Good Grit's Guide to the South's Best Islands and Beaches: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
When our Editor-in-Chief, Shelly Brown, bought a home on St. George Island, we could not wait to explore. The quiet beach felt almost untouched—like a well-kept secret, welcoming us without the hustle and bustle we typically expect of beach towns. It led us to wonder… what other gems are hiding along the southern coast? Go ahead and pack your bags—you’ll want to enjoy island hopping and beach bumming all summer long!
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Fun for the Whole Family
When you dream about the ideal beach—sugar white sand and crystal blue water—the image in your head is probably of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach! The picture-perfect coastline doesn’t just look the part. The south Alabama shoreline is as fun as it is beautiful, making it a coveted spot for a family vacation.
The 32 miles of pristine beaches keep visitors coming back year after year. All it takes is one visit to get hooked on the sun, sand, and southern hospitality. Not only are the hotels, restaurants, and shops welcoming year-round, there’s also tons of unique events, concerts, and festivals that happen throughout the year. There’s always something exciting happening so you can explore the beach and beyond!
Of course there’s a lot to do on the water, but there’s so many other ways to get your daily dose of sunshine in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Besides the swimming, fishing, and boating, there’s also beautiful trails for hiking and biking. The adventures are endless, so outdoor enthusiasts won’t run out of things to do.
When you are ready for a full beach day, expect loads of fun. The pristine beaches are family friendly—not party-central. The waves are gentle, so under your watch even your little ones can safely enjoy the sand in their toes! Beach lovers young, old, and everyone in between can experience the beach the way it should be experienced. So what are you waiting for? Come on in, the water’s fine!
The Lodge at Gulf State Park - This hotel, with a focus on sustainable tourism, offers views of either The Gulf of Mexico or Lake Shelby/Gulf State Park.
Caribe the Resort - Experience luxury with a lazy river, pools, slides, saunas, hot tubs, tennis courts, and more.
The Original Romar House Bed & Breakfast Inn - Located on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, The Romar House will transport you to a world of warmth and relaxation.
The Cabins at Gulf State Park - Take your vacation off the beaten path with a cabin rental at Gulf State Park.
Voyager’s - Delight in a seasonal menu consisting of local produce, sustainable seafood, and organic meats reflecting the flavors of the region.
Fisher’s Upstairs - An evolving menu, a spectacular wine list, and the incredible view of the Orange Beach Marina—what more could you ask for?
King Neptune’s - Locally owned and operated for 25 years, they serve up some of the best seafood you can find!
Luna’s Eat and Drink - This southern kitchen has great food—from lunch to dinner to dessert— and a great patio, too.
The Dolphin & Wildlife Kayak Experience - On this scenic three-hour guided kayak tour, you will learn about the habitat of the bottlenose dolphin and other wildlife.
Lost Bay Helicopters - Get a beach view like no other on a helicopter tour! Feeling extra adventurous? Take the controls during a flight lesson!
Ferris wheel at The Wharf - Take a ride on one of the tallest ferris wheels in the southeast, and get great aerial views of the beach—especially at sunset!
Gulf State Park Pier - Rent a fishing pole from the tackle and bait shop on the pier and spend the afternoon reeling in the freshest catch.
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail - Use the park’s bike-share program to get up close and personal with some of Alabama’s natural inhabitants along more than 28 miles of paved trails.
Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum - Originally built in 1910 as a schoolhouse, the museum is now home to local artifacts and memorabilia relating to the area’s Native American and fishing heritage.
The Wharf - Enjoy shopping and dining, catch a movie or concert, or enjoy the nightly SPECTRA Laser Light Experience show. There’s always something happening at The Wharf! Be sure to check out their calendar of events.
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo - The Animal Encounter program brings you and the friendliest zoo creatures together in one-on-one, interactive experiences that you’ll never forget.
If you want to get in relaxation mode the minute you arrive, The Beach Moms concierge service is a must! They will get your condo or beach house ready by doing your grocery shopping and stocking your pantry and fridge—it’s a no-stress start to your vacation!
Bicycles are a great way to get around. You can bring your own, or rent one from one of the many rental shops!