“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.”
For my family, Gulf Shores is more like a tradition than a vacation. We’ve been three times, and no matter what other places we go in between, we always end up back in Gulf Shores eventually. I think it’s because my little sister adores it but hey, I’m not complaining. A vacation is a vacation and it’s on my parents’ dime. *insert winking emoji here*
You could consider us seasoned vets in regards to Gulf Shores, meaning we know the most efficient route to take driving there and we know where to stay once we’re there. We know the restaurants to eat at and the souvenir places to shop at. But somehow on our most recent trip, we took a wrong turn and ended up across the bay from our destination. It was pretty comical, only because we weren’t in a rush and got to see another part of Alabama. Our trip began with a journey across the bay on a ferry boat.
All three years we’ve stayed at the same place, The Plantation. We have a big family so we reserve a condo with a couple rooms, complete with a kitchen, dining room, and balcony. This isn’t a five star hotel, but we only use the condo to sleep and eat in so it suits us fine. Plus, it’s right on the beach. There are beach houses right next to these condos, also on the beach, if that’s more your style.
So…what to do at the beach besides, well, go to the beach? Although that does take up most of our time, we’ve managed to squeeze in a few other excursions among our trips here.
What’s a beach vacation without dolphins? There are a plethora of companies around Gulf Shores that will take you out into the bay where you’re sure to see them. They love swimming in the waves of the boat traffic. We drove over to Perdido Key, Florida because we found a cheap Groupon deal for a company out there (it’s about a 20 minute drive). The boat we were taken on had two glass panels on the bottom so you were able to see any wildlife that happened to be swimming under you. Once into the bay, we quickly spotted a small pod of dolphins and followed them until they were out of sight. We did this two or three times in the hour’s time that we were out in the water. We saw multiple dolphins and they were happy to show off for us.
Up next, the Pensacola Lighthouse. This lighthouse and museum is actually on a naval base. The lighthouse itself contains 150 steps up a very slim stairwell; even the most physically fit people were winded and their calves were burning by the time they got to the top. But my, was the view worth it.
The National Naval Aviation Museum is right across the street from the Pensacola Lighthouse if you’re looking for something else to do away from the beach. Unfortunately, we never ventured over there but I’m positive we will next time we’re there. Check it out and give me your feedback on it!
You cannot go to Gulf Shores, Alabama and not eat at The Hangout. Everyone knows this is the place to be at night. They have a huge dining area, a gift shop, and a small outdoor venue where musicians play live music every night. The environment is utterly carefree and laid back. Their hand signal is literally the shaka sign.
Don’t waste your precious beach time hauled up in the hotel at night just because you can’t get in the water. Go crab hunting! (I don’t mean actually hunting them, I mean finding them and enjoying their existence before they scurry away.) If you’re lucky, you may even find other creatures. We found a tiny seahorse one day lying in the sand, and we saved it by putting it back into the water. That was the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced on a beach.
Once you’ve been here, you’ll become addicted to it like I did. I know it’s not Barbados or Costa Rica or Cabo, but it’s special. The salty air, the tiny fish nibbling at your feet when you walk into the ocean, the incredible sunsets, and the priceless family time.