Monday, July 24, 2023

Best Restaurants by Category

best restaurants in Gulf Shores | Orange Beach
A reader suggested that it would be helpful to post an article here that outlined some of the locals' favorite restaurants by category, so here it is! We will continue adding more categories to the list, but here are some great ones to help you get started on your planning so that you can eat and celebrate like a local.

Best Seafood Restaurants 

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants

Best Fine Dining Restaurants

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Gulf Shores Resorts

Gulf Shores Resorts
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Gulf Shores
offers a lot of great beach resorts. From Orange Beach, throughout Gulf Shores, and out to Fort Morgan, you'll find the perfect beach resort for you. To make your vacation truly unforgettable, we've compiled a list of some of the very top resorts for you to consider. 

  1. Perdido Beach Resort: Located in Orange Beach, this luxurious waterfront retreat offers breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico, elegant rooms, a private beach, multiple pools, a full-service spa, and renowned dining options. Whether you're lounging by the pool or exploring nearby attractions, this resort caters to all your needs.
  2. Gulf Shores Plantation by Vacasa: Situated in Gulf Shores, the Gulf Shores Plantation resort is a family-friendly gated resort community that offers comfortable condos and townhouses with access to amenities such as pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, and a championship golf course. With its serene atmosphere and proximity to the beach, it's an ideal choice for a relaxing vacation.
  3. The Beach Club Resort & Spa: Located on the Fort Morgan Peninsula, The Beach Club Resort & Spa is a beachfront oasis offering well-appointed accommodations, a full-service spa, multiple pools, a fitness center, and a variety of dining options. Guests can indulge in activities including beach volleyball, kayaking, or simply basking in the sun on the resort's private beach.
  4. Kiva Dunes Resort & Golf: Nestled just west of Gulf Shores, toward Fort Morgan, Kiva Dunes is a golfer's paradise. With a stunning 18-hole championship golf course one the edge of the Gulf of Mexico, this resort offers comfortable accommodations, a clubhouse, a restaurant, and access to private beaches. 
  5. Southern Shores Beach Resort: Located in Gulf Shores, the Southern Shores Beach Resort offers excellent beachfront condos with spectacular Gulf views. With direct beach access, a pool, and spacious accommodations, this resort provides a relaxed and intimate atmosphere for a memorable vacation.
  6. The Beach Club: Another gem in Gulf Shores, The Beach Club offers a wide range of vacation rentals and amenities. From well-appointed condos to spacious cottages, guests enjoy access to pools, a spa, restaurants, and easy access to the beautiful sugar sand beach.

Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan, AL, are home to several of the best resorts along the Gulf Coast. Whether you're seeking a luxurious vacation, a family-friendly get-away, or a golfing adventure, these resorts have something for everyone. From pristine sugar sand beaches to luxurious amenities and activities, these resorts will make your stay in Gulf Shores' coastal paradise truly unforgettable.

VISIT OUR WHERE TO STAY PAGE for a list of additional accommodations 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Best Seafood Restaurants | Local Favorites

best Gulf Shores seafood restaurants
There are a ton of great seafood restaurants in the Gulf Shores area, but not all are equal. Locals tend to avoid the tourist focused restaurants in favor of smaller, locally owned places that tend to offer really great locally sourced seafood that is fresh and more reasonable priced. Here are the local favorites that you should consider trying.

Mikee's Seafood - located in Gulf Shores near the intersection of  Gulf Shores Pkwy & West Beach Blvd, is a local family-owned establishment, offers an extensive menu featuring a wide selection of fresh catches from the nearby Gulf of Mexico. From succulent shrimp to fresh oysters and the catch-of-the-day, the seafood is sourced locally, ensuring freshness, and supporting the community's fishermen. This writer particularly loves grabbing a seat at the bar and enjoying a cold brew (or 3) with a plate of the best fried cheese sticks in the area (5 stars!).

Doc's Seafood Shack  - located in Orange Beach, Doc's is a longtime local favorite that has been voted among the Top 10 seafood restaurants in America for its delicious fried local shrimp, fresh oysters, and its "Create Your Own" seafood platters. Like other restaurants, in peak season, the waits can be long, so this local advises you to skip lunch and hit Doc's with a starving belly at 4:30pm. You'll get in much faster and the food will taste all that much better.

Bahama Bob's - Unfortunately, Bahama Bob's suffered a fire in July, 2023 and has not re-opened yet. We'll update you on that as we learn more.


