Sorry that it’s been a few weeks since my last post. I was away on our family vacation to Orange Beach, Alabama. This was my first time visiting the beach in Alabama so I wanted to share where we stayed, activities, restaurants and other fun facts that may prove useful if you ever consider a trip to the Gulf region of Alabama.
I have lived in Ohio my entire life. If you live in the Midwest, it’s almost a requirement to make an annual pilgrimage to either Myrtle Beach or the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I have made those trips many times and always have a good time. My kids have the same adventuresome spirit I do and asked if we could visit somewhere new this summer. My daughter was the one who actually suggested traveling Orange Beach. Of course I was willing to oblige.
My searches for vacation rentals always begin on VRBO.com . I have used this site numerous times and have never had a problem. You have to know your budget range of what you’re willing to spend on a condo. Then it takes time to set your filters of what features and amenities you would like. Do you want beach front, beach view, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, pool or pool access on the property? Take the time to read reviews on each property to see what other renters have experienced. We wanted easy beach access and a pool. You can see by the picture, our rental met this requirement.
It was a 14 hour drive down from Ohio. We broke up the drive on the way down with a stop in Bowling Green, KY. I got a great deal on the Baymont Inn & Suites for $55/night. It was clean and had a decent breakfast the next morning. Alabama took 6 hours to traverse from north to south. The major slowdown took place on Saturday afternoon when all the island traffic is funneled across a toll bridge. The toll was $3.50.
It’s worth noting, if you are looking for private, isolated beaches where you can take a leisurely stroll in solitude, Orange Beach is not your destination. Early morning was pretty calm but by 10am, the beach starts getting busy. The beach is super white sand but not all that wide as compared to the Carolina coast. It’s also hard to tell when the tide is in or out, it looked the same to me all the time.The water is generally quite calm and clear. I could stand in the water up to my chest and still see my feet. Unless the wind picks up, the waves remain relatively small. My kids brought their boogy-boards and were disappointed to not be able to ride waves all day.
There are dozens of restaurants, grocery stores, bars, surf shops and other activities to keep your family busy in the evening after your body has had all the sun it can take. Speaking of activities, let me comment on a few of the places I visited:
- Paddled by you Kayak RentalsThis place is easy to miss as you drive by. The owners actually run this place out of their house. Parking is limited in front of their house but the prices are great. My daughter and I rented stand up paddle boards for $20 each. Kayaks were the same price as the paddle boards. The rental was for 2 hours and that was plenty for us. You are actually in Cotton Bayou which contain many small islands that are well within paddling distance. We were fortunate enough to see many dolphins near us as we paddled.
- Hudson Marina: AVOID THIS PLACE! My son and I wanted to go deep sea fishing. We have done this many times before on the Carolina Coast. First off, they lure you in with a $59 list price. That is before the $5 fuel charge and the %15 gratuity for the deck hands. The boat would probably comfortably hold 50 people but there were 81 people on our 4-hour trip. We spent more time untangling lines than fishing. I did manage to catch a few Red Snapper but there are numerous marinas in the OB area. I would pay a little more and try a different one.
- Happy Harbors Marina: I used Happy Harbor to rent a jet ski for my other daughter and I. This worked out great. It was $99 for an hour and that included the fuel. Be careful, other rental places charge you for fuel on top of the rental fee. NOTE: You are not allowed taking the wave runners out onto the ocean. This is a coast guard regulation not the marina’s. There was plenty of room to ride in Bayou Saint John.
Restaurants: We primarily at all our food at the condo. We like to grill our own food most evenings but we did eat our twice. Our big eat out was at a place called Cosmo’s. This place reviewed really well and indeed was good. They make their own bread in house so all the sandwiches on the menu are served on fresh bread. All the fish and seafood items we had were excellent. Be prepared to spend $14 – $30 per plate. The wait to eat inside was 90 minutes at 5pm. We were, however, able to get seated immediately on their patio. It was extremely hot if you weren’t lucky enough to be under the umbrella but most of the seafood places seemed to have long waits. And no, they don’t take reservations.
On the last night, we ate at Moe’s BBQ. I am an admitted BBQ snob but this place was pretty good. Their smoked wings are their best thing. They don’t have French fries but they did have really good mac-n-cheese and chicken strips. My pulled pork was 7 / 10 so stick with the wings.
In Summary, I give the Orange Beach / Gulf Shores area of Alabama high marks. There was plenty to do and see in addition to baking in the sun. Hopefully you find this helpful as you consider future beach vacations with your family.