Planning a trip to Gulf Shores? The resort area is not only one of the most popular family destinations on the Gulf Coast, it’s also a great spot for history buffs, outdoors enthusiasts, food lovers, and sun worshippers. Check out this guide to living your best life on a Gulf Shores vacation.

Getting to Gulf Shores

If you’re planning on driving to Gulf Shores, it’s easily accessible from Atlanta, Nashville, Houston, and New Orleans. The highway is going to be the fastest and most direct route, but travelers with time to spare can get off the main strip, roll the windows down, and take a leisurely drive along the coast. Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway cuts through some of the South’s most picturesque stretches of land, and offers the opportunity to stop off at some bodacious BBQ restaurants, charming downtowns, and historic sites.

gulf shores beaches

Gulf Shores’ Beaches

Flying to Gulf Shores is also possible, although not quite as convenient, as travelers can book a flight to Mobile Regional Airport, which is about 70 miles from Gulf Shores, or Pensacola International Airport, which is about 40 miles away. In either case, renting a car at the airport is highly recommended, although a shuttle service is available from Pensacola.

Once you’re in Gulf Shores, you’ll find it much easier to explore the region if you have a car, especially if you want to get out and about on the golf courses, take a journey to Orange Beach, or step back in time at Fort Morgan.

Where to Stay at Gulf Shores

As the Gulf Coast’s most popular resort, Gulf Shores has a wide range of accommodations to suit your needs, although the vibe definitely trends towards casual and family-friendly. Staybridge Suites Gulf Shores is a great choice for visitors wanting to stretch out in the extra space, swim a few laps in the outdoor pool, and be within a stone’s throw of shopping, dining, and the beach.

gulf shores boardwalk

Gulf Shores Boardwalk

If you’re wondering where to stay at Gulf Shores, and want something with all the trimmings, check out the Perdido Beach Resort, a breezy property with a private white-sand beach. Not only is it conveniently located near some of the area’s more noteworthy attractions, it offers 4 on-site restaurants and bars, as well as tennis courts and an outdoor pool: perfect for a family looking to relax without having to do a lot of driving.

gulf shores alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama

There’s also a range of vacation houses and condos that can fit large groups or the whole extended family, from intimate 2-bedroom units in lively Orange Beach to spacious 6-bedroom homes, such as Laguna Sunrise in picturesque Fort Morgan. If you want to be right on the Gulf you’ll find plenty of properties with direct beach access, while others provide free beach shuttle service.

What to do at Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores offers 32 miles of powdery white-quartz beaches lapped by turquoise waters, and there’s a wide range of water-based activities for thrill-seekers, including jetskiing, parasailing, windsurfing, and kayaking. Its Gulf of Mexico locale also provides some of the best fishing in the South, and anglers can cast a line from the Gulf State Park Pier, or head out to deep waters and hunt for giant grouper on a chartered fishing trip. Cyclists, meanwhile, can explore maritime forests and hardwood swamps with a biking trip around the Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trail, a sprawling network of trails running through 6180-acre Gulf State Park.

That’s not to say Gulf Shores only caters to sports enthusiasts or doesn’t know how to relax – there’s a Sandcastle University, after all – and it’s a great spot to spend easy-going days just dipping your toes in the warm waters, sunbathing on the sands, unwinding with sunrise yoga sessions, or snapping some wildlife pics on the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. If you’re interested in the area’s history, make sure to stop by USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park on Mobile Bay, or if you want to get acquainted with the region’s natural beauty, book a Segway tour in Gulf State Park or a whale-watching cruise around Orange Beach.

gulf shores wildlife

Gulf Shores Wildlife

Dining in Gulf Shores

If you’re a lover of fresh seafood, then you’ll be in nirvana at Gulf Shores. The area is peppered with a range of restaurants serving fresh-off-the-boat oysters and crab, as well as a collection of cantinas offering sizzling fajitas, breezy bars slinging shrimp po’ boys and grits, and down-home diners dishing out ‘bananas in pajamas’ (fried bananas with fosters sauce).

The eclectic selection of restaurants reflects the Gulf of Mexico’s diverse influences, and you can dine on a different global dish daily. For a classic New Orleans meal, hit the Ruby Slipper, a laid-back venue offering Chantilly cream pancakes, catfish and grits, and boozy brandy milk punch. Tacky Jacks, meanwhile, is a local landmark serving tasty lunches of blackened gator bites, mahi mahi tacos, and peanut butter pie. For dinner, pull up a chair at Luna’s Eat and Drink, an intimate restaurant that puts a unique coastal spin on classic Southern fare.

With miles of white beaches, a diverse dining scene, and activities for the whole family, Gulf Shores promises an epic getaway. Book your Gulf Shores vacation on Expedia today!