Family Fun on the Beaches of Alabama-Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

by Desiree Miller on May 4, 2017

Parasailing with beach and condos in background

We were still packing up the car to leave Gulf Shores, Alabama, on our last vacation, when we started talking about wanting to come back again. Between the nights celebrating sunset, the afternoon spent parasailing over the Gulf of Mexico, and the amazing burgers we devoured two days in a row at The Gulf restaurant (and yes, the Surf’s Up drinks were pretty delicious, too), we had one of those trips you know your children will never forget. And we wanted to do it again as soon as possible.

reflecting pool small

Most people don’t realize the beaches of Alabama make such a great getaway. From the Atlanta area, they instantly think of Destin and Sandestin in Florida.  However, while my pals are all packed onto the shores there, where the beaches are also pretty, they’re fighting for a spot to spread their towel. Meantime, I’m enjoying plenty of room to play on the white sand shores of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. The heron poking around the fisherman nearby seems to agree with me, that this is one fun place to play.

We settled in for three nights in a corner condo unit in the Island Tower in Gulf Shores (press the arrow in the image above to play the video showing the unit). Available through Young’s Suncoast Vacation Rentals, it’s one of many properties you can make your own during your visit to the area. We found last minute reservations can be a real steal if you don’t mind gambling with availability, but if there’s a unit you know you love, as we did with the place where we stayed (views from every bedroom and two walls of windows from the living and dining rooms), you’ll want to book well in advance. And you’ll want to stay as long as possible. The three nights we stayed just weren’t long enough.

stormy weather

We made the most of those three days, despite some stormy weather that happened to hit during our stay. Even the storms were stunning from the view in the condo. And, with the full kitchen in the unit, we spent those ‘rained out’ hours getting creative with our food, making colorful pancakes in random shapes like sunshines and palm trees, then creating our own ‘unicorn bark’ from melted chocolate and food dye. And, after a couple hours, we were back out in the sunshine, splashing in the surf and relaxing on the sand.


You don’t have to dine in the condo, even though you can. There are plenty of fabulous food options around town. We stumbled across something called pizza donuts. The kids loved them, and several cafes in Gulf Shores claimed to be their creator (seriously—the bragging rights were big). I already mentioned the burgers at The Gulf (though their claim to fame is with the fried grouper, for which people wait in long, long lines to buy). I wouldn’t have even cared how the food tasted, though, because I love the vibes of this funky, chic restaurant that sits right on the water at the pass, just at the foot of the bridge. It’s the only restaurant I know of where you can stretch out and kick back on the couch while waiting for your food to be delivered to your table.

beach couch

surfs up drink

We had to enjoy one meal at Fisher’s, too. The downstairs portion is relaxing, while the upstairs restaurant offers a more deluxe experience. We sat right on the water, enjoying the view of the big boats docked nearby. The Shrimp and Grits is my go-to meal there. It’s so good I don’t even want to try the other offerings.


The highlight of the trip was our parasailing adventure, though. This was one of those spur-of-the-moment things that we’re so glad we tried. The kids had never been before, but begged to do it each time we were at the beach. Well, this time we caved.   We actually saw the ‘Chute Em Up Parasailing’ boat drive by while we were still in the condo that morning and placed a call to the number. We reserved our trip out (it helped that they had a special rate running) and showed up at the docks at our assigned time. We boarded with a few other daredevils (the boat holds up to 15 people) and braced for some fun. I went along for the ride (a $25 fee, but worth it to spend an hour on the boat), so I could document the adventure. The crew kept us laughing the entire time, but made it clear safety was their top priority. The trip up included a dip in the Gulf, along with a whole lot of thrills. We celebrated afterwards with one more trip for burgers at The Gulf restaurant, then returned to the condo to relax for the day.

The trip packed in just the right amount of fun and relaxation, but not enough time. Guess that means we just need to make plans to go back soon. I have a feeling you’ll think the same thing after you schedule your own trip down to Alabama’s beaches.


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