There is not a better place to heal the soul and rejuvenate than a trip to your favorite beach. Nor is any visit the same, for the ocean is always changing. For those reasons, it is why we keep returning to the Alabama Gulf Coast year after year. We have been going since we were children; it’s the beach we grew up on. It is still the perfect location for a getaway with incredible beaches, plethora of restaurant and entertainment options.
Two of the most popular beach cities that make up the Alabama Gulf Coast are Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. We have visited both cities multiple times, but have stayed in Orange Beach the last few trips. Orange Beach is a few miles down the road from Gulf Shores. There are slight difference in the towns, but both offer fantastic restaurants, entertainment choices, and a variety of lodging and shopping options. Tips to plan your visit are below.
What Airport Can I Fly Into?
There are two airports that are fairly close to both locations: Mobile Regional Airport, 65 miles to Gulf Shores or Pensacola International Airport, 30 miles to Orange Beach, AL. It is helpful to have a car for the duration of your trip, but there is shuttle and taxi from both airports to the area. Unfortunately, Uber is not available in the area currently. If you are staying in Orange Beach and do not have a car or are partying hard and need a ride, check out $4 Island Shuttle. They offer airport pickup at both airports and operate as a flat fee taxi service in Orange Beach, AL.
Where Should I Stay?
There are lots of options for accommodations in both cities. The options include a mix of camping facilities, beach houses, high rise condos and hotels. There are many camping options, ranging from primitive to luxury campgrounds to the cabins and cottages that are available in the Gulf State Park. One of the best places to search for and make campground reservations is on www.gulfshores.com. The camp grounds fill up fast during Holiday weekends or festivals, so be sure to make reservations in advance. There are three great ways to search for beach houses and condos that are used for vacation rentals: Airbnb, VRBO and local real estate agents pages. We have had the most successes using VRBO, but we recommend all of them to get the best deal.
When to Go:
It is a great place to visit during any part of the year. The Gulf Coast offers great beach weather from April to October. Hurricane season starts 1 June through the fall. They are not a common occurrence, but be sure to check the weather report before heading down. In addition, consider vacation insurance if it is offered when you make your reservation. There are many festivals held in and around the region during the year. Two of the most popular festivals held in the area are The Hangout Music Festival and Shrimp Fest The Hangout Music Festival is held in May and Shrimp Fest is held in October.
What is the Beach Like?
The sand is soft, white and powdery. It’s comfortable to walk on and perfect for kids to play on and build sand castles. The water is generally warm. We often remark that it feels like bath water. The waves vary from hardly existent to moderately rough. It can be crowded on major holidays, Spring Break for area schools and two weeks before area schools return. Otherwise, the beach is moderately crowded and it’s possible to beach areas with no other visitors.
Where to Eat:
When we go to the beach, we only eat out for dinner as a general rule. We go to the grocery store when we get to town and buy breakfast and lunch food for the duration of our stay. This saves money, and allows more beach time. Some of our favorite restaurants include Cosmo’s, Wolf Bay Lodge, Cafe Grazie, Louisiana Lagniappe, Cotton’s, Caymen Grill, Tacky Jacks, Doc’s Seafood. There are endless options though and locals give the best advice!
Bored of the Beach?
Not sure anyone could get bored of the beach, but if you’re had enough of the water or looking for something to do after dinner, there are plenty of activities to keep you entertained. The Hangout in Gulf Shores is a popular place to hang out because it often has live music and is appropriate for the entire family. There are also putt- putt courses, a water park, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, a movie theater and shopping areas with a plethora of choices. If you are looking for a tour, there are dolphin cruises, kayaking excursions, parasailing, zip-lining, helicopter rides and sailing trips. There are shops that will rent you watersport vehicles (kayaks, waverunmers, boats). There is something for everyone and they would love to have you visit.