One of the best kept secrets is that Alabama has some of the best beaches around. While it's neighbor to the east, Florida, gets all the attention, Gulf Shores is on par with all those beautiful beaches.
Gulf Shores, and it's neighbor Orange Beach, has plenty of activities centered around the water - on beaches that span 32 miles of the pure white sand.
We have been to the Gulf Shores 5 times and are constantly finding new and exciting things to do and explore.
We love the southern hospitality, laid back atmosphere, friendly people, great restaurants, great weather, and of course those gorgeous beaches.
Things To Do In Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL
It's All About The Beach
The beach! Let's face it - that's why we're here at Gulf Shores.
Pack your coolers, lawn chairs, kites, suntan lotion, chips, and towels and make your way to the unspoiled beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. We always rent a beach chair and umbrella and park it on the beach.
This is the view from our balcony at the Lighthouse Resort. We ate many of our meals here and you can't beat the view!
When the surf's up, it's fun to boogie board and body surf the waves and just hang out in the warm water. It's great for swimming when the surf is calm.
We usually stay in Gulf Shores but the beaches of Orange Beach are also excellent and close to a lot of restaurants and shopping.
Check out this video from a Jimmy Buffett concert on the Gulf Shores beach:
A few years ago we saw a Jimmy Buffett concert at The Wharf. In fact we've seen 15 Jimmy Buffett concerts around the country but had never seen him in Alabama. The Amphitheater at The Wharf holds just under 10,000 and hosts many big time concerts.
What's the Weather Like In Gulf Shores?
In Gulf Shores, the summers are long, hot, and oppressive; the winters are cool and windy; and it is wet and partly cloudy year round. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 44°F to 89°F and is rarely below 30°F or above 94°F.
Based on the tourism score, the best times of year to visit Gulf Shores for warm-weather activities are from early April to late May and from late September to late October.
Take a Trip To Fairhope
Fairhope is about a 50 minute drive from Gulf Shores and it is well worth the trip. For all you shoppers out there, downtown Fairhope is home to many boutique clothing shops and art galleries so you can bring something home that is uniquely Fairhope.
In 2016, Fairhope was named the best small town in the South by Southern Living magazine.
When you get hungry, there are a few spots that we have had excellent meals at. Panini Pete's is located in the French Quarter of downtown Fairhope as was recently named the Best Sandwich Shop in Alabama. The owner Pete Blohme makes awesome panini's and make sure you try the Beignets which are the best outside of new Orleans.
Pete's other restaurant is called Sunset Pointe and is located at the Fly Creek Marina. Grab a seat on the patio, order a drink, and watch the beautiful sunset. The menu features fresh seafood dishes that are well worth the visit.
Stop In At The B & B Pecan Company
On our way to Fairhope you pass right by the B & B Pecan Company. Founded in 1956, this family run business features some of the best pecan gifts, pralines, turtles and other tasty treats. You can sample some of the many varieties of pecans and I soon discovered that I really didn't know much about the world of pecans. A real southern treat.
Great Places To Eat In Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
One of our favorite places to eat in Orange Beach is Cosmos. The menu features great seafood, crab cake sandwich, muffaletta, and my favorite - duck & andouille sausage gumbo.
The funky, eclectic vibe mixed with a fun atmosphere, outdoor dining, and great food never disappoints when we visit. Definitely a relaxed place place for two or you can take the whole family.
The Hangout is one of the most popular restaurants in Gulf Shores. Located on Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores, The Hangout is the perfect spot to spend a few hours having dinner, enjoy a few cold ones, and enjoy the beautiful waterfront view.
One of our favorite places to dine in Orange Beach is The Gulf. All their food is excellent and the burgers and fish tacos are to die for. Located right on the water, it's a fun, relaxed place to have a great meal and watch the boats come into Perdido Key.
The Gulf is made up of shipping containers that includes recycled, reclaimed and salvaged building materials. Definitely a unique look against the palm trees and water.
I can't wait for our next visit and just hang out with my feet in the sand and enjoy some of the best food around.
