A Sunny Oasis on the Alabama Coast
With pristine white-sand shores and outdoor adventure in spades, the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are ready when you are
photo: Alabama Tourism Department
When the inevitable midwinter slump sets in, it’s natural to long for a change of scenery. On the Alabama coast, a long-beloved vacation spot provides the perfect answer: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer everything you would want for a sun-soaked getaway, no matter the season. Easily drivable from many Southern cities, the area fronts the calm, bath-like waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and parallels thirty-two miles of pristine white-sand beaches with ample room to roam. Warm and inviting all year long, the coastal haven is ready to welcome you when the time is right, its miles of natural beauty rife with opportunities for relaxation and adventure.
Naturally, the region’s most treasured aspects are its beautiful public-access beaches. Thought to be the finest in the state, the eleven public access points of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach cater to every kind of visitor, from beach volleyball fanatics and parasailers to those in search of some peace and quiet under a personal umbrella. While the Main Beach at Gulf Place is favorite among locals and travelers, more secluded access points can be found at the end of residential streets. Sunseekers who wander slightly off the beaten path will be rewarded too, with wide stretches of sand and rolling dunes as far as the eye can see at shores such as Alabama Point.
If you’re partial to boats, kayaks, or paddle boards, start your adventure at Fort Morgan State Historic Site, an easy launch point near Mobile Bay. Before you set sail, though, check out the site’s sprawling seacoast fort, built in 1819 and active during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. Beyond its wealth of history, on display to visitors through a number of exhibitions and experiences, Fort Morgan’s spotless beaches also feature some of the best fishing and birdwatching on the Alabama coast, and a dog-friendly policy throughout the park.
Onshore, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail connects the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach with twenty-six meandering trails. Winding through nine distinct ecosystems, from the lush marshland of Rosemary Dunes to the pine flatwoods of Rattlesnake Ridge, the interconnecting trail complex is perfect for biking, hiking, and birding, and guarantees plentiful sightings of the coast’s native wildlife (as in alligators, bobcats, and white-tailed deer). For even more up-close encounters, a visit to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is in order—just a few miles from the Gulf Shores coastline, the zoo has the feel of a tropical oasis and is home to 199 species as well as eight endangered creatures.
No matter what sort of vacation you seek, your ticket to some much-needed R&R can be found along the Alabama Coast. From the glow of a brilliant sunset to the fresh Gulf seafood found in local restaurants, some of the state’s greatest treasures exist in abundance amid Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, perhaps enough to inspire an every-year tradition.
Learn more at gulfshores.com.
A Tour of Bermuda’s Wild Side
An Appalachian outdoorswoman lets her feet, mind, and taste buds wander Bermuda, where art and nature promise a sort of redemption
Arts & Culture
North Carolina’s Living History
The meticulous re-creation of Tryon Palace showcases a 250-year-old story
Florida’s Gulf Coast Treasure
Natural beauty meets striking design in the New Urbanist haven of Alys Beach, Florida
Food & Drink
The Mad Scientist of Pawpaws
Largely the domain of foragers, the biggest edible fruit in the South has mostly been forgotten. A quietly obsessed Quaker from West Virginia has made it his life’s mission to change that
Food & Drink
How an Award-Winning Pastry Chef Doctors Up Boxed Cornbread
Even Kelly Fields whips up a box of Jiffy every once in a while. Here’s how she makes the store-bought stuff her own
Arts & Culture
The Top-of-2021 Reading List for Southerners
G&G contributors, editors, and Southern book lovers share new releases and old favorites to read right away this year—and a couple forthcoming releases already on preorder