I went to undergrad at Tulane University so I was familiar with Gulf Shores, AL as a beach destination and I had fond memories of weekend trips to Gulf Shores. Naturally, when I was given the opportunity to visit Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama with my family, I was excited to go back and check it out as a family beach vacation destination. To facilitate my reviews, I received lodging and some meals and activities were comped. All opinions expressed are my own.
Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama Family Vacation
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL have changed a lot since my college visits almost 20 years ago but unchanged is the 32 miles of soft white sand beaches and the clear blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I’d say this beach vacation destination is focused on beautiful beaches for relaxation and fun in the sun. As they have become more discovered there have been more attractions and events added than before. To me, it is a great combination of a little less traffic than some more “discovered” beaches and plenty of fun vacation options available at your leisure.
Things To Do: Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama Attractions
There are lot of fun things to do in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores- zip lines, boating, championship golf, parasailing, fishing, paddle boarding, and more can be found to keep you entertained. Here is some detailed information on the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Attractions we chose to do.
Zipline at Gulf Adventure Center
21101 Alabama Highway 135, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Gulf Adventure Center is located between Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in Gulf State Park and a portion of the proceeds from Gulf Adventure Center support Gulf State Park. The Hummingbird Ziplines appealed to me because it sounded like great outdoor fun that would be exciting and different. In short, I figured it would be a memorable experience for the whole family and get out for adrenaline pumping! It didn’t disappoint. We got a bird’s eye view of the Gulf Shores beaches as we traversed over Lake Shelby. My kids are 8 and 10 and they both were a bit nervous at first but they both enjoyed it and conquered their fear of height by the time we were done. Word to the wise- it is windy up there and you may want to wear long sleeves!
Ceatcean Cruises Dolphin/Nature Cruise
25991 W. Perdido Ave., Orange Beach, AL 36561
This Dolphin/Nature Cruise was a big hit! They took us out on Wolf Bay which is home to a resident dolphin pod and the dolphins have been identified and named by each one’s unique dorsal fins. They said that dolphins usually stay within a 10 mile radius their entire life! At first everyone was spotting dolphins but me but then we started spotting them too. They surfaced in groups of two and three and sometimes individually right up close and far away. It was awesome! Then the captain took us for a cruise on the bay and into some of the inlets and he identified wildlife as we saw them such as cormorant, loons, cattle egrets, and more. He also gave us a little history of the area. I loved the trip and didn’t feel sea sick at all. You can bring drinks and snacks or purchase water, sodas and snacks on board for just $1 each.
Ferris Wheel and Shopping at The Wharf
4830 Main Street, Orange Beach, AL 36551
At The Wharf, you’ll find specialty boutiques and name-brand retailers- lots of great shopping to be had. Plus they have good family entertainment- a ferris wheel and Sharky’s Family Adventure Park. They also have lots of great restaurants on the wharf and we had fun walking around picking out our favorite boats which ranged in prices from $150,000- $2,000,000. Fun eye candy!
Enjoy Orange Beach
Enjoy the beach! There is so much to do on the beach- swim, boogie board, relax, catch some sun, build sand castles, walk, fly a kite, play frisbee, fish, and more. Having fun at the beach is easy!
We had beach access and pier access from our beach front condo (more below on where to stay) but there are also four public beach access points- more on those at cityoforangebeach.com
We heard about all kinds of great events coming to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores- from the Waterway Village Zydeco & Crawfish Festival & 5k Run to the Hangout Music Festival. Always something brewing! You can see the full calendar of events at http://www.gulfshores.com/things-to-do/calendar-events/
Restaurants: Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama
Best Breakfast Restaurants in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores:
24705 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL 36561
Their menu features hearty breakfast options and lunch fare and built-to-order bloody marys. I got the crab cakes benedict with cheese grits and it was absolutely delicious and worth it. My husband some breakfast tacos and said they were delicious and surprisingly light. In short everyone loved their order and I wish I lived closer so I could try everything on the menu!
Another Broken Egg
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25910 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL36561
Another Broken Egg offers delicious breakfast food with an artisanal flair. Here, you’ll find everything from Cinnamon Roll French Toast to savory a Mardi Gras omelette packed with crawfish and bananas foster pancakes. I can tell you that I enjoyed bites of all three and I would go back anytime!
Coast Restaurant at The Beach Club
912 Beach Club Trail, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Coast Restaurant boasts beach-view dining and is located within The Beach Club resort, managed by Spectrum Resorts. We had Easter brunch there and it was was full of variety with pastries, deviled eggs with crab, shrimp and grits, and prime rib. I loved the pecan pie minis too! The view from the balcony was really wonderful.
Best Lunch and Dinner Restaurants in Orange Beach:
Ginny Lane Grill
4851 Wharf Parkway, Orange Beach, AL 36561
We enjoyed a fun, family-friendly atmosphere at Ginny Lane, plus a beautiful view. We ate on the patio overlooking the boats and my kids loved getting a closer view (see instagram of boats from the Wharf above) while we waited for our food to arrive. They have a selection of fresh, local seafood and Certified Black Angus Beef. I loved their gumbo and crawfish etouffee. My kids absolutely loved their clam pasta and went on about how good it was!
101 E Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
The bad news is the wait to be seated is always long. The good news is they make waiting fun! There is a huge sand pile, foosball tables, hook games, foam parties, and random contests (a watermelon eating contest happened while we were there!) and at night you can add live music to the festivities. You’ll also have views of Gulf Shores Public Beach.
The food is a bit on the pricier side for more casual fare but it is well done. I had the pulled pork nachos which were huge and my husband and the shrimp poboy.
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Where To Stay: Condo Rentals Orange Beach
Laura’s Vacation Rentals
We enjoyed a condo rental at Orange Beach provided by Laura’s Vacation Rentals. The Four Seasons condo was so fabulous. I mean, really nice. It was spacious and had everything we needed. There were three bedrooms, each with their own TV and bathroom. A nice large living room, a kitchen, a passover bar with seating, and a huge balcony. There was balcony access from the living room and two of the bedrooms.
There was a large outdoor pool, a small indoor pool, and a private pier where you can enjoy fishing or catch the views.
We had a super good time on our Orange Beach, Alabama family vacation! Have you ever been to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores? What are your favorite attractions, restaurants, and places to stay in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!