Acme Oyster House
Since 1910, the Acme Oyster House has been cooking up some of the freshest seafood in the south. The New Orleans based chain features shrimp, seafood gumbo, po-boys, crawfish, soft shell crab, and of course oysters. You can order the oysters raw, shooters, and charbroiled. We choose the charbroiled which is sometimes called oysters Rockefeller.
The oysters, shrimp po-boy, and fried shrimp were excellent. Make sure you order one of their many cold brews on tab to wash it all down.
I can't wait to come back and order the New Orleans medley which has a sampling of gumbo, jambalaya, red beans & rice and grilled smoked sausage.
This festive waterfront dining spot is local landmark in Gulf Shores. Owned by Jimmy Buffett's sister LuLu (Lucy Buffett), LuLu's features a fun, tropical vibe that has plenty to do for the entire family.
There is an outdoor sand area that has lots of toys for the kids to play in. It's very kid friendly where the kids can have fun while the parents are enjoying a Corona or two.
There is also an area in the back called the Bama Breeze where we got a drink while we waited for our table.
The Crazy Sista stage features live, nighty music bands from local bands. You can check out Jimmy Buffett playing on this stage below..
Where To Stay In Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL
There are many great places to stay in the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach area. It all depends on what you're looking for. Do you want a quiet, cozy beach house or a condo with a few pools?
We usually stay at The Lighthouse right on Gulf Shores beach. The condos sleep from 2-8 people, have full kitchens, and large balconies. We can walk to the Hangout and other shops and restaurants.
There are MANY places to stay depending on what you're looking for. Here are a few places to start reviewing options for your stay in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach.
After our drive from Wisconsin, we didn’t know what to expect when we finally arrived in Gatlinburg, TN. All we knew about the town was that it was located at the base of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
This looked like the perfect stop for a fun-filled couple of days on our trip to Asheville, NC.
We discovered the Gatlinburg/ Pidgeon Forge area is filled with endless adventure, great dining, and plenty of things to do. Here are are few of the things to do and see at this popular vacation resort.
A ride on the Alpine Coasters was on my bucket list and I couldn’t wait to get strapped in. Once we arrived at The Coaster at Goats on the Roof my heart started pumping when I saw how fast the cars were cruising around the alpine coaster course.
During the climb to the top of the mountain, the course offers awesome views of the Smoky Mountains. After about a 5-minute climb, we started our downhill run. With speeds up to 30mph, you really start flying down the mountain. The cars come equipped with a handbrake if you need to slow things down a little. You can ride solo or with 2 people.
The ride is really smooth and a unique experience.
Gatlinburg Sky Lift
To get the best view of Gatlinburg and the Smokey Mountains, visit the Gatlinburg Ski Lift which climbs 1800 feet up Crockett Mountain. You can ride the lift during the day or night.
We rode during the day, but the night ride would give beautiful views of downtown Gatlinburg all lite up.
Ride to the top of the mountain and hang around for a while, take pictures, shop, and eat. It’s a great place to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies
Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies is a great place to take the family with state of the art facilities and over 10,000 exotic sea creatures, 350 different species all located in 10 themed galleries.
It takes about 3 hours to get through everything. It is a fun experience for everyone – from little kids to the grandparents.
Old Smoky Moonshine
If you’re looking for a true taste of the Smokies, then you need to make a visit to the Old Smoky Moonshine store located at The Island (see below).
The store is huge, featuring 6000 sq. ft., filled with just about every type of moonshine available and includes an onsite still, a tasting bar, and a retail store.
There also is daily live bluegrass music on the outdoor stage.
We were feeling pretty good after sampling a few of their delicious products!!
They are quite generous with the samples. There are plenty of products and merchandise for sale.
Visit The Island
The Island in Pigeon Forge (7 miles from Gatlinburg) is a 23-acre entertainment spot with unique shopping, entertainment, rides, games and lots of restaurants.
Here you will find Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant, the Margaritaville Island Hotel, Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen, and many more shops and restaurants.
