You've got it made in the shade along Alabama's Gulf Coast. photo: Andrea Guthmann

You’ve got it made in the shade along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
photo: Andrea Guthmann

The coast is clear. That’s what Alabama tourism officials want potential visitors to know. Hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, then devastated by the BP oil spill in 2010, many would-be visitors were right to shy away from these shores. But it’s years later, and Alabama’s beaches are clean.In fact, pristine.

Maybe you didn’t even know Alabama had beaches? You’re not alone. Although Alabama’s beaches are an undiscovered gem for many Americans, that’s not the case for generations of Southerners, who’ve loaded up the family wagon to come to the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach each summer. Ninety percent of the visitors to Alabama’s Gulf Coast drive here, mainly from the surrounding southeast states and eastern Texas. They come for a laid-back beach vacation, where miles of shoreline are their own personal sand box and calm, clear waters are just steps from their room. It’s is a budget-friendly way to find beach bliss without the hassles of flying.DestinationReview

You’ll find condo culture rules. Most visitors rent a condo, instead of staying at a hotel. I stayed at the magnificent new Phoenix II condo. Full kitchen with all the utensils meant that I didn’t have to go out to eat. It’s a budget-friendly way to have a family vacation.

Phoenix II's full kitchens mean you don't have to go out to eat.      photo: Andrea Guthmann

Phoenix II’s full kitchens mean you don’t have to go out to eat. photo: Andrea Guthmann

It's sweet dreams at Phoenix II's condos.    photo: Andrea Guthmann

It’s sweet dreams at Phoenix II’s condos. photo: Andrea Guthmann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m old school though. When I’m on vacation, I don’t want to cook! Luckily, there are great choices for sublime seafood in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Ceviche straight from the Gulf of Mexico at The Gulf restaurant.      photo: Andrea Guthmann

Ceviche straight from the Gulf of Mexico at The Gulf restaurant. photo: Andrea Guthmann

Grilled shrimp with arugula? The Gulf is not your average beach shack. photo: Andrea Guthmann

Grilled shrimp with arugula? The Gulf is not your average beach shack.
photo: Andrea Guthmann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wharf Entertainment District has nightly fireworks & the Southeast's largest ferris wheel.     photo: Andrea Guthmann

The Wharf Entertainment District has nightly fireworks & the Southeast’s largest ferris wheel. photo: Andrea Guthmann

When it’s time to take a break from the beach, head over to The Wharf Entertainment District. It’s got shopping and waterfront dining along with the Southeast’s largest ferris wheel. We got to experience The Wharf’s southern hospitality firsthand at Bimini Bob’s, owned by former Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Bob Baumhower. After 10 years of tackling quarterbacks, he decided to tackle the restaurant business. And it’s been a touchdown. The former University of Alabama football hero owns several restaurants in his native Alabama.

Southern Comfort: Bimini Bob's pecan pie recipe comes straight from Bob Baumhower's Mom!      photo: Andrea Guthmann

Southern Comfort: Bimini Bob’s pecan pie recipe comes straight from Bob Baumhower’s Mom! photo: Andrea Guthmann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re able to get away for a date night during your trip, head straight for Orange Beach’s Cayman Grill. Sublime seafood along with a view that’s just as delicious. Enjoy your Alabama getaway!

No better place to watch the stars fall on Alabama than the Cayman Grill.    photo: Andrea Guthmann

No better place to watch the stars fall on Alabama than the Cayman Grill. photo: Andrea Guthmann

 

Wahoo! Seriously, wahoo is one of the Gulf fish you can choose from at the Cayman Grill.        photo: Andrea Guthmann

Wahoo! Seriously, wahoo is one of the Gulf fish you can choose from at the Cayman Grill. photo: Andrea Guthmann