To start at the beginning of this feature series, click here.
In our first adventure we learned that the Alabama Gulf Coast in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is often referred to as “the perfect balance of non-stop activity and lay-around-doing-nothing.” With 32 miles of sprawling, white sand beaches it is the primary draw to this largely undiscovered sandy, ocean playground that most tourists miss, heading instead to the beaches of Florida.
Here are a few places to get your exploration going:
The 5 Rivers – Alabama’s Delta Resource Center is unique in that it is where five rivers—the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley—flow into Mobile Bay. As such it offers over 250,000 acres of scenic waterways, woods and wetlands, a wealth of history and natural beauty. Activities here include watching wildlife, boating, hunting, fishing and more.
More outdoor exploration can be found at places like The Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, part of a network of 28 areas representing different biogeographic regions of the country protected for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education and coastal stewardship. In addition to a detailed interpretive center with indoor exhibits and a live animal room, there is also a 5,000-foot elevated boardwalk that meanders through 6,000 acres of coastal habitats and wetlands, including a protected estuary. The views here are incredible.
The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge name is derived from the French word “secour” meaning “safe harbor,” an apt description of this7,000 acre wildlife habitat that supports what has been referred to as “one of the finest examples of the globally imperiled coastal scrub remaining in Alabama.” The trails here are stunning, offering unique opportunities to explore forests and scrub, dune, maritime, wetlands and swale habitats, up-close and personal. Ranging from one to four-plus miles in length, you will find one suitable for your physical ability along gravel, paved and boardwalk trails. They refuge is also located along the flyway of millions of spring and fall migrants, delighting bird watchers from across the world. Learning the habits of the Alabama Beach Mouse, sea turtles and other creatures is also part of the fun here.
One if by Land…
Land-based activities run the gamut here as well. If your version of tee time has nothing to do with a petite cup containing a steaming beverage, then you will find plenty to whet your whistle at any one of the area’s championship golf courses.
With over 200 holes to play, golfers will find numerous beautifully designed and Golf Digest-rated courses, including The Golf Club of The Wharf, Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club, Craft Farms, Kiva Dunes Golf Club, and Perdido Bay Golf Club, among others.
Shopping and hands-on art encounters are two other popular “land” activities along the Gulf Coast. I really enjoyed SanRoc Cay Marina, offering boutique shops for beachwear, home and body scents, footwear, arts and crafts, fine women’s wear and more. Pelican Place offers a few of the big name retailers, plus numerous local specialty shops. You will also find a variety of local specialty shops at The Wharf. To explore 120 factory direct outlet stores stop by Tanger Outlets.
For art and hands-on fun, try the Orange Beach Art Center, designed to provide “inspiration, education, promotion and enjoyment of the arts for the residents and visitors to the Gulf Coast.” The center features a gallery with the works of over 120 local artists for sale, temporary art exhibits and The Hot Shop, the first and only glass blowing studio in Alabama open for public use. Beach CITE Studios is a non-profit, interactive arts and educational center offering sculpture, dance, jewelry making, creative writing, music, painting, and culinary classes for residents and visitors.
We’ve got a lot more coming up in our journey to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama!
To start at the beginning of this series click here.