Exploring the Gulf Coast Beaches – Pensacola to Orange Beach

The plane landed in Pensacola, Florida and I was in the Florida Pan Handle for the first time. My next stop, the reason for my visit, were the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. I wanted to learn more about Pensacola, to spend more time in the Florida gulf coast city, but we decided to cross the border and head to the gulf shores of Alabama.

the view of Orange Beach from the Tidewater on the gulf coast in Alabama
Yes, Alabama has beaches, yet its sixty miles of coastline essentially remain an American secret.

The Gulf

The drive from Pensacola to the Alabama provided lovely views. After passing the famed Flor-bama Lounge we pulled in to The Gulf restaurant for lunch before heading to our rental.

the view from the Gulf Restaurant in Orange Beach

Orange Beach, Alabama

Just steps from the condo, the Tidewater, you can walk across the dunes via a boardwalk and walk on soft, sugar white sand. I took my flip-flops, a beer and my camera to watch the surfers ride the day’s last waves before the Alabama sunset on the gulf.

the condos line the beach in Orange Beach, Alabama

plenty of places to stay in Orange Beach

walking out to the beach in orange beach, alabama

the sun is starting to set

surfer under moonlight on the gulf coast of alabama in orange beach

surfer walks off after catching a few waves

What about the BP Oil Spill?

I saw nothing; no tar, no clean up propaganda, nothing. Sure, it has been a few years, but I was told the Gulf Shores area of Alabama were not hit “hard” when it happened compared to other regions.  Overall, the beaches, fish and animal life are recovering well and Alabama had a record year in tourism.

orange shell from orange beach

beach seemed extremely healthy

How to get to Gulf Coast and Pan Handle?

If you are not a local and driving, Pensacola is the main airport. From there driving takes about an hour to Orange Beach, Al.

Why go to this part of the  Gulf Coast?

It’s a unique slice of American pie. It’s a great destination for families, caters to repeat seasonal travelers, and a wonderful place to explore and learn about a part of the United States you may not know (I didn’t). Plus, the sand is incredibly soft, the beach is a great party draw and the people are very friendly (southern hospitality).

Travel Tips

1) Definitely hit the Flor-Bama Lounge (although hardly a lounge) in orange Beach for a beer. It’s a legendary place.

2) Also, stop by Beach Bike Rentals and take a bike into the adjacent park for an afternoon of discovery. It’s a cheap way to enjoy a few hours away from the beach in Orange Beach

the Bike Rental place on the Gulf Shores of Alabama

the owner is quite a character... aren't we all characters from New York

Next time I plan to spend more time on the Florida side… Yes, I’ll be back.

Stay adventurous, Craig

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  • maryann

    It looks cold there. Was it off season? There is no one on the beach.

    • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ craig zabransky

      It wasn’t “cold,” but it wasn’t warm… definitely sweatshirt weather. I went in mid November and enjoyed the tranquility of the “off season.”

      stay adventurous, Craig

  • Sean Workman

    Wow, these beaches are very cool and empty; I should go here next mid November ..

  • TripsByLance

    Growing up in the South, I’ve been to the “Coast” too many times to count. I’ve visited Gulf Shores and Orange Beach several times. We’ve probably visited the Florida Panhandle communities of Panama City Beach and Destin more, but Orange Beach is really growing as a popular destination. Gulf Shores also has been changing in the past several years. The trend with all the Gulf Coast communities over the past 20 years, at least in my experience, is that a hurricane damages older properties and then they are replaced with newer condos and restaurants. Gulf Shores has changed a lot since I visited while in college in the 90s.

    • http://www.stayadventurous.com/ craig zabransky

      Lance, I was surprised how much sand and actual “beach” existed before the beachfront condos… it was a long walk compared to the east coast beaches of the states that I know… that was special.

      Also, one place I learned that was rebuilt the same after a hurricane (they even used the same wood when possible) was the Flor-Bama Lounge… not sure that place has changed much in 20 years and I tend to think that is for the better. Stay a Gulf Coaster, Craig