Orange Beach is Alabama’s coastal community juxtaposing the Gulf of Mexico. A bustling destination for spring breakers and summer vacationers, this family beach retreat is also perfect in the more affordable shoulder season (the spring and bookends to summer). Known for blue-green waters that rush upon soft, white-sand beaches, Orange Beach presents a myriad of accommodations, an amazing culinary scene, adventure and water recreation.
A one tank trip for Atlanta residents, Orange Beach and neighboring Gulf Shores, occupy the same route from the central area of the Peach State: I-85 to I-65 and then over to AL59 for a straight shot to the beach! This ultimate family beach vacation guide will take you from pillar to post without missing a beat so you can plan ahead and enjoy your trip.
Must-See Attractions in Orange Beach
Adventure Island gives your family all the thrills and fun rides you’d expect from such a name! Experience a competitive round of mini-golf, ride go-karts and paddle boats, play laser tag and hit up the arcade! (NOTE: there is a printable coupon on their web site.)
Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach offers a great rainy day venue with educational and interactive arts and culture. Visit the gallery, the Hot Shop and the Clay Studio (where you can see a demonstration or take a class). Pick out a piece of art work or make your own!
Orange Beach Helicopters is an adrenaline-filled adventure that also grants a birds-eye view of the area. Choose from several different types and lengths of tours starting at $50pp. Do you love sea life? Choose the Sea Life Tour that zeros in on sea creatures and fish specifically! There’s a tour for everyone and every budget!
The Wharf is one of this seaside community’s most happening spots offering tons of unique shopping, entertainment, dining, a marina (with watersports outfitter) and an amphitheater where headliners are quite the draw. A little town of its own, The Wharf is designed to park your car and walk or bike around. Bring your sticks and hit the golf course, spend time on the water with a chartered boat excursion, check out hammock island by the pool (my favorite hangout) and whatever you do, don’t miss the Ferris Wheel with fantastic aerial views of the Orange Beach area. Rainy day? No worries. Take in a movie, shop til you drop and enjoy your stay right on property at a luxury condo or hotel room.
Adventurous Fun in Orange Beach
Cetacean Cruises is such a relaxed and fun outing with a delightful crew who has named all the dolphins (according to fin markings mostly) that you’ll see on a dolphin cruise and you can track them in an onboard photo album. With two boats, Cetacean Cruises offers different tours so choose what suits your family!
Orange Beach Disc Golf can be played by folks of all ages and is similar to golf, but using a Frisbee instead of a golf ball. Have some fun and get some exercise playing disc golf.
Orange Beach Pirate Ship grants families a chance to relax and become pirates for a time! You may have seen Orange Beach Pirate Ship on the Travel Channel where it was featured not long ago. If so, then you have already seen what fun is offered. If not, then listen up! Board the American Star ship for adventure on Terry Cove. Help defend the ship in an epic gun battle, but also be prepared for all-out family fun! There will be face painting, pirate stories, games, songs and treasure! This two-hour sail includes free soft drinks and you can find a coupon on their web site!
Perdido Beach Services does so much more than providing beach chairs, umbrellas and so forth. With services available at various points in Orange Beach, the company will arrange your parasailing adventure and they offer surfing lessons! Even your little ones can learn how to surf – in fact, they may learn more quickly than you!
Sail Wild Hearts is one of Orange Beach’s prized sailing vessels offering lots of different types of tours, excursions and cruises. You can basically find one that suits your personality and book it! Choices include fun options such as: snorkeling, kayaking, swimming, family adventure, sunset cruises, dolphin adventures and a crowd favorite, the Dolphins & Blue Angels Sail where guests get up close and personal with Blue Angels practice flights right over the Pensacola Lighthouse. Breakfast is provided on this particular sailing and it is sure to be something you will remember for a lifetime. Wild Hearts, a 53-foot catamaran sailboat, was built in St. Croix USVI and demonstrates excellent craftsmanship. Her sunset sails are among my favorites in Orange Beach.
Water Warrior offers stand up paddleboarding (SUP) lessons to get your family engaged in one of the fastest growing water sports trending across the world! You can also learn about the Orange Beach ecosystem with a Water Warrior eco tour as well as other excursions from the company with the only ACA instructor in the area.
Outdoor and Nature Lovers in Orange Beach
Fishing is a given for those looking for outdoor activity and getting back to nature. Orange Beach has many places to charter fishing boats and take deep sea fishing excursions including: Jamie G Charters, Captain Johnny Greene’s Intimidator Charters, High Cotton Charters and many more that may be found on the web site for Gulf Shores/Orange Beach. Keep in mind that while you do not need a fishing license onboard a charter, you will need one to fish off of a pier or otherwise. Particulars are available on the web site under fishing information.
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail runs through parts of Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and the Gulf State Park. It is an intricate design of some seven trails that observe six different ecosystems spanning over 15 miles. You can read more about this complex, the Gulf State Park and great eco tours in the best beach vacation guide.
