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Cruising with an Empress

Destination Spotlight:

Escape Your Winter Blues in Alabama's Paradise

Now is the perfect time to visit Alabama’s beautiful sugar-white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Escape your winter blues on the shores of the Alabama Gulf Coast. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have lots to offer the leisure traveler.

Gulf State Park

The state park’s 6,000 acres of pristine coastline and wildlife refuge includes more than 27 miles of paved hiking and biking trails along the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. You might even catch a glimpse of a bobcat on the Twin Bridges Trail, spy a white-tailed deer on Gulf Oak Ridge, or spot an alligator basking in the sun in one of the freshwater marshes or coastal hardwood swamps.

With more than 900 acres of freshwater lakes on one side and the beautiful Gulf of Mexico on the other, Gulf State Park is a fisherman’s paradise. Don’t fret because rod and reel rentals are available if you forgot your lucky fishing pole at home. Fish typically bite better when the water temperature drops to 68 degrees, so winter and early spring are perfect fishing weather. If it is your dream to catch “the big one,” there are plenty of fish to pick from this time of the year; amberjack, mullet, flounder, grouper and Spanish mackerel are just a few you can hook and have cooked at more than two dozen restaurants in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

Nature lovers will enjoy getting up close to the live animal and plant exhibits at the nature center, including snakes, owls, rabbits and more which are native to the Gulf Coast region. The nature center also offers guided nature walks, beach walks, pier walks as well as other educational programs.

Outdoor Lover’s Dream

The Alabama Gulf Coast is an outdoor lover’s dream. Paddle your way through the serene waterways or watch dolphins play in the waves during a dolphin cruise.

Enjoy practicing your bunker shots or putts on one of the 15 area courses. Many of the renowned courses are PGA and Golf Digest-rated, and they are designed by some of golf’s greatest players, including Arnold Palmer, Jerry Pate and Earl Stone.

For the camping enthusiast, there are many campgrounds in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach where you can park your RV and start enjoying the pristine beaches. Most include full-hookup campsites with paved pads that are large enough for RVs with pullouts. Some even include air-conditioned bathhouses, camp stores, laundry facilities, swimming pools, tennis/pickle ball courts, horseshoes and volleyball courts.

Mouthwatering Food

The Alabama Gulf Coast is becoming known as a national and worldwide culinary paradise because of the variety of tastes, styles and flavors available at the award-winning restaurants. Why don’t you come for dinner and take in a beautiful sunset reflecting off the water at one of the waterfront restaurants? It will make you wish you could take this piece of paradise home with you.

Museums and Theatre
Whether you enjoy taking in the beauty of art or if you are more hands-on and enjoy creating your own masterpiece, the Alabama Gulf Coast is your one-stop destination. View demonstrations on ceramics or try your hand at the pottery wheel at The Clay Studio in Orange Beach. If you prefer the beauty of glass, The Hot Shop in Orange Beach has been Alabama’s premier hot glass blowing facility since 2009. At the SEA Quilt Shoppe, learn the art of quilt making. Your masterpieces will always invoke memories of your Gulf Coast paradise adventures.

Take in a live theatre performance at South Baldwin Community Theatre, one of the Gulf Coast’s prized jewels. This season, check out performances of “Nana’s Naughty Knickers” or “Sealed for Freshness.”

Clubs and Organizations

Those who winter on the coast often join one of the many snowbird clubs. In addition to fun activities, the clubs also enjoy tours and trips. Many of the clubs also offer volunteer opportunities in the community. This is a great way to make new friends or reconnect with old ones, and it will make you want to come back year after year to hang out with your pals on the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast beaches.


Travel back in time when cannons protected the waterways, and explore historic Fort Morgan, a masonry fort built between 1819 and 1823. Visitors to the fort and museum can also explore the evolution of the U.S. Army through these time periods. While in the area, consider driving the Mobile Bay Civil War Trail that highlights famous Civil War battles. The trail spans from the Gulf of Mexico to north Mobile County.

Welcome Center Showcase and Lecture Series

Listen and learn from local artisans, nature tourism specialists, historians and others who are devoted to the Alabama Gulf Coast region. Each week in January and February, free educational showcases and lectures are held at the Welcome Centers in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. While at the welcome centers, be sure to check out what else this little piece of paradise has to offer. Knowledgeable vacation specialists can assist with making the most of your trip to the coast.

To begin planning your winter escape to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, visit their website at

Nov/Dec 2017 Issue

Photo courtesy Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism



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