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Nov 21 14

Things To Do in Gulf Shores

by Amber Garrett
GulfShores-beach-pier-600

With more than 32 miles of sugar-white beaches and rolling sand dunes, it’s no wonder Gulf Shores is one of the South’s best vacation spots. The main attraction is the beach, but many more family-friendly options await you.

– Spend the day at Gulf State Park, where you can visit the largest pier on the Gulf of Mexico. More than 1,540 feet long and 42,000 square feet, the pier offers plenty of room for fishing, sightseeing, and leisurely walking. Admission costs $3 per day for ages 12 and up; an adult fishing permit costs $8 per day. Adventurous types, the Gulf Adventure CenteGulf Shores fishing pierr at Gulf State Park is for you! Take the Hummingbird Ziplines for spectacular views of Lake Shelby and the Gulf of Mexico. If you fear heights, then explore the coast via paddle-board or kayak instead.

– Grab your binoculars and do a little birdwatching at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, whose name means “safe harbor” in French, offers more than 7,000 acres of protected wildlife habitats for migrating birds, nesting sea turtles, and the endangered Alabama beach mouse.

– Explore the waters of the Gulf by boat. Charter a fishing boat at nearby Orange Beach for a day of deep-sea fishing. See dolphins in their natural habitat on a dolphin cruise. Certified diver? Gotcha covered. Check out the LuLu, a sunken freighter. At a maximum depth of 115 feet, it’s a perfect site for divers of all skill levels.

West Indies Salad at Lucy Buffet's Lucy B Goode Cafe

The famous West Indies Salad at Lucy B Goode Coastal Cafe

– Find some good eatin’ at one of the area’s many seafood restaurants. You can go where the locals go – the Original Oyster House and King Neptune’s are long-time favorites. Or try a popular franchise like Tacky Jacks in Gulf Shores, which also has  locations in Fort Morgan, Orange Beach, and Mobile. Be sure to try some of those crab claws!

– Take a drive up to Foley and shop till you drop at the Tanger Outlets. More than 120 brand-name stores await you.

– Channel your inner child – and give the kids some thrills and chills – at The Track Family Recreation Center, which offers Go-Karts, bumper cars, and other rides as well as miniature golf.

Teen surfing on the Flow Rider at Waterville in Gulf Shores

Riders can stand-up surf or body board on the Flow Rider, a popular attraction at Waterville.

– Cool off in a lazy river, then play a round of mini-golf, at Waterville USA. Set on 20 acres about 1/4 mile from the beach, Waterville is both a water park and an amusement park. It’s open seasonally, so make sure you check out the hours before you go.

– Go crabbing at night. Grab some flashlights, a net, and a bucket (kids optional) and look for crabs. Expect endless giggles and lasting memories! Be sure to practice catch and release.

– Spend a day at historic Fort Morgan. This star-shaped fort was built to control the main shipping channel into Mobile Bay. Its original purpose was simple – to prevent enemy forces from entering the bay. Be sure to bring your camera. Historic arches and natural light will ignite your creative juices.

– Take a walk on the wild side at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Known as “The Little Zoo That Could,” it features more than 500 animals, including tigers, lions, bears, birds, and reptiles, plus a petting zoo. Interactive animal shows are offered during the spring and summer months.

– Jam out to a live performance for a smorgasbord of night-time entertainment. Sipping ice-cold drinks and listening to some good music is a great way to end the perfect day at the beach. LuLu’s at Homeport Marina offers live entertainment every day. So does the Flora-Bama, a short drive down the highway at the Florida state line. Also check out the concert schedule at The Wharf Amphitheater in nearby Orange Beach.

– Relax. The most important thing to do. Whether it’s just lying on the beach listening to the waves crash or a day at the spa. Just say ahhh!

Find Gulf Shores vacation rentals and more fun things to do in Gulf Shores on our website, or download the BeachGuide iPhone App from the Apple Store.

beach and sand dunes at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, AL

Miles of white-sand beaches at Gulf State Park

 

Nov 19 14

Annual Light Show Dazzles at Bellingrath Gardens

by S. Lynne
bellingrath magic christmas poinsettias

More than three million lights will illuminate the skies over Bellingrath Gardens and Home as the Theodore, Alabama, estate celebrates its annual Magic Christmas in Lights. The show, which starts November 28 and runs through January 3, includes some 1,000 displays throughout the 65-acre property.

The English Renaissance-style Bellingrath mansion will be dressed for the holidays as well with poinsettias, twinkling lights, Christmas trees, and magnificent arrangements of seasonal greenery. Nightly choral performances will be held on the home’s South Terrace.

Guests can also have their picture taken with Santa and shop for Christmas presents in the estate’s well-stocked gift shop. And the on-site Magnolia Cafe will be serving dinner, with specials offered daily.

Admission prices for Magic Christmas in Lights are $15 for adults (13 and older), $7 for children aged 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under. Prices for Magic Christmas in Lights and a tour of the Bellingrath mansion are $24 for adults (13 and older), $13 for children aged 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and under.

Magic Christmas in Lights is open daily from 5 to 9 p.m. through January 3 (closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day). Home tours are given every hour and half hour until 8:30 p.m.

Advance tickets can be ordered online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/920145. Tickets are also available at the door.

For more information about Belllingrath Gardens and Magic Christmas in Lights, visit http://www.bellingrath.org.

For links to area vacation rentals, restaurants, and more, visit www.BeachGuide.com/GulfShores and www.BeachGuide.com/OrangeBeach.

