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Exploring Orange Beach and Gulf Shores: A Coastal Paradise

Welcome to the stunning coastal gems of Alabama: Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. Nestled along the Gulf of Mexico, these charming destinations offer a perfect blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventures, delectable dining, and sweet treats. Whether you’re seeking a relaxing beach escape or an action-packed getaway, this travel guide will help you make the most of your visit.

Here is a fully planned itinerary for you

Day 1

10:00 AM – Custom Cruises: Cruise With A Captain

Your journey begins with an unforgettable private cruise experience. Cruise With A Captain is your ticket to adventure. Located at Caribe Marina (28101 Perdido Beach Blvd, Orange Beach), this locally beloved company offers personalized dolphin cruises, family day trips, and romantic sunset sails.

Captain Don Guinn, a Gulf Coast local since 1996, leads your journey. With expertise in marine biology and a passion for these waters, Captain Don takes you on a maritime adventure tailored to your preferences. Spot playful dolphins, explore Robinson Island, or cruise to Pirate’s Cove for a Bushwacker, a local favorite cocktail.

Don’t forget your sunscreen, sunglasses, and beach towels. While water is provided, feel free to bring your own snacks and drinks to enhance your experience.

Bushwackers at Pirate’s Cove

After your cruise, venture to Pirate’s Cove (6664 Hwy. 95, Elberta, AL 36530). Since 1957, this legendary beachside establishment has been a favorite for both locals and visitors. Enjoy a menu filled with sandwiches, salads, burgers, and their famous bushwhackers, all while taking in the waterfront views.

Dinosaurs in the Woods and Bamahenge

As you explore the area, don’t miss the chance to discover Bamahenge, a full-scale fiberglass replica of England’s Stonehenge. Located on the grounds of Barber Marina near Josephine, Alabama, Bamahenge is a fascinating sight to behold. Designed and built by artist Mark Cline at the request of marina owner George W. Barber, this site is a hidden gem waiting for your visit.

While in the area, keep an eye out for the unexpected—the dinosaurs! These life-sized replicas are located in the woods along Fish Trap Road. Spotting them adds an element of adventure to your journey.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Your next stop is the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo (20499 Oak Rd. E., Gulf Shores, AL 36542). Located in Gulf Shores, this zoo is a beloved family attraction that offers an immersive experience with a wide array of wildlife.

Often referred to as the “Little Zoo That Could” due to its role in a hit documentary series on Animal Planet, this non-profit zoological park houses over 199 species, 31 sub-species, and 8 endangered species. The lush, tropical surroundings make you feel like you’ve entered a different world, with the sounds of peacocks, monkeys, and lions filling the air.

The zoo features wide pathways spread across 70+ acres, providing shaded picnic areas, rest stops, a seasonal concession stand, and a gift shop filled with animal-themed merchandise. Unlike traditional zoos, this one offers hands-on animal encounters and even a thrilling zipline adventure.

The Track Family Fun Park

For a day of family-friendly fun, head to The Track Family Fun Park (3200 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores, AL 36542). This entertainment hub offers a wide range of activities, making it perfect for visitors of all ages.

With six Go-Kart Tracks, Mini Golf, Blaster Boats, Kids Country Rides, the high-flying Skycoaster, the Spinning Coaster, and a 5,000 sq. foot Fat Daddy’s Arcade, there’s no shortage of excitement here. Don’t miss the Slick Track for a slipping-and-sliding go-kart experience.

Day 2

Choose Your Adventure: Fort Morgan or Backcountry Trails

It’s time to explore even more of the region’s wonders. You have two fantastic options to choose from:

Visit Historic Fort Morgan: Located at 110 Hwy. 180 W., Gulf Shores, AL 36542, this historic site offers a glimpse into the past. Fort Morgan is a Third System masonry fort built between 1819 and 1833. It played a pivotal role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 and has been used intermittently in various wars.

Today, it’s a place where you can appreciate history, enjoy nature areas, launch a boat, have a picnic, and relax on the beaches.

Explore the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails: Gulf State Park is home to the renowned Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails. These trails, named the 2023 best recreational trail in the country by USA Today, cover 6,150 acres of Gulf State Park, stretching from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach.

