How to Pack the Perfect Beach Bag

So that’s it, it’s the night before your big beach trip, and you still haven’t packed! The clock is ticking, and you don’t know where to start. Well, lucky for you, we know everything you’ll need to pack the perfect beach bag for everyone in your group. So no need to worry, because if you follow this guide, you’ll know exactly what to bring to the beach for a day spent soaking up the hot sun!


To Spend an Ideal Day Lounging on the Shoreline You’ll Need to Pack the Perfect Beach Bag

Bring All the Beach Essentials  

First, you’ll need to find the perfect bag. Make sure that your bag is spacious and has plenty of compartments for your smaller items. This way your bag will stay organized, and you’ll have easy access to all your things. We also recommend using a tote bag that is water-resistant, so that none of your stuff gets wet. Now that you’ve got the basics, it’s time to tackle your beach day packing list!

Beach Packing List:

  • Beach towels
  • Flips flops
  • A bit of cash
  • Sunscreen 
  • Hair scrunchies
  • Sunglasses

Of course, that’s not all! For some added fun, be sure to throw in a good book, a frisbee, and speakers to play some tunes. 

Pro tip: If you’re traveling with a large group, encourage everyone to load any toys, chairs, umbrellas, and any larger items onto a beach cart.

Ask the Kids to Help You Pack the Perfect Beach Bag

If the kids are joining you, ask them for some help! By doing this, the kids will have everything they want, and you’ll be less likely to forget anything. First, help them make a beach bag checklist, then encourage them to gather their items and mark each one off the list. Once you have everything, you’re ready to pack beach bags for the kiddos. As a reward for helping in the packing process, have the kids change into their bathing suits before heading out for your beach adventure!

While you pack, double-check the packing list to make sure you have everything you need. You’ll need to include plenty of sun protection! Although the hot sun is perfect for bathing, you need to be careful when staying in its rays for extended periods. Make sure you have lots of sunscreen, hats for everyone to wear, and perhaps a beach umbrella to provide some shade. 

Don’t Forget to Pack a Few Things for Fido 

A day at the beach is even more perfect when Fido can join you! Some beach essentials for your furry friend will include a ball for fetch, and a few water bottles so your pet can stay hydrated throughout the day. Don’t forget to throw in a few treats and visit any of the dog-friendly beaches in the area! 

Book Your Gulf Shores Getaway With Harris Vacation Rentals

When you stay in a Harris Vacation Home, all your beach days will be a breeze. Our oceanfront homes are steps away from the most serene beaches on the Alabama Gulf Coast. So if you happen to forget something, it won’t be far! Our vacation rentals are some of the best in Gulf Shores, and offer spacious rooms with remarkable accommodations. So whether you’re spending time at the beach with friends or looking for a new way to entertain your family, you will never go wrong with a Harris Vacation Rental. So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and book your stay now

Your Guide to the Best Outdoor Recreation in Gulf Shores

If you’re looking for the perfect place to celebrate the summertime with your family, Alabama’s Gulf Shores has everything you need! The Gulf Shores’ outdoor recreation is extraordinary! You can take in the spectacular wildlife or search for dolphins in the Gulf. The magic of Gulf Shores will leave you and your crew with lasting memories! Bypass scrolling through Google to find the activities you may need. Let our team do the searching for you, so you can focus on what matters most: making unforgettable memories with your loved ones. Simply select any activities you may need, share any special events that need celebrating, and we will begin working with our local partners to ensure your stay is one that your family holds in their memories forever.

We Highly Recommend Taking Advantage of Gulf Shores Endless Outdoor Recreation Opportunities!

Spend an Afternoon at Alabama Gulf State Park

The Alabama Gulf State Park provides a Gulf Shores outdoor recreation experience like no other. This park boasts tons of outdoor activities for the whole family to enjoy. You can start by strolling along the country’s largest paved trail network, then splash around on Lake Shelby and finally, snap a few family photos on the Gulf State Pier. A relaxing afternoon at Alabama Gulf State Park will leave you wanting more Gulf Shores adventures.  

