Last month I traveled to an underrated paradise in the south with 32 miles of white soft sandy beaches, clear waters, a booming foodie scene, and no shortage of entertainment and fun things to do. Where was this stateside gem? It was the Alabama Gulf Coast. I spent 3 days and 3 nights exploring the Alabama Gulf Coast and I’m so excited to share with you how this region won me over. It has its own personality completely different from the rest of the state. I found the beach towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach to be progressive, inclusive, welcoming and just down right charming.
I was invited by Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism for a fan guided trip where the audiences voted for some of my activities and meals on social media. This is part 2 of that trip. I’ll share with you more details about the accommodations and share with you the other memorable experiences and a few meals I had during my trip that weren’t part of the fan voting.
From beach houses for rent to waterside condos to traditional hotels and everything in between, there is no shortage of options for accommodations in the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach area. We were hosted on our stay by Laura’s Vacation Rentals in the beautiful waterfront Caribe Resort condominiums.
My condo was on the top penthouse level which meant, lavish decor and my very own rockstar parking space for my Toyota Rav 4 (courtesy of Toyota Southeast) right by the door in the parking garage. Winning! I had seen pictures online but it really didn’t do it justice. This condo was immaculate and so spacious. When you walk through the front door you are greeted by a huge open kitchen and living room with panoramic views of the gulf. I actually let out an audible gasp. It’s really that fly.
This condo was equipped with everything you could possibly need so it is a fantastic option for a family vacation or for a getaway with friends. There are 3 bedrooms, with full beds in the 2 smaller rooms and a king size bed in the master. There is also a chaise in the master, a chaise lounge in the living room and a sofa sleeper. There is no shortage of space to accommodate a large group.
The kitchen has modern appliances and seriously everything you could possibly think of. Coffee maker, crockpot, toaster, blender, cook ware of all sizes, utensils, dishes, seriously everything. You could cook your entire Thanksgiving meal in this kitchen and have everything you could possibly need. I also really liked the wet bar feature complete with refrigerated wine cellar.
The jewel of the condo is the ridiculously massive master bedroom. It shares the same panaromaic views of the gulf as the living room from floor to ceiling. The bed was a raised four poster with the cutest decorative pillows. The master bathroom featured double sinks, a huge walk in closet and jacuzzi jet tub. The shower is quite possibly one of the fanciest showers I’ve ever been in. It had 3 settings, for regular overhead showerhead, detachable handheld water massage head, and built in wall water jets. It’s the perfect bathroom to unwind after a long day of adventuring.
The patio was accessible from the living or the bedroom. I spent quite a bit of time on the patio just taking in the mesmerizing views of the water. There’s nothing like a morning sunrise from your balcony to start your day with tranquility. I only wish we were close enough to hear the waves.
Walkthrough of the condo:
The other amenities of the Caribe Resort property that make it a great choice are the 2 heated indoor pools with 2 indoor jacuzzis, 2 huge multi level outdoor pools with slides, lazy river, game room, fitness center, and easy beach access from the property.
I was all set to go for a leisurely stroll through the Backcountry Trail, and then my host from the GSOB told me about the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. It’s a magical little place where I could meet baby kangaroos and play with baby lemurs. I couldn’t pass this opportunity up! I’ve got a soft spot for cute animals.
The zoo is very small and if you aren’t looking for the signs from the main road you’ll drive right on by. The regular admission gets you access to see all of the animals, but at a zoo like this one you want to buy the food so you can feed them. That’s where the real fun is. They have all kinds of goats, rams, camels, deer, sheep, llamas, donkeys, stuff I can’t pronounce, YOUNAMEIT! It’s always fun to feed the animals. There was one big ram who was pretty much a bully so I was trying to distract him and sneak food to the other smaller animals in the enclosure.
For a small additional fee you can purchase the animal encounters with the sloths, the baby kangaroos, and the baby lemurs. Naturally I wanted to do all of them. I learned that many of their baby animals are borrowed from a facility in Tampa,which is where I live, ironically.
There were 2 sloths, a male and a female. It was a bit too cold outside to allow them outside so I had to go to their indoor enclosure. They were doing what sloths do, nothing. Just laying there conserving their energy. The male did at least open his eyes to look at me for a little bit while I stroked his fur.
Next up I visited the baby kangaroos in their habitat. There were about 6 babies there and those little bums were asleep the entire time. Of course as soon as I left them they decided to wake up and be active. The little joeys are just so cute and soft. I was able to stroke them and learn about their habits from the zookeeper.
Here’s some super cute video footage of the kangaroos playing:
I saved the lemur encounter for last. The lemurs have an enclosed play area. It’s basically like their nursery with toys and ropes and things for them to climb on. You are warned to not have any loose or shiny items because the lemurs are very inquisitive and they’ve been known to steal sunglasses and cell phones.
I was instructed to come inside and sit down on one of the benches and just let them come to me. It took no time at all for them to notice that I was there. They were all over me! The crawled in my lap and wanted to touch my face. Then they discovered my hair which probably smelled like the yummy oils and coconut oil that I use. They were really enjoying grooming my locs.
It was so funny to watch them interacting with me. Once I pulled out the phone that were all vying for their turn to get in the selfie. I kept a tight grip on it as they desperately tried to take it from me. This encounter with the lemurs was by far one of the most fun experiences I have ever had.
And yes, I sang the song from Madagascar…”I like to move it move it.” I had to. I’m sure everyone does.
