Gulf Shores Alabama Weekend Getaway – Everything You Need to Know

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best alabama beaches - Gulf Shores - Orange Beach
Gulf Shores-Orange Beach. Photo credit: Visit Gulf Shores-Orange Beach Tourism

If you’re craving a low-key beach getaway with top amenities, the answer is Gulf Shores, Alabama. Gulf Shores and the nearby community of Orange Beach is a well-appointed southeast beach destination that’s perfect for groups of all types. Although you’ll probably want to stay longer, here’s everything you need to know to plan a Gulf Shores, Alabama weekend getaway.

Why Gulf Shores?

While your dream beach might be in the Caribbean or South Pacific, Alabama beaches are accessible from many points in the United States. If you’re traveling on a budget or want to plan a quick getaway, this easy beach community near the Florida-Alabama border might be just the escape you are looking for. These beautiful beaches have turquoise water, sugar-white sand, and nearly year-round sunny weather.

How to Get to Gulf Shores

If you’re flying, Gulf Shores is about an hour from Pensacola Airport, two hours from Mobile Airport, and about three hours from Montgomery Airport. You will need a car to get around Gulf Shores.

Gulf Shores Is For Everyone

If you’re planning a romantic getaway, the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach region is a great location. The breathtaking views and beautiful sunsets make the perfect backdrop for a couple’s trip. Gulf Shores is also great for a girlfriend getaway or family vacation. One thing you won’t find is wild college spring break crowds. The community doesn’t cater to that type of tourism.

Where to Stay in Gulf Shores

The perfect beach stay needs the perfect beach resort. While hotels are available in Gulf Shores, most visitors prefer to stay in vacation rentals or high-rise beachfront condos and that type of lodging is widely available.

Oceanfront vacation rentals and condos have enough space for everyone to spread out – two and three-bedroom units are easy to find – and many have cooking facilities. Even if you don’t want to cook when you’re on your beach vacation, a kitchen is nice for quick breakfasts, and having a full-size refrigerator to store your beverages is nice, too. Many of the high-rise condos are right on the beach but also have outdoor pool and hot tub access, so if you get your fill of salt water, there’s another option.

My family and I stayed in Indigo Surf EAST, a duplex that sleeps up to 15 people. You can also rent the entire house if you have a really large group (up to 30) or just want that extra space to spread out. There is no swimming pool, but the unit is across the street from the beach, has ocean views, and easy beach access.

Quick Stay Near the Action

If your stay is short, you might want to consider the Springhill Suites at The Wharf. It’s within easy walking distance to lots of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

Other Things To Do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

While hanging out on the beach might be exactly what you’re looking for in a weekend trip, here are activity suggestions for other fun things to do during your Gulf Shores and Orange Beach vacation if you’re up for a bit of sightseeing and exploring.

Explore Gulf State Park

While part of Gulf State Park is coastal, there’s also an onsite lake, so you can swim and go kayaking or paddle boarding in flat water. Other activities include fishing, biking, camping, and birding.

Visit Historic Fort Morgan

This National Historical Landmark is a former outpost located 22 miles west of Gulf Shores, where soldiers protected and watched over Mobile Bay. The fort was active during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. Allow at least an hour to explore the fort.

Explore The Wharf Entertainment District

This waterfront shopping and entertainment district has restaurants and bites, a Ferris wheel and train, an escape room, axe throwing, a movie theater, and many more options.

Take a Dolphin Watching Cruise

The dolphin cruises and eco-tours with Cetacean Cruises leave from The Wharf, so this is a great activity to add to exploring the entertainment district. The intercoastal waterways off The Wharf are full of dolphins as well as waterfowl.

Check out the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

This excellent small zoo is great for all ages, especially younger children. There’s a carousel and up close and personal animal encounters for an extra fee. The adjacent restaurant, The Safari Club, Alabama’s first green restaurant, is a don’t-miss.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Dining

Your Gulf Shores vacation should involve delicious food. Popular places to eat, drink, and listen to live music beachside are plentiful. And don’t forget the most important meal of the day – there are many choices to have a great breakfast or brunch to fuel you up for a fun day.

Here’s a sampling of the best places to eat in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. For more ideas, check out the Gulf Shores Orange Beach Tourism website or ask a local!

  • The Hangout
  • Lucy Buffet’s LuLu’s
  • Sunliner Diner
  • Tacky Jack’s (3 locations)
  • Bahama Bob’s
  • Ginny Lane
  • YoHo Rum & Tacos

Plan Your Gulf Shores Getaway

Whether you plan your trip out a year in advance or pull something together last-minute, Gulf Shores is an easy vacation spot that everyone will enjoy. You’ll likely be planning your next trip before you leave your first one, and that’s always a sign that you had an excellent time.

Jill Robbins is a freelance writer covering lifestyle, travel, health, and commerce. Her writing has appeared in SheKnows, HuffPost, Tripsavvy, Insider, AARP, and other publications. Jill lives in San Antonio with her husband and two youngest kids, although she’s usually somewhere else. You can find out what Jill is up to by reading her blog, Ripped Jeans and Bifocals.
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