Gulf Shores and Or­ange Beach, Alabama

Bring on Sum­mer fun

The Sentinel-Record - HER - Hot Springs - - Culture -

Back­ground: Prior to com­ple­tion of the In­tra­coastal Wa­ter­way in 1937 and the Gulf State Park in 1939, Gulf Shores was a tiny fish­ing com­mu­nity with roots dat­ing to the early 1800s. Nearby Or­ange Beach, orig­i­nally a Creek com­mu­nity, ex­ploited ad­ja­cent forests to fuel trade in tur­pen­tine, shin­gles and naval sup­plies. As tim­ber was de­pleted, or­ange groves were planted; and the town was so named. Both cities took a di­rect hit from Hur­ri­cane Fred­eric in 1979, af­ter which re­de­vel­op­ment sparked con­struc­tion of con­do­mini­ums, restaurant­s and en­ter­tain­ment venues – all of which has an­chored the area as a pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion.

Why go now: Va­ca­tion sea­son is here! And noth­ing is more com­fort­ing than an old fa­vorite. Gen­er­a­tions have en­joyed Gulf Shores and Or­ange Beach as a fa­mil­iar place to land a tro­phy fish, sink a great putt, dine on fresh Gulf seafood, build cas­tles in the sand and laugh with loved ones.

Spend your day: Play a round of golf at one of the area’s seven sig­na­ture cour­ses, re­mem­ber­ing that ad­vance plan­ning, re­gard­less of the size of your group, will help guar­an­tee the best tee times. Ask about Stay-and-Play pack­ages. (­ Or spend the morn­ing fish­ing with Cap­tain Rick Mur­doch in Bon Se­cour. Bring your own bev­er­ages and a cooler for your catch. Cap­tain Mur­doch will do the clean­ing and pack the fish for you to to take to Doc’s Seafood, where they’ll cook it and serve it with all the trim­mings for just un­der $10. When you’re done, kick back on the su­gar sand beaches to build a cas­tle, share a sun­set, take a walk or just chill. (­aba­m­a­girl­fish­ing. com).

Must do: Cel­e­brate the 150th an­niver­sary of the siege of Mo­bile Bay and the Bat­tle of Fort Mor­gan. Lo­cated at the western end of High­way 180, 22 miles west of High­way 59, this his­toric fort site fea­tures ar­tillery bat­ter­ies, a mu­seum, pic­nic area, bird sanc­tu­ary, fish­ing pier, boat launch and auto ferry. Kids of all ages love the noisy re-cre­ated naval bat­tles – in­clud­ing the one where a Union ad­mi­ral tells his troops to “damn the tor­pe­does” and go full speed ahead! (www. pre­­gan.aspx)

Af­ter­wards, head over to The Wharf en­ter­tain­ment district for live con­certs, a 112-foot tall Fer­ris wheel, great food and shop­ping, plus views of their mag­nif­i­cent ma­rina. (­ )

Where to eat: Jesse’s Restau­rant (www.jess­es­restau­; $$-$$$) If you’re driv­ing to the Alabama Gulf Coast, stop in Mag­no­lia Springs – the only U.S. town that still has mail de­liv­ered by wa­ter. Slip un­der the arms of sprawl­ing live oaks to en­joy Jesse’s dry and wet aged steaks, fresh lo­cal seafood and sig­na­ture en­trees, as well as their ex­ten­sive wine and cock­tail menu.

Fisher’s at Or­ange Beach Ma­rina (­er­sobm. com; $$-$$$) With two restaurant­s un­der one roof, you can dine ei­ther up­stairs or dock­side.Try the

floun­der stuffed with shrimp and corn­bread dress­ing, driz­zled with lemon beurre blanc.

Lucy B Goode (www.lucy­b­; $-$$) If you like farmto-fork or boat-to-bowl eat­ing, this is where you want to pull up a chair. Start with Lucy’s “Pa-menna Cheese” served with rose­mary flat­bread, sweet and sassy ice­box pick­les and spiced pecans. Or Lulu’s West Indies Salad, made with Bayou La Ba­tre lump blue crab meat. Or her gumbo! (These are just the starters!)

Where to stay: Lodg­ing op­tions along the coast are as var­ied as the vis­i­tors who come to the beach. Choose ac­cord­ing to lo­ca­tion, brand, style or budget – rec­og­niz­ing that avail­abil­ity and pric­ing fluc­tu­ate ac­cord­ing to sea­son and de­mand.

Turquoise Place (www.prick­ettprop­er­; $$-$$$) Lux­ury beach­front tow­ers with pri­vate cov­ered park­ing. Guest ameni­ties in­clude a lazy river, play­ground, ten­nis courts, fit­ness cen­ter with steam room, in­door-out­door pool and free high-speed In­ter­net. In­di­vid­ual units fea­ture out­door kitchens and pri­vate hot tubs.

Leilani Tower (­mas­best­; $-$$) Budget beach­front and is­land-side con­do­mini­ums with full kitchens. Most lo­ca­tions have in­door pools, fish­ing docks and out­door grills; oth­ers, ten­nis courts and boat slips.

Don’t bother: sign­ing up for bird banding in Fort Mor­gan; birds have al­ready headed north to their nest­ing grounds.The fall banding event is Oc­to­ber 4-12.

So you know: It’s eas­ier than ever to plan a beach va­ca­tion on Alabama’s white-sand beaches when you use mo­bile tech­nol­ogy. Search the lat­est spe­cials on beach con­dos, find restau­rant of­fers or browse nightly mu­sic of­fer­ings with the Gulf Beaches App.You can even scout out an al­ter­na­tive route to the beach with the Scenic By­way App or get a pre­view of the hik­ing and bik­ing trails with the Back­coun­try App.

Pho­tos by Re­becca McCormick

MAGIC HOUR: Col­or­ful sun­sets frame the mem­o­ries of time spent in Gulf Shores and Or­ange Beach, Ala.

FISH STORY: As the weather warms, fish­ing in the Gulf Shores/Or­ange Beach area yields abun­dant catches of sheepshead, speck­led trout and red­fish.

FRESH CATCH: Abun­dant seafood har­vested from the Gulf of Mex­ico is the epit­ome of “lo­cally sourced” in­gre­di­ents for restaurant­s along the coast.

SWEET DREAMS: Ac­com­mo­da­tions in the Gulf Shores/Or­ange Beach area in­clude re­sort-style and na­tional chain ho­tels, well-ap­pointed golf course homes and con­dos, as well as beach­front op­tions in a wide range of price points. This 2,400-square foot lux­ury...

ECO-CHIC: Con­structed of stacked ship­ping con­tain­ers, The Gulf restau­rant op­ti­mizes its wa­ter­front lo­ca­tion for ca­sual out­door din­ing in Or­ange Beach. Rugs are made from re­cy­cled drink­ing straws; fur­ni­ture, from old boats and farm equip­ment.

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