Hey-o fellow travelers! 🙂 We’re back from yet another lovely and memorable trip to one of our favorite stops, Gulf Shores, Alabama and oh boy do I have some things to share with you! Before you read any further- this post is going to be a bit TIPS-heavy as opposed to funny/detailed-tales/photos of our travelings/wanderings, as many future posts will be. There, you have been warned.
Full Disclosure: We have been traveling down to the Gulf coast for many years, starting when Jess was a youngster with her own family and continuing semi-to-annually now with extended family and friends. It’s kinda our home-away-from-home. If you know our family, you know this magical, sugary-white strip of sand in the Deep South has a special place in our hearts. If you’re new to our story, read on to find out more about this awesome family-friendly beach destination and look for some tips and tricks-of-the-trade that you can take with you when you make your own trip down South. We <3 Gulf Shores!!!
We get a lot of questions about Gulf Shores from our local/Facebook family and friends who know how much we love our time down there. “How long is the drive?” “Aren’t the mosquitos terrible in Alabama?” “I didn’t know Alabama had a nice beach!” “Where should we stay?” “Where should we eat?” “How’s the weather in Month XYZ?” So…short answers to some of those will be included in this post as well as lots of tips and reviews in the one to come of some of our favorite stops in the area. The short answer to it all though is that if you’re looking for a relaxed, inexpensive but gorgeous beach getaway, Gulf Shores is the place. Or at least one of the places. 😉
From the little midwestern town we call home, the drive down to the sandy Alabama coast is around 16 hours. Yes, 16 hours. Pull it up on your own Google Map though and judge the distance accordingly- I hope not all of you are mapping from our zip code. 🙂 For us it’s pretty darned far- definitely not a casual road trip for a leisurely long weekend. But its oh-so-worth it! We have taken many approaches to the trip down, depending on the travelers in your vehicle and your time allowances, any of these (or something else!) are worth considering. We’ve driven through the night (5pm to appx. 9am), through the day (6am-10pm) and split the drive with stops in Memphis, TN or Tupelo, MS (appx 8 hours each way). They all accomplish the purpose of getting you and your crew to the sea as quickly/painlessly/efficiently as possible. Look for a future post with our tips for fabulously fun (ok sort-of-fun-but-bearable-for-everyone!) road trips with kiddos in tow. 🙂
Ok…so you’ve done the math and bought the gas and put the pedal to the metal…you’ve arrived in Gulf Shores! Now what?!?
Depending on the time of year, the beach probably tops your to-do list, as it does ours. The sand is special here…according to locals its the nicest sand you’ll find on any beach in the continental US. White, sugary, soft, powdery, clean…depending on the time of day HOT, and abundant! The beaches here are wide and the sand is perfect for digging your toes into, doing yoga upon, building sand castles in, playing bocce ball over, running through and tracking into your beach house on the bottoms of your feet. The surf is quite varied depending on the weather and time of year, but our children have never seen a wave they don’t like…from gentle almost snorkle-able tides to boogy-board perfection to wilder, rougher seas, this coast has it and its all a ton of fun. Oh, and if you’re into shelling, there’s shells. Not huge, perfect, amazing shells, but lots of fun variety to hunt for in the “shelling-shuffle” made popular by wonderful Nanas and bucket-toting towheads up and down the shore.
How about the weather? Aren’t there hurricanes? Mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds? Sharks? Sharknados?! Wild Spring-breaking Youths?!? Well, yes and no. 🙂 Of course like any sub-tropical zone there can be some unpredicatablities in the climate and environment, but from our many visits I can surely say that the weather will most likely be quite agreeable (check the monthly averages- it’s not the Caribbean and it does get cooler in the winter and quite hot in the summer) and it is 99% assured that you will not get attacked by a shark, blown away by a hurricane, or harassed by unruly partying young people with dreadlocks. This town is laid-back. Even when the beach is at its busiest its quite mild as far as the Spring-breakers are concerned and there are patrols by the friendly local lawmen/women to keep the scene under control and PG. The oceans is still the ocean but it’s quite safe and mild- sure we’ve stepped on a little stingray or two and a few sharp shells…wear beach socks if you’re worried about your tootsies but please jump right in! They have had hurricanes and tropical storms affect the beauty of the surf from time to time but they’re few and far between and the storms that pop up tend to be short lived and actually quite lovely to watch. Mosquitoes are a legit concern…but bring your bug spray and you’ll be fine. The strong costal breezes keep them far away from the actual beach, and inland they’re bad but not as bad as the backyard ponds here in Mid-western-ville can be so you’ll be fine. Essential oils, DEET, Skin-so-soft…pick your poison and apply away.
All those concerns aside, you should absolutely take your family to the beach. Kids should dip their toes in the ocean then dive headfirst into a giant wave and come up sputtering salty water and squeal with glee and do it all again. Daddies should lug carts full of towels, chairs, bocceballs, umbrellas, goggles, life-jackets and sand-castle-making supplies back and forth to the beach daily with sunburned feet and happy hearts. 🙂 Mommies…you know you want to apply and reapply sunscreen to sandy, complaining, wiggly little bodies only to miss a MILLION spots over the course of the week leaving you full of Mom-guilt both over using the horrid chemical-containing SPF-blockers AND causing painful 2nd-degree burns. Simultaneously. But I’m telling you- the shining, happy, Insat-worthy moments will be there and so so worth it. And the other ones, well, they’ll make good stories to tell on a cold, January day when your kids are all grown up- also worth it.
Now that you’re convinced that the drive isn’t too bad, the weather will be glorious and the beach welcoming, where shall you stay?!? VRBO baby. If your timing/budget allows, a gulf-front-right-on-the-beach property is well worth the extra $$ in convenience when it comes to hauling things back-and-forth from the shores and potty breaks/nap time/lunch time for the littles. Besides there’s nothing like waking up and stepping out on your patio and breathing the fresh salt breezes while you drink your coffee. Worth it. There’s an abundance of condos/houses with those gorgeous views and conveniences- the Beach Club is a favorite if a condo is calling, Southern Grace beach house is our go-to for larger family/friend groups, and there are lots of cute little beach cottages if you have dreams of a cozy ocean-front home on a budget. If you have questions or want help with this, let me know. I’m a recovering vacation-planning addict and would love to help you get started.
That’s all for tonight my friends. Stay tuned for specific reviews on our favorite places to shop, eat, and play at the Alabama Gulf Coast.