Orange Beach Waterfront Park is a nice place for walking, fishing on the 400-foot pier, picnicking under covered pavilions (they even have grills) and letting the kids play in the park. There are onsite restrooms, and pets are welcome, but please clean up after them. Waterfront Park, open year round to the public, is ideally located on scenic Wolf Bay.
Pampering Spas in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores
Fusion Spa is a full-service Aveda salon and spa with a plethora of services from mani/pedis to waxing and nails, hair services and massages. Located at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Fusion has a beautiful interior and is definitely a pampering option for folks needing some rejuvenation and makes for a lovely rainy day treat!
The Spa at the Beach Club is a resort-style spa with full-service amenities. This spa is part of the beautiful Beach Club on the Fort Morgan Peninsula in closeby Gulf Shores. Enjoy all sorts of body treatments like my favorites: the Hot Stone Massage and the Island Breeze Facial. Additionally, they offer hair and nail services along with a fabulous relaxation room complete with a whirlpool and complimentary mimosas.
Dining Options in Orange Beach
Here are some of our favorite places to eat, but we also have a full list of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores restaurants. Check it out too.
Best Waterfront Dining
Cobalt, The Restaurant offers contemporary coastal cuisine in an awesome setting right underneath the Perdido Bay Bridge. With water focals and outdoor heaters, you can dine outside year round comfortably enjoying the incredible views of the bay. Renowned chefs prepare authentic dishes soon to be your favorites like: Firecracker Shrimp (crowd-pleasing appetizer), Gulf Shrimp & Grits, Pecan Fried Catfish, Delmonico Ribeye (with a delicious Cobalt bourbon steak sauce) and the fresh catch of the day (always my pick). And, by the way, they have other culinary delights such as oysters, burgers, Stone Hearth Pizzas, salads and sandwiches. Save room for a scrumptious dessert if you can decide which one! My family has two favorites: the Banana Pudding and the Vanilla Bean Crème Brulee. Please note that Cobalt, The Restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner with a Sunday Brunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Also, Voyagers, the upscale restaurant located inside of Perdido Beach Resort, has lovely entrees prepared by award-winning executive chef Brody Olive. Enjoy more than a gulf view at Voyagers where dishes are prepared and plated to tease the taste buds. Choose from sustainable seafood creations that are accompanied by locally sourced vegetables and taste the difference that farm-to-table makes. My favorite is the grouper, but it is important to note that the menu changes seasonally. There’s almost always a good grilled grouper on the menu however. As a past Wine Spectator Award of Excellence Winner, you can pair your food selection with the perfect vino as the choices at Voyagers are many. Special occasions are often celebrated here so keep that in mind if you are in the area for a birthday, anniversary or anything special!
Best Family-Friendly Dining
Tacky Jack’s on the water in Orange Beach couldn’t be more perfect for families! With outdoor dining, a laid back atmosphere and kid-friendly foods, Tacky Jack’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. I love their appetizers and could make a meal off of the Gator Bites and the Smoked Tuna Dip. Burgers and Po’ Boys make ideal lunches and traditional seafood (Grilled Mahi Mahi and the Crab Cake Dinner are great!), chicken or steak entrees are so good for your evening meal. Take time to walk through the award-winning gift shop before or after your meal!
Also, for family-friendly selections, Doc’s Seafood Shack & Oyster Bar is a good choice. Kids are welcome in this relaxed restaurant where gumbo, oysters and seafood platters rule! Kids can pick from their favorites, and Doc’s will cook your fresh catch for you! There aren’t a lot of places that will do that. Doc’s is open for lunch and dinner daily. Wear your flip flops and eat where the locals do!
Weekends are made for brunch, don’t you agree? And in Orange Beach, Bill’s by the Beach cannot be beat for a weekend brunch (Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). With gulf views, Bill’s has an incredible brunch menu…not just a standard buffet of eggs and waffles like others offer. The menu is sprinkled with so many tempting and tasty creations that you’ll want to try them all and because they are affordably priced, you can! Banana Fosters Pancake Breakfast is my hands-down favorite and includes three pancakes, bananas, Nutella, fosters sauce, cream cheese and powdered sugar PLUS bacon or sausage! They also offer a Breakfast Burger (1/2 pound of beef with eggs and breakfast potatoes) that looks mighty tasty! The kiddos have their own little brunch menu (for around $4) and did I mention brunch also comes with $2 mimosas? I would be remiss if I didn’t mention what a divine dinner they serve at Bill’s as well. Amazing farm-to-table entrees with a fresh catch choice daily and a lovely wine selection.
There is also a great breakfast nook I’ve found at The Wharf called The Southern Grind Coffee House. Freshly brewed coffees and such start your day with a bang and are great with breakfast dishes like the Strawberry Belgian Waffle. Also, choose from fresh fruit, bagels or biscuits to round out the breakfast menu. This cute little coffee shop also serves lunch and dinner, and offers free WIFI in an eclectic setting.
