The white sandy beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast seem to call travelers to “come visit”. There is something about the white sand, the sun, and putting it all together that makes it a special place to spend a night or to spend a week. Because more and more vacationers and weekend travelers are coming to this popular spot, there seems to be something new each time that makes it even better. More attractions, more condos and motels, more restaurants, more souvenir and gift shops. More campgrounds. More golf courses. More fun.
Beach scene Gulf Shores (13).JPG
Of the approximately fifty-seven miles between the Mississippi and Florida state lines, there are only thirty-two miles of beaches on Alabama’s Gulf Coast (excluding the approximately ten miles on Dauphin Island). But for that short space, there are a lot of activities to occupy time. Relaxing on the peaceful beaches is one of the most popular activities. There are several public access points. One is at the intersection of US Highway 59 and SR 182 (the main street through Gulf Shores). At Gulf State Park there are other access points to beaches.
One of the latest additions to the “things to do” list is the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Signs are posted along roadways throughout the area noting special places to see birds. The Trail is an arranged series of loops describing the birding spots frequented by Alabama birders. The loops are scattered around the Gulf Coast, but it is not necessary to follow the complete loops to enjoy birding. Suggestions are given at each site as to which species of bird may be seen at that particular site.
The Gulf Shores-Orange Beach Loop starts at Perdido Pass near the Florida state line and extends near SR 180, which leads to Fort Morgan. Another loop – the Fort Morgan Loop -- begins at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Pick up a brochure and map of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail at one of the visitors’ centers in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach.
Gulf Sate Park contains 6000 acres and separates Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Part of the park is located along SR 182 and access to the campground, fishing lakes and pier is from SR 180 also. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a few minutes out of Gulf Shores on SR 180 and has 6700 acres of coastal terrain, including secluded beach access, changing sand dunes and rolling pine-oak woodlands. The name Bon Secour means “safe harbor” and is very appropriate for the native flora and fauna obtaining sanctuary at the wildlife refuge.
At the western terminus of SR 180 from Gulf Shores the historic Fort Morgan overlooks Mobile Bay. Construction began in 1819 after the War of 1812 when Congress realized the US was vulnerable along the southern and eastern coastlines. The fort was completed in 1834 but proved obsolete even during the Civil War as General Farragut led his Union fleet past the fort with the loss of only one ship. Redesign of all the brick forts followed. Now the self-guided tours through the fort demonstrate the combination of the old brick and the new concrete structures. Near the fort the Fort Morgan Ferry operates carrying cars and passengers to Dauphin Island where the sister Fort Gaines stands guard across Mobile Bay.
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Fishing and golfing prove to be popular diversions for the outdoor enthusiast. With over one hundred boats in the Orange Beach fishing fleet there will be one ready to take eager fishermen in search of grouper, snapper, triggerfish and amberjack. For those with their own boats there are plenty of public boat launch sites for fresh or saltwater fishing. For those wanting to be on the water without fishing, there are sightseeing cruises for shelling or dolphin sightings.
There are plenty of golf courses in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area offering golfers many opportunities to try their luck and improve their skill while visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast. Sportsmen may set up tee times on line by visiting this website.
Perhaps the favorite things to do on vacation while not soaking up sunshine or enjoying the beach are to shop and to eat. By being of the Gulf with a backyard so bountiful with fish, many restaurants offer catch-of-the-day seafood prepared in a multitude of different ways. Gulf Shores has many excellent restaurants with a variety of cuisines for whatever taste.
The Tanger Outlet Factory Stores, just north of Gulf Shores on US 59 in Foley, is an outlet mall with over 120 stores. Bargains await shoppers looking for fill a few bags while relaxing away from the beach.
The first thing an RVer will probably want to do is find a suitable location to park the motorhome. A little research beforehand makes for a more pleasant stay regardless of the length of time involved. There are several campgrounds with excellent facilities. A nice campgrounds in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area is Island Retreat RV Park. It has all amenities and is about one and one-half miles west of US 59 on SR 180 (Fort Morgan Road). Other recommended campgrounds are Gulf State Park Campground, the Luxury RV Resort, and Doc’s RV Park.
For a great vacation or long weekend test the waters along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Outdoor and indoor recreational opportunities abound at this fun-in-the-sun destination.
AL Beach at sunset Gulf Shores (4).JPG