There is the Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, a 200-foot-high observation wheel, and a multi-million dollar show fountain programmed to perform to light and sound.
Definitely, a great spot for 2-4 hours to walk around and get the full Smoky Mountain experience.
The inside Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant is relaxed, lively, and a lot of fun.
One of our favorite pizza places is the Mellow Mushroom. Located on Parkway in the heart of Gatlinburg, the Mellow Mushroom features fresh, stone-baked pizzas made to order in an eclectic, art-filled, and fun environment.
It’s worth waiting for a seat by the window so you can look at all the tourists walking up and down on the street below. The service was excellent and our pizzas arrived quickly. It’s definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Gatlinburg.
Planning a Trip To Gatlinburg Tennessee
For even more tips and information when planning a trip to Gatlinburg, visit their website. Get the free Gatlinburg Visitors Guide sent by mail or viewed online.
We always wanted to visit Maine. It was on the bucket list so we included a 2 day stop to Ogunquit Maine during our recent East coast driving trip. Ogunquit is right out of a Norman Rockwell painting and the epitome of the New England summer resort town.
The perfect long weekend vacation spot, Ogunquit offers plenty to do, great restaurants, excellent accommodations, and the beauty of being right on the beach and ocean. It was definitely a great place to relax after our long drive from Wisconsin.
To get your planning started, here are a few of the things to do, spots to eat at, and places to stay during your visit to Ogunquit.
Things To Do
Lobster Boat Tour
We boarded the 44-foot Finestkind III for our 50 minutes lobstering trip out of Perkins Cove. Our crew from Finestkind Scenic Tours said that you never know what will be caught in the lobster traps when they’re pulled up. Lobster, crab, and different sea creatures were pulled up during our trip. The lobstermen was a great tour guide and it was interesting to learn how it has become one of the biggest industries in Maine. The tour of the beautiful coastline alone was worth the price.
I’m ready for lunch! These lobsters were just a few of the total haul pulled up during our tour.
Perkins Cove has got to be one of the most quaint little villages on the East coast. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, lobster boat tours, and deep sea fishing tours to choose from.
You can visit Perkins Cove by car, take the trolley from downtown Ogunquit, or walk to The Cove by using the Marginal Way. Make sure you take a few pictures on top of the drawbridge that stretches across Perkins Cove.
The Marginal Way is a great place to take a stroll and check out the beauty of the rugged Maine coastline. The 1-1/4 mile long walk winds from Ogunquit beach all the way to Perkins Cove.
There is little climbing involved so the walk can be completed by just about everyone. There are plenty of benches to take a break and view the beauty of the water.
We walked to Perkins Cove and jumped on the trolley for the trip back to our hotel.
We walked the beach early in the morning when the tide was lowest. The beach was very clean and plenty of room to lay out our tent and enjoy our picnic lunch.
With the endless breeze, we got our kite out and took turns flying it around. The water was cold but that didn’t stop a few surfers from riding the waves into the beach.
There’s nothing like the sound of the surf, seagulls, and putting your toes in the sand.
Place To Stay
Anchorage By The Sea
After doing our research, we decided to stay at the Anchorage By The Sea. With a commanding view of Ogunquit Beach, Anchorage By The Sea features heated pools and whirlpools, restaurants, bars, and direct access to the Marginal Way.
There are many room options available from 1 to 6 people. This was the perfect place to relax for a long weekend.
Anchorage By The Sea seems to be a throwback to an earlier era.
We had a great view of Ogunquit beach. It was fun watching the tide go in and out each day.
Places To Eat
I needed my lobster fix and Barnicle Billy’s was the perfect spot for lunch before our lobster boat tour. This place has been in business for over 58 years and has been known for its luxury lobster, steamed clams, large lusty drinks, barbecued chicken, homemade clam chowder, and of course, the lobster roll and lobster stew.
Everything on the menu was fresh and delicious. You can pick your own lobster if you want to. Check out the menu and find something tasty to eat.
I ordered the 1-1/4 pound lobster.