 

 

 

Oct 28 14

Beach Music: 30th Annual FBISF Comes to the Gulf Coast

by S. Lynne
frank brown festival 2014 artwork

The Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival opens November 6 for 11 days of great music, written and performed by some of the most talented songwriters in the world. This is the 30th year for the festival, which will feature more than 200 performers on stage at the Flora-Bama Lounge on Perdido Key and at other Gulf Coast venues in Pensacola, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores.

frank brown festival at flora-bama

The iconic Flora-Bama Lounge is one of the concert venues for the Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival.

Described as the “grandaddy of songwriter festivals” by both Billboard and American Songwriters magazines, the event is named for the late Frank Brown, long-time night watchman at the Flora-Bama. Mr. Frank, as he was known to Flora-Bama regulars, loved music and was the last person the performers saw every night at closing time.

A one-of-a-kind event, the FBISF focuses on the composers and the stories behind the songs – how and why they wrote some of the world’s greatest hits – rather than on the performers who made them famous.

This year’s lineup includes Austin Church, whose compositions have been recorded by Lyle Lovett and Jimmy Buffett; Jim McBride, who has written hits for Conway Twitty, Tammy Cochran, and Alan Jackson; and Scotty Emerick, who both writes for and performs with Toby Keith.

Also appearing this year are Dean Dillon, writer of some 50 songs performed by the legendary George Strait, and Jamey Johnson, a Country Music Association Awards winner who has performed with Kid Rock and Willie Nelson.

Admission to most of this year’s venues is free, although some may have a small cover charge. Performances will continue daily through November 16.

For more information, log onto www.fbisf.com/.

November is off-season at the beach, and plenty of vacation rentals are available at reasonable rates. For places to stay in the area, check out our listings of condos, beach houses, and hotels at Gulf Shores Vacation Rentals, Orange Beach Vacation Rentals, Perdido Key Vacation Rentals, and Pensacola Beach Vacation Rentals. Some properties are offering special rates and package deals during the songwriter festival.

Sep 26 14

Baytowne Wharf Beer Fest Returns in October

by S. Lynne
beer fest beer and glass

baytowne wharf beer fest mugBeer lovers from all over the country are getting ready to raise a glass or two at the annual Baytowne Wharf Beer Festival. Held every fall at Sandestin’s Village of Baytowne Wharf, the festival has been billed as the “Best Beer Fest on the Emerald Coast.” This year’s event is scheduled for October 17 and 18.

With 40-plus breweries offering more than 200 domestic and international beers, the 2014 festival features plenty of tastings (including specialty, seasonal, and not-yet-released beers), as well as seminars and live entertainment. New this year is Beer Bingo. There is no charge to participate in the bingo competition, which kicks off at 6 p.m. on Friday at the Events Plaza Stage. Prizes include a Yolo board, gift cards, and more.

During the main beer-tasting event, scheduled for Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m., brewery representatives will be available to discuss the different types of lagers and ales. All ticket-holders will receive a Baytowne Wharf Beer Fest glass for the tastings. Live music will be provided by the Owsley Brothers (2 to 4 p.m.) and Native Run (4 to 6 p.m.).

Also new this year is the VIP event, held on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. VIP ticket-holders will enjoy exclusive beer tastings, barbecue, a signature beer glass – and the opportunity to beat the lines for the main event.

Cost of general admission tickets is $25 per person in advance, $30 on October 18. Cost of VIP tickets is $55 per person in advance, $60 the day of the tastings. To order tickets, and for more information, visit www.baytownewharfbeerfestival.com.

Visit our website for more information about Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and other Destin Florida vacation rentals.

Sep 16 14

Gulf Shores Gets Ready for National Shrimp Festival

by S. Lynne
national shrimp festival shrimp and grits

national shrimp festival tentsOne of the most popular events on the Alabama coast returns to Gulf Shores this fall. Scheduled for October 9, 10, 11, and 12, the 43rd annual National Shrimp Festival is expected to attract more than 250,000 visitors to the city.

Voted one of the best outdoor festivals in the Southeast by Southern Living magazine, the National Shrimp Festival always promises plenty of fun for all –  live entertainment, arts and crafts, children’s activities, and, of course, lots of shrimp. In fact, festival-goers will be able to enjoy the tasty crustacean prepared boiled, fried, grilled, stuffed – just about every mouth-watering way imaginable!

Other festival activities include a sand sculpture contest, 5K and 10K run/walks, and the first-ever Shrimp Festival Idol Contest, featuring the best youth vocalists on and around the Alabama Gulf Coast.

More than 300 vendors will be selling everything from T-shirts to fine art, musicians will be providing live entertainment daily on two stages, and youngsters will enjoy games, crafts, and other interactive fun at the Children’s Activity Village.

The Shrimp Festival Idol Contest will be held Saturday on the West Stage from 10 a.m. until noon. The sand sculpture competition, held on Saturday as well, starts at 11 a.m. on the beach. Also on Saturday, the 10K run/walk starts at 8 a.m., and the 5K begins 30 minutes later. Winners of the Annual Restaurant Challenge will be announced Saturday afternoon on the East Stage at 3:15 p.m.

The National Shrimp Festival is held at the public beach access, where Highway 59 intersects with Highway 182 in Gulf Shores. Admission is free. To learn more, visit www.nationalshrimpfestival.com.

And don’t forget to check out our Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Vacation Rentals links for info on the best spots to stay while you’re visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Sep 4 14

Destin Fishing Rodeo: “Ultimate Fishing Tournament” Kicks Off October 1

by S. Lynne
destin fishing rodeo kids' catch

Anglers of all ages are welcome to participate in the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Fall is just around the corner, and “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” is getting ready to host one of the season’s biggest events – the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo. Described as “the ultimate fishing tournament for saltwater anglers of all ages,” the competition, which runs every day for the entire month of October, features more than $100,000 in cash and prizes and is expected to attract more than 30,000 fishermen.

