Once or twice a month I’ll get an email from someone who’s planning a vacation and wondering if I have any recommendations about where to stay / where to eat / what to do in the Gulf Shores / Orange Beach area. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination – we only travel down that way two or three times a year at the most – but I thought it might be handy to have the info in a blog post since I’m not always a very strong emailer.
We also love Destin / San Destin / 30A, by the way, but we haven’t been down there in several years. I’m sure some of y’all have great recommendations for that neck of the woods (or beach, so to speak), so feel free to chime in with your favorite spots in the comments.
All righty. Here we go.
Where to Stay -
1) If you don’t mind a short walk or shuttle ride to the beach, Caribe is great for young’uns. They have three huge outdoor pools – two with big water slides – as well as indoor pools in every building. AND there’s a lazy river. We go every summer with my cousins and their kids, and what’s so fun is that you can rotate from pool to pool during the day and kids never get bored. The condos are huge with super-nice kitchens. We rarely eat out when we stay there because it’s so easy to pick up fresh seafood and cook, but there’s a good on-site restaurant called Cobalt that’s a five minute walk from the condos.
The Caribe has three buildings, and we like Building B. That pool is the easiest (to me) in terms of keeping an eye on small kids, and at night it’s rarely crowded. We are fans of the nighttime swimming.
If there’s any drawback, it might be that it can get a little loud next to the pools. Most of the big groups are families, though, so even if they get a little lively, it’s not rowdy. Does that make sense?
2) Turquoise Place is another great place for families, and it’s only a few years old. We’ve never stayed there, but I’ve heard raves about it, and it looks stunning from the outside.
3) Lots of folks here in Birmingham like the Phoenix properties. We’ve only stayed there once, when the little guy was about eight months old, but location-wise it was great. Phoenix West is the newest one, and it seems very nice.
All three places are really close to everything you need. There’s a new-ish Publix that’s in the center of Orange Beach, so you won’t have to go far for groceries.
4) If you go through Orange Beach and cross over the Florida line to Perdido Key (it’s all of 5 miles from Orange Beach – not far at all), there’s a place called Indigo that is absolutely beautiful and has gigantic condos. There are two pools, all sorts of amenities, and gorgeous beach front.
5) Another great place in Perdido is Beach Colony. It’s not in the thick of things as much as some of the places in Orange Beach because it’s at the end of the highway (before it loops back over the bay), and we love it. There are only four units per floor, it’s never very crowded, the pool is great, and there are all sorts of fun places to eat nearby. There’s another new Publix right over the bay bridge, and it’s also convenient to Walmart and Target (maybe y’all plan better than I do, but I always wind up at Target when I go to the beach).
Where To Eat -
Keep in mind that I don’t like to eat anywhere with a wait longer than about 25 minutes. If my option is to wait a sweet forever for a table, I’d rather stay in the condo and fix a grilled cheese. SO, you might not see some of the more popular spots on this list, but that’s because the popular spots typically involve waiting.
(When I can muster the strength, I will tell you about the time we waited almost 2 hours for a table at a really popular place in Perdido, only to leave 15 minutes after we sat down because the table next to us was so loud.)
(Also, I am a mamaw.)
1) Fisherman’s Corner – Perdido Key
The atmosphere is super-casual, and the food, which has a Cajun flair, is really special. Go early to beat the crowd, and save room for bread pudding.
2) Doc’s Seafood Shack – Gulf Shores or Orange Beach
Doc’s is one of my brother-in-law’s favorite places, and he raves about the hamburgers. The fried shrimp is legendary.
3) Lillian’s Pizza – Perdido Key
If we’re at the beach, we’re going to have pizza from Lillian’s at least one night while we’re there. Delicious.
4) Tacky Jack’s – Orange Beach
Yes, I know it’s tourist-y. But the kids in our family love it, and you can typically get a table at lunch without a wait. I love to sit outside on the bay, and we really like their sandwiches and burgers.
5) Lartigue’s Seafood Market – Gulf Shores
It’s not a restaurant, but when we’re planning meals for the cousins’ beach trip, we know that we’ll get fresh shrimp from Lartigue’s at least three times while we’re there. They have amazing seafood that they’ll steam for you, and oh my goodness – it is out of this world. Take cash, though, because they don’t accept debit or credit cards.
There are also some wonderful, couple-y restaurants, but I didn’t list any of those because we’re usually in family dining mode. However, if you’re on a little getaway with your hubby, try Cafe Grazie or Zen – and I hear that Villaggio Grille is excellent, too.
What To Do -
We mostly stick with sun, swimming and sand when we’re on vacation, but here are a few options if your kids (or you!) start to feel a little beached out and need a change of pace (and at least once a trip, somebody in our family needs a change of pace).
1) Adventure Island – They have putt-putt, go-karts, bumper boats, etc. – and it’s a good size if you’re going to have to keep up with little ones. They also have ice cold air conditioning and an Icee machine inside the arcade, oh hallelujah.
2) The Track – It’s a little bigger than Adventure Island, and there’s more stuff to keep your older kids entertained.
3) Tanger Outlets at Foley – There are approximately four kajillion stores in this outlet mall. Give or take a quadrillion.
4) Deep Sea Fishing – Someone at your condo will be able to recommend a favorite charter boat. Surprisingly, deep sea fishing isn’t really my thing, but my sister-in-law’s brother and his boys absolutely love it.
5) The Wharf – There’s a huge Rave movie theatre there, not to mention a great line-up of concerts. Shopping, too!
What suggestions do y’all have for folks who are traveling to beaches in this part of the country? Any favorite spots that I neglected to mention?
p.s. – Nobody asked me to mention any of these condos or restaurants or activities. This isn’t a sponsored post or an affiliate post; it’s just me rambling about places I enjoy at the beach. Just FYI.