Rose Cove Restaurant
Located in the heart of Ogunquit, the Rose Cove Restaurant was cozy with the heated tables and a great view of downtown Ogunquit. I ordered the sampler platter that came with lobster, oysters, fresh fish and clams.
It was excellent. Their lobster rolls and clam chowder were excellent too. Don’t forget to sample some of the free fudge when you leave. Definitely a nice touch.
Whatever you’re looking for, Grand Cayman has something for everyone. From adventure, relaxation, fine dining, scuba diving and the clearest water that I have ever seen, Grand Cayman has it all. We love the island and so do many people around the world who have a second home on the island. What a great place to escape the cold and spend your winters on this cosmopolitan island.
Here are 9 things to do on Grand Cayman
If you ever wanted to scuba dive, then Grand Cayman is the best place to do it. From beginners to advanced diving, the waters off Grand Cayman offers some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the Caribbean. Popular dive sites include the wreck of the USS Kittiwake, Devil’s Grotto, Sunset Point, and Babylon.
If you want to try scuba diving for the first time, make sure you try Living the Dream Divers. They are excellent for first-time divers and we really enjoyed our dive with them. They have all the equipment you need. All you need is your swimsuit. We dove to 40 feet and saw lobster, stingrays, and colorful fish.
One of the most popular things to in Grand Cayman is a trip to Stingray City. This collection of shallow sandbars features southern stingrays that have been fed by local fishermen for decades. You can pet and interact with them in the shallow water. You can give them a kiss too!
It takes a few minutes to get used to them swimming around you, but it doesn’t take long to get comfortable in the water. Make sure you take a snorkel with you and swim with them under the water.
When making your trip to Stingray City, make sure you include Starfish Point as part of your trip package. It is well worth the stop. This secluded beach with shallow, clear water is located on the north side of the island. It features plenty of starfish for you to view and pick up but don’t take them out of the water for more than a few seconds. Just enough time to take a great picture.
Seven Mile Beach
Seven Mile Beach was named one of the best beaches in the region by Caribbean Travel + Life, and the 4th best beach in the Caribbean by Trip Advisor. The white sand, great restaurants, several fun beach bars, and many activities to choose from, Seven Mile Beach is one of the main reasons people come to Grand Cayman.
This was the view from our condo. It’s hard to beat this white sand and crystal clear, turquoise water.
You can either to a 45-minute drive to Rum Point or take the 20-minute ferry from Cabana Bay to Rum Point. The ferry ride is a great way to get out on the water. Located on the north side of the island, Rum Point features the Kaibo Restaurant and is the perfect sunset and dinner spot on the island.
Before our Cayman’s trip, I had never heard of a bioluminescence tour. This is a phenomenon caused by single-celled planktons called donoflagellates that give off a bright light when they are disturbed in the water. Check out this short video clip from NatGeo showing this here:
We lowered ourselves into the water and the plankton came alive. We waved our feet and hands around and the bright lights came to life in the water. This was truly a unique experience.
2 Great Places to Eat
The Sunshine Grill was rated the #1 rated restaurant on Grand Cayman. On our last visit, we ate here 2 times. The food is excellent, great service and reasonable prices. We had the award-winning fish tacos, quesadillas, and Angus burgers. The Sunshine Grill serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t forget to try one of their island specialty drinks.
We had breakfast at Cimboco and it was excellent. This Caribbean style restaurant features some of the best meals on the island. Our portions were very generous and the staff was wonderful. The Wacky Waffles were warm waffles served with house compote, syrup & whipped cream.
The Wacky Waffles were warm waffles served with fruit, syrup & whipped cream.
A Trip to Hell
No trip to Grand Cayman is complete without a trip to Hell. When the cruise ships dock in Grand Cayman, you will see many bus tours heading to the famous tourist stop. It’s a great photo stop and you can mail your postcards from the Hell Post Office. Make sure you check out the unique rock formations that are estimated to be 10-15 million years old. Once you visit, you can now say you’ve been to Hell and back.
We love Grand Cayman and look forward to our next trip there.