The white sand beaches of Alabama’s Gulf Shores are well-known amongst Southerners. The Heart of Dixie isn’t exactly a tourist mecca, but this highly-developed town—the southernmost destination in Alabama—is a locale with all the coastline and ecotourism you’d expect of its neighbor Florida.
From hiking to lazy beach days to the breezy beachside hotels, Gulf Shores makes a concerted effort to please tourists, whether with natural vistas or fresh-caught seafood. Its milieu is more ‘family fun time’ than ‘beachside rager,’ so it’s a suitable destination for mom, pop and brood. Below are five properties in Gulf Shores—and the even lesser known Orange Beach—that promise transcendent beaches to wow both parent and child alike.
The Lodge at Gulf State Park
From $233/ night
Surrounded by white beach and vast sky, it ooks as if this hotel sits at the edge of civilization: nothing but the sound of birds chattering overhead, accompanied by the ocean’s soft melodies. In actuality, this Hilton property is part of the 6,000-plus acres that make up Gulf State Park, and its interiors are anything but post-apocalyptic. Instead, expect architecture that emphasizes natural light with large windows, a bright lobby, and colors and materials that scream (or maybe sing) ‘island life.’ Free bikes can help you explore the surrounding wilds, while an on-site bar provides the opportunity for some inner voyages.
Balcony views overlooking emerald waters? Check. Nearly 200 restaurants within five miles? Check. Enough kitchen furnishings that you can cook a multi-course breakfast if you want to? Check. Yes, the Palm Beach Resort is a classic, seaside resort with beachfront fun and all the needed amenities. Two outdoor pools and two gyms help lessen the chance either might get too crowded. Also, you’ll be in Orange Beach, about 10 miles from Gulf Shores and lesser known than its popular sibling. Of course, if you want to encounter some real crowding, a five minute drive will bring you to a Walmart Neighborhood Market—just like a regular Walmart, except smaller. How exotic!
Another Orange Beach property, this one promises two of life’s sweetest pleasures in its very name. A good night’s sleep and some sun on the beach are hard to rival, and in combination they’re even stronger. While the outside looks a little dated, the interiors are perfectly suitable and fresh for a midscale property. The breakfast is also appetizing, with enough starches (waffles, Danishes, cereal) and meats to start your day right. Not that you’ll need much energy or rest to walk to Orange Beach: it’s but 250 feet away.
If the Hilton Lodge promises luxury amidst vastness, these 20 cabins offer another experience entirely in the same location. Located on a different kind of beach—the shores of Lake Shelby—these very clean and thankfully modern cabins and cottages are for adventurers no matter their age (the property is also accessible, by the way). There are more amenities than you might expect—a children’s playground, rooms equipped with a TV and DVD player, an outdoor pool and even a restaurant and bar. It’s a suitable option if you’re more into hiking, cycling and fishing than beach-going, but would still like the option of the latter. Gulf Shores Beach is under three miles away.
This charming bed and breakfast offers all the sublime comforts expected of a B&B. Start with a home-cooked Southern breakfast, then enjoy the sound of waves or cool air of Orange Beach, only 400 feet away. There’s a hot tub, outdoor pool, terrace and a lounge where you can chat with other guests. The amenities and location are wonderful, sure, but innkeepers Greg and Deborah Collard consistently get their own fanfare in online reviews. One caveat: the TV is in a shared area, but free wifi should can summon whatever entertainment you need in the privacy of your room, provided you have a laptop.
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