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Gulf Shores and Orange Beach: Alabama’s unexpected beach getaways

Written By | Feb 21, 2019
Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Travel, Ron STern

Turquoise waters and white, sugary sand await at Gulf Shores, Alabama @Ron Stern All rights reserved

GULF SHORES, AL:  Locals here in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach say that this section of coastline is relatively unknown by the masses. Look closely at a map of Southern Alabama. Find the stretch of 32 miles of shoreline at the northern tip of the Gulf of Mexico. Here gentle waves lap the sand making it ideal for little tykes to safely splash and build sand castles. Colorful beach homes and condos dot the shoreline, many of which are available as rentals. Restaurants serving fresh oysters and shrimp along with a large variety of fish can keep any seafoodie happy.  These are some of the reasons why this is quickly becoming a perfect beach getaway.

Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Seafood, Travel, Ron Stern

The soft, white sand here is actually from quartz, making it less hot in the summer and easy to walk on. @Ron Stern All rights reserved

Alabama’s Mountain Quartz Beaches and Seafood

For some reason, many travelers aren’t aware that this part of Alabama’s Gulf Coast has some pristine, white sugary sand beaches. Actually, the sand comes from quartz that washes down into the Gulf from the Appalachian Mountains. This is part of what makes this such an unexpectedly family-friendly destination.

Dozens of souvenir shops with wacky exteriors line the main drag. Hundreds of inflatable water toys, beach-themed jewelry, postcards, T-shirts, bathing suits, and towels are on display enticing eager tourists.

Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Seafood, Travel, Ron Stern

You can order a flight of oysters here and they will prepare them six different ways for you to enjoy. @Ron Stern All rights reserved


Fresh Oysters: Six Ways to Happiness

You can enjoy seafood throughout the 27,000-acre island and at The Royal Oyster, they serve fresh local oysters ready six ways. This is also one of the only places where you can enjoy some tasty shark bytes made with large chunks of white, non-fishy tasting shark meat, battered and seasoned to crispy perfection.


Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Seafood, Travel, Ron Stern

Royal Reds are a treasure in this part of Alabama and prized by the locals. @Ron Stern All rights reserved


DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen is quite popular with snowbirds who line up early for their daily specials that include an entrée, sides, and dessert. They are known for their “mini lobsters,” also known as Royal Reds. These jumbo-sized shrimp with a characteristic red color are shipped in daily from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico and are a prized commodity.


Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Seafood, Travel, Ron Stern

The walls and even the ceiling here are festooned with all sorts of nostalgic memorabilia. @Ron Stern All rights reserved


Sweet Treats on the Gulf Coast

The casual eatery called The Hangout in Gulf Shores has an extensive menu that covers all tastes. The owner’s vast collection of toys, including Pez dispensers, vintage lunch boxes, matchbox cars, and plastic dolls, are mounted on the walls of the restaurant’s interior. The gift shop offers a colorful array of T-shirts, jewelry, toys, and local beach souvenirs.

In May, the Hangout hosts an annual 4-day music festival that draws about 45,000 people and boasts 4 band stages just steps away on the beach.


Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Seafood, Travel, Ron Stern

Elizabeth Jones is the creative owner behind The Rum Sisters. Each cake is deliciously sumptuous! @Ron Stern All rights reserved


Visit The Rum Sisters for a unique dessert experience. A few years ago, Elizabeth Jones made some rum cakes using her mother’s secret recipe. She began serving her family recipe at local functions. Instantly becoming a big hit, Jones began experimenting and now offers seven varieties of her mini, petite cakes.

ll are delicious and keep moist for up to six weeks, but no need to worry about that as they are hard to resist and usually devoured immediately.


Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Seafood, Travel, Ron Stern

A Segway is one of the best ways to explore Gulf State Park. @Ron Stern All rights reserved


Getting around

For outdoor fun, rent a Segway from Coastal Segway Adventures. After a few minutes of training, you’ll be on your way to a two-wheeled adventure. A knowledgeable guide will take you on a pleasant tour along the paved paths through Gulf Shores State Park.

You can spot eagles, owls, alligators and a variety of nesting birds throughout the 6,500 acres of protected ecosystems. Most people visiting this area are not aware of this backcountry located right across from the main road of Perdido Beach Blvd.

Another way to enjoy the outdoors is to rent a bike from Beach Bike Rentals located in Orange Beach. They will help you and your family select from a variety of bikes including cruisers and tandems. Daily, weekly and monthly rentals are available and include bike helmets, baskets, and cycling computers. All bicycles are in quality condition. This allows you to explore nearly 20 miles of paved pathways, including the Gulf State Park Rosemary Trail.

You’ll feel like a 10-year-old again on a bike with the Gulf’s breezes flying through your hair!

Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Seafood, Travel, Ron Stern


For a sun-splashed holiday featuring clean, white beaches; fewer crowds; and a variety of delicious eateries, look no further than the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. One can’t go wrong where colorfully painted beach homes carry names such as Sun Kissed and Sea La Vie.

Where to stay:

The Lodge at Gulf State Park is the perfect venue from which to explore the area. Rebuilt after a previous hurricane, the lodge is now a sustainably beautiful hotel. The property features a clean, comfortable, rooms several on-site restaurants, and gorgeous views of the Gulf of Mexico.


Alabama, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Seafood, Travel, Ron Stern

The Lodge at Gulf State Park-pool view, @Ron Stern All rights reserved

This was a sponsored visit; however, all opinions herein are the authors.


Nancy Stern

Nancy writes about food and travel and is a regular contributor to The Daily Meal. Her articles have appeared in major news outlets such as The Los Angeles Times, Sun-Sentinel, San Diego Union-Tribune and Yahoo News. Nancy started her career through creative art journaling, eventually compiling them into a book about her adventures., The Travel Writer's Wife