Many people, when planning a getaway to the pristine white sands of the beaches bordering the Gulf of Mexico, automatically make their travel plans for Florida. But look over on that map of the United States and you will see that the Gulf runs all the way up into several other states, including Alabama. Many of the Gulf shore beaches in Alabama are undiscovered paradises with far less tourists but plenty of equally gorgeous sand and water, great seafood, interesting activities, and fabulous places to stay.
One of our favorite beach towns in this area is Gulf Shores. Located on a narrow peninsula which juts out into the Gulf of Mexico, this quiet and lovely location is the ideal place for a girlfriends getaway. There are plenty of hotels and beach rentals in the Gulf Shores area but drive just a little further out the peninsula and you will find an even quieter and unspoiled area called Fort Morgan, close to the delights of Gulf Shores but away from the traffic and noise.
In a lovely neighborhood called Morgantown perched right on the water, you can find vacation rentals of every size for every group. We recently stayed in an absolutely amazing beach house called Grand Paradise which we leased from a company called Relax on the Beach. Living up to its name as paradise, this place is right on the beach, has seven bedrooms and 5 ½ baths, a fully equipped kitchen, flat screen televisions literally everywhere, Wi-Fi, and even some unexpected amenities like a full, enclosed shower on the lower patio to rinse off the sand. Spend your time lounging on the huge deck that overlooks the Gulf and throw some shrimp on the grill out there.
If you don’t feel like fixing your own dinner, no problem, because there are dozens of great restaurants nearby. Slip on that sundress you have been dying to wear and head to Lulu’s at Homeport Marina for fun, live music, and some great seafood. Charmingly perched overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, Lulu’s is a true entertainment destination. With a bar, grille, climbing apparatus, volleyball nets, live music daily, a retail store, and a large sandy beach, this place can keep you busy for a whole day. Be sure to order the amazing onion rings and allow plenty of time as this is a very busy and popular place.
For the best shrimp macaroni and cheese you have ever tasted, plan lunch or dinner at the Cayman Grill in Orange Beach right next door to Gulf Shores. Located right on the bay with great views from both inside and the outside deck, they have wonderful, fresh food and equally wonderful and friendly service.
If you are up for an interesting ecology boat tour, definitely arrange a trip with Taking Off Hot Air Balloon Company. They offer hot air balloon tours as well but have several different boat tours. We took a tour that included the Magnolia River, Fish River, Weeks Bay and part of Mobile Bay. We saw some gorgeous homes and were fascinated to learn that this is one of the last places in America to have their mail delivered by boat! Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any signs at the address on their web site, they will show up to meet you and take you back to the dock where you will embark.
Plan to spend an afternoon at the fascinating Coastal Arts Center in Gulf Shores. It’s truly a beautiful place located right on the bay and has demonstrations of glass blowing and pottery throwing, along with an extensive gallery of art for sale. It’s really pleasant to just stroll around the lovely property and you can even arrange to take a pottery class during your stay as well.
It’s not a girlfriends getaway to me without a little shopping and there are plenty of little shops as well as larger souvenir shops in the area. But my favorite place was the Tanger Outlet Mall in nearby Foley, Alabama. You will want to spend several hours here as there are some great deals.
For the history buffs in the group, drive just a few minutes from Morgantown to Fort Morgan. Built after the War of 1812 to control shipping into Mobile Bay, you can take a self-guided tour and visit the museum. There is also hiking, fishing, birding, and a nice little picnic area. If the history lover in your group wants more, Gulf Shores is also fairly close to Mobile so if you are up for a day trip, head to this beautiful, historic city. Take a tour of a real battleship, the U.S.S. Alabama and check out some of the many shops and restaurants in this hospitable Southern city.
Then head back to Gulf Shores to relax on the beach with a cold drink and a view of the Gulf – the perfect way to spend a day at the beach.
However you and your girlfriends decide to spend your time in this charming beachfront community, you will definitely enjoy yourselves!
Jan Ross is a freelance travel writer who has been traveling the world since way back before she can even remember. Her dad was in the Marine Corps so she is used to packing up at a moment’s notice! She loves writing hotel and restaurant reviews since it means she gets to stay in fabulous places and eat wonderful food. She especially loves writing spa reviews because that means she gets phenomenally pampered and, seriously, who does not like that? She has visited lots of places but still gets a thrill of excitement when she boards a plane, steps into a new hotel room, or sees a new location for the first time. And she hopes that thrill never, ever goes away.
For more information on Jan, visit her website at WanderlustWonder.com.