Sure I’m about that paddle life….in a kayak. Put me in a kayak and I feel right at home. However stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is the one water adventure that I have been avoiding for a very very very very long time. My son loves it. He’s a natural. We tried it at Tradewinds Resort a few years ago. Scratch that; he tried it. I posed for a picture but I didn’t paddle anywhere. I think my son’s natural knack for the paaddleboard is due in large part to his core a.k.a. his six pack of abs.
Everyone says your core is the key to having the balance you need to paddleboard. Enter me. The person without a core. These days my core is made of Krispy Kreme, chocolate truffles, and sweet red wine. For this reason I am completely intimidated by the world of SUP.
GSOB set up an evening paddleboard trip with Water Warrior and their amazing owner and instructor Becky Harger. Becky’s spirit and enthusiasm for doing what she loves is so contagious. She will have you thinking you can do anything! I just love her and I’m so happy to make a new friend with someone so vibrant that really knows how to live life to the fullest.
Becky was very patient with me when I was honest with her about my apprehension. She assured me that if I wasn’t comfortable standing up that it was ok and she wouldn’t think any less of me. She also didn’t judge me for requesting to wear a life vest. LOL She explained the mechanics of the strokes and really made sure we knew exactly what to expect.
We followed behind Becky like baby ducks paddling behind their mama duck into the smooth bay. It could not have been a calmer more clear day out on the water with sun starting to set at our backs. I stayed on my knees for most of the trip and even sat down to rest my knees for a while.
I live by the motto that adventure is a lifestyle. That means I can’t back down from a challenge. Part one of the challenge was committing to getting on the board but part 2 was being willing to actually go all in and stand.
With Becky’s help and spotting me from the water I did it. I stood, shaky, nervous, and trembling like a leaf. But darnit I stood. I was really proud that I wouldnt’ be the first one to break Becky’s streak of paddleboarders standing.
If you are in the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area, definitely check out Water Warrior and let Becky plan your SUP adventure.
The beaches of the Gulfshores and Orange Beach area are gorgeous. There’s nothing like the feeling of white fluffy cool sand between your toes. I felt as if I were walking in flour. One advantage the Alabama Gulf Coast beaches have is the unique positioning of being a south facing beach. This means you can see both sunrises and sunsets out on the water.
I’m a sunrise and sunset lover so for me this made this location a primo. I got up to see the sunrise everyday of my stay. The sun sets much earlier at this time of year so we were always out and about but I did see the sunsets from the car. I can only imagine how glorious it looked if I could have been near the water for the sunsets too.
During the off season when I visited you can actually find yourself with a whole entire stretch of beach all to your self. I had the most relaxing meditation time just napping and relaxing on the beach. During peak season I’m sure there are more people but it’s no less beautiful. You can find the typical beach activities and watersports during the high season.
Gulfshores had been wrapping up its hosting of the 2016 World Food Championships. After 3 days of eating my face off, I can see why this location is becoming a food renaissance in the South. I definitely have to do a dedicated post to explore all of the delectable foodie adventures I had in this area.
I had some of the best, sweetest oysters I’ve ever had at Fisher’s dockside. They were the renowned Murder Point oysters of the region, named for the area where they are harvested. They are smaller which I liked but the sweetness just lingered on the tongue long after you have swallowed.
Fisher’s also had red beans and rice on the menu that day. It’s something only found on a dedicated day of the week, but I could eat it every single day. I’m a southern girl so I’ve had my fair share of red beans and rice dishes but nothing comes close to this. This was hands down THE BEST, tastiest red beans and rice I have ever had anywhere. I think the Tasso and the in-house made sausage gives it a flavor that just can’t be duplicated anywhere else. I’ve been daydreaming about this red beans and rice ever since I left. (Fisher’s if you overnight me some on dry ice I really won’t be mad at that.)
Another memorable meal was breakfast at The Ruby Slipper Cafe. You simply must go and have one of their signature eggs benedicts and try the pig-candied bacon as a breakfast-tizer. There were so many things on the menu that just sounded divine when I read the descriptions. I can’t wait to get back to try more things.
Lulu’s is a staple eatery in the GSOB area. It’s owned by Lucy Buffett…yep Jimmy Buffet’s sister. They are natives of the area which was a fun fact I didn’t know. Lulu’s is vibrant and colorful and a very happening spot during high season. It’s just good’ol no frills seafood. I really enjoyed by blackened redfish. It was cooked and seasoned to perfection.
This was just scratching the surface of things to do and places to eat in the GSOB area. You can only see and do so much in 3 days. I can’t believe this paradise was so close and I had no idea. I”m so thrilled to be able to share with you about this underrated beach town.
In a time where our society seems to have forgotten kindness and compassion, I found the people of Gulfshores and Orange Beach to be friendly, open, warm, accommodating, and welcoming. It was quite refreshing and I look forward to a return visit. It’s a wonderful vacation choice for families or getting away by yourself.
Things to know to plan your own adventure in Gulfshores/Orange Beach Alabama:
- Getting There – The nearest airports are Mobile or Panama City. From Tampa, FL for me it was a 6 1/2 hour drive. It’s easily accessible from I-10.
- Peak season is spring and summer so expect more crowds during that time of year. Fall and Winter are still a great time to enjoy the area with fewer people.
- There is an abundance of hotels but consider a beach house or condominium for more flexibility and amenities.
To get more information you need to plan a visit to the Gulfshores/Orange Beach Alabama area, visit the tourism site. Thank you to GSOB Tourism for arranging this visit and providing meals and activities. Thank you to Laura’s Vacation Rentals for hosting me at the Caribe Resort and thank you to all of the businesses mentioned in this post for being such awesome hosts. Although this visit was sponsored, all opinions offered are my own. Full disclosure.
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