So, You’re Going To LA (Lower Alabama)…

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.)

(Sweet memories.)

(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.

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Comments

  1. We are destin folk. We leave in 11 days and I’m downright giddy. I’m also a mamaw and we eat at oh, say, 3:30-4 every day we’re there.

  2. I have been exactly 2 places in Alabama in my lifetime, and they both ended in Z-O-O. And for not being a very strong e-mailer, you always seem to e-mail me right exactly when I need it most. Bless you, friend.

  3. Victoria says:

    The fried shrimp at the Seagrove Market Cafe along 30A will make you weep tears of joy. Any place with the slogan “Serving Deep Fried Love Since 1949″ has a special place in my heart.

  4. What a great post! My sis lives on Ft. Morgan Rd in Gulf Shores, everyone always asks me these questions, but I never know!
    Thank you for sharing!

  5. Karen says:

    My husband absolutely adores the Original Oyster House in Gulf Shores.

  6. Whitney says:

    Darn you, Sophie! My husband and I were just discussing if we could make a beach vacation this year. Now, I want ‘sometime this year’ to be immediately! I went to Gulf Shores every Spring Break with my family for about 10-15 years. It is definitely one of my favorite spots on earth……it’s always something fun and new, but yet it’s filled with SO many memories. It’s not yet 10 am here in IN, but I would hurt someone for some Royal Reds right now. :)

  7. Margaret says:

    my aunt also lived on Ft. Morgan road and we spent days and days there. I would love to be there right now. fresh shrimp………………………….

  8. Lori M says:

    Thanks Sophie for the great beach information. That’s exactly the kind of information I was looking for to help plan our vacation. Word of mouth is always the best. Have a fabulous day!

  9. Amy K says:

    We have stayed at Phoenix West in Orange Beach 3 times in the last 2 years. And we are going back in June. If you want a Lazy River, waterslide and pool all right together AND on the beach, it’s definitely the place for you:) Also, the Shrimp Basket has excellent po-boys. 2 years ago we ate there. It’s very small, so get there early. But last year we did a to go order, and it was ready really quickly. We brought it back to our condo to eat! YUMMY!!! And Lulu’s is super fun for the kids! But be ready to wait FOREVER unless you get there at 4:00 or eariler! (But the kids have a blast each time we go there.)

  10. I forgot something. My friend just got back from Orange Beach this weekend. She said Tacky Jack’s has the BEST BREAKFAST! So, this year we are definitely trying that!!!

  11. You always know how to speak to my soul! We are leaving for OB in 10 days and it can’t get here soon enough. We’ve been quite a few times in recent years but I had never heard of the place to get fresh shrimp. The hubs will be super excited. We are staying at a new place called Sea Chase that I hear is fairly good for the kiddos and we got a sweet rate so we said yes please!

  12. Great list! We stayed at Turquoise Place last year and it was amazing.

    We go to Orange Beach every couple of months because we have family/business partners that live down there (it’s a rough life), so some of our favorite restaurants are The Point, Crab Shack, Mikee’s, and Desoto’s.

  13. We just returned from a trip to Dauphin Island, AL and oh my goodness, I want to go back! Lovely place. Not many restaurants, but a yummy one called the Common Loon (try the corn and crab bisque), with a fresh seafood market next door called Skinners. The steamed crab is to die for. (at least for the crabs! ;) )
    We have also stayed in Gulf Shores at the state park. I think we rented a cabin for 7 nights for around $600, which I thought was a great deal. 2 bedrooms and a living room/kitchen.
    For a date place, Live Bait at The Wharf is yummy- seafood nachos are my favorite. We also loved Lambert’s but it was a wait. Very good food though.

  14. We went to Gulf Shores a couple of years ago. My girls still talk about the fried shrimp and onion rings from Doc’s!

  15. Casey says:

    We went Gulf shores two summers ago and loved it, the traffic drove me a bit insane. We went to the Hangout and our kids loved it. The fish taco’s there are deee-vine! Neat atmosphere with concerts and such.

    Also Lulu’s which is a bit inland and Jimmy Buffets sis…loved that place. Similar atmosphere to the Hangout, but a different menu.

  16. Our family is a big fan of the caribe too. I LOVE the lazy river!!

  17. Oh man. LA. Lower Alabama (and Perdido). You are speaking my love language.

    Perdido Key is our favorite spot. It’s quieter than Orange Beach, but just a 15 minute drive away for shopping/eating. We stay at the Sandy Key condos, near Johnson Beach (Perdido’s public beach park and AHEM where I got married). :-) Very nice, 2 pools, swings to enjoy the view of the ocean, have always been happy since going as a family. We are going back in a few weeks to celebrate our one year, and I cannot wait.

    I’m excited to try a few of those restaurants you mentioned! Our favorites are of course Lillian’s, The Shrimp Basket (I dream of the hush puppies), Bubba’s, The HangOut in Gulf Shores (can be a wait depending on time though- but great live music and fun things to do while you wait- not to mention it’s chock full o’ memories, since we ate there right after we were hitched) and if we’re feeling froggy, Lulu’s.

    We have no kids and we still go to Adventure Island and the shopping that you mentioned.

    I’m saving this post for future reference in about 46 days (but who’s counting).

    • Karen says:

      And oh, the Shrimp Basket. We have been vacationing in Navarre, FL for the past 4 years now and they just opened up a Shrimp Basket across the street from where we stay!!

  18. Holly M. says:

    We went to Pensacola last summer but when we tried to find a fishing trip that wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg we found the Cold Mil Fleet in Orange Beach. By day these guys have an awesome fishing trip…we caught lots of mackeral and a shark! But by night they run one of the best dolphin cruises we have ever been on. Check them out! Just that one day trip over to Orange Beach made us decide we would never need to go any further east for our beach trips. It is so much more laid back and less “commercialized” than Pensacola and Destin.

  19. Sue S says:

    Thanks so much! This is awesome!
    My son and daughter in love are moving to B’ham this year. I want to know the name of the place there that you said had the BEST chicken salad ever. They are expecting a baby this fall, so I plan to have a well traveled path from ATL to B’ham.

  20. Charlotte B says:

    We love many of these places as Pensacola is our hometown. Calzones at Lillian’s are so yummy! In case you are needing a little break from the sun and sand, here are a few of our family favorites. There is a big, shady playground in Gulf Shores-I think it is called Sim’s Park (there is a fire station and a McD;s nearby and it’s sort of in a neighborhood). Lots of wooden treehouse thingy’s for the little ones to climb on and play in. There are ball fields there and a skate park for the older kids as well. It’s a perfect place for a picnic! After a long day of Foley outlet shopping, you know you need to go eat at Lambert’s, right?!! And if you want a few hours of some good AC, go to the Naval Air Museum on the Navy Base in Pensacola (very close to Perdido Key). Can’t say enough about the museum…our family just loves it. Here’s the website: http://www.navalaviationmuseum.org/