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An Outdoorsy Paradise in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
Outdoor enthusiasts, welcome to a playground of coastal splendor, vast parks, and thrills for all ages in one of the southernmost places in Alabama. See eagles soar overhead and reconnect to the natural world—and enjoy tasty regional cuisine, including plates piled high with fresh seafood. Home to the nation’s largest artificial reef system for fishing, miles and miles of hiking and biking trails, and water sports galore, here’s why Gulf Shores and Orange Beach should be the spot you visit next.
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    Day 1
    Gulf Shores and Gulf State Park
    Begin your outdoor adventure by settling into the Eagles Cottages at Gulf State Park, situated right on the water’s edge of beautiful Lake Shelby. Learn more about sustainability efforts with guided tours led by a naturalist or explore on your own with complimentary bikes. For a more rustic experience, the park offers RV spots and a primitive campground where you can pitch a tent and sleep under the stars. (Or if oceanside is more your thing, check into a beachfront unit with a balcony at TradeWinds Condos, where a boardwalk leads directly to the beach, and you have full use of an indoor and outdoor pool.)

    When you stay right in the heart of a state park, you have direct access to nature. Get a taste of the scenic backcountry with Coastal Segway Adventures on a two-hour guided Segway tour starting with a free half-hour training session. Ride along the 28-mile trail connecting the communities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach and keep a lookout for alligators, bobcats, eagles, and gopher tortoises.

    For dinner tonight, keep it simple with a delicious meal at Woodside Restaurant at Gulf State Park, minutes from your cottage. This eatery’s dining room, screened porch, and backyard (complete with games) are also open for breakfast and lunch.
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    Day 2
    Blakeley and Foley
    Rise and shine for a daytrip to Historic Blakeley State Park, about an hour north near Spanish Fort. Situated in one of the most ecologically diverse regions of Alabama, the park covers 2,100 acres and has fascinating pockets of history in old fortifications, colonial-era homesteads, and Native American sites.

    After soaking up fresh air, indulge in some creature comforts with a shopping excursion to the expansive Tanger Outlets. This collection of more than 120 stores sells everything from designer handbags to footwear, and has a food court where you can grab a quick lunch. 

    Once you’ve refueled head back to Gulf Shores and get your heart racing with go-karts, mini golf, blaster boats, and other kid-approved activities at The Track Family Fun Park. But if your crew is craving the “great indoors,” there’s a Fat Daddy’s Arcade in Orange Beach.

    For a lively atmosphere, grab dinner at Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s, which features an expansive menu filled with sandwiches, salads, and juicy burgers, plus appetizers.
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    Day 3
    Off-Shore Adventures
    Wonder what’s happening under the water? Just offshore, the Alabama Coast has one of the world’s largest artificial reef programs with more than 1,100 square miles of artificial reef habitat teeming with different fish, such as red snapper, amberjack, and grouper. Head out for an offshore fishing trip or check out snorkeling spots right in Gulf State Park.

    Put on your masks and flippers to get an up-close look at three new reef zones, including the Pavilion, the Perdido, and the Romar. If you’re a beginner, go on days when the water is flat and there are minimal currents.

    After another fun-filled day of building up an appetite in the salty air, dig into some authentic barbecue cooking at Hog Wild Beach & BBQ, a family-run joint on the beach where everything—from the sauces and the not-so-traditional coleslaw to the banana pudding for dessert—is made from scratch.
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    Day 4
    Orange Beach
    Now that you’ve had three days to take a deep-dive into Gulf Shores and Gulf State Park, it’s time to get to know Orange Beach a little better. This beachy community has soft sand and warm water and offers seemingly endless options for water sports, dining, and entertainment.

    Start your time here on a high note with a parasailing adventure over the warm Gulf of Mexico water with Pleasure Island Parasail situated in the fittingly named Sportsman Marina. The well-equipped marina is right in town, also giving you plenty of choices for planning sightseeing cruises, such as dolphin-spotting tours, sailboat excursions, and guided kayaking trips.

    Before turning in for the night, get a hefty helping of soulful, Southern cooking at Luna’s Eat & Drink in Orange Beach. Sit outside in the grassy courtyard where kids can play games before or after your meal, and adults have a choice of 32 craft beers on tap.
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    Day 5
    The Wharf
    Your time in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is winding down today, but the action is always high at The Wharf, a destination for shopping and entertainment within indoor and outdoor venues like a 10,000-seat amphitheater for concerts.

    Take a ride on the Ferris wheel, which is one of the tallest in the Southeast, and hop aboard The Wharf Express Train for a ride around Main Street. For something in the “you-have-to-try-at-least-once” category, head to Civil Axe Throwing, which, as the name suggests, involves throwing an axe at a target. Anyone over the age of 10 can test their might at this unconventional, stress-relieving sport.

    When you’re ready for a snack, check out The Sugar Shack & Café for boardwalk classics like hotdogs, corndogs, and French fries, as well as hand-dipped and soft-serve ice cream, gelato, gourmet chocolates, and specialty candies. Savor the sweetness of a trip filled with plenty of nature, bonding, and the laid-back charm of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.