Sugar white sands line the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama. Many of those who have discovered this little piece of paradise first come to enjoy those beaches. They soon discover, though, that there’s more to this town than meets the eye. In addition to its miles of coastline, there are an abundance of back bays, bayous, and rivers connecting Orange Beach to the world.
Orange Beach is spoiled for options when it comes to water recreation. It’s well known as a deep-sea fishing hot spot, but there are also canoe and kayak rentals for exploring the city’s in-water trails, party boats to charter for offshore dinners and sunset cruises, and, of course, swimming in the gulf and lounging on the wide, powdery beaches to soak up the sun and be lulled by the waves.
Once refreshed by the sand and the sea, visitors find plenty of other activities to enjoy. Inland, the Hugh Branyon Back Country Trails are network of paths that runs through more than 11 miles of the stunning woodlands in Gulf State Park. Wander through oak hammocks, over swamps and marshes, and along sandy dunes. Gulf State Park encompasses more than 5,000 acres and has a campground, nature center, beachfront pavilion, and one of the longest fishing piers on the gulf.
For shopping, don’t miss Orange Beach’s eclectic collection of retailers and boutiques. Centers like San Roc Cay and The Wharf feature locally owned clothing, home decor, and specialty shops, while freestanding places such as Tallulah’s Treasures and Prosperous Pelican dot the main streets of town and will not disappoint.
The Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach sits on the shore of Wolf Bay in a 1920’s-era hotel, and includes a gallery that features the work of regional artists in a variety of media. Special exhibits spotlight works by visiting artists. There’s also an onsite glass-blowing studio and a pottery studio, and pieces from each can be purchased at the gift shop. Each spring, the center helps host the Orange Beach Festival of Art, a two-day celebration of arts and crafts, music, and food.
Other events that bring visitors to the area include the Bama Coast Cruise classic-car show in April and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship Tournament in July. The Wharf Boat & Yacht Show, held in March, is the number one boat-buying show on the Gulf Coast. This past year, $90 million in boats and marine products were on display, including more than 125 in-water vessels.
And everyone should visit the Flora-Bama Lounge — the self- proclaimed Last American Roadhouse — especially if you can catch the epic fish-flinging spectacle that is the Interstate Mullet Toss in April. The venue is a bit quieter during the Frank Brown International Songwriters’ Festival in November.
While in Orange Beach, visitors have an impressive array of lodging options. There are hotels, beach houses, and both family- affordable and luxury condominiums lining the oceanfront as well as the bays. Information about accommodations, events, and other attractions can be found at orangebeach.com.
SAVE THE DATE! GULFAPALOOZA: NOVEMBER 12-14, 2014
Where to Dock
> Homeport Marina (251-968-4528, homeportmarina.net)
> Orange Beach Marina (251-981-4207, orangebeachmarina.com)
> Saunders Yachtworks (251-981-3700, saundersyacht.com)
> The Wharf Marina (251-224-1900, thewharfmarina.com)
Where to Dine
> Cobalt (28099 Perdido Beach Blvd., 251-923-5300)
> Fisher’s (27075 Marina Road, 251-981-7305)
> The Wharf (4830 Main St., 251-224-1000)