JOURNEYS

Travel Differently in Alabama’s Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

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An easy road trip from cities such as Atlanta, Nashville, and New Orleans, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach define an area known for stunning sandy beaches (32 miles of them!), friendly people, and biodiversity. Extend a business trip to enjoy some time outdoors and the rich Southern culture. Or simply make it your next destination to get off the beaten path and explore the eclectic opportunities for fun. With this five-day itinerary, you can experience the lesser-known attractions around town and beyond for a journey full of fascinating history, delicious food, and scenic beauty.

Trip Designer

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism is a go-to resource for visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast. Discover 32 miles of pristine, white-sand beaches, local restaurants, fun-filled activities, and incredible accommodations.
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Trip Highlight

Gulf State

The park’s ecosystems offer an abundance of nature to explore and an abundance of ways to do it. Walk or bike paved trails (there are even complimentary bikes), swim or kayak in the freshwater lake, and fish along the largest pier in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Gulf Coast Tourism in March 2021. Photo by Chris Granger

PHOTO BY CHRIS GRANGER/CHRIS GRANGER

DAY 1Glamping in Gulf State Park

Begin your adventure with a night of glamping. Gulf State Park’s Outpost Campsites offer canvas tents on raised wooden bases, allowing for an elevated way to rough it, along with bathrooms, a shower, and sinks. Start your adventure with a night of glamping. Gulf State Park’s Outpost Campsites offer canvas tents on raised wooden bases, allowing for an elevated way to rough it, along with bathrooms, a shower, and sinks. The sites are an easy 1.5-mile hike (or bring your bicycle or wagon) and include firewood, but no electricity—so you can truly unplug. Make sure to grab groceries at the Camp Store so you’re stocked up on cookout essentials for your night under the stars.

Explore the park’s nine unique ecosystems by strolling or biking the nearly 30 miles of paved trails of Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. If you’d rather take to the water, you can swim or kayak in freshwater Lake Shelby, or fish along the Fishing and Education Pier—the largest pier in the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re in the mood for cycling, hit the trails on one of the park’s 50 free-to-rent bikes.

For a less rustic stay, try Hotel Indigo, with a view of white sand beaches on one side and Gulf State Park on the other.
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DAY 2Adventures on the Beach

For a creative day on the beach, take a class with Sand Castle University. Enjoy your time building giant sandcastles, turtles, octopuses, and dolphins along the azure Gulf of Mexico.

After working up an appetite, head to The Hangout. Known for its live music and colorful cocktails, The Hangout’s coastal-inspired offerings include The Ultimate Seafood Boil—an Old-bay-seasoned, garlic-buttered feast of Gulf Shrimp, snow crab, mussels, sweet corn, red potatoes, and Conecuh sausage.
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DAY 3Museum and Mobile Day Trip

Today, you’re hitting the road, starting with a 20-minute drive north to Foley, where Holmes Medical Museum highlights the region’s medical pioneers. Located within Baldwin County’s original hospital (in operation 1936-1958), you’ll find a range of medical artifacts, including surgical instruments from the early 20th century, operating-room equipment, and even a human skeleton.

If you’re more enlivened by the prospect of Mardi Gras, drive 45 minutes further northwest for a visit to the Mobile Carnival Museum. Dive into the annual celebration’s history through exhibits showcasing costumes, floats, and coronations, complete with photographs dating as far back as 1886.

Nearby, within the mud of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, lies the most intact slave ship ever discovered. The last ship to transport enslaved people from Africa to the U.S., the Clotilda was deliberately sunk in 1860 to disguise its illegal transport and is the subject of a recent documentary. Future visitors to the area will be able to visit a museum in Mobile, learning about the journey of the Clotilda and the lives of its enslaved passengers.
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DAY 4A Day on Mobile Bay

Start your day early by heading to Fort Morgan for breakfast at Tacky Jack’s—a restaurant with its roots in the local fishing communities and boasting locations in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores too. Fuel your morning with a fan favorite like Belgian waffles or a biscuit platter before checking out Fort Morgan, a 19th-century fort whose history spans the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II. Then get a different perspective of the bay aboard the Mobile Bay Ferry to Dauphin Island.

Once you’ve returned, head toward Gulf Shores for a bite at Sunliner Diner. This 1950s-themed spot, known for its throwback feel and mouthwatering treats, dishes up everything from classic American entrees like meatloaf to all-day breakfast.

For an eye-catching dessert, pop by The Yard Milkshake Bar. Operating in 18 locations nationally, The Yard was founded in Gulf Shores with a mission to dress up the traditional milkshake with photo-friendly offerings such as the “Yardi Gras” and “The Mermaid”—the latter of which comes complete with a white-chocolate mermaid tail.
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DAY 5Time in the Shade

On your final day, tuck into the shade at the Cool Shots Selfie Museum. With upwards of 50 scenes for guests to shoot photography and video of, Cool Shots guarantees your camera roll will include colorful images of more than just the vibrant Alabama shoreline.

For another immersive indoor experience, Outer Limits VR Game Room offers amusement-park thrills without the theme park lines. Visitors simply pop on Virtual 3D glasses and find themselves flying jet packs over cityscapes, riding motorcycles on racetracks, and more.

Head to Cosmos Restaurant & Bar for dinner on the patio. Known for elevating regional cuisine, Cosmos serves a banana leaf-wrapped sea bass that tops critics’ lists.

Wrap your vacation with a drink at The Gulf, an outdoor bar lauded for not only its food and drinks but also its vinyl collection. As you settle into the Gulf Coast vibe, toast to traveling well—and differently.