Just a quick drive or flight away from Texas is a beach destination unlike any other. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, are full of natural beauty, from the jaw-dropping sunsets over turquoise waters to 32 miles of sugar-white sand beaches made almost entirely of quartz grains washed down thousands of years ago from the Appalachian Mountains.
This hidden gem is quickly becoming the place to vacation. One look at what it has to offer and you'll immediately see why. Here's a glimpse at what's waiting for you:
Whether you're planning an intimate getaway or bringing a crowd, there's an option to suit your needs (and budget). Beach houses — both right on the sand or in communities nearby — offer all the comforts of home and can accommodate large families. Need a little less space, and perhaps a few more amenities? Reserve a unit in a Gulf-front, bay-front, or lagoon-front condo and enjoy taking a dip in that pool.
Those ready to rough it will find plenty of campgrounds and places to park an RV, with all the hookups and accoutrements included. Of course, there's a plethora of nationally branded hotels from which to choose, as well, all offering the comfort and service you've come to expect from the big names.
Seafood fanatics had better bring the stretchy pants, as you can get Gulf seafood straight off the boat and prepared any way your stomach desires. From gumbo to po' boys, sink your teeth into shrimp, oysters, crab, flounder, snapper, and grouper straight from the water.
Since variety is the spice of life, there's also a seemingly endless menu of other favorites: steaks, burgers, sandwiches, Asian, Mediterranean, Italian, and Mexican, each prepared with fresh flavor and even fresher ingredients. And if you're traveling with little ones, nearly all the local restaurants have special kids' menus and many feature play areas and activities to help them work up an appetite.
You didn't come to the Gulf and expect not to jump in the water immediately, right? Besides simple swimming, there's wave after wave of fun water activities for everyone on the trip. The adventurous can try out parasailing or hop on a jet ski, while those craving calmer waters can rent a paddleboard or relax on the deck of a sailboat.
Certified divers get to explore shipwrecks while snorkelers can discover what's happening just below the surface. And by making time for a dolphin cruise, everyone will get to admire the playful mammals as they frolic beside the boat.
When it's time to dry off for a bit, you'll find an abundance of family-friendly outings in the area. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is home to over 500 exotic animals, including lions, tigers, primates, wolves, and reptiles. You can even get up close and personal with animals such as kangaroos, lemurs, snakes, and sloths.
If the kids are behaving a bit like wild animals themselves, head to The Factory for foam pits, trapeze and obstacle courses, trampolines, and arcade games. At The Track, they can get behind the wheel for bumper boats and go-carts, or play a round of mini golf. And Waterville USA, a 20-acre water and amusement park, lets you soak up the fun with rides such as the Screamin' Demon, Great White, and Gold Rush.
Step back in time at Fort Morgan, which played a critical role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 and was also used during the Spanish-American War, WWI, and WWII. Or get a birds-eye view of the area on the Hummingbird Zipline course at The Wharf. The 2.5-hour course is the highest and longest in Alabama and features eight ziplines, some as high as 115 feet off the ground, traversing more than 6,000 feet.
Make the most of your time in Alabama with these unique, hands-on adventures that delve into the history, culture, nature, and cuisine of the area. Savor a multi-course tasting menu expertly prepared by chef David Pan at Orange Beach Concierge, or enroll in Angler Academy, a beginner's workshop to becoming a saltwater fisherman at Gulf State Park's Nature Center. Check out all the available experiences here.
Plan your perfect Gulf Shores and Orange Beach vacation here or by calling 1-800-745-SAND.