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Best Kid-Friendly Restaurants

best kid friendly restaurants in Gulf Shores
Families travelling to the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area often look for restaurants that are kid-friendly. While all the restaurants in the area welcome families with kids, some offer a lot of kid-focused games and activities to make the whole experience fun. Here are the top two places you definitely need to visit for good food and a great time for whole family.

LuLu's - located in Gulf Shores on the Intracoastal Waterway next to the Gulf Shores Parkway (Hwy 59) bridge, LuLu's is owned by LuLu Buffet, Jimmy Buffet's sister. While this place is an enormous restaurant that focuses on tourists, it offers not only good food but also a large play area for kids of all ages. There is a fenced beach area with games, volleyball, buckets and shovels, sand castle making tools, and a huge ropes course for the teens and tweens. Situated right in the playground area is a really nice outdoor bar for mom and dad to enjoy while the kids play safely within sight. 

The Hangout - located on the main public beach at the foot of Gulf Shores Parkway, The Hangout is another large, tourist-focused restaurant the offers good food and tons of activities for kids. There is a large play area with fun activities, an hourly foam party, and plenty of singing, dancing, and partying during your meal. Its a chaotic, wild, and fun time for the whole family.

Shrimpy's Grill & Golf - located next to Mikee's Seafood restaurant in Gulf Shores (and owned by the same local family) is Shrimpy's, which is popular with locals and tourists alike for its generous portions of good food, respectable drink prices, and a fun putt-putt golf course for the kids to enjoy while the old folks enjoy themselves in the air conditioning. Plus, you'll find Shrimpy's a nice change after you've spent a lunch or dinner at either of the big touristy places.


Jellyfish | What Purple Flags at the Beach Mean

What Purple Flags at Beach Mean | Jellyfish
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Wondering what the purple flags at the beach mean? It is a warning that “dangerous marine life” is present in the Gulf’s waves. While it could be any type of “dangerous marine life,” in Gulf Shores it almost always means jellyfish. Here’s some local advice on what you can do to best protect yourself, your kids, and the quality of your vacation.

While swimming or snorkeling in the Gulf can be a delightful experience, it's important to be aware of the risks associated with jellyfish stings. Jellyfish stings can range from mildly irritating to potentially life-threatening, depending on the species and an individual's sensitivity. Most jellyfish you may encounter are pretty mild as far as the level of pain experienced, and the duration of the pain. You may never see these jellyfish, because they are clear, snot-like creatures. You may not even feel the sting when it happens. Instead, you may just feel like a particular part of your body feels like a bad sunburn for several minutes to an hour or so.

On the other hand, if you see any jellyfish that is blue in color, stay away! If you see a blue jellyfish washed up on the beach, don’t touch it – and assume a few million more are still in the water. Blue jellyfish in this area are most often the Portuguese Man O' War, and believe me, they will ruin your day. The Portuguese Man O’ War causes intense pain, swelling, redness, and can even lead to systemic symptoms like difficulty breathing or nausea.

If you arrive for your vacation and see purple flags are flying, don't worry that you will have to pee on a family member to treat a jellyfish sting. This local recommends you find a nearby pharmacy and get Stingaway Jellyfish Treatment. It’s an over-the-counter treatment specifically designed to alleviate the symptoms of jellyfish stings. It comes in a “regular” jellyfish version and it also comes in a version for blue jellyfish stings. Might as well grab them both and keep them in your beach bag just in case. 

From the Stingaway website: This topical solution contains active ingredients that neutralize the venom, providing quick relief and preventing further harm. The application of Stingaway helps to alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and minimize the risk of secondary infections. It is important to note that Stingaway should be used in conjunction with seeking medical attention, particularly for severe or allergic reactions.

Having Stingaway with you at the beach might just save you a ruined beach day, or worse, a trip to the ER.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Best Fine Dining Restaurants | Local Favorites

If you're in the mood for some white tablecloths, fancy wines, and gourmet food prepared by trained chefs, look no further. Here are the places locals love and visit regularly for our anniversaries, birthdays, and other special occasions. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and these are not the only excellent places you can visit. These are just the perennial favorites of us locals, where you can't go wrong.

DON'T FORGET - You need to make reservations for all these restaurants well in advance.