Discover Wildlife at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

You have to see the stunning landscape of Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge! This nature reserve extends along the Gulf Shores for nearly 7,000 acres, and it’s home to many species of flora and fauna. The Wildlife Refuge is open to the public year-round, and it offers a variety of outdoor activities such as fishing, boating, hiking, and bird watching. With so many unique creatures to see and beautiful vistas to capture, the whole family will be entertained for hours. 

Explore the Bay on a Guided Dolphin Tour 

Hop aboard a dolphin watching cruise for a remarkable outdoor adventure. Several local businesses offer guided tours of varying lengths. One of our family-friendly favorites is the Dolphin eco-tour. On this two-hour nature cruise, you’ll get to see the Gulf Shores from a different vantage point, explore hidden estuaries and, of course, spot the local dolphin pod! Trust us; the kids will thank you! 

Take Your Family to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is widely known as the “Little Zoo” for its starring role in The Little Zoo That Could on Animal Planet. However, despite its nickname, this “little zoo” houses 600 animals, 199 sub-species, and 22 endangered species. When you visit this tropical urban oasis, you’ll find yourself surrounded by curious sounds and a diverse array of animals. The zoo is adjacent to a nature preserve, spreads over 25 acres, and provides up-close sights of the animal exhibits to visitors of all ages.

In March of 2020, the zoo opened in a new park and welcomed record crowds. The new park features more innovative spaces, encourages public education programs, and emphasizes animal conservation. You’ve never seen a zoo quite like this one, so next time you’re in town, be sure to check it out.

Admire Art at Museums Near Gulf Shores, Alabama

The city of Gulf Shores has a rich history, filled with colorful characters, delicate architecture, and region-specific experiences. Throughout many of the museums found in the area, you’ll find exhibits and explanations for events of the past, and when you leave, it will be with a deeper appreciation for life on the Gulf. 

These fascinating museums will take you through time, art, and history by way of their captivating charm and historical significance:

  • Gulf Shores Museum
  • Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum
  • Swift-Coles Historic House
  • USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
  • Foley Railroad Museum
  • Fort Morgan Historic Fort

Go for a Helicopter Ride With a Skilled Pilot

For a special experience over the cool blue water, take a helicopter tour in Gulf Shores. Picture yourself buzzing through the clouds, taking in all the views of the picturesque coast. Lost Bay Helicopter Tours offers a vast array of tours. Pick anything from an Island View Tour to a Sunset Tour and you’ll get to see the Gulf Coast like never before. If you think that’s  fun, take on another challenge and book a flying lesson! You’ll be guided by an experienced pilot with incredible knowledge of the skies!

Feel the Sand Between Your Toes

We know you’ve been dreaming of the Gulf Coast’s sugar-white sand and sparkling blue waters! What better way to spend your vacation than relaxing on these pristine and undiscovered beaches? Lucky for you, the Gulf Coast is home to gorgeous beaches in several locations, so you can relax on a different beach every day.

Take some time to explore the beaches in these three areas:  Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan. Each area has its own special charm and offers endless fun for the entire family. While you are in Gulf Shores, hit the water on a jet ski, kayak, or  stand-up paddleboard. Then, head to Orange Beach or Fort Morgan for a serene beach day away from the crowds. Here, you’ll have plenty of beach fun building sandcastles, playing beach volleyball, or reading a book in the sand. However you choose to spend your day, make sure it’s on the Gulf Coast.

There’s No Place Like a Harris Home

Once you’ve discovered what Gulf Shores has to offer, retreat to a perfect island-style vacation rental. Unwinding in a Harris Vacation Rentals home is ideal for you, your kids, and even our furry friend! Our private properties span from Orange Beach to Gulf Shores and offer plenty of space for everyone in your party. Make your home away from home on that’s just minutes away from the beach and give your family the getaway they deserve. Spend your spring break, summer, or any other vacation with us. We can’t wait to meet you! Browse our properties and contact us to book an unforgettable beach getaway today! 


