Consider a group escape to the sun-kissed beaches of Alabama
There’s something pretty appealing about going out onto your beach house balcony with a morning cup of coffee and watching Gulf of Mexico waters gently lap the wide expanses of white sand. With 32 miles of beaches extending from the Florida border to the western tip of Gulf Shores, Alabama’s coast provides the perfect getaway for girlfriends looking to reconnect in no-pressure surroundings.
While the beach is the biggest asset in the twin communities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, the area also offers plenty of chances to shop, sightsee, exercise and indulge in some of the best seafood in America. Your first impression might be the friendly locals or perhaps the lack of chain stores and restaurants. You’ll also notice the condominium towers, some rising as high as 30 stories above the beach.
A rental condo or beach house, with multiple bedrooms and amenities like full kitchens and washer-dryers, makes an ideal hideaway for a group of ladies. Condo towers predominate in Orange Beach, while Gulf Shores abounds with beach houses, especially at its western end. Some vacation homes can sleep more than 20.
Your group might choose to stay at or visit The Wharf, an upscale community whose palm-lined Main Street abounds with clothing boutiques, gift shops, spas, bars and eateries right outside the door of the condo block where your balcony overlooks the Intra-coastal Waterway. Stop in for ice cream or candy at the Sugar Shack or get a caffeine pick-me-up at Southern Grind Coffee House. Easily identified by its 112-foot-tall Ferris wheel (the tallest in the Southeast), this self-contained village in Orange Beach also has a cinema, mini-golf course and an amphitheater that attracts big-name acts. Dolphin-watching cruises leave from The Wharf’s marina, and there’s a water park complete with a wave pool, lazy river, hammocks and hot tub. For more shopping, try Tanger Outlets in Foley, a 20-minute drive from Gulf Shores.
If your group of girls wants to commune with nature and work up an appetite at the same time, consider a hike along the palmetto-lined paths through maritime pine forest in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, keeping an eye out for herons, pelicans, osprey and 300-some other migratory bird species. Active groups also might want to go zip-lining or biking in Gulf State Park, kayaking on the Bon Secour River or stand-up paddleboarding. Or how about yoga on the beach—Glow Yoga will come to your condo or beach house and lead a class for your group.
If you’re looking for a place to have a drink and drink in some local color at the same time, a must is Flora-Bama Lounge, Package & Oyster Bar, located right on the Alabama-Florida border. Have its signature, rum-based Bushwhacker, look over the graffiti and bizarre memorabilia, and listen to music at this classic beach bar and roadhouse. Across the street at the Flora-Bama Yacht Club, enjoy “five-star, flip-flop dining,” starting with the crab and parmesan hash puppies, deep-fried hash browns served with chipotle-bacon ranch dressing. Besides fresh fish, Orange Beach-Gulf Shores restaurants take pride in their steamed royal reds, a cold-water shrimp from deep Gulf waters. With a deep red color and sweet, delicate texture, royal reds are often served “peel and eat” with melted butter, corn on the cob and potatoes.
For information on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, visit orangebeach.com and gulfshores.com.
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