Just about every kind of game fish is recognized with awards during the rodeo, so no matter whether you’re trolling offshore for sailfish and marlin or inshore for king mackerel, you’ll be in the running for prizes. Every Saturday during the month is Shark Saturday, with a cash prize going to the fisherman who catches the biggest shark.

All ages are welcome to compete, and participation is free for everyone fishing aboard a boat that has been registered for the rodeo. For a list of registered boats, visit www.destinfishingrodeo.org/registeredboats.html. Both charter and private boats are eligible to compete. Registration fees are based on the size of the boat and start at $50 for a kayak or paddleboard.

Anglers can also opt to fish on the pier instead of a boat. The fee for pier fishing is $25 for participants aged 15 and older; there is no cost for anglers younger than 15.

Even if you don’t want to fish, you’re welcome to watch the weigh-ins on the docks at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar. Weigh-ins are conducted daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Every afternoon, AJ’s and the rodeo will be giving away gift certificates from local businesses.

Looking for a place to stay, good spots to eat, and other things to do while you’re in Destin?  We can help! Check out our links at Destin Vacation Rentals, Destin Restaurants, Destin Golf, and Destin Recreation.

Aug 21 14

Panama City to Rock With Second Annual Gulf Coast Jam

by S. Lynne
gulf coast jam panama city beach scene umbrellas

Some of country music’s brightest stars are heading to Panama City Beach this month for the second annual Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam. Headliners for what promises to be a country music extravaganza to rival last year’s are Grammy Award winners Carrie Underwood and Dierks Bentley and reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and Grammy Award winner Blake Shelton. Dates for the festival are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 29, 30, and 31.

All performances will take place on two stages, the Daytime Beach Stage at the M.B. Miller County Pier, and the Main Headline Stage at Frank Brown Park. Performances at the Daytime Beach Stage will run from 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m. Gates at the Main Headline stage open at 3 p.m., with performances beginning at 4:30 p.m. and ending around midnight. Concertgoers can take the complimentary Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam US Air Force Shuttles from one stage to the other. (The shuttles are handicap-accessible.)

Carrie Underwood is scheduled to perform on Friday night, followed by Dierks Bentley on Saturday and Blake Shelton on Sunday. All three shows will be at the Main Headline Stage starting at 10:15 p.m. each night.

General admission tickets are still available for this year’s Gulf Coast Jam, but the festival is expected to be a sellout. Last year’s inaugural event, starringToby Keith, Brantley Gilbert, and Trace Adkins, attracted thousands of country music fans from across the United States and beyond. For more information and to order tickets, visit www.gulfcoastjam.com.

Many of the Panama City Beach property management companies are offering special packages that include discounted rates on accommodations, admission to Gulf Coast Jam, transportation, and other extras. To learn more, check out our Panama City Beach Vacation Rentals page. You’ll also find other things to do, places to eat, and more at our links for Panama City Beach Restaurants, Panama City Beach Golf, Panama City Beach Fishing, and Panama City Beach Recreation.

Aug 5 14

Emerald Coast Poker Run: Playing Cards for a Cause

by S. Lynne
emerald coast poker run power boats

emerald coast poker run moored boatsYou don’t have to own a boat to find plenty of fun during the Emerald Coast Poker Run. This is the 22nd year for the annual boating event, presented by the Florida Powerboat Club as part of August’s Boat Week. And it’s the largest summer poker run in the U.S., annually earning around $150,000 and benefitting the Emerald Coast Foundation, which raises funds for Northwest Florida youth organizations.

In addition to the poker run, the week’s events include a Ladies Night Luau at Helen Back in Fort Walton Beach on August 13 and the Miss Boat Week 2014 contest on August 14 at The Swamp on Okaloosa Island. There’s a free barbecue lunch at Juana’s in Navarre Beach for all registered poker run participants on August 15 from noon to 2 p.m. That evening, a party for all of the Emerald Coast Poker Run captains and their crews will be hosted by AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar in Destin. The party, which starts at 7 p.m., offers guests the chance to view other participants’ boats at the restaurant’s marina.

The Emerald Coast Poker Run will be held on Saturday, August 16, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Participating boaters will collect their cards at designated checkpoints along a route that starts in Destin and runs for 120 miles to Pensacola Beach. Spectators are invited to gather at the various stops to join in the fun.

The boaters will play their hands that evening at the poker run party. The all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink event, held at the Emerald Coast Conference Center on Okaloosa Island, will also feature live music, dancing, and a silent auction.

Boat Week concludes on August 17 with Fudpucker’s Bloody Mary and Mimosa Party, held on the water at FudShucker’s Steam Shack and Raw Bar, behind Fudpucker’s Okaloosa Island location. The party starts at 9 a.m. and includes premium vodkas and Champagnes, plus juices and condiments. Guests are also welcome to stay for lunch. Proceeds will go to the Emerald Coast Foundation.

For details, and to learn how to get tickets to the evening poker run party, visit www.emeraldcoastpokerrun.com. And make sure you check out our Destin vacation rentals, Fort Walton Beach vacation rentals, Pensacola Beach vacation rentals, and Navarre Beach vacation rentals for the best places in the area to stay.

