Picture-perfect beaches and clear Gulf waters are the jewels in the Alabama Gulf coast’s crown. They draw tourists from all over the country, and their allure cannot be underestimated. From the serenity of Dauphin Island to great spots to people-watch and paraglide in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, travelers of all types can find a spot just right for them.
Many of the resort hotels and condominiums along the coast have private access beaches, but public beaches are plentiful. Check out Florida Point, Cotton Bayou and Romar Beach in Gulf State Park (east of Gulf Shores on Highway 135). Or head to Gulf Shores Public Beach (at the end of Highway 59 in Gulf Shores) to mix and mingle with other beachgoers and serve up a game of beach volleyball.
Visitors who prefer to be in the water (or above it) instead of lounging on the sand will find many water-sport rental companies in the area. ABC Parasail in Orange Beach and Dauphin Island Kayak Rentals and Tours are just two examples. ABC Parasail (27555 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach) departs from Outcast Marina and takes customers on an 800-foot trip above the Gulf of Mexico. For more information, call 251.981.8877 or click on www.abcparasail.com.
Dauphin Island Kayak Rentals (703 LeMoyne Dr., Dauphin Island; 251.422.5285) rents kayaks and leads tours through area waters providing customers a fun way to see the island and area wildlife from a different perspective. For more information, click on www.dauphinisland.us/kayak.html.
For a complete listing of Jet Ski, WaveRunner, kayak and parasailing companies, contact the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.gulfshores.com or 800.745.SAND. The visitors bureau can also provide a complete list of more than 100 charter boat companies that lead deep-sea fishing excursions and dolphin cruises in the gulf.
Just up the road in Spanish Fort, Ala. is an outdoor recreation facility called Five Rivers — Alabama’s Delta Resource Center. Visitors can learn about conservation efforts in the Mobile Bay area, as well as take boat cruises up the rivers or launch kayaking and canoe trips there. Canoe and kayak rentals, along with other outdoor equipment, are available there. (30945 Fiver Rivers Blvd., Spanish Fort, Ala. 36527; www.alabamafiverivers.com or 251. 625.0814)
Travelers who prefer more “golf” to “gulf” in their getaway will find 16 beautiful golf courses packed into the small Alabama coastal area. Nine of those signature courses can be found at golf.gulfshores.com or by calling the Gulf Shores Golf Association at 251.968.1270 and 888.815.1902. Other great courses in the area include: Perdido Bay Golf Club across the state line in Perdido Key, Fla. (www.perdidobaygolf.com or 866.319.2471); Quail Creek Golf Course owned by the city of Fairhope, Ala. (888.701.2202 or www.cofairhope.com/golf.html); The Golf Club at the Wharf in Gulf Shores (877.942.7325 or www.thewharfal.com); Gulf Links Golf Course in Foley, Ala. (251.970.1444 or www.gulflinksgolfcourse.com); Gulf State Park Golf Course (www.alapark.com or 251.948.4653); Magnolia Springs Par 3 Golf in Magnolia Springs, Ala. (9 holes; www.magnoliaspringsgolf.com or 251.965.4653); and Orange Beach Golf Center and Driving Range (www.orangebeachgolfcenter.com or 251.981.GOLF).
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge (12295 Highway 180, Gulf Shores, Ala. 36542) is open from sunrise to sunset and has miles of hiking trails and beach access. For more information, contact www.bonsecour.fws.gov or 251.540.7720. Gulf State Park (20115 Highway 135 in Gulf Shores) is a 6,500-acre wonderland with 2.5 miles of beach, a fresh water lake, nature trails and a beach pavilion. For more information, go to www.alapark.com or call 251.948.7275.