As our graduates and their families head down to spend the week with us along the Gulf Coast, we hope that each trip is memorable. With so many fun things to do and see around our slice of paradise, we wanted to share a few of our favorites.
- The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a beautiful place to visit and includes some of Alabama’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitat. It is the perfect spot for bird lovers. There are more than 360 different species who find safety in this oasis. This sanctuary serves as a resting place for migratory birds this time of year as they head further south in preparation of winter. Along with various types of birds, there are also sea turtles (loggerhead, green and Kemp’s Ridley) that enjoy hanging out at the refuge.
- Take a Dolphin Tour. There are plenty of boat captains who are happy to take you and your family on a tour for dolphin sightings, and our locals know all the best spots. These beautiful creatures are all over the Gulf, the bays, and backwaters. Dolphins are pretty friendly and usually not afraid to come up close so you can take some amazing photos to remember your trip to the Gulf Coast.
- If you’d rather get in on the action instead of just looking at sea life, book a charter fishing trip. Some of the best fishing goes on in the month of October after the summer heat has subsided.
- The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail was established in 2003 and includes seven trails that wind through Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and the Alabama State Park. With more than 15 miles of back country beauty, you can walk, jog, skate or bike as far as you like. Among the various ecosystems, you will discover swamps, freshwater marshes and even a butterfly garden. Just recently, the park added three primitive campsites and they even cut and provide the wood for campfires.
- Most folks come down to enjoy the beautiful beaches, but if this is your first trip to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, you may be completely blown away by just how gorgeous the scenery is. The smooth, white sand is some of the most pristine in the country. The sunsets are something to behold and there is always cool wildlife, such as pelicans, osprey, sea turtles and dolphins. This is also the perfect time of year to enjoy the outdoors, as summer time can get a bit sticky around here. Bring a couple of chairs or beach towels and take some time to put your toes in the sand and listen to the waves.
- The beach is pretty amazing, but there are so many great back waterways to go canoeing and kayaking, as well. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are literally surrounded by water. Here are just a few places to check out: Graham Creek Nature Preserve off of Co. Road 12 in Foley to paddle to Wolf Bay, Little Lagoon in Gulf Shores that eventually connects to the Gulf or Lake Shelby if you’re feeling brave and have the time. At Lake Shelby, there is also the added benefit of the dog park if you’re bringing along your furry friends.
- The Wharf in Orange Beach is a cool place to visit if you love good restaurants, shopping, and live, local music. The marina holds a variety of yachts to envy. There is also a huge Ferris Wheel, which will give you a great aerial view of the coast. On October 22, the Wharf will host their Spooky Movie on the Lawn event, complete with hayrides, pony rides, free popcorn and hot chocolate for the entire family.
- Orange Beach Waterfront Park is located off of Canal Road and has a 400-foot fishing pier and covered benches and pavilions. It is a great place to put your toes in the water right off Wolf Bay. There are also picnic areas, grills and a robust lighted kids’ park with slides, swings and plenty of things to climb on. Bring a picnic basket (or a famous Publix sub) and enjoy the scenery.
- Robinson Island is a great little local’s place that can only be accessed by boat. Boats and captains are plentiful down here so you should not have any trouble finding a vessel for rent. Bring some beach chairs and towels, plenty of sunscreen and pack your cooler with good eats before heading to this lovely strip of land to explore nature and unwind with your family. It is pretty easy to find and is very close to Alabama Point.
- Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores was built in the 1800s and has proven significant through the Battle of Mobile Bay, the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. It is beautiful and filled with history. Wear comfortable shoes because some of the stone steps are steep and can be difficult to navigate. There is so much to see down there and also a ferry that will take you across the bay to Dauphin Island where you and your family can visit the Estuarium & Sea Lab.
BONUS: One thing you should definitely not miss while you’re here is the Flora-Bama, a “down home, waterfront bar and grill” located right on the Alabama – Florida line. This place is pretty famous and has been around for many decades, withstanding fires, floods and hurricanes. It has landed in countless publications and there are even a few songs surrounding it: just ask Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney.
No matter where this journey takes you on the Gulf Coast, you are here for a reason: to celebrate your accomplishment! As our guests, we hope that you enjoy your time here and, in typical southern fashion, we do hope y’all come back soon!