Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama, may not be a bucket list destination but the area makes for a great summer getaway. The Wharf Amphitheater hosts an excellent summer concert series which can be the main event for your trip. I planned my Orange Beach trip around a James Taylor concert. It was my first time seeing him, and he put on a fantastic show before a packed house.
When visiting Orange Beach, you have a couple options for lodging. There are plenty of oceanfront hotels to choose from on Orange Beach or Gulf Shores. Another option is to stay at The Wharf on the large canal that runs between Mobile Bay and Wolf Bay. I stayed at The Wharf because this is where the James Taylor concert was happening. I wanted to be able to walk to and from the amphitheater without worrying about traffic, parking, or if I could have a few drinks before and during the show. The Wharf has a main street with with restaurants, coffee house, pubs, shopping, and evening outdoor entertainment on Main Street.
The image below is from my hotel-room balcony, and The Wharf’s Main Street is off to the right.
There are several Dolphin Cruise excursions that depart from The Wharf as well. Here a couple images from the Dolphin cruise…
Beyond The Wharf, the beach is really the star of the show and a short drive from The Wharf. If you aren’t coming for a concert, staying oceanfront will deliver more of the beach vibe you may be craving. Once at the beach, a great first stop (and last stop) is a restaurant called The Gulf. The view from the restaurant is excellent and overlooks where Bayou Saint John and the Gulf of Mexico come together. There is plenty of shaded outdoor seating and ocean views galore.
The dining is casual, and food is really, really tasty. I had to stop by twice.
After leaving the Gulf, I’d suggest crossing the nearby bridge over Perdido Pass to reach the white, powdery sands of Gulf State Park. There is plenty of public parking, and walking through the park makes for a great stroll.
Here are few shots from within the park…
At some point, you may want to leave the Orange Beach area to explore nearby Gulf Shores a few miles down the road. Again, powdery white beaches with easy access to the beach.
While you are in Gulf Shores, a very popular, family-friendly place to eat or have a drink is The Hangout. “The restaurant features full-service dining, beach access, and a courtyard with a ton-of-fun sand pile, foam pit, games, retail shopping, stages for live music and more.” – Hangout website. They have a nice selection of brews too.
When it comes to dinner, you can catch a great sunset, meal, and shopping at Coastal in Orange Beach.
When exploring lower Alabama in the heat of summer, it is important to remain hydrated. To that end, I did my best to support the local breweries.
It seems that no matter where I travel, I am always on the lookout for points of historical interest. If you are into history, you aren’t too far from it in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. One historical point of interest is Fort Morgan which is a relaxed and mostly scenic 45-minute drive from Orange Beach. The location of Fort Morgan was especially important strategic point in early American history because it guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay and the busy port of Mobile.
The first fort built on this point, Fort Bowyer (made of logs and sand bunkers), saw two battles in the War of 1812 with the British. The brick fortification still present today is called Fort Morgan. It was completed in 1834 and contained more than 46 million cubic yards of bricks. Fort Morgan saw action in the American Civil War (1861-1865), the Spanish-American war of 1898, and was also fortified during World Wars I and II.
If you are traveling with a history buff but not into it yourself, there is a nearby beach access to pass away an hour or so along with a site museum with air conditioning and refreshments.
Visiting the Alabama coast may require that you fly into or drive through Mobile. You may want to explore the city a bit and discover its rich history. Mobile was part of an early French colonization in 1702 and later ceded to the British in the 1763 in the Treaty of Paris. It was captured by Spain in 1780 and later by the relatively new and independent United States in the War of 1812. The Dauphin Historic District is loaded with historic architecture along with restaurants and bars. If you have been to New Orleans, Dauphin Street will feel a lot like Bourbon Street. In fact, the first Mardi Gras in America took place in Mobile, Alabama.