Southern hospitality is alive and well in Orange Beach, a thriving community on the Alabama Gulf Coast. When it comes to welcoming visitors, this tiny town (its permanent population is only about 5,000) scores big, with luxurious accommodations
delicious dining, and shops selling everything from souvenirs to fine art.
Lazing on the white-sand beaches has to be the most popular pastime in Orange Beach. Visitors looking for a little more action won't be disappointed, though. More energetic activities range from deep-sea fishing and just about every other kind of water sport to shopping in the area's many stores and outlet malls.
In nearby Gulf Shores, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge offers a walk on the wild side, with hiking trails through scrub forests, marshes and swampland to the dunes and beach. Local charter captains also provide boat tours of the area's bays, bayous, and marshes, all of which teem with wildlife. At the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, interactive exhibits showcase the aquatic animal and plant life of Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast region. And to enjoy a truly unspoiled stretch of beach, head down the highway to Perdido Key and Gulf Island National Seashore. Along the shoreline, the park is home to an astonishing variety of marine life, and its woods and wetlands hold a diverse population of plants and animals.
Journeys into the past are as close as Fort Gaines, on Dauphin Island, and Fort Morgan, in Gulf Shores. Fort Morgan, which guards the main channel into Mobile Bay, was part of a major naval battle during the Civil War.
Just a short drive inland are the picturesque towns of Fairhope and Magnolia Springs. Founded more than 100 years ago, Fairhope is best known for its lovely parks, moss-draped live oaks, and spectacular views of Mobile Bay. It also offers a sophisticated mix of shops, boutiques, cafes and art galleries. Tree-shaded streets, gracious homes, and well-tended gardens give Magnolia Springs its special charm. Originally developed from a Spanish land grant in 1800, the town boasts natural springs once dubbed “the purest in the world.”
Mild temperatures and lots of sunny days make Orange Beach an ideal spot for a getaway any time of the year. It also hosts special events throughout the year, including the annual Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival, a 10-day musical celebration held each November, and August's Thunder on the Gulf powerboat races. Just down the road in Gulf Shores, the National Shrimp Festival celebrates its 37th year this October.