Jesse's on the Bay - located out Fort Morgan Rd in Gulf Shores, Jesse's on the Bay offers an extensive menu that showcases a fusion of coastal and international flavors. This newly opened location offers the same quality and precision execution the original location in Magnolia Springs, AL became famous for. There is literally nothing bad on the menu, including the many fresh seafood dishes, but it is STEAK that Jesse’s is most prized for. They serve unique cuts of dry and wet-aged steaks and bone-in cuts, overseen by Executive Chef Laurence Agnew. While the steaks aren’t exactly underpriced, they certainly over-deliver. The mixologists behind the bar can make you anything you want, and they offer several signature cocktails that will delight any beach vacationer. All this is delivered to you by highly trained staff providing top-notch service

Cosmo's - located on Canal Rd in Orange Beach, Cosmo's is a fantastic restaurant to take your family to for a delicious gourmet meal prepared under the supervision of highly trained chef. Offering a fusion of Southern and global fare in a quiet and intimate setting inside, and the same great food in a more open and casual setting outside, Cosmo's has long been a favorite for locals' special occasions. The bar offers the island's best selection of craft beers, wines and fine cocktails too. All this is provided by highly trained staff who bring you superior service.

Villaggio Grille - located in The Wharf entertainment complex in Orange Beach, Villaggio Grille is a great fine dining establishment offering a fusion of Italian and local fresh seafood dishes, plus an excellent selection of fine wines to choose from. They offer fine seating indoors, and more casual seating on the outdoor patio. Like the other restaurants listed here, Villaggio does not disappoint with its gourmet chef prepared meals delivered by its attentive and well-trained staff. 


Thursday, July 13, 2023

Gulf Shores Jet Ski Rental

gulf shores jet ski rental
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Imagine renting a fast, powerful jet ski to ride in this paradise for watersports enthusiasts seeking a thrilling experience. Whether you're a seasoned rider or a first-timer, a quick trip over to Orange Beach offers the perfect setting for an unforgettable jet skiing experience (the city of Gulf Shores has not issued any business licenses for jet ski rentals).

With its crystal-clear waters, thousands of square miles of bays filled with playful dolphins, and shorelines filled with great water-accessible bars and restaurants, Orange Beach provides the ideal playground for jet skiing. You can hop on your jet ski and feel the rush as you blast through the waves, wind in your hair and sun on your face, or go explore the intricate network of bays, lagoons, canals, and estuaries that cover the area, discovering private, hidden coves and islands to make your own for the day.

Whether you prefer to venture out on your own or to join a guided jet ski tour, there are options to suit every preference. Here is a listing of our recommended jet ski rental companies for your Gulf Shores/Orange Beach vacation.

Alabama Extreme Watersports, located at Bear Point Marina in Orange Beach, offers jet ski rentals and private Waverunner dolphin tours in beautiful Perdido Bay. It is an ideal location because not only is Perdido Bay a beautiful body of water, but Bear Point Marina is just across the bay from Pirate’s Cove, a legendary beach dive bar popular with locals for decades. A visit to Pirate’s Cove is a must-do while vacationing and the very best way (practically the only way) to get there is by water. Ask your jet ski rental attendant to point it out to you. In addition to Pirate’s Cove, Bear Point Marina itself offers a fun outdoor bar and sit-down restaurant for you to enjoy.

Flora-Bama Marine & Watersports, located across the street from the legendary Flora-Bama beach bar, offers rentals on new jet skis and Waverunners with Bluetooth stereos so you can blast your favorite music while blasting through wakes and waves. Their location on Old River, next to luxurious Ono Island, is ideal for those who want to ride over to Robinson Island, a white-sand/turquoise water-surrounded island that is accessible only by water and an extremely popular party spot for locals. Ask your rental attendant for quick, easy directions. Then, after you’re done jet skiing, you can just hop across the street to end your day partying at the Flora-Bama.

Happy Harbor Marina, located on Cotton Bayou in Orange Beach offers jet skis for rent that can accommodate up to three riders. Their equipment is new and well-maintained, and their location offers easy access to popular Robinson Island and Perdido Bay’s thousands of square miles of open water, coves, hidden creeks, and secret islands. With plenty of water-accessible bars and restaurants around the area, you’re sure to have a fantastic experience.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Fishing from the Pier in Gulf Shores AL

pier fishing in Gulf Shores AL
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One of the most fun things you can do while visiting Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, especially with kids, is to go fishing off the Gulf State Park Pier. The pier was damaged by Hurricane Sally a couple of years ago, but it remains open just past the half-way point and the restrooms are still accessible.

