Long before European settlers arrived, Native Americans fished Gulf Coast waters, and by the 1800s, the area had become a mecca for commercial fishing vessels. A storied past of reliance on the sea is woven into nearly every aspect of life in Alabama’s coastal communities and a big part of what makes it such a rewarding place to visit. As a traveler, you reap the benefits of “blue space,” coastal places that research shows are associated with better physical and mental health, while savoring fresh seafood with a focus on sustainability and enjoying the rich maritime culture.
Itinerary / 5 DAYSPLAN YOUR TRIP
DAY 1Orange Beach
With several well-equipped marinas, more than 100 charter boats, and ample water sports outfitters, you’re in the perfect spot for deep-sea fishing excursions and sunset sails, as well as paddleboarding, parasailing, and kayaking.
Here, all paths seem to lead straight to the water. Rent a canoe, kayak, or paddleboard to explore the Coastal Alabama Back Bay Blueway, which is a series of four distinct water trails with 21 launch sites. Paddlers can follow the Orange Beach Trail, Gulf State Park Trail, Little Lagoon Trail, and Fort Morgan Trail.
With your first day coming to an end, head to the Orange Beach Marina, where million-dollar yachts dock for a night of fine dining. At Fisher’s, choose between Upstairs for an upscale meal or Dockside, its more casual sister venue. Or dine back at the resort at Voyagers specializing in sustainable seafood and organic meat.
DAY 2The Wharf and Beyond
If you’re in town during an in-water boat shows or saltwater fishing tournament The Wharf hosts, check out these impressive seafaring vessels or get caught up in the excitement of big game fish.
After exploring The Wharf, have lunch under the Perdido Bay Bridge at Cobalt, a picturesque restaurant serving contemporary coastal cuisine or relax at their daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with cool drinks and spicy appetizers like firecracker shrimp.
Afterwards, head out of Orange Beach for a scenic drive on Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway to Fort Morgan State Historic Site for a self-guided walking tour to calm your mind and disconnect. To end a big day out, head back to Orange Beach and stop for dinner at Big Fish Restaurant to enjoy elegant seafood dining.
DAY 3Gulf Shores
To better appreciate your surroundings, join an expert guide from the Nature Center at Gulf State Park for a pier walk. On the walk, you’ll learn about the vast biodiversity surrounding you.
In the late afternoon, head to Bon Secour, a charming fishing village dating to the 19th century which still provides seafood to local establishments around the region. Afterward, head back to Gulf Shores for a casual seafood feast at The Hangout, a 2.5-acre, family-friendly eatery.
DAY 4Gulf State Park
In a place where fishing is a way of life, restaurants will cook your catch for you. You hook it, and they’ll cook it at The Hideaway at the Beach Club and Tacky Jacks. (Pro tip: call ahead to confirm availability.)
DAY 5Coastal Arts Center
If, on the other hand, being around water has ignited your creative energy, spend today exploring the artistic side of these communities by heading to Orange Beach to check out the Coastal Arts Center overlooking Wolf Bay. Along with shopping for fine art to bring a beachy vibe back home, you can create your own blown-glass creations in the Hot Shop or pottery in the Clay Studio.