After a long, cold, harsh winter, Spring brings a rebirth to the world and is the perfect time of year to break out of that winter funk. It’s the perfect time to leave the house and get away from it all. Whether you’re looking for a special vacation with your family or a nice getaway just for you and your significant other — without the stereotypical spring break shenanigans of the college set — Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have you covered.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach lie along a narrow peninsula and barrier island at the southernmost end of Alabama. The weather here is perfect most of the year but even more so in March and April when the low temperatures average 54 degrees at night and 71 degrees during the day.
And that is just the beginning. Here are just a few reasons why you should consider Orange Beach and Gulf Shores for your next spring break getaway.
1. Friendly and welcoming
First of all, the permanent residents in both cities are extremely friendly, polite and welcoming to everyone who visits them. This sense of inclusion gives cities a relaxed vibe away from the noise and bustle of larger spring beach destinations.
2. Easy access
Both cities are easily accessible from almost anywhere. Two major freeways—US Highway 59 and the Foley Beach Express—take you directly to the peninsula from either Interstate 10 or Interstate 65. There is a toll bridge when crossing the Intercoastal Waterway on the Express, but not on US 59. Keep in mind Both freeways can be congested with traffic, especially on weekends, so plan to arrive early in the morning.
The main thoroughfare 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 attractions, restaurants, and lodging are located.
3. The beaches
You won’t find more beautiful beaches along the Gulf Coast than those at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Over 32 miles of pristine white powder sand beaches fringed by the beautiful turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico offer hours of fun in the sun.
When it comes to spring break, these sister cities offer both older vacationers and families plenty of space away from college beachgoers. Alcohol is not allowed on Gulf State Park beaches, and since 2016, the City of Gulf Shores has banned alcohol entirely on its public beaches from March 1 through mid-April.
While alcohol is allowed on Orange Beach (glass containers are not allowed), sections of town away from popular Perdido Pass Beach are considered strictly family-friendly.
4. Non-stop entertainment
There’s a world of attractions and entertainment at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach that will make your spring vacation come rain or shine a memorable one.
music on the quay
For live music, The Wharf is the place to be, with concerts almost every night. Great local singers and bands, karaoke and dancing to DJs and big-name recording artists fill the bill throughout the spring.
Waterville USA – A classic water park
If you love the thrill of amusement park rides, here on Alabama’s Gulf Coast you’ll find two of the area’s best. Waterville USA is a 50-acre water and amusement park featuring 17 water slides, a wave pool, a virtual reality arcade and more.
Thrills in the Park at OWA
Just up the road in the town of Foley is the Park at OWA with death-defying rides like this Rolling Thunder And Alabama whama. It’s home to a fully indoor water park, Tropic Falls, with a wave pool and thrilling water slides, all under a convertible glass canopy, making it the perfect all-weather attraction.
Get wild at the zoo
Gulf Shores is home to 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 breathtaking views of the Gulf’s beautiful turquoise waters and snow-white beaches when you hop aboard one of the many helicopter tours offered by Lost Bay Helicopters.
A round of miniature golf
What would a holiday by the sea be without mini golf? There are seven different golf courses to choose from including Adventure Island that goes beyond golf. Adventure Island features go-karts, bumper boats, an arcade, paddle boats and a volcano that regularly explodes. Visit Shrimpy’s where you can play a round on the 18-hole golf course and then enjoy a cool, creamy milkshake and other ice cream treats.
5. Nature-based and historical sites to explore
Spring vacations at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are about much more than sunbathing on the beach and playing in the surf. The cities also have fascinating historical sites and natural wonders to explore.
Historic Fort Morgan
At the far western end of the Fort Morgan Peninsula is the massive stone fortress known as Fort Morgan, site of one of America’s most historic naval battles during the Civil War, the Battle of Mobile Bay.
Both cities have interesting museums to explore, tracing the history of the area from the days when Native Americans called these beaches home to their seafaring and fishing history. Be sure to set aside some time to visit the Orange Beach Indian and Sea Museum and the Gulf Shores Museum. Both include free entry.
Hiking in maritime wetlands and forests
For nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, there’s nothing like springtime along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. A 6-mile hike at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge takes you through the marine wetlands and forests of the Gulf. A rainbow of wildflowers blooms here and an array of wildlife, including American alligators, are always close by.
The way of the paddle
Grab your kayak or rent one from one of the area’s outfitters and paddle through one of the region’s beautiful and tranquil bays, backwaters or lakes.
World-famous hiking and biking trails
For those who are less adventurous but still want to experience the natural beauty of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, you can bike or hike the 15 miles of multipurpose paved trails known as the Hugh Branyon Backcountry Trail, which meander around wild wetlands and lakes explore on foot, and ancient sand dunes.
Sail with dolphins
Both kids and adults will love heading out into the Gulf on one of the many dolphin cruises that set sail from both beach towns. Many offer sunset cruises that make for the perfect romantic evening.
6. Dinner with show
Since these are coastal cities, you know that the food along Alabama’s Gulf Coast focuses on some of the most amazing seafood served anywhere.
Gulf Shores is the home of singer Jimmy Buffett’s little sister, Lucy, who is best known for her restaurant Lulu’s. It serves incredibly tasty 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 – you guessed it – fried, baked, or oysters served on a shell, as well as their famous fire-broiled oysters.
Sunset at Cobalt Restaurant
For a real show, plan to spend the evening on the Cobalt Restaurant’s terrace. At Cobalt, the view of the Orange Beach fishing fleet returning with their catch is accented by a gorgeous sunset.
Take the ultimate fishing trip aboard one of the many charter boats that depart from Orange Beach and Gulf Shores marinas and try to land 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 area catch-and-cook restaurants to cook it fresh for you.
Accommodation options in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores
For accommodation, both cities have plenty of hotel options, but most people opt to rent a beach house or oceanfront condo. Visit the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores websites for condo options with booking information. Both cities also have recommendations for beach house rentals. Remember to book your accommodation well in advance. They can be hard to come by.
Parking at Orange Beach and Gulf Shores
Unless you have accommodation within walking distance of the beaches, you will need to park at one of the public access points to get to the beach. Paid parking is available at multiple Gulf Shores locations, ranging from 4 hours to all-day parking. Cash and credit cards are accepted, but no change.
Orange Beach offers metered parking at multiple access points along Gulf State Park beaches ranging from 2 hours to all day. Veterans can park for free with an approved pass.