You can rent fishing equipment there, if you don’t have your own, but you will need to get your Alabama Saltwater Fishing License in advance at Walmart’s sporting goods counter or by going online here. Also, before you go, it’s a good idea to visit one of the local bait shops in the area to get yourself some frozen squid and mackerel and to make sure you have the right kind of setups for your leaders, hooks, and weights. You can ask the bait shop personnel for some advice on that and about what artificial lures might be working well at the time you go.

Live bait is best, of course, but you’ll need a bait bucket with motorized air pump for that – available at the bait shops. When you’re at the pier, there is almost always a local or two there who will be happy to give you some advice, too – especially if you offer to buy them a drink at the pier concession ;)

how to catch fish from the pier in Gulf Shores
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There is a wide variety of fish that can be caught from the pier including Sheepshead, Spanish Mackerel, Flounder, Pompano, King Mackerel, Redfish, Whiting, sharks, and more. If you hook something too big to reel up, just yell for help from a local who has a lift basket designed for that purpose. They’ll be happy to help you land your fish – especially if you offer to give it to them after you get some pictures ;)

If you really want to learn something, the Gulf State Park Pier offers a pier fishing Angler Academy for beginners that you can attend. It costs $15 per person and lasts about 2 hours. Angler Academy is by reservation only, so contact them in advance to set it up.

The pier is open for fishing 24/7, but if you need to rent fishing equipment, you’ll need to go during the hours it is staffed (6AM-10PM). There is a restaurant and concession stand available if you get hungry or thirsty, too. Here are the basic fees to expect:

Parking: $3 for 2 hours; $5 for 4 hours; $10 all day parking & includes fishing permit (not to be confused with a State Saltwater Fishing License, which much be purchased separately at Walmart or the link provided above

Fishing permit: $9 for the day; $41 for the week

Rod/Reel rental: $10 for 4 hrs; $20 all day

Sightseeing (if you don’t want to fish): $2 for all day

LEARN MORE about fishing at the Gulf State Park Pier

VISIT OUR FISHING PAGE for more local favorite guides and fishing advice

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Little Lagoon | Best Place to Stay in Gulf Shores

best gulf shores sunset | Little Lagoon
Little Lagoon sunset
Want to see the best Gulf Shores sunsets and eat like a local? Here's a bit of local advice for you. Instead of paying a premium to stay on the beach, find a house on the south side of Little Lagoon. You'll save some money, avoid the inevitable noise, elevator waits, and congestion that comes with staying in a high rise condo, and you'll enjoy the best sunsets the northern Gulf coast has to offer while still being close to all the restaurants, bars, and entertainment.

Gulf Shores' beaches run east and west, meaning the sun does not set over the Gulf of Mexico. In the summer, the sun actually sets behind the high rise condos, ruining the view from the beach. By staying on the south side of Little Lagoon, across the street from the beach, you will not only enjoy incredible sunset water views, but also plenty of fun fishing, crabbing, kayaking, and paddle boarding opportunities.

Little Lagoon is connected to the Gulf via Little Lagoon Pass, so it is a body of water that rises and falls with the tide, keeping it beautiful and clean. Chock full of fish and crustaceans like speckled trout, red fish, founder, and blue crab, Little Lagoon is the locals' favorite place to relax and have fun away from the tremendous crowds on the beach. But when you want to hit the beach, it is just a short walk or bike ride away, giving you the best of both worlds.

Now, about eating like a local: When staying on Little Lagoon, one of the best things you can do on your first day in Gulf Shores is go to Walmart to get yourself a saltwater fishing license and buy yourself a crab trap, a length of rope, some cheap chicken (thighs or drumsticks) and a box of Zatarain's Crab Boil in Bag seasoning. Tie the length of rope to the crab trap, load a couple of pieces of raw chicken into it, drop the trap off your dock into the lagoon, and secure the rope to the dock. Leave it for 24 hours and then go check it. You're likely to have a few nice blue crabs in there, just waiting for you to boil yourself up a fantastic dinner. You can keep re-baiting and setting your trap each day until you have enough crabs to make your dinner (put the live crabs you collect into an ice chest with ice and they will go dormant). 

low country boil with blue crab
Then, when you have roughly one or two crabs per person, the best thing to do is go to Gulf Shores Seafood (a local fresh seafood market near the beach) and buy enough "Low Country Shrimp Boil" meals for your dinner party. It will come cooked and ready to eat with tons of fresh shrimp, smoked sausage, potatoes, and corn on the cob. All you need to do then is boil your crabs.

While someone is out picking up your prepared low country shrimp boil, start boiling a pot of water on your stove and follow the directions on your Zatarain's box to prepare your seasoned water. 

