Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Bring on Summer fun
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. (www.golf.gulfshores.com). 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. (www.alabamagirlfishing. 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. preserveala.org/fortmorgan.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. (www.alwharf.com )
Where to eat: Jesse’s Restaurant (www.jessesrestaurant.com; $$-$$$) 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 (www.fishersobm. 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.lucybgoode.com; $-$$) If you like farmto-fork or boat-to-bowl eating, this is where you want to pull up a chair. Start with Lucy’s “Pa-menna Cheese” served with rosemary flatbread, sweet and sassy icebox pickles and spiced pecans. Or Lulu’s West Indies Salad, made with Bayou La Batre lump blue crab meat. Or her gumbo! (These are just the starters!)
Where to stay: Lodging options along the coast are as varied as the visitors who come to the beach. Choose according to location, brand, style or budget – recognizing that availability and pricing fluctuate according to season and demand.
Turquoise Place (www.prickettproperties.com; $$-$$$) Luxury beachfront towers with private covered parking. Guest amenities include a lazy river, playground, tennis courts, fitness center with steam room, indoor-outdoor pool and free high-speed Internet. Individual units feature outdoor kitchens and private hot tubs.
Leilani Tower (www.bamasbestbeach.com; $-$$) 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.
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.