The 28 miles of trails wind through nine distinct ecosystems, making it a paradise for hikers and bikers alike. Along the way, keep an eye out for Lefty, the resident alligator sunning in the water! For added fun, download the geocaching app before your trip and enjoy a treasure hunt on the trail.

Kids will love the Bouldering Park next to the Pavilion and Al’s Parkour Challenge on the Twin Bridges Trail. These exciting spots offer opportunities for jumping, climbing, and balancing.

For your convenience, free bike-share racks are available at various locations within the park. Simply download the Bloom app on your phone, create an account, and scan the QR code on the bike you want to use (must be 16 years old*).

Explore Alabama’s White-Sand Beaches

After your adventure at Fort Morgan or the Backcountry Trails, spend a leisurely afternoon with your toes in the soft, white sands of Alabama’s beautiful beaches. The sand here is incredibly soft and white due to being crushed quartz that washed down from the Appalachian Mountain Chain millions of years ago.

Feel free to relax, take a dip, build sandcastles, or simply soak in the breathtaking Gulf Coast views. As the sun sets, it’s the perfect opportunity to capture some stunning sunset photos.

Date Night

For a memorable date night head to:

7:00 PM – Zeke’s Restaurant

Indulge in a romantic dinner at Zeke’s Restaurant (26619 Perdido Beach Blvd, Orange Beach, AL 36561). Located at Zeke’s Landing and Marina in Orange Beach, this restaurant is the epitome of casual elegance. It reopened in September 2022 after being closed due to damage from Hurricane Sally.

Dine on fresh Gulf seafood while taking in the waterfront views.

Explore The Wharf

After dinner, head to The Wharf (23101 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL 36561), Orange Beach’s vibrant waterfront dining and entertainment complex. Here, you’ll find an amphitheater, unique boutiques, and a variety of restaurants.

The highlight of The Wharf is its towering Ferris wheel, the tallest in the southeast. Take a ride and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Orange Beach. The Ferris wheel operates daily from 4 to 10 PM.

If you’re visiting The Wharf at night, don’t miss the mesmerizing SPECTRA Sound and Light Show. This captivating show combines sophisticated lighting effects with surround-sound music, creating a unique and immersive entertainment experience.

Drinks at 8 Reale OBAL (Speakeasy)

End your night with a visit to 8 Reale OBAL (4851 Wharf Pkwy D-112, Orange Beach, AL), Orange Beach’s first speakeasy. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the daily password clue. To access the speakeasy, you’ll enter through a jewelry store, adding an element of intrigue to your evening.

Enjoy artisanal cocktails and a cozy atmosphere, making it the perfect spot for a nightcap.

Day 3

10:00 AM – Check-out and Breakfast

As your weekend getaway comes to a close, check out from your accommodation. Before hitting the road, savor a delicious breakfast at one of the suggested restaurants.

Where to Stay

Discover the epitome of Orange Beach vacation rentals with Beach Ball Properties. Their diverse portfolio offers personalized, hassle-free booking for immaculately maintained beachfront condos. With exclusive access to prime locations, you’ll experience Orange Beach at its finest. Benefit from local insights, recommendations, and responsive customer support, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable stay. Beach Ball Properties isn’t just a rental company; they’re your ticket to a stress-free, unforgettable beach getaway. Explore their offerings at and make Orange Beach your next seaside haven.

Where to Eat

Breakfast Suggestions:

  • BuzzCatz Coffee & Sweets (25689 Canal Rd Suite A, Orange Beach, AL 36561) is a delightful spot for a morning pick-me-up. Enjoy locally roasted coffee, breakfast options, baked goods, and made-from-scratch goodies.
  • City Donut (25751 Perdido Beach Blvd. Ste A-5 Orange Beach, AL 36561) is a local hot spot for fresh-made donuts and coffee. This family-owned shop bakes its goods fresh daily, offering a variety of flavors to choose from.
  • Duck’s Diner (4560 Easy St, Orange Beach, AL) is an established local favorite known for its mouthwatering breakfast and lunch options. Try their unique offerings like Banana Stuffed French Toast or Creole Grit Cakes with Garlic Toast. They also provide healthier options, including salads, fresh fruit sides, and gluten-free entrees.
  • Sunliner Diner (100 E. 2nd Ave., Gulf Shores, AL 36542) takes you back to the 1950s with its retro atmosphere. Located in the heart of downtown Gulf Shores, this diner offers classic American breakfast options, hamburgers, milkshakes, and rock-n-roll music.