When your already-prepared low country shrimp boil meal arrives at the house, toss your fresh crabs into the prepared and seasoned water. They'll be done in just a few minutes (when they turn bright red). 

Now, just toss your finished crabs on top of your already-prepared low country shrimp boil meal and you'll have a feast fit for a King - made with your self-caught fresh crabs!

Here's a YouTube video detailing the crab boiling process, to help you understand how it works. And another video that teaches you how to eat your crabs.

You can find vacation rentals on the south side of Little Lagoon by visiting the websites of local vacation rental agencies you find on Google, or better yet you can visit the VRBO website (Vacation Rentals by Owner). 

Here are the streets you want to be on, so you can look these up when you start searching those sites:

Windmill Ridge Road, Gulf Shores

West 8th Avenue, Gulf Shores

West 8th Street, Gulf Shores

West Lagoon Avenue, Gulf Shores

West Beach Boulevard (WEST OF LITTLE LAGOON PASS), Gulf Shores

Seahorse Circle, Gulf Shores

Staying on the north side of Little Lagoon is great, too. But you won't be facing the sunsets. If you stick to rentals on the streets listed above, you can't go wrong. Just check all the photos to be sure the view isn't obstructed by anything before booking.

VISIT OUR WHERE TO STAY and WHAT TO DO PAGES for more local tips and advice

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Gulf Shores Boutiques | David's Gallery | A Local Favorite

Gulf Shores shopping spots | David's Gallery boutique
David's Gallery
If you’re looking for the funkiest hippie boutique on the Gulf Coast, you’ll find it at David’s Gallery in Gulf Shores, AL. It's a one-stop shop for all your *ahem* alternative needs. Whether it's cool clothing, psychedelic artwork, a new vape, jewelry, piercings, or tattoos, this shop has you covered. A Gulf Shores staple for decades, David’s Gallery is a one-of-a-kind experience for those with a unique take on life.

The friendly staff of like-minded folks will help you find just the unique things you’re looking for. Take home a memory that gets attention and makes a statement about your Gulf Shores beach vacation.

LEARN MORE about David's Gallery

VISIT OUR WHERE TO SHOP PAGE for a list of more local favorite shopping spots

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Gulf Shores Public Beach Photos

gulf shores public beach photos
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Gulf Shores, Alabama, is home to two of the most beautiful and vibrant public beaches anywhere on the Gulf Coast. Here is some information and Gulf Shores public beach photos to help you choose the best one for you.

Gulf Shores Public Beach, located at the foot of AL Highway 59 South, is the hub of activity and entertainment in Gulf Shores. With its soft, sugar-sand shores and gentle waves, it provides the perfect setting for families and beachgoers of all ages. The main public beach offers a range of amenities to enhance your beach experience. From shaded picnic areas and pavilions to clean restrooms and outdoor showers, to a variety of restaurants and bars just steps away, everything you need for a fun and active day at the beach is readily available. The new boardwalk, a product of the city’s ongoing beautification program, is a spectacular addition offering easy beach walks and a place to ride bikes and scooters. The beach also provides the most convenient parking options, making it more easily accessible for visitors.

Gulf State Park Beach, located just a few minutes east of the main public beach in Gulf Shores, is a true paradise for beach enthusiasts seeking a more laid-back experience. Spanning over two miles along the Gulf of Mexico, this expansive public beach features soft, powder-white sands and crystal-clear, emerald waters. It's the perfect place to indulge in water activities like swimming, snorkeling, and paddleboarding. Gulf State Park Beach also offers amenities such as picnic areas with grills, clean restrooms, outdoor showers, and convenient beach access points. Nature lovers will appreciate the park's less hands-on approach. The beach isn’t groomed obsessively like the main public beach in Gulf Shores, giving it a more natural look. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to find more shells, driftwood, and other natural wonders that wash up.  Don’t miss your opportunity to explore the park’s trails through untouched coastal dunes and coastal hardwood swamps, too. You’ll see wildlife including cranes, pelicans, crustaceans, alligators, and coastal hawks.

Whether you seek serenity or excitement, Gulf Shores has the perfect public beach to suit your preferences and create lasting memories. Take a moment also to review local advice about what to do, and NOT do, at Gulf Shores' public beaches.

LEARN MORE about Gulf Shores Public Beach

LEARN MORE about Gulf State Park Beach

VISIT OUR WHAT TO DO PAGE for more local favorite activities