After a long, cold, harsh winter, springtime brings a rebirth to the world and is the perfect season to break out of that wintertime funk. It’s the perfect time to get out of the house and get away from it all. Whether you’re looking for a special vacation with your family or a nice getaway for just you and your partner — without the stereotypical spring break shenanigans of the college set — then Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are for you.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are located along a narrow peninsula and barrier island at the southernmost end of Alabama. The weather here is almost perfect all year but more so in March and April when the low temperatures average around 54 degrees at night and 71 during the day.
And that’s just the start. Here are only a few reasons why you should consider Orange Beach and Gulf Shores as your next spring break getaway.
1. Friendly And Welcoming
First and foremost, the permanent residents in both towns are extremely friendly, courteous, and welcoming to all who visit. This feeling of inclusion gives the towns a laid-back atmosphere away from the noise and hustle of larger spring beach destinations.
2. Easy Access
Both towns are easily accessible from just about anywhere. Two main highways — US Highway 59 and the Foley Beach Express — bring you straight onto the peninsula from either Interstate 10 or Interstate 65. There is a toll bridge as you cross the Intercoastal Waterway on the express but not on US 59. Just remember that both of these highways can become congested with traffic, especially on weekends, so plan to arrive early in the morning.
The main highway along the coast is Alabama Highway 182 which stretches from its intersection with US Highway 59 to the Florida state line and is where most of the attractions, dining, and accommodations will be found.
3. The Beaches
You will be hard pressed to find finer beaches along the Gulf Coast than those found in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Over 32 miles of pristine white fine sand public beaches outlined with the gorgeous turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico offer hours of fun in the sun.
When it comes to spring break, these twin cities afford both mature vacationers and families plenty of space away from college beachgoers. Alcohol is not allowed on the beaches at Gulf State Park and since 2016, the City of Gulf Shores has banned alcohol from its public beaches altogether from March 1 to mid-April.
While alcohol is permitted on the sands of Orange Beach (glass containers are not permitted), the city sections off the popular Perdido Pass Beach to be strictly family-friendly.
4. Non-Stop Entertainment
There is a world of attractions and entertainment venues in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach that will make your spring break memorable rain or shine.
Music At The Wharf
For live music, the place to be is The Wharf where concerts take place almost nightly. Great local singers and bands, karaoke, and dancing to DJs and big-name recording artists fill the bill throughout spring.
Waterville USA – A Classic Water Park
If you love the thrill of amusement park rides, two of the best in the region can be found right here on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Waterville USA is a 20-acre water and amusement park that features 17 waterslides, a wave pool, a virtual reality arcade, and more.
Thrills At The Park At OWA
Just up the road in the town of Foley is the Park at OWA featuring death-defying rides like the Rollin’ Thunder and Alabama Whama. It is the home of a completely indoor water park, Tropic Falls, with a wave pool and thrilling water slides all under a convertible glass roof that makes it the perfect attraction no matter the weather.
Get Wild At The Zoo
Gulf Shores is the home of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo with its acclaimed Animal Encounters where you can get up close and personal with exotic animals.
A Bird’s Eye View
Get a breathtaking view of the beautiful turquoise waters of the Gulf and the snowy white beaches as you hop aboard one of the many helicopter tours offered by Lost Bay Helicopters.
A Round Of Mini Golf
What would a seaside vacation be without mini golf? There are seven different courses you can choose from, including Adventure Island, which goes beyond just golf. Adventure Island features go-karts, bumper boats, an arcade, paddleboats, and a volcano that regularly explodes. Visit Shrimpy’s where you can play a round on the 18-hole course then savor a cool, creamy milkshake and other ice cream treats.
5. Nature-Based And Historic Sites To Explore
Spring break in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is much more than sunning on the beach and playing in the surf. The cities also have fascinating historic sites and natural wonders to explore.
Historic Fort Morgan
On the far western end of the Fort Morgan peninsula, there is the massive stone fortress called Fort Morgan where, during the Civil War, one of the most historic U.S. naval battles occurred, the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Both towns have interesting museums to explore that trace the area’s history from when Native Americans called these beaches home to its maritime and fishing history. Make sure to block out some time to visit the Orange Beach Indian and Sea Museum and the Gulf Shores Museum. Both include free admission.
Hiking Maritime Wetlands And Forests
For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, it doesn’t get much better than springtime along the Alabama Gulf Coast. A hike down 6 miles of trail at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge takes you through the Gulf’s transitional maritime wetlands and forests. Here, a rainbow of wildflowers blooming and an array of wildlife including American alligators are always nearby.
The Way Of The Paddle
Grab your kayak or rent one from any one of the area’s outfitters and paddle one of the region’s beautiful and tranquil bays, backwaters, or lakes.
World-Famous Walking And Biking Paths
For those less adventurous, but who still want to experience the natural beauty of the Alabama Gulf Coast, bike or walk the 15 miles of paved multi-use trails known as the Hugh Branyon Backcountry Trail which weaves its way around wildlife-filled wetlands, lakes, and ancient sand dunes.
Sail With Dolphins
Both kids and adults will love taking to the Gulf on one of its many dolphin cruises that set sail from either beach town. Many offer sunset cruises that make the perfect romantic evening.
6. Dinner With A Show
Being coastal towns, you know that dining along the Alabama Gulf Coast is centered around some of the most amazing seafood served up anywhere.
Gulf Shores is the home of singer Jimmy Buffett’s little sister, Lucy, who has made a name for herself with her restaurant, Lulu’s. It serves up incredibly delicious crab claws, gumbo, and more, all with a dose of live musical entertainment.
The Original Oyster House
Another local favorite is the Original Oyster House which serves up — you guessed it — oysters fried, baked, or served on a half-shell, as well as its famous fire-grilled oysters.
Sunset At The Cobalt Restaurant
For a real show, make plans to spend the evening on the patio of the Cobalt Restaurant. At Cobalt, views of the Orange Beach fishing fleet returning with their catch are accentuated by a glorious sunset.
Take the ultimate fishing excursion aboard one of the many charter boats that set sail from the marinas of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores and try your hand at landing the big ones — red snapper, amberjack, triggerfish, mahi-mahi. The list goes on and on. And after a long day of fishing, take your catch to one of the many “catch-and-cook” restaurants in the area that will cook it up fresh for you.
Where To Stay In Orange Beach And Gulf Shores
For lodging, both cities have many hotel options, but most people go for renting a beach house or oceanside condo. Condominium options with booking information can be found on the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores websites. Both towns also have beach house rental recommendations. Just remember, book your accommodations well in advance. They can be tough to come by.
Parking In Orange Beach And Gulf Shores
Unless you have accommodations that are within walking distance to the beaches, you will need to park at one of the public access points to access the beach. Paid parking is available at several locations in Gulf Shores ranging from 4-hour to all-day parking. Cash and credit cards are accepted but change is not provided.
Orange Beach offers paid parking at several access points along the beaches of Gulf State Park ranging from 2 hours to all day. Veterans can park for free with an approved pass.