Jul 14 14

Have Fun and Get Fit with SUP (Stand Up Paddle-boards) in Destin, FL

by S. Lynne
SUP paddle board rentals in Destin, Florida

Have you tried stand-up paddle-boarding yet? It’s lots of fun and easy to learn, so it’s no wonder it’s one of the hottest new sports to hit the Gulf Coast. Paddle-boarding offers an exciting and different way to explore the area’s lakes, canals, harbors and bays, and – once you learn to balance – the Gulf. It’s safe, too, so it’s a great activity the whole family can enjoy.

SUP paddle-board rentals at GUSU in Destin

Located on Destin Harbor next to AJ's, GUSU paddle-board rentals is a great place to get started with SUP and explore Destin Harbor

The easiest way to start paddle-boarding is to visit a professional outfitter such as GUSU (Get Up Stand Up) Paddlesports in Destin. One of the largest retailers in Northwest Florida, GUSU carries a wide selection of paddle-board equipment, clothing, and accessories. It also offers rentals, lessons guaranteed to “have you up and paddling in no time at all,” paddle-board tours of Destin Harbor (equipment and instruction are included in the price), and SUP-Yoga and SUP-Lates fitness classes.

“Our educated staff is always eager to help anyone with questions regarding the sport of stand-up paddling,” said GUSU co-owner Jon Parks. “We want you to leave with the right product. That’s why we offer a ‘try-before-you-buy’ option. We carry everything from surf and touring to race stand-up paddle boards, plus a wide variety of paddle accessories.”

GUSU offers online shopping for paddleboards, paddles, clothing, and other accessories on its Website, www.gusupaddlesports.com. GUSU can also be contacted via Facebook, www.facebook.com/gusupaddlesports, and by calling 850-460-7300. Its Destin store, inside “TheXperience” at 111 Harbor Boulevard, is open daily year-round.

Planning a trip to Destin? Visit our Destin vacation rentals, Destin recreation, and Destin restaurants pages to find the best places to stay and things to do.

SUP - paddleboarding in Florida

 

Jun 18 14

Building Sandcastles 101

by Renee Taliaferro
Building Sandcastles in a lesson with Rick Mungean of Beach Sand Sculptures

We didn’t know much about building sandcastles before our lesson with Rick Mungeam of BeachSandSculptures.com today, but had we been building sandcastles all by ourselves, I’m sure everything we would have done would have been all wrong.

We started out learning that building sandcastles by the shore, as virtually everyone does, is the least desirable location because the sand is How to start building a beach sandcastlefiner closest to the dunes. Who would have thought that? But, it makes sense as Rick demonstrates the correct process for obtaining the best mixture of sand and water. It is a technique that uses gravity and vibration to extract air, leaving a hard sand structure base for sculpting whatever one might imagine.

Rick started with a huge pile of sand, gently saturated with buckets of water. Using a bottomless bucket as a ‘form’ he filled the structure with a few inches of sand at a time, mixing with water, and patting the sides to settle the sand and let the air escape. The result is a hard, tall pile of sand with which to work.

Once we had a tall sculpting structure, Rick pulled out a few familiar utensils and placed them within reach, on the pile. Some of the tools we used were a melon baller, a jigsaw, a thin spatula, paint brush and straw, which he called a pneumonic something or another. It’s essential for blowing sand out of the way during fine sculpting.how to make steps for a beach sandcastle

Next we watched Rick demonstrate some basic techniques for creating sculptures, including doorways, steps and archways. He makes it look easy – but when we try we see it’s not quite that easy, but certainly possible with a little practice and the knowledge we’ve gained today. Everyone left with a vision of future sand sculptures. I know what I want to make… just as soon as I have a little free time on the beach.

Our lesson today was at the public access beach in front of Silver Shells Resort in Destin, Florida. It was a beautiful day. Had we listened to the weather report we might have skipped the lesson, but as often happens at the coast, the predicted storms blew inland and we had a perfect June day with overcast skies giving some relief from the hot sun, a pleasant sea breeze, and the beautiful emerald-green Gulf as our backdrop.

how to build a sandcastle

Beachsandsculptures.com has multiple locations  and coaches in the Destin to Hwy 30A area. To schedule a lesson, call (303) 681-2631.  Also, check out their facebook page for inspiration and the BeachGuide Sandcastle Pinterest board. Rick and his team do corporate sand sculptures, as well as marriage proposals in the sand and other custom sand sculptures.Building Sandcastles in a lesson with Rick Mungeam of Beach Sand Sculptures

Click for more Fun Things to Do in Destin.

Jun 17 14

Pranzo Serves Seafood Italian Style

by Renee Taliaferro
Seafood Canneloni at Pranzo Fort Walton

We’ve enjoyed a few memorable meals at Pranzo on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, and each one has somehow been better than the last.  The challenge is to order anything new because our past selections have been so amazing, such as the Seafood Canneloni.

The chef stuffs homemade pasta with fresh Gulf shrimp, sea scallops and lobster and covers the dish with fresh mozzarella and a creamy tomato sauce. The chicken Canneloni is a favorite dish for our 12-year old, who doesn’t quite appreciate seafood, yet. It’s equally delicious, with grilled chicken, spinach and artichoke hearts stuffed in a homemade pasta and smothered with a creamy alfredo sauce.

Mahi Mahi at Pranzo Italian Seafood in Fort Walton Beach

Mahi Mahi

I’ve tried several seafood dishes at Pranzo. On this occasion I was more than pleased with the Mahi Mahi – a fresh, thick filet caught locally, topped with lump crabmeat and the house cream limoncello sauce and served over thick, succulent asparagus spears. The Grouper Piccata, beer-battered fingers served with a caper and lemon sauce over a vegetable risotto, is also delicious. A lighter option I’ve enjoyed in the past is the Seared

Chicken Canneloni at Pranzo Italian Seafood restaurant in Fort Walton

Chicken Canneloni

Tuna from the appetizer menu. It’s lightly seared and served with a balsamic and blood orange sauce over cucumber fennel slaw. With a house salad, it was a refreshingly light, but flavorful summer dinner.