The Best of Dog Friendly Orange Beach Vacation

There’s one thing we can all agree on: Vacation is awesome. If you’re like us, you mark off the days on your calendar and prepare to make memories that will last a lifetime. The only downside is leaving your adored family dog at home. We hate to see our furry friends left behind. So, we’ve compiled a guide on the best of dog friendly Orange Beach vacation so that you can bring everyone’s favorite family member on your next beach vacation! There’s so much to explore on the Gulf Coast. Read on to discover some of our favorite dog-friendly spots, then start planning your Gulf Shores family vacation with Harris Vacation Rentals!

Book Your Family Vacation Today!

Your Guide to a Dog Friendly Orange Beach Vacation

The Dog Pond

Your pup will love a visit to the Dog Pond. This dog park is located on Lake Shelby in Gulf State Park, and it is open from 8 a.m. until sunset. Though dogs must be leashed when they enter the park, they are free to roam on this doggy playground once they’ve entered. The dog park has stunning water views and plenty of entertainment for dogs. They’ll go crazy over the agility courses, play equipment, and swimming area. What more could man’s best friend need?

Tip: Leashed dogs are allowed on the trails in Gulf State Park, as well as the picnic and campground sections. However, there are no pets allowed in the swimming pool, nature center, or beaches in the park.

Beware: Lake Shelby is home to many types of wildlife, including alligators. Please be vigilant at all times.

Orange Beach Dog Park

This dog park is one of the greatest pet-friendly activities in Gulf Shores. There is a ¾ acre shaded area with separate fencing for large and small dogs. There’s plenty of water for tired dogs to lap up and benches for owners to take a seat. Gulf Shores Dog Park is another large green space for dogs to roam in unleashed.

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail

This network of seven trails spans more than fifteen miles and traverses six different ecosystems. The trails weave through Gulf State Park, Orange Beach, and Gulf Shores. To find the most convenient path for you, check out their comprehensive trail map. There are plenty of restrooms, water stations, parking, and access spots along the trails.

The Backcountry Trail is home to years and years of history. The story Catman Road, for example, dates back to the Native Americans. The legendary Catman was a young, fanatic warrior who ran away from his village with a pack of wildcats. It is rumored that when you hear leaves rustling or whispers in the wind on the Backcountry Trail, you may be about to catch a glimpse of Catman.

Today, the trails have plenty of amenities, like a picnic pavilion, geocaching activity, and butterfly garden. During your hike, you’ll walk through beautiful marshes and swamps. Don’t forget your camera, because you may even see a bobcat or alligator along the way!

Bring your dog along for the ultimate dog friendly Orange Beach adventure. While your pet must remain on a leash at all times on the trails, there are miles of space for your pup to run, play, and explore.

Explore Fort Morgan Historic Site

Fort Morgan is just a 40-minute drive from Orange Beach. Enjoy the scenic drive out to Gulf Shore’s most secluded neighborhood. When you arrive, dive into the fort’s rich military history. Fort Morgan played a role in the Civil and Spanish-American Wars as well as both World Wars and the Battle of Mobile. Step back in time with a trip to the Fort Morgan Historic Site!

Tip: Dogs are allowed anywhere in the fort or inside the seawall. They must be leashed and under their owner’s control. Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on the adjoining beach or Sutter Wildlife Refuge.

Head to the Beach

A Gulf Shores vacation would be incomplete without a day at the beach. Unlike the more commercial areas in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan allows dogs on leashes to most of its public beaches! The dog-friendly region of the beach are between the engineer’s wharf and the fishing pier. Walk the dog, build a sandcastle with the kids, and catch some waves. End your day with a golden sunset over the ocean.

Plan a Barking Good Gulf Shores Vacation

sea's the day

After you’ve spent the day with your pup, you’ll need a place that the whole family can call home! At Harris Vacation Rentals, we value our furry friends just as much as you do, which is why we offer a variety of pet-friendly beach rentals.

One of our favorite dog friendly Orange Beach homes is Dock of the Bay. This spacious four bedroom, two and one half bathroom bungalow overlooks the serene blue waters of Wolf Bay. The screened porch is ideal for watching magnificent Gulf Shores sunsets while keeping away the bugs. This fisherman’s paradise has a private dock for reeling in the perfect catch of the day!