Lunch/Dinner Suggestions

As you prepare to leave this coastal paradise, consider these lunch and dinner options for your last meal in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores:

  • Sea n Suds best gumbo around and right on the beach!
  • CoastAL Orange Beach (25722 Perdido Beach Blvd, Orange Beach, AL 36561): Overlooking Alabama’s sugar-white sand beaches, CoastAL offers a restaurant, retail outlet, and a bar with breathtaking waterfront views. Enjoy live music, signature cocktails, local foods, and a beachy atmosphere.
  • Flora-Bama Yacht Club (17350 Perdido Key Dr, Pensacola, FL 32507): A legendary restaurant known for its original menu items and local seafood. Relax on the sand, listen to live music, and savor a delightful lunch. And don’t forget to try the Bushwacker!
  • GT’s on the Bay (26189 Canal Rd., Orange Beach, AL 36561): Perched on the Wolf Bay, GT’s offers a diverse menu and stunning bayfront dining. Indulge in stone hearth pizza, fresh salads, craft beers, and daily happy hour. The restaurant also features a playground for kids, making it family-friendly.
  • Fish River Grill – they have a very interesting bloody mary and are famous for their swamp stew
  • The Hangout (101 E. Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores, AL 36542): A perfect place for great food and family fun, The Hangout offers full-service dining, beach access, and a courtyard with sandpits, foam pits, games, retail shopping, and live music stages. It’s where the beach meets good times!

  • LuLu’s (200 East 25th Ave., Gulf Shores, AL 36542): Owned and operated by Lucy Buffett, sister to singer Jimmy Buffett, LuLu’s is a family-friendly spot overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. They offer a diverse menu, nightly live music, and allergy-friendly options. They have a huge play area for kids that opens at 3 but make sure to call and confirm.
  • Original Oyster House (701 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores, AL 36542): A Gulf Coast seafood restaurant with a long history. Try their award-winning chargrilled oysters and savor genuine southern hospitality.
  • Playa at Sportsman Marina (27842 Canal Rd., Orange Beach, AL 36561): Located at Sportsman Marina, Playa offers local seafood with tropical inspiration. Enjoy margaritas, mojitos, and the magical Pink Pineapple cocktail.
  • Tacky Jacks: With multiple locations (Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan), Tacky Jacks offers casual dining with a focus on FUN. Check their website and Facebook pages for live music schedules, bingo, karaoke, and more.
  • Fishers (great Marina shopping and gift shop)
  • Pirates Cove (by boat) to try their bushwhacker locals claim is the best in town

Sweet Treat Suggestions

No trip is complete without indulging in some sweet treats. You’ve already experienced some of the best ice cream, but here are two more must-visit spots:

  • Matt’s Homemade Alabama Ice Cream (701 Gulf Shores Pkwy #312, Gulf Shores, AL 36542): Located at Gulf Shores Public Beach, Matt’s offers a wide range of flavors and handmade ice cream treats.
  • The Yard Milkshake Bar (3800 Gulf Shores Pkwy #240, Gulf Shores, AL 36542): If you’re craving over-the-top milkshakes, The Yard is the place to be. Customize your milkshake with a variety of flavors and toppings.
  • Scoops Ice Cream (601 W. Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores, AL 36542): This charming ice cream parlor offers a wide range of flavors and ice cream-related goodies. It’s a delightful spot to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Orange Beach and Gulf Shores offer a magical coastal experience filled with natural beauty, adventure, delicious dining, and sweet indulgences. Whether you’re exploring historic sites, enjoying thrilling attractions, or simply relaxing on the beach, there’s something for every traveler.

As you pack your bags and bid farewell to this coastal paradise, remember the cherished memories and the promise of a return trip. Orange Beach and Gulf Shores will always welcome you with open arms and endless opportunities for adventure and relaxation.

Plan your next visit to this coastal haven, and make your own unforgettable memories in the heart of the Gulf Coast. Safe travels!

Read More:

Top 6 Places To Eat in Gulf Shores / Orange Beach, Alabama + Some Honorable Mentions!

The Ultimate Vacation Travel Guide to Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Pets Allowed! 5 Dog-Friendly Restaurants on Alabama’s Gulf Coast

3 Dog-Friendly Attractions on Alabama’s Gulf Coast