As usual, none of us needed dessert, but we succumbed to the tempting menu. One from our group ordered the Tiramasu while another enjoyed the Crème Brullee. Our waiter’s favorite is the Limoncello Cream Pie. Other options include Cannoli, Amaretto Cheesecake, Italian Chocolate Torte and Fried Strawberries – something I’ll save room for next time – served a la mode with vanilla ice cream and chocolate and raspberry drizzle.

Tiramasu-tini at Pranzo in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Tiramasu-tini

The Tiramsu-Tini, with Espresso-vanilla vodka, butterscotch, Irish cream, whipped cream and coffee sprinkles was my choice for a decadent end to a wonderful dining experience.

Our waiters, James and Mike, both give excellent recommendations and friendly service.

The full bar and wine list offer plenty of choices in all price ranges. Check Pranzo’s facebook page for current specials and happy hour. Visit our website for a map and more details about Pranzo and other Fort Walton Beach restaurants. You can also download the free BeachGuide iPhone App from the Apple store and search for restaurants near your current location, by cuisine type, and use the interactive map feature to get driving directions.

Tiramasu at Pranzo in Fort Walton Beach, Florida

Tiramasu

Jun 13 14

Find Family Vacation Fun at Sterling Shores Destin

by S. Lynne

A top-rated resort, Sterling Shores is just minutes away from everything Destin has to offer, from fishing charters and golf to shopping and restaurants. Sterling Shores Destin is the ideal base for a family vacation on Florida’s beautiful Emerald Coast.

“It’s a great place to spend quality time with your family,” said one recent guest. “It’s close to the beach and a short drive to everything.” Another visitor agreed, adding that it was “overall, a great experience. We loved the pools, especially the heated pool.”

Resort Amenities

Amenities at Sterling Shores include a 42-seat private movie theater with surround sound, a beachside pool, a 4,300-square-foot lagoon-style pool with mushroom fountain, a family fitness center, a Gulf-front beach club, on-site check-in, seasonal beachside rental service, unlimited DVD rental, and a beachfront eatery. Also available are free wireless Internet service and conference/meeting room facilities. If sightseeing’s not high on your vacation to-do list, you may not want to leave the property at all, unless it’s for a quick trip to the grocery. There’s even a barbecue area that’s perfect for a family cookout.

Inside, the resort’s luxurious one- to four-bedroom condos include fully-equipped kitchens, full-size washers and dryers, comfortable beds, and cable TV. Private balconies with views of the beautifully landscaped grounds, the swimming pools, and the Gulf are ideal spots for relaxing with morning coffee or end-of-the-day drinks.

Nearby Attractions

Within walking distance of Sterling Shores Destin are The Track family recreation center, Big Kahuna’s water park, and Back Porch Seafood and Oyster House. Other Destin attractions, including Henderson Beach State Park and the popular AJ’s Club Bimini, are also nearby. And the whole family will enjoy a trip to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, just a few miles away in Fort Walton Beach.

Check It Out Today

Visit Sterling Shores Destin for more information, including current specials and deals.

May 30 14

“Pirates” Set to Oust Mayor in Fort Walton Beach

by S. Lynne
billy bowlegs festival 2014 pirates

Fort Walton Beach visitors beware – the city is about to be invaded by pirates.

Captain Billy and his Krewe of Bowlegs will be in town on a “scouting” expedition to kick off the annual Billy Bowlegs Pirate Festival on Thursday, June 5. The festivities begin at 6 p.m. at the Landing with entertainment, food, drink, and pirate pranks the whole family will enjoy. At 7, there’s a torchlight parade on Eglin Parkway, followed by live music and the Krewe of Bowlegs’ arrival at the Landing.

More festival fun starts on Friday at 3 p.m. with kids’ activities and live musical entertainment. There’s a preliminary pirate skirmish at 7 p.m., followed by more live music and a fireworks display to end the evening.

On Saturday, the festival continues at 10 a.m. with more kids’ activities and live music. At 4 p.m., Billy and his band make their final landing and try to take Fort Walton Beach from Mayor Mike Anderson and his personal pirate crew. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess who the winners will be!

Festival admission is free. To keep the kids entertained, there will also be an interactive Pirate Play Zone featuring a rock wall, inflatables, and more. Cost of admission is $15, and a wristband good for Friday and Saturday is available for $20.

To learn more about the Billy Bowlegs Festival, sponsored by the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce, visit www.billybowlegsfestival.com.

For places to stay and details on local restaurants, check out our listings at Fort Walton Beach hotels, vacation rentals, and condo rentals and Fort Walton restaurants.

May 20 14

Turn Your Sandcastle Creations Into Cash!

by S. Lynne

Facebook Sand Sculpture Photo Contest

Enter our Sandcastle Facebook Photo Contest this summer, and you could win CASH and a FREE sandcastle-building lesson! The grand prize is $200 plus a two-hour lesson from beachsandsculptures.com, owned by professional sand sculptors Rick and Capri Mungeam. The lesson (good through the end of 2015) includes a demonstration of proper sand-sculpting tools and their usage, how to mix the right amounts of sand and water, and mentoring as you create a beachfront masterpiece.

