things, the food options weren’t great. You will not have that trouble when heading to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. No matter what your food allergy or restriction, many of the restaurants in the area are able to accommodate. As a seaside town, of course the seafood is outstanding. Oysters, shrimp, crab, and/or catch of the day fish proliferated most every menu. Some of the more popular styles of serving this locally sourced seafood were fish tacos, blackened shrimp, and crab quiche.
One of the more famous restaurants from the area is LuLu’s. Owned by Jimmy Buffet’s sister Lucille, it has 8 different allergy menus available as well as a database of customers who visit with allergies. Talk about going the extra mile!
Don’t Forget to Enjoy the Sugar White Sand Beaches
With so many activities and restaurants to try, it is surprisingly easy to forget to take some time to sit at the beach. The beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Alabama are not quite like the beaches I frequent. In Chicago, the sand of lake Michigan is coarse and gets incredibly hot under the sun. In Alabama, however, the sand is fine and soft, and resembles powdered sugar. This sand is the quartz runoff from the Appalachian mountain range from the last ice age. It stays cool under the hot sun, and even squeaks when you walk in it. For those without beach chairs, the sand perfectly conforms to your body for an ideal napping spot.
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Many thanks to the tourism board of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach along with multiple partners for hosting my stay. While the details were theirs, all fun and opinions are my own.
WHEN TO VISIT ALABAMA
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Alabama’s climate is in a mild southern subtropical zone of North America. Sunny and mild temperatures are expected year round. Temperature varies anywhere from cloudy and chilly around 40 degrees, to sunny and warm with a temperature of 68 degrees.
If you enjoyed this article about How to Plan a Perfect Alabama Beach Vacation, you’ll also love Adventures in Indulgence in Birmingham, Alabama.
Traveling To Alabama Soon? Here are a few tips:
How to get there: Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional would be closest airport to these beaches.
Where to stay: There are many places to stay in Alabama. There is a wide range of hotels, from budget to luxury. For a luxury hotel that won’t break the bank, I recommend the Hampton Inn Huntsville in which is currently the #1 hotel on Tripadvisor. For a mid-level hotel, I suggest the Fairfield Inn & Suites Mobile Saraland. Finally, for a budget hotel, try the Royal Inn. You can also check HotelsCombined for the best Alabama Hotel Rates.
What to pack: The temperatures each season vary greatly, but even in summer it can be cold. I visited in June and was very happy to have a light down jacket, warm socks (I love Ice Breaker), a waterproof outer layer and rain jacket, and some hiking boots (I love Keen). If you are visiting in Winter, you’ll want to bring heavy duty layers. Don’t forget to bring Sunscreen!
Alabama Trip Essentials
6 Indispensable Items to Pack for a Alabama Beach Vacation
- Get the Alabama Road Trips Guide Book.
- Bring a good quality mirrorless camera for getting those beautiful Alabama beach landscape shots. I use the Sony Alpha a6000 .
- The majority of Alabama’s days are warm and sunny, so make sure to bring Neutrogena Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 45
- A great cross body travel bag. Cross body bags prevent theft and are much easier to access.
- Don’t forget sunglasses for the beautiful sunny days. A.J. Morgan Unisex Sunglasses are a great choice and very affordable!
- Water shoes are a great item to pack for any beach vacation. They take up little room when packing and great if you end up at a beach that is rocky or with very hot sand.
Read More About Alabama
How to Plan a Perfect Alabama Beach Vacation
Adventures in Indulgence in Birmingham, Alabama
A Perfect Aruba Vacation on a Budget
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.
Jaime Scilingo hails from and currently lives in Chicago, making her an expert on the Windy City. She speaks French and previously lived in Quebec City as well as Portland, Maine, where she found herself sharing a home with a ghost. When she is not working as a healthcare provider, she is traveling, practicing yoga, or studying language. She currently focuses her writing on purposefully quiet travel for the anxious, aging, or autistic traveler, and hopes to continue providing useful information for those affected by these conditions.