When you want a break from lounging on the beach, you'll find plenty of options in Orange Beach and neighboring Gulf Shores.
Of course, there are plenty of businesses that rent equipment for water sports, from diving and snorkeling to kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding. And local captains offer charters for all kinds of fishing – inshore, offshore, saltwater, freshwater, and more, plus sightseeing and dolphin-watching excursions for groups of all ages.
Back on land, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is made up of miles of paved trails through scenic woodlands and wetlands for bikers and hikers. The trails are well marked, so there’s no danger of getting lost, and there are benches set at intervals for relaxing and enjoying the views.
The area is also a golfer’s paradise, with five challenging courses, all within a short drive of each other: There’s Lost Key Golf Club on nearby Perdido Key, as well as Kiva Dunes Golf Club, Peninsula Golf and Racquet Club, Cotton Creek at Craft Farms, and Cypress Bend at Craft Farms, all in Gulf Shores.
There’s fun for the whole family at The Wharf, an Orange Beach shopping and entertainment venue that includes bars and eateries, retail shops, a Ferris wheel, a marina, and a 10,000-seat amphitheater that hosts nationally and internationally known entertainers. (Guest artists in the past have included the Dave Matthews Band, Luke Bryan, Florida-Georgia Line, Three Dog Night, and Jimmy Buffett.)
More family entertainment can be found at Gulf State Park, where facilities include a Zipline course, 18 holes of golf, tennis courts, hiking and biking trails (including part of the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail), a Gulf fishing pier, and a beachfront pavilion.
Also family-friendly and not to be missed is the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo – Animal Planet’s “Little Zoo That Could.” Located only a few blocks from the beach, the zoo offers kids’ camps and other special events as well as its permanent – and adorable – animal exhibits.
Just a short drive away, and perfect for a day’s outing, are historic Fort Morgan, which played at pivotal part in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay; the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile, Bellingrath Gardens and Home, in Theodore, Alabama, near Mobile; and the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola.
Boasting sun-soaked summers and warm winters, Gulf Shores is a cool coastal community that offers vacation fun virtually year-round.
One of the best outdoors events on the Gulf Coast, the National Shrimp Festival promises plenty of fun for all — live entertainment, arts and crafts, and, of course, lots of shrimp.
Did you know that the Gulf Coast offers some of the best fishing in the world? See our guide to learn what's biting month by month.