To enter, you must build and photograph your own original sand sculpture and post its photo at http://woobox.com/mpcvx4. Judging for the grand prize will be done by Rick Mungeam. Second prize, $100, will be determined by which photo gets the most “likes” on Facebook. The contest ends August 12, 2014. Photos must be taken on the Gulf Coast in Florida, Alabama, or Mississippi. Amateur sculptors only, please – this is not a professional competition!

Need some inspiration for your entry? Check out our Pinterest board of sand sculptures at www.pinterest.com/BeachGuideLLC/castles-in-the-sand-crazy-critters-and-more/ and the Mungeams’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BeachSandSculptures.

 

May 7 14

Things to Do in Destin

by S. Lynne
silver shells paddle boarding
Harborwalk Village night scene in Destin

Harborwalk Village comes alive at night. Photo courtesy of jonimages.com

 

With its white-sand beaches, glittering Gulf waters, and clear skies most days of the year, Destin is a popular spot for vacationers wanting to laze around in the sun. But for visitors looking for a more active vacation, or just a quick break from the beach, there are plenty of other things to do in Destin.

Following are some of our suggestions.

  1. Go fishing. The fish are biting year-round in Destin – it’s called “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” for a reason. Destin Harbor is also home to the largest charter fishing boat fleet in the state of Florida. Find info on Destin Charter Fishing boats for your next trip, including types of fishing, number of passengers, fees, and more.
  2. Visit Crab Island. Bring your boat, or rent a pontoon or Jet Ski and spend the day at this submerged sandbar, where boaters anchor in the shallow water just north of the Destin bridge. Besides relaxing on the water and taking in the scenery, visitors enjoy floating water slides and other kid-friendly attractions, snack and beverage vendors making their rounds, music playing on party barges during weekends, floating bars, Frisbee, snorkeling, hunting for hermit crabs, and just visiting with friends and enjoying the crowd.
  3. Play golf. Destin is well known for its beautiful golf courses (offering more than 1,000 holes), many of which boast views of the Gulf and Choctawhatchee Bay. Find info to schedule your tee time by visiting our Destin Golf page.
  4. Try a new water sport. Options include (but are not limited to) paddleboarding, Jet Skiing, kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, and diving. Most beach services rent equipment, such as paddleboards and kayaks, right in front of rental condos. Jet Skis, pontoons, parasailing, and snorkeling boats depart from the Harborwalk Village area. You can visit the area or arrange a trip in advance by visiting our Destin Recreation listings.
  5. Build a castle in the sand. Discover your inner child, and keep the kids entertained at the same time, by learning how to build the best sandcastle ever. Beach Sand Sculptures, a Santa Rosa Beach-based company, offers sandcastle-building lessons year-round, not just in Destin, but it communities all along the Emerald Coast. Owners Rick and Capri Mungeam also create professional sand sculptures on demand to mark everything from marriage proposals and weddings to birthdays and anniversaries.
  6. Visit The Track, an amusement park catering to all ages. Besides muliple Go-Kart tracks, attractions include mini-golf, bumper cars on land and water, an arcade, kiddie rides, and bungee jumping for the thrill seekers.
  7. Spend the day at the Big Kahuna water park, centrally located in the heart of Destin, open seasonally and featuring enough rides and slides to keep visitors of all ages entertained.
  8. Eat lots of seafood.You’ll find plenty of dining choices in Destin, from cozy hole-in-the-wall cafes to white-tablecloth eateries. Attention anglers: Many local restaurants will even cook your catch for you!
  9. Party. Destin has plenty of night spots, many of which offer live entertainment every evening. AJ’s Club Bimini, on Destin Harbor, always draws a crowd. Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere, tropical drinks, bands, and dancing (Sunday to Thursday until 2 a.m.).
  10. Cruise the harbor, bay, and Gulf. Sign up for a sunset or dolphin cruise and explore Destin by water. Find Destin sunset cruises here.
  11. Drive over to neighboring Fort Walton Beach and visit The Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park.
  12. Check out the shops and restaurants at HarborWalk Village and Sandestin’s Village of Baytowne Wharf. Other shopping options include Silver Sands Premium Outlets, Destin Commons, and Grand Boulevard at Sandestin.
  13. Rent a bike. Get in some exercise and see the sights at the same time! A great place to explore by bike is nearby Henderson Beach State Park. A pet-friendly hiking trail meanders through the dunes, making the park a good place to walk as well.

Find Destin vacation rentals  and more fun things to do on our Website, or download the BeachGuide iPhone App from the Apple Store.

destin fishing rodeo anglers holding red snapper

Destin Fishing Rodeo anglers proudly display their day's catch.

May 1 14

Enter Our Gulf Coast Getaway Giveaway TODAY!

by S. Lynne

During the month of May, we’re offering one of our lucky Facebook fans the chance to win a three-day, two-night stay in a deluxe two-bedroom condo on the beautiful Gulf Coast, from Gulf Shores to Panama City Beach. To enter, just visit us at https://www.facebook.com/Beachguide‎ and click on the contest link. Be sure to ‘share’ with your friends, too, because you earn a bonus entry for every Facebook friend who enters after you. And hurry – the random drawing for the lucky winner will be held May 29! (Some restrictions apply.)

Apr 27 14

Pelican Beach Resort in Destin, Florida announces ‘Warmer Days of Spring’ special offer

by Renee Taliaferro

Special Summer Offer 25% Savings at Pelican Beach Resort

Pelican Beach Resort in Destin Florida is celebrating the arrival of spring with a ‘Warmer Days of Spring and Sizzling Summer Special Offer’ –  offering savings of 25% on family beach vacations.

The condominium-style resort offers a variety of amenities, tasteful condominiums and an ideal location in the heart of the Destin area. To take advantage of this offer guests need to make reservations early for best availability.

