Tennessee and Alabama may be foes on the football field, but there’s lots to love about an Alabama beach vacation. Located along the Gulf of Mexico, Bama beaches offer white sands and warm, brilliant blue waters. Those features and more make this stretch of shoreline a perfect backdrop for a family vacation. Whether you’re looking for a tranquil escape or a jam-packed trip, Alabama beaches can offer you both. While Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are popular destinations (for good reason!), there are other gems to be discovered, too.
Dauphin Island—This laid back island with picturesque views of Mobile Bay is a perfect fit for families. Dauphin is known for its clear water and stunning beaches, but there’s much more than sand and surf. Visitors can’t miss the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the Alabama Aquarium. Its interactive exhibits will keep little minds and hands busy while teaching them about one of the largest estuary systems in the United States. A ferry ride to Fort Morgan should be on your itinerary too. It’s a practical mode of transportation but it’s so much more. The 40-minute ride gives passengers a chance to view birds, sea life and other boats and ships. Plus, you get to see wonderful views of two historic forts. At the end of the day, you can kick off your flip flops at accommodations ranging from a campground and RV park to charming bed and breakfasts to more traditional beach resorts.
Fairhope—This charming town offers something for people of all ages making it a great spot for a multi-generational beach vacation. Start your trip by dipping your toes in the water at North Beach Park. Then check out Fairhope Pier. It’s considered the town square with picnic areas, a rose garden, restaurant, marina and a charming duck pond. Panini Pete’s is a great spot to grab lunch for families. It’s been featured on the Food Network and the muffaletta is on the “100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die” list. Pick up some tasty souvenirs to bring home from B & B Pecan Co. The family-owned business has been operating since 1956. Stay in one of the unique accommodations in Fairhope including a farm, a charming bed and breakfast like Emma’s BayHouse or the historic Grand Hotel.
Gulf Shores—Sugar white sandy beaches keep beckoning people back to this classic Alabama gulf beach. It’s popular with people from East Tennessee and is a seven-to-eight-hour drive from the Knoxville area. There’s no question the surf and sand are the main attraction in Gulf Shores, but there is so much more for families to do. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is fun and affordable. The zoo was made famous by Animal Planet’s show “The Little Zoo That Could.” Gulf State Park is another gem. Not only is there a beautiful public beach, but there is also walking, hiking and biking trails and a great nature center. Eat lots of seafood while you’re in Gulf Shore, but also visit the folksy and fun Lambert’s Café. It’s “home of the throwed rolls,” so be ready to play catch!
Orange Beach—The quieter cousin to Gulf Shores, you’ll still find the fine white sand and warm blue waters of the Gulf. It’s for those reasons families love Orange Beach. You’ll also find lots to do here. The Wharf is a great destination for day or night. There is shopping, dining, entertainment including a giant Ferris wheel. The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is a good pick for active families. There are 28-miles of paved trails. Whether you are on foot or bike, expect to see dunes, forests and wildlife. When you’re ready to relax, head out to dinner at The Gulf. Enjoy locally inspired food with your toes in the sand and a beautiful waterfront view. Kids can play and you can sip one of the delicious concoctions from the bar. For “the best fried shrimp in the civilized world” and much more, head over to Doc’s Seafood. It’s been around since 1984 serving up seafood and memories to the families that keep coming back to this Gulf Coast jewel.