Best Places for Cocktails
The Flora-Bama Lounge is not only famous for the Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast’s greatest beach party, but also an American roadhouse where friends meet, order drinks and watch the sun set. The Flora-Bama straddles the Alabama-Florida state line creating conversation just with its very name. Enjoy live music, favorite cocktails and a good time.
Happy hour at Ginny Lane Bar & Grill is everyday 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with $2 domestic bottles, $3 house wine, $5 draft wine and $3.50 well drinks. Also, Ginny Lane offers a daily drink special along with a penny cocktail (one per person please)! Located at The Wharf, Ginny Lane also serves some pretty yummy food in a sophisticated environment. This is such a good choice for pretty cocktails.
Festivals Worth the Drive
Orange Beach Art Festival has been held in the spring for more than 40 years. The location on Wolf Bay guarantees a spectacular backdrop as folks celebrate the arts (visual, performing, musical and culinary). The art festival is FREE but the parking shuttle from The Wharf to the festival is about $5. Take the little ones and visit the Art Alley for Kids with fun activities like: t-shirts, bug jars, clay art, sand in a bottle and more!
Orange Beach Wine Festival is every year in May and highlights the area’s best in wine, food, music and craft beer. Take a boat tour of the area, hear live music and taste the traditions of local restaurants like Cobalt and Sunset Corkroom, just to name a couple. Advance ticket purchases save you a little money and get you a souvenir wine glass and a wine bag. Spend some time looking at the vendor area and just take it all in. This festival is one of the area’s most prized tickets.
The Wharf Uncorked Food & Wine Festival is an annual event supporting Make-A-Wish® Alabama – an organization that grants wishes to Alabama children with life-threatening medical illnesses. For this three-day extravaganza, Main Street at The Wharf is all dressed up and looking good with twinkling lights, food tents and live entertainment. Southern charm is at its best for this wonderful cause. Purchase nice wines, and don’t miss the silent auction and the Chef Table Raffle. Mark your calendar now for this yearly event – a long weekend affair in September.
Where to Stay
Orange Beach is packed full of wonderful lodging and accommodations. Depending on your wants and needs, you can choose from campgrounds at Gulf State Park which serve both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach communities, a quality hotel or a family-friendly condominium.
The crown jewel of Orange Beach is Turquoise Place, a gorgeous luxury resort right on the beach. You’ll spot it easily thanks to the striking turquoise glass towers rising up more than 20 stories in the air. In close proximity to restaurants, shopping and attractions, Turquoise Place offers spacious three-, four- and five-bedroom units with fully-appointed kitchens and modern décor. Each individual unit has a balcony with a gulf view, a gourmet grilling station and a hot tub. Balcony dining is one of my family’s favorite ways to eat at Turquoise Place. There is nothing like the gentle sound of the waves hitting the beach while you’re popping shrimp right off the grill onto your plate. Amenities include a lazy river, indoor and outdoor pools (including a kiddie pool), steam rooms and saunas, a fitness center, tennis courts, a playground, games (beach volleyball, life-size checkers and cornhole) and more! If you think it’s too expensive, let me say this: the rooms are SPACIOUS! Get a couple of families together, eat a few meals in the condo and split the cost. It is so worth the difference to stay at Turquoise Place.
Caribe Resort is a great family resort with tons of amenities and room choices. They offer more than 40,000 square feet of pool areas, a lazy river, tennis courts, saunas and steam rooms, a game room, fitness center, gift shop, deli and more! They are just across the way from the beach, but they have a path to follow for easiest access. Two- and three-bedroom units have lots of room to spread out. Two big pluses are: Cobalt, The Restaurant is located right next door so mealtime is just steps away; and Caribe Marina and Watersports is also next door. Walk outside and pick out a water toy, rent a boat or a jet ski. Choose your pleasure!
Perdido Beach Resort offers luxury hotel accommodations on the Gulf of Mexico featuring more than 300 upscale guestrooms. Enjoy a private balcony, indoor/outdoor pool facilities, a fitness center, tennis courts and several onsite restaurants ranging from a poolside deli to a fancy high-end dinner restaurant. There is no extra fee for things like valet parking and WIFI, and no resort fees! Live music poolside is another amenity that is thoughtful and fun! Perdido Beach Resort is a full-service hotel with daily cleaning service and modern rooms. Meeting space is also available for your next business getaway! Check their web site often for various specials running throughout the year.
Hampton Inn & Suites Orange Beach is situated right on the beach and offers the best in Orange Beach hotels. The staff is friendly, the rooms are clean and the amenities are all in place for a fun vacation. I love the tropical-themed outdoor area with a zero-entry pool, hot tub and direct beach access. A big bonus (in my book) is the FREE breakfast every morning. It’s a full-service meal, not a continental breakfast, with lots of choices so you can fuel up for your active day.
To see all choices for lodging in the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach communities, check out the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach web site for more information and additional suggestions.
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