Have you ever considered becoming a snowbird to a warmer climate during the winter months? Many mature residents from the northern states and Canada head south to the warmer southern states in November through January and spend a month or maybe even five months enjoying the warmer climate. Many go to Florida or Arizona, and while those are excellent choices, other options might be just as good or a better fit for you.
Two options that come to mind are Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama, the surrounding areas, and the Secret Coast of Mississippi.
Gulf Shores, Alabama, enjoys a warm, humid climate tempered by sea breezes. The average temperature during winter is in the low to mid-60s. While peak travel happens during the hot summer months (June to August), winter is uncrowded.
There is just something special and relaxing about a beach town. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach serve up sand, surf, and a slower pace. They are also less crowded and affordable.
White sand beaches cover 30 plus miles of shoreline with lots of activities for the mature visitor to enjoy. Orange Beach even hosts an annual January event, Snowbird Fest.
Many mature travelers want to maintain an active lifestyle year-round, and becoming a snowbird makes that easy to do. Snowbirds enjoy an environment that encourages time outdoors, participating in favorite activities, and pursuing new passions while being a part of a new community.
Let’s explore some of the activities you can enjoy as a snowbird in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, BeachFlight Aviation, and the Foley Depot Museum and Model Train Exhibit provided hosted experiences during our visit. Meyer Vacation Rentals provided lodging. All opinions are my own.
1. Visit the Beach
Who doesn’t love the beach? White sand beaches and beautiful turquoise water are the main attractions in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. There are 32 miles of shoreline for the mature traveler to explore.
During the winter months, you can walk the beach, look for shells, discover diverse ecosystems, or just soak up the sunshine. The beach is wonderful when it is uncrowded.
2. Dabble With Glass Art At The Coastal Arts Center
The Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach is a great place to visit. It overlooks scenic Wolf Bay and offers various artistic experiences. Gulf Coast artists display their work in the 10,000-square-foot two-story fine art gallery. The grounds are impeccably groomed and provide a stunning view of the bay.
A Clay Studio and The Hot Shop are also on the campus. You can build your own clay creation or participate in glass blowing or other glass art projects. When I visited, I watched several Hot Glass demonstrations and participated in a Make-Your-Own fused glass project. I created a fused glass starfish.
The Arts Center also provides adult art classes and workshops.
3. Attend Local Festivals
Events and festivals are happening year-round along the Gulf Coast. Events and festivals include craft shows, history tours, music, culinary festivals, and more. You can keep up to date with the activities on the Gulf Coast Calendar of Events.
4. Drop A Line
Board a charter boat and fish along the Alabama Gulf Coast, considered a world-class premier fishing destination. You might catch a huge grouper.
Maybe you would rather fish from a pier. Gulf State Park features a massive pier with more than 2,000 feet of space for fishing along the rails.
You also have the option of beach casting. Find a spot anywhere along the shore and hook your dinner. However you like to fish, you won’t be disappointed in the catch.
5. Visit The Gulf State Park
When you visit the Gulf State Park, you are surrounded by abundant natural beauty. They have 2 miles of beaches and so much more.
Hiking at Gulf State Park is excellent because the 20+ miles of trails are either paved or boardwalk. There are no roots, stones, etc., to trip over. Just great surfaces to walk or ride on. And there is much to see: lakes, natural habitat, wildlife, wildflowers, and more.
You can also bike on all the paths, and they have bicycles you can use for free for 3 hours.
If you have good balance, you can rent a segway to tour the park. When we visited, we enjoyed this option, and we were able to ride the segway for 12 miles to see most of the park. It was great to have a guide pointing out various things in the park.
A large pool and splash area and a nature center are part of the park. Kayaks, paddleboards, and even beach wheelchairs are available to rent.
They also have a large campground for RVs, and Gulf State Park has a lodge and conference center. If you are staying at the park, you can use all the facilities without fees. If just coming to visit the park, they charge a nominal fee for the day.
6. Go For A Walk
I mentioned the hiking trails above, but you can walk along the beach, around the lakes, and at various other places in the area. You can definitely get your steps in and never be bored with the view while you are walking.
7. Hit the Links
There are 15 magnificent courses in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area. Some were designed by the likes of Arnold Palmer, Earl Stone, and Jerry Pate. You can find a course perfect for your play level. The courses are open year-round and just waiting for snowbirds to escape the snow and swing their clubs.
8. Discover Some History
A short drive along the beach is Fort Morgan. There is a museum and a nearly 200-year-old fort to explore. Travel back to a time when cannons protected waterways.
Be aware if you plan to explore the fort, there are many steep steps. But you can see a lot of things without climbing the steps. I recommend visiting the museum first and reviewing the timeline information. It helps you to understand what you are viewing when you explore the fort.
9. Volunteer To Improve Your Snowbird Community
Many snowbirds enjoy volunteering and giving back to the area. A voluntourism program welcomes visitors and is always happy to give you ideas about how you can be of service. Why not help make your second home community a better place by pitching in?
10. Attend Educational Winter Lecture Series
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism hosts the Winter Showcase Series, free educational lectures highlighting various local interests such as nature, local artisans, and military history during the winter months. The next series will begin in January.
11. Join Your State Club Meetings
The Gulf Shores area offers ample opportunities to get out and socialize. State-specific clubs for winter snowbirds allow you to flock together with those from your home state. Weekly potlucks and bridge clubs bring everyone from the state together.
12. Take Day Trips
There are numerous places within a short driving distance to take day trips to see more of the area. When we visited, we traveled to Foley to enjoy the Railroad Museum and Model Train Exhibit.
Other places of interest include taking Alabama’s Coastal Connection to Fairhope, the ferry to Dauphin Island, visiting neighboring Pensacola, Florida, or the Secret Coast in Mississippi. You could complete each in a day.
13. Fly Like a Bird
I rode in a gyroplane with BeachFlight Aviation when I visited, and it was a fantastic experience. When you looked down, you could see the larger fish and dolphins under the water. Everything looks different from the air. I highly recommend this adventure.
14. Eat Seafood
If you are a seafood lover, Gulf Shores is the right place to snowbird. Seafood is abundant, and there are some great restaurants to visit. I recommend Fresh Off The Boat, Stephi Cocktails and Cuisine, and Sea-N-Suds.
Where To Stay In Gulf Shores
Lodging options in Gulf Shores include beach house rentals, luxury hotels, beach condos, and RV campgrounds that are open year-round. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home in Gulf Shores.
If you are tired of the long, harsh winters, shoveling snow, and icy roads, consider becoming a snowbird and remember all the fantastic activity options available in Gulf Shores and the surrounding areas. Gulf Shores just might be the perfect snowbirding destination for you.
Tips For Snowbirding
Plan In Advance
Due to the many details such as travel, accommodations, prepping your primary residence for when you are gone, notifying the post office, etc., it will take some time, so you need to plan ahead.
Create A Budget
While snowbirding is wonderful, you have to be prepared for the cost, including health care, food, activities, travel, and more. Decide if you will seek a snowbird job to help cover the costs and fund the lifestyle you desire.
Find The Best Place To Snowbird
While anywhere warm sounds fantastic, make sure you select an area where there is an active adult community with activities and clubs to bring people together and help build a routine.