BEACHGUIDE EXCLUSIVE WARMER DAYS OF SPRING SPECIAL – Now  through May 22, 2014:
Save Up to 25% on Gulf-front and Gulf View Condominiums! Discount is based on arrival date and length of stay.  Excludes Monthly Rates. Subject to availability and may be withdrawn or modified at anytime without notice.   (see offer details!)

MEMORIAL WEEKEND SPECIAL – MAY 23, 2014 through May 30, 2014:
Save Up to 25% on Gulf-front and Gulf View Condominiums! Discount is based on arrival date and length of stay.  Excludes Monthly Rates and 2 Bedroom “Dolphin” units. Subject to availability and may be withdrawn or modified at anytime without notice.  (see offer details!)

SUMMER KICK-OFF SPECIAL – May 31, 2014 through August 3, 2014:
Save Up to 20% on Gulf-front and Gulf View Condominiums on stays of 4 nights or more! Discount is based on arrival date and length of stay.  Excludes Monthly Rates and 2 Bedroom “Dolphin” units. Subject to availability and may be withdrawn or modified at anytime without notice. (see offer details!)

And, guests who book with the On-Site Management office at Pelican Beach receive the following perks:

  • From March 14th through Labor Day, receive a $25 Resort Gift Card good for use in Chan’s Market Cafe or the Tiki Bar
  • Complimentary Pelican Advantage program

 

Apr 15 14

Easter Happenings on the Gulf

by S. Lynne

All along the Alabama and Florida Gulf coasts, communities are getting ready to celebrate Easter this weekend with live music, egg hunts, bunny visits, and more – and visitors of all ages are welcome to join in! Following is a (partial) list of what’s going on.

Destin and South Walton

– The Village of Baytowne Wharf, Sandestin, April 19, noon to 3 p.m., Easter Explosion. Visits with the Easter Bunny, kids’ crafts, Inflatable Fun Zone, stilt walker making balloon animals, face painting. There will be a special showing of Peter and the Wolf, presented by Sinfonia Gulf Coast, at 1 p.m. http://www.baytownewharf.com

– Emerald Grande, HarborView Room and HarborWalk Village, Destin, April 20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Easter Bunny Brunch (till 2 p.m.) in the HarborView Room, followed by kids’ activities and photos with the Easter Bunny at HarborWalk Village. http://www.emeraldgrande.com

– Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, April 20, 6 a.m., sunrise service, conducted by Destin UMC. www.destinumc.org

– Eastern and Western greens, Rosemary Beach, April 20, non-denominational worship service, (8:30 a.m. on the Eastern Green; bring your own low-rise chair), followed by an Easter egg hunt and complimentary mimosas for the adults (9:45 on the Western Green, rain or shine). http://www.rosemarybeach.com

– WaterColor Inn and Resort, Marina Park, Rosemary Beach, April 20, 12:30-2 p.m., WaterColor Easter Celebration. Free and open to the public, so bring the kids for an Easter egg hunt and more! www.watercolorresort.com

– Baytowne Marina, Sandestin, April 20, 1-3 p.m., Easter lunch cruise on the Solaris. Enjoy a three-course buffet meal prepared by the luxury yacht’s executive chefs. Reservations required. www.SunQuestCruises.com or 850-650-2519

– Lyceum Lawn, Seaside, annual Easter Egg-stravaganza, April 20, noon to 2 p.m. Events include a visit from the Easter Bunny, live music from 30A Radio, and an Easter egg hunt for more than 12,000 eggs. http://www.seasidefl.com

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach area

– The Wharf, Orange Beach, April 19, 11 a.m. – Easter egg hunt featuring 2,500 eggs, face painting, balloon artists, and more. http://www.alwharf.com

– Bellingrath Gardens and Home, Live Oak Plaza, Theodore, AL, April 20, 6:30 a.m., Easter sunrise service, followed by Continental breakfast in the Magnolia Cafe, 7:30-8:30 a.m. http://www.bellingrath.org/

– Flora-Bama Lounge, Orange Beach/Perdido Key, April 20, 11 a.m., Worship on the Water. http://www.florabama.com

– Gulf State Park beach pavilion, Gulf Shores, April 20, 6:30 a.m., Easter sunrise service. https://www.alapark.com/gulfstate/

– The Hangout, Gulf Shores, April 20, 6:30 a.m., Easter sunrise service, followed by an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet. An egg hunt for the kids begins at 11 a.m. http://www.thehangout.com

– LuLu’s at Homeport Marina, Gulf Shores, April 20, 2 p.m. Easter egg hunts, arts and crafts, visit from the Easter Bunny. http://lulubuffett.com

Panama City Beach

– Frank Brown Park, April 19, 10 a.m., Easter egg hunt, hosted by the City of Panama City Beach. www.visitpanamacitybeach.com

– Pier Park, April 19, noon. Easter Egg Scramble, featuring more than 7,000 eggs filled with sweet treats and other fun surprises, arts and crafts, and more. http://www.pcbeach.org/events/events-community.php

Southwest Florida

– Siesta Key 14th Annual Easter Egg Hunt and Games, April 19, 9-11:30 a.m. Each child gets a goody bag stuffed with prizes and an Easter stuffed animal. http://www.siestakeychamber.com/event_calendar

– Manatee Public Beach, Anna Maria Island, Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island’s 50th Annual Easter Sunrise Service, April 20, 6:30 a.m. Attendees should bring their own blankets and chairs. The Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe will open at 6 a.m. for breakfast. The island trolley will also start running at 6 a.m.

