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VOL. 131 | NO. 80 | Thursday, April 21, 2016


Lance Wiedower

Alabama Beaches Provide Relaxing Alternative

LANCE WIEDOWER | Special to The Daily News

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It takes a moment after waking before I remember I’m in Orange Beach, Alabama. I usually sleep harder when visiting the beach, and this night seemed like all the rest.

It’s not the need for relaxation, although waking up with nowhere to be is always refreshing. I think it’s a mix of digging holes in the sand with my son while taking breaks from playing catch and racing on the beach.

Once I muster the energy to get out of bed, I gently open the curtains in the room from the ninth floor of our condo that overlooks the Gulf of Mexico. It’s always gentle; even on an overcast day the light reflecting off the water below makes for a bright morning.

It’s an early April weekend and the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores communities are quiet. The spring break rush has calmed before the summer vacation season grinds into gear.

But I’ve visited this stretch of the Gulf several times through the years, including a couple of summertime visits. And the crowds are never overwhelming. That, along with the proximity to Memphis makes the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area more appealing in many ways than the Florida beaches farther east.

I don’t always look first for relaxing beach vacations. I enjoy travel experiences where I can discover unfamiliar cultures or fun cities. But thankfully I have a family that helps me remember how much I do enjoy the Gulf of Mexico.

I remember my love of hearing the Gulf waters lap onto the white sand as I smell the sea breezes from my condo’s balcony.

We visited the Orange Beach and Gulf Shores area for a four-day weekend. The Alabama beach communities are close enough to Memphis that a three-night stay doesn’t feel rushed.

The accommodation mix in these two adjoining communities provides a lot of options – condo high rises, hotels, houses and properties that sit along the bay instead of beach. We used Meyer Vacation Rentals and stayed in a condo on the east end of Orange Beach, less than a mile from the Florida line. It’s quiet on this east end, not that the core of Orange Beach or Gulf Shores is crowded.

Though we did enjoy relaxing on the beach, we really only spent a couple of hours each day on the sand. There are plenty of other options to stay entertained in Orange Beach/Gulf Shores. Our main focus was dining.

We enjoyed the fire-grilled oysters at the Original Oyster House, the pimento cheese burger at Lulu’s and a lunch of crab claws at The Hangout overlooking the beach. But the jazz brunch at Ginny Lane’s reminded me of some of the best brunches in New Orleans.

We hoped to kayak at Gulf State Park, but high winds kept us off the water. There is a lot of “backwater” opportunities in the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area, so there are plenty of opportunities to get out on the water.

We enjoyed a sunset dolphin cruise that took us on the Intracoastal Waterway and Wolf Bay where the dolphins followed the fishing boats looking for their own dinner.

If you’re looking for a beach memory from childhood that’s filled with miniature golf, seafood and hours on the beach the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area has it. There also is a low-key vibe that creates a true getaway.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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