The Summer is here, and for many couples and families, it is time to start thinking about a vacation. But where are you going to go? The beach sounds like a fun way to spend your summer, lounging in the sand, soaking up the rays, enjoying water sports and fishing, or even just being lazy with a refreshing beverage in your hands. But where do you go? Florida can be overcrowded, Hawaii is so expensive, and some beaches just don’t seem…sanitary to lounge on.

You’ve maybe not thought about it before, but a hidden gem when it comes to summer vacations on the beach is Orange Beach and Gulf Shore Alabama. With beautiful beaches, lots of fun things to do, award-winning food, and lovely, affordable vacation rentals that will make you feel like you live in the absolute lap of luxury.

The Beaches

White sandy beaches spread out for miles, the type of soft sand that cradles you like millions of tiny pillows. All kinds of wildlife can be seen, from dolphins to stingrays to blue crabs to sea turtles, and the coziness of the beaches will make it hard not to dose off as you catch those rays (just remember your sunscreen). There are also plenty of charter boats that will take you out on fishing and dolphin-watching excursions.

The Nature Preserves

Want to enjoy nature, but want a break from the beach? You don’t have to go far. Orange Beach has a massive wildlife management program with all kinds of hiking and biking trails for the outdoorsmen and women in you. From Alligator Alley to Gulf Park’s Nature Center, if you want to get out in the wild, Orange Beach and Gulf Shore have plenty for you, and in the summertime, the critters may be particularly active.

The Food

One of the most wonderful things about Gulf Shore and Orange Beach, Alabama is the mixture of fresh seafood and Southern cuisine. From creole to lowlands cooking, you’ll find some of the finest delicacies the south can offer.

From delectable waffles at The Southern Grind Coffee House and outstanding eggs benedict at the Brick & Spoon to fresh seafood from Latrigue Seafood Market and wonderful Cajun offerings at Louisiana Lagniappe, there are a plethora of dining options that are well-reviewed, award-winning, and beloved by visitors and locals alike. The Flora-Bama Lounge, a charming little watering hole and live music venue, is a staple in the community and has a history going back to 1964!

The Shopping

You’re probably going to want to take a break from all that sun at some point, and a nice, air-conditioned store can be a welcome reprieve from the heat. With that said, it’s always nice when the shopping breaks actually provide great shopping, which the Gulf Shore and Orange Beach region can provide.

If you are looking to shop local, The Wharf is a wonderful spot for health and beauty, jewelry, clothing, and all kinds of wonderful wares that local merchants are offering at reasonable prices.

If doing your shopping on a marina sounds up your alley, Sanroc Cay has some great local shops to enjoy, and you may even catch a professional fishing tournament or a pod of dolphins while you shop.

The Vacation Rentals

Of course, you’re going to have to think about where you are going to stay. Forget the hotels and get yourself a vacation rental. Entire homes and condos can be rented, on the beach, for pennies on the dollar. You can live a life of pure bliss and luxury for the price of a standard hotel or even a motel. Don’t crowd your entire family into a single room for a week. Enjoy a full home or condominium for a similar price. Most of the vacation rentals are also conveniently placed near major golf courses and other major attractions, so the convenience alone makes this worthwhile. So, as you plan your summer vacation, just think about all the wonderful things you can enjoy in Gulf Shore and Orange Beach, Alabama.