For a dreamy beach vacation like no other, the coastal Alabama communities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are some of the South’s best-kept secrets. If you’ve never visited this part of the country, you may be surprised to discover the fine, soft sand of its beaches hugging the warm Gulf of Mexico and the laidback charm of the lifestyle here. Stylish accommodations, rich biodiversity, and Gulf-to-table seafood—all with a dash of Southern hospitality—make for an accessible vacation spot filled with natural pleasures and modern amenities.
Itinerary / 5 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAY 1Gulf Shores and Gulf State Park
Take in magnificent views of the great outdoors from a spacious room or suite with elevated creature comforts, including plush allergen-free bedding. Join a guided Segway eco-tour or borrow complimentary bikes to get acquainted with the lay of the land, encompassing 28 miles of hiking and biking trails. Visit the Nature Center for an overview of local flora and fauna and the Interpretative Center, an impressive building generating its own water and energy supply.
When the day starts to wind down, soak up an awe-inspiring sunset and finely crafted cocktails at Perch, a bar and terrace overlooking the sugary white sand. Share small plates by award-winning executive Chef James Balster, such as house-smoked pork belly and Spanish-style braised octopus.
If you prefer the beach, opt for a vacation rental like Turquoise Place, which offers three-, four-, and five-bedroom condos. With plenty of space in an ample living room, a fully equipped kitchen, and an onsite fitness room, among other resort-style amenities, these comfortable accommodations are ideal for sitting back or staying active.
DAY 2Exploring the Coast
Next, visit the Fort Morgan State Historic Site, the onetime guardian of Mobile Bay, for a museum, living history program, and seasonal candlelight tours during summer. On the car-friendly, Mobile Bay Ferry, cross the bay to Dauphin Island and continue driving to the 65-acre Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Here, opulent rose gardens neighbor a low-lying Southern bayou filled with wildlife.
Keep the breezy energy of the day going at dinnertime and head to Jesse’s Restaurant in Magnolia Springs. Housed in a historic, century-old building, this local culinary gem brims with small-town charm.
DAY 3Orange Beach
Curate the perfect end to the day with Chef’s Table, a multicourse dining experience at The Wharf. Local chef David Pan will prepare a multicourse tasting menu experience with wine pairings.
DAY 4In the Air or On the Water
Or, with several well-equipped marinas, Orange Beach is also a vibrant hub for boating, fishing, and water sports. Embark on a deep-sea excursion with Intimidator Sport Fishing Charter and a professional crew.
Before the day is over, head to the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package & Oyster Bar, a legendary local roadhouse straddling the state line and known for its live music and events. For dinner, get your fill of fresh Gulf seafood with Creole flair at Louisiana Lagniappe, a casual waterfront restaurant cherished by locals and visitors for jambalaya, blackened shrimp, and étouffée, among other specialties.
DAY 5Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
Linger over a late-afternoon bottle of wine that evolves into early dinner at Sunset Cork Room, an award-winning wine bar and restaurant in Gulf Shores, open from 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Or toast your last night at Carver’s Steakhouse in Orange Beach with a modern spin on surf and turf featuring wood-fired steak, coastal seafood, aged wines, and fine whiskeys.