– Sanibel Island, G Dock, Port Sanibel Marina, Easter Egg Hunt and Dolphin Cruise “Island Style,” April 20, 10-11:30 a.m. Join the Easter Bunny for a cruise of San Carlos Bay to Picnic Island for an Easter egg hunt. And maybe see some dolphins on the way! http://www.adventureinparadiseinc.com

For places to stay while you’re enjoying Easter on the coast, check out our links at www.beachguide.com.

Apr 14 14

Awesome Gulf Shores Vacation Deals on Condos and Houses

by Renee Taliaferro

Gulf Shores vacation special for April
Vacation guests who book and stay in April with Young’s Suncoast will save up to 35% on stays in a beachfront condo or cottage rental in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach or Fort Morgan. Plan a trip for Easter, the Mullet Toss, Spring Break, or just a weekend getaway. This Gulf Shores vacation deal is good on new reservations only.

Call 800-890-1265 to speak with a reservationist or book online and use Promo Code Awesome35.

Some popular resorts included on this offer are The Lighthouse, San Carlos Condominiums, Boardwalk Condominiums. Or, choose from a large selection of Beach house rentals. In Orange Beach, the special offer includes The Wharf, Pelican Pointe and Summerchase Condominiums.

 

Mar 31 14

The Gulf Coast Welcomes Spring With Food, Wine, Music, and Fun

by S. Lynne
la gumbo festival bowl of gumbo

The Seabreeze Jazz Festival is coming to PCB's Pier Park April 23-27.

With a lineup of events that includes music festivals and food festivals, plus the iconic Flora-Bama’s annual Mullet Toss, folks along the Gulf Coast are gearing up to have fun this spring. Following are some highlights of what’s happening in the next few weeks.

April 5 and 6, Pensacola Beach, 31st annual Pensacola Jazz Fest, 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. both days, Seville Square. Presented by the Jazz Society of Pensacola, the festival celebrates jazz, gospel, and blues. Other activities include an arts and crafts exhibition and hands-on entertainment for the kids. Admission is free. For details, visit www.jazzpensacola.com.

April 23-27, Panama City Beach, 16th annual Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Pier Park. Named one of the top ten jazz festivals in the USA by JazzIZ magazine, the festival features both local talent and nationally and internationally known stars. Among the festival highlights are a dinner cruise on Wednesday, April 23, featuring Brian Culbertson, and a midday cruise the following day with Eric Darius. Both cruises, aboard the luxury yacht Solaris, depart from Lighthouse Marina in Panama City Beach. Hours for the dinner cruise are 7 to 10 p.m., with the boat boarding at 6:30 p.m. The Thursday cruise runs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., with the boat boarding at 10:30 a.m. Tickets are available online at www.seabreezejazzfestival.com or by phone at 800-595-4849.

April 24-27, Destin, South Walton Beaches Wine and Food Festival, Grand Boulevard at Sandestin. The four-day event includes wine and food pairings, wine tastings (more than 800 wines from around the world), craft beer and spirits tastings and food pairings, and live entertainment. Special guests include celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. On Saturday and Sunday, Nashville’s top songwriters will perform their hit songs as part of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Endless Summer Songwriters Series. Tickets, priced from $40 to $150, are available at www.sowalwine.com.

April 25-27, Orange Beach/Perdido Key, annual Flora-Bama Mullet Toss – officially known as “The Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s Greatest Beach Party,” on the beach outside the Flora-Bama Lounge. One of the iconic roadhouse’s most popular events, the Mullet Toss annually raises around $20,000 for local youth charities. It features daily competitions in which participants take turns throwing a frozen mullet across the state line from Alabama into Florida. Participants compete in groups based on age and gender, and prizes are awarded in each group for the longest tosses. The fun starts at noon on Friday and at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The cost to toss a mullet is $15. Related events include the Mullet Man Triathlon, on Saturday, April 19, and the Mullet Swing Golf Classic, on Wednesday, April 23. For more information, visit www.florabama.com.

April 30-May 4, Panama City Beach, 16th annual Thunder Beach Motorcycle Rally, various venues around town, including Boardwalk Beach Resort, Club LaVela, Frank Brown Park, Hammerhead Fred’s Island Grill and Bar, Harley-Davidson of Panama City Beach, Sharky’s Beachfront Restaurant and Tiki Bar, the Shoppes at Edgewater, and Wicked Wheel Bar and Grill. Events include the Kick-Start party, Miss and Ms. Thunder Beach pageants, Best of Thunder Beach Custom Bike Show, the Official Thunder Beach Bike Parade, and the Official Thunder Beach Poker Runs. For details, check out www.thunderbeachproductions.com.

May 9-11, Orange Beach LA Gumbo Festival, The Wharf. It’s LA (Louisiana) versus L.A. (Lower Alabama) gumbo as chefs compete to see whose version is the best. In addition to the gumbo cook-off, events include live entertainment, more food, arts and crafts, and cooking up the world’s largest pot of gumbo. To learn more, call 251-224-1000 or visit www.gumboforlife.com.

May 16-18, Gulf Shores, Hangout 2014 Music Fest, on the beach by the Hangout restaurant. This year’s headliners for what has become one of the most popular music festivals in the country include The Black Keys, The Killers, Outkast, and Jack Johnson. Other artists include Queens of the Stone Age, Pretty Lights, Avett Brothers, Modest Mouse, and The Flaming Lips. Tickets are available at www.hangoutmusicfest.com. The kick-off party, on May 15, requires a separate ticket.

For places to stay, restaurants, and other things to do while you’re at the beach, visit www.BeachGuide.com and click on our links.