Orange Beach In A Day

Orange Beach, Alabama is one of the top beach destinations in the US.  In January of 2021 I spent a weekend at the beach.  Here are 5 things to do in Orange Beach in a day.

Orange Beach is probably my favorite vacation destination in the Eastern United States.  The beaches are white sands, the water is fairly calm, and the weather is amazing.  There are plenty of attractions to see in the area spanning from Dauphin Island to Pensacola.  And the Blue Angels make their home nearby as well so an occasional airshow is also an added bonus to staying in the area.

However, on this trip my time was limited as I wanted to take a weekend trip to the beach in order to get a quick and much needed mental break from the winter weather that had kept me inside since November.  So I began the 10.5 hour drive south on Friday afternoon with a return trip planned for Sunday.  Thankfully both the drive down and the drive up were uneventful and I arrived in Orange Beach 10:30 on Friday night.

Hampton Inn & Suites Orange Beach/Gulf Front

If I am staying for longer than a couple of nights I usually stay at Turquoise Place Condos, especially if traveling with family and friends.  However this time it was just me and only for 2 nights so a hotel made the most sense.  This is a wonderful hotel right on the beach with balcony’s overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  For my stay here I chose an inland view but I wasn’t planning on staying inside the hotel other than to rest.  The hotel included breakfast which due to Covid restrictions was limited and was served to you.  There is also an indoor/outdoor pool and excellent beach access.  I highly recommend this hotel if visiting the area.  Now lets look at 5 things to do in Orange Beach in a day

1. Take a walk on the beach

Orange Beach is an amazing beach with white sands and plenty of opportunities to find sea shells.  After breakfast I went for a stroll on the beach.  It was about 50-55 degrees as the sun started breaking through the clouds.  Coming from an area where it was in the 30s all week the warmth was more than welcome though I noticed a lot of the locals were in full winter gear.  Still I took the opportunity to walk about 1 mile down the beach to Turquoise Place and looked at the damage from Hurricane Sally in September of 2020.  They were still doing a lot of rebuilding to the Condos to get ready for the holiday season in 2021.

While taking the walk I picked up multiple sea shells and walked under the Orange Beach Pier.  I highly recommend an early morning walk no matter where you are staying in Orange Beach as there are many public beach access points.  As a caution though look out for jelly fish that could be washed ashore with the tide when walking.

2. Take a bike ride in Gulf State Park

One of the new activities I took up in 2020 in the pandemic was biking.  I bought an $80 bike on Facebook marketplace and rode around 50-70 miles in the fall last year on bike trails in Ohio and Indiana.  However with winter setting in the bike had been sitting in the garage for a few months.  I packed up the bike with me to Orange Beach and planned my trip to the Backcountry Trail in Gulf State Park.

The Backcountry Trail system consists of over 28 miles of trails for walking, hiking, and biking in Gulf State Park that has lots of wildlife, marshes, and lakes.  Segway tours are also available in the park.  I took a leisurely ride in the park for about two hours. On the trail I saw some wonderful views of lakes, numerous birds, and wildlife.  The trails are mostly flat and a fairly easy ride.  One note there is one section that is a wooden walkway over the swamp that isn’t idea for riding.  Though can be walked and offers great opportunities for birding and just enjoying nature.

3. Have lunch at Flora-Bama

Just east of Orange Beach on Perdido Key is the famous Flora Bama Lounge that sits on the Florida and Alabama state line.  The Oyster Bar offers a great menu of pub food and there is plenty of outdoor seating overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.  The bar has been there since 1962 and has featured large events including concerts from country music star Kenny Chesney.  At night the bar is for adults only but before 6p families are welcome.

The food is delicious with lots of options from Burgers and Fries to shrimp and  oysters.  Prices are reasonable and the portions are generous.  I had the Bama burger and fries.  The burger had everything on it including bacon, mushrooms, and jalapeños plus swiss and cheddar cheeses.  Was a perfect lunch after a morning filled without outdoor activities.

4. Visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is a great place to take the family.  It is known as the little zoo that could featured in an Animal Planet documentary in 2006.  It is home to over 199 species that is now spread out over 25 acres at its new home that opened in 2020.

Previously the zoo was very small and was at a different location in Gulf Shores.  It has since moved to a larger location with more parking and more room for guests and animals to roam about.  It is still a great place to take the kids and is reasonably priced.  Expect to spend at least a couple of hours here as there are numerous things to do including a carousel for the kids, a zipline ride, and an antique cars type ride that was not operational on this visit.

The zoo still features some animal encounters including petting Kangaroos and feeding giraffes.  One tip though be careful when entering the zoo into your GPS.  Waze took me into a gated community that was thankfully open and across the street from the actual zoo. It is about a 20 minute drive from the heart of Orange Beach.  If you love animals and small zoos this is definitely a place to check out.

5. Dinner at The Gulf

No trip to Orange Beach can be complete without eating at the Gulf at least once while there.  The Gulf would make any of my 5 things to do in Orange Beach list regardless of the number of days  I was staying.  The food is fresh, the atmosphere is great, and it is the perfect location.  All the seating is outside and tables were socially distanced before that was even a thing.

The Gulf’s menu is unique in that it changes daily.  It is written on a chalk board with daily specials and regular favorites. They have one of the best burgers anywhere. However, on this trip I went with the Lobster And Shrimp Roll which featured Maine Lobster with Gulf Shrimp tossed in lemon aioli with Romain lettuce, celery, chives and old bay seasoning. It was absolutely delicious as it is every time I visit Orange Beach.   If there is one place that is a must stop it is The Gulf at Orange Beach.

Honorable Mentions

Just missing out on the list from this trip were too locations.  One is in Orange Beach and is a locally owned business the other is about 50 minutes north of Orange Beach but is a must stop travel center.

If you are wanting some of the best donuts in Alabama you must stop by City Donut on your trip.  Donuts are made fresh daily and price is reasonable and service is great.  My favorite memory was on a previous trip when me and my Dad stopped in there and bought out all the lemon filled donuts.  The owner was in shock that that was the first donut to go that morning.  This time since it was me I just got 2 donuts for the road. Of course one of them was a lemon filled.

And no trip to Alabama would now be complete without a stop at Buc-cees.  Buc-cees is one of the largest travel centers I’ve ever been to.  It is huge with hundreds of gas pumps, a Wal-mart size store with nearly everything available from fresh food to regular convenience store items to an entire clothing and toys section.  Gas is cheaper here than anywhere else and the food and drink prices inside the store are also lower than their competition. It’s definitely a must stop.

Wrapping up

Traveling to Orange Beach in the middle of the winter after months of literally staying home due to the pandemic was absolutely what was needed for my mental health.  Enjoying outdoor activities and a relaxing change of scenery made the 20+ hours round trip in the car worth every minute of it.  This was the 4th time I have visited Orange Beach and the shortest.  However it may have been my most favorite trip there yet.  In the end I did what everyone told me was crazy.  A weekend trip to the beach when you live in Cincinnati.  Get out and enjoy travel and the world.



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