Things to do, Places to Go...
If you get tired (!??!) of lying on the beach or relaxing on the balcony, there is lots to do in and around Gulf Shores. This link (http://gulfshores.com) is a good starting point. It has a ton of information about the area attractions. There's Golf, Fishing Boat Charters, Parasailing, Ski-do rentals, Canoe and Kayak Trips, plus dozens of fabulous restaurants.
A few things that are NOT mentioned on the site, however, are:
Golf - Click here for a list of all the area golf courses
Buy Your Own Condo - Try this site for listings. If you manage your own rentals (like we do), you can actually "break even". Be aware, though that it takes a fair level of committment and work to be a successful "beach landlord". If you are considering buying, call me for an objective and realistic report; we've owned for 15 years and seen it all.
The Tanger Center - Outlet Mall in Foley - You saw it on your way into Gulf Shores on Rt. 59 and it is a wonderful mall. Bad news: you'll spend at least $200. Good news: you'll get stuff worth twice that. There's no way you're not going to visit. It's far less crowded when it's a "good beach day".
Fort Morgan - Go north on 59 to the second stoplight and follow the signs to Fort Morgan. It is a restored fort that once guarded the mouth of Mobile Bay. Worth the trip.
Dauphin Island by Car Ferry - From Fort Morgan, take a car ferry across the mouth of the Bay, then drive over the giant bridge that connects the mainland to the island and do a little exploring. The ferry trip is well worth the price.
The Battleship Alabama - Moored in Mobile Bay, the self-guided tour takes anywhere from an hour to three hours, depending on your level of interest. Take 59 north to I-10. West on I-10 across the bridge and you can't miss it on your left. It's a Battleship, after all. And as long as you are this far, after the Battleship, take I-10 to the Bankhead tunnel and visit Old Mobile. The historic district is just off Government Street as you emerge from the tunnel.
Gulf Shores State Park - Just east about 3 miles on Beach Boulevard, the State park is a wonderful place to hike about and look for birds and other wildlife. Bring your binoculars.
Pensacola Naval Air Museum - If you flew into Pensacola, be sure to stop by the Naval Air Museum before you go home. If you like airplanes, allow a couple of hours, at least. MAP.
New Orleans French Quarter - Is tomorrow going to be cloudy and you're just about "beached out"? Get up early and drive to New Orleans. It is about 2-1/2 hours away (east on I-10) and you can spend the whole day there and be back for the evening. New Orleans is one of the most enjoyable citys in the world. The French Quarter was mercifully untouched by Hurricane Ivan and is as vibrant as ever. Recommending a restaurant in New Orleans is ridiculous. Each is better than the next.
Our List of Favorites...
Two Great Restaurants: Cosmo's is our favorite all-around restaurant with every choice on the menu being excellent. During the summer months, go for dinner no later than 4:45 or you'll wait an hour for a table. The Original Oyster House on Rt. 59 is ever-popular. If you don't want to wait for a table there, you'll have to go at about 3:00. Everything is good at the Original Oyster House.
Really Good Seafood Gumbo: Mikee's Restaurant. One block north of Beach Boulevard, one block east of Rt. 59.
Best Cheeseburger: Bahama Bob's. No contest. just a couple of doors east. Also try the Grouper Pecan, it's a local favorite. To make them think your an old-timer, ask for a salad with "double dressing". If the waitress is new, she won't know what you're talking about, but "double dressing" is the House Vinagrette AND home-made Blue Cheese. Together they are wonderful.
Best Margarita: A tie. Bahama Bob's or The Pink Pony Pub. The Pink Pony is about a mile east, right on the beach. I like these two for their Margaritas because you can WALK HOME afterwards, LuLu's bar is outstanding, too.
Wonderful Steamed Seafood: Real close, real good. The Gulf Shores Steamer. Order anything. Be happy. It's worth it just to eat beneath the billowing "steam" from the awnings. The steamed Royal Reds (head-on huge shrinp) are the best on the island.
Best Nightspots: Try LuLu's. It's tucked away under the Rt.59 bridge. Turn off just north of the bridge follow the line of cars. Live music every night, good food, very cheerful and family-friendly. It closes at 10:00 and there's always a moderate wait for a table, so go early. Also, try The Hangout. You can walk and there's music almost every night.
Best Fish Sandwich: LuLu's, again. It is their most popular item and it is absoluely wonderful. Hey, get the Fried Green Tomatoes, too.
Best Italian Restaurant: Franco's Italian is about two miles east on Beach Blvd. in the shopping center on the left. some of the best Italian food ANYWHERE, and we're from Chicago!
Best Pizza: Janino's Pizza. After 30 years, there's finally really good pizza in Gulf Shores!
Best Fried Seafood Basket: The Shrimp Basket. It is about a block north of Beach Boulevard on Rt. 59.
Best Steamed Shrimp Anywhere: Billy's Seafood. Hard to find, but worth it. Billy's is the real deal. Address: P.O. BOX 309 BON SECOUR, AL 36511; PHONE: (251) 949-6288. Call for directions or see this MAP. When you get there, pick out a couple pounds of fresh shrimp and tell them to steam them "spicy". Eat them on the picnic tables right on the water. Yum.
Random Things I Know:
1. If you drink liquor, bring your own (unless you live in Alabama). Beer and wine are cheap in Alabama, but Scotch, Tequila, Vodka and Gin are OUTRAGEOUS. Liquor is somewhat less in Florida (only about 8 miles east) but not a lot.
2. If you own a pair of binoculars, bring them. You won't be sorry. You can look at the dolphins and the fishermen.
3. Almost nobody catches anything worth eating, fishing from the beach.
5. If your neighbors are loud and raucous late into the night, don't bother calling me; Call the POLICE (911). The cops come right away and it really gets their attention.
A Few Tips to Avoid Disaster on Your Vacation...
Sunscreen: Nothing ruins a week at the beach faster than a bad sunburn. If you burn yourself on the first day, you won't feel better until almost the end of the week. Buy lots of sunscreen, DO put it on EVERYWHERE 1/2 hour before going on the beach, and don't forget to cover your FEET with it. All those people you see limping into restaurants at dinner forgot to put sunscreen on their FEET. Use an SPF about 50% stronger than what you'd use on the golf course.
Red Flags on the Beach: When the surf and current are strong enough to warrant putting up a red flag on the beach, it REALLY IS TOO DANGEROUS TO SWIM. The rip-tides and undertows can be vicious and the only people who drown in Gulf Shores are the people who ignore the red flag warnings.
Jellyfish: Every once in a while, generally in the late fall but other times too, you'll see Jellyfish at the edge of the water. Our advice is just don't swim on those days. They'll probably be gone tomorrow. They won't kill you, but they are very hard to avoid when you are actually IN the water, and the sting hurts like the devil for three or four hours. If you do get stung, the best medicine is a paste made from a little water and a bunch of Adolph's Meat Tenderizer. Apply liberally to the sting.