Another great dog-friendly vacation rental near Gulf Shores is Sea’s the Day in Fort Morgan. The tropical paradise property offers sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico. Your pup will love hanging out on the outdoor patio as you grill on the barbecue. The home features an airy, white, updated kitchen as well as an open floor plan living area. The property is ideal for family reunions, as it sleeps up to 12 guests.

We have more than 30 pet-friendly rentals for your family. Never leave your furry friend at home again!

Are you ready to make your vacation plans with Harris Vacation Rentals? Browse all of our vacation rentals and book your Gulf Shores getaway today!

Important Tips for Pet Friendly Vacations in Gulf Shores

When we say “bring the whole family on vacation,” we really do mean the entire family, including your fur child. We know planning a dog-friendly vacation can be tricky. Not everyone loves our four-legged family members as much as we do. It’s shocking, we know! But, don’t let that deter you from enjoying a beach vacation fit for the entire family. Before you hit the road with pup in tow, read up on these five things to know about a pet friendly vacation on Alabama beaches.

Dog-Friendly Beaches

Dog-Friendly Vacation

Not all beaches allow pups to play, but you have do have options! Dogs are prohibited on Gulf Shores AL beaches and Orange Beach. However, you and your beach-loving fur child will enjoy the wide-open spaces of white-sand beaches in Fort Morgan. Rent a Fort Morgan AL beach house and you’re just a few steps away from a day of sandy fun during your dog-friendly vacation.

In addition to Fort Morgan, Orange Beach Waterfront Park offers a peaceful spot for your pooch to splash and play. The park is located on the banks of Wolf Bay. The water is shallow with few waves, making it the perfect spot for pups and small children. There is also a fishing pier, restrooms, picnic tables and swings. An outdoor shower makes it easy to rinse the sand off of Fido before heading back to your dog-friendly condo in Orange Beach.

Dog-Friendly Attractions Alabama

Gulf Shores Mini Golf

You didn’t bring Fido all this way to be left inside a crate all day! Get out and enjoy Gulf Shores and Orange Beach attractions on your pet friendly vacation. Historic Fort Morgan is a great place for your pup to run off energy. Explore the Civil War-era barracks and hear re-enactors in period dress tell the Fort’s history while you walk the grounds. Fort Morgan routinely offers guided tours throughout the year.

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is a great way to spend the day. The trail offers more than 25 miles of paved paths and boardwalks over water through Orange Beach and the Gulf State Park. Experience several different ecosystems during your hike. Restrooms are available along the trail, as are benches to rest and take in the scenery. You may spot resident wildlife along the trails, including turtles and more.

Feeling artistic? Stop by The Hot Shop at the Coastal Arts Center. Watch a glass-blowing demonstration with your pooch. You can also create your own piece of art with a glass-blowing lesson. There’s really no better souvenir than one you make yourself. The Coastal Arts Center is located on the same grounds. Pets are welcomed on the first floor of the center while you browse work by local and regional artisans.

Play a round of miniature golf at Tiki’s Mini Golf in Gulf Shores. Leashed pets are allowed on the course. Putt away, but don’t let Fido get the ball!

Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

dog-friendly restaurant

More and more restaurants are welcoming pups on their patios in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, making dog-friendly vacations even easier. Some of our favorites include Flora-Bama Yacht Club, Flora-Bama Ole River Grill, The Royal Oyster, The Gulf, Bill’s by the Beach, Fisher’s Dockside, Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar, Bayes Southern Bar & Grill, Another Broken Egg, Villaggio Grille at The Wharf, The Southern Grind Coffee House, Sassy Bass Caribbean Grille and Pirate’s Cove Marina & Restaurant.

Call Ahead

Pet policies do change from time to time at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach restaurants and attractions. Be sure to call ahead to confirm they still welcome visitors on dog-friendly vacations. Ask if restaurants will provide your pup with a bowl of water during your visit, too. Spots like The Southern Grind offer your fur child treats and a designated water bowl is always available on their patio.

Pet Friendly Vacation Accommodations

Somewhere In Time

Perhaps the most difficult part of planning a Gulf Shores AL vacation with your pooch in tow is finding dog-friendly accommodations. That is, until now. Harris Vacation Rentals Management has become the leader in pet-friendly condos and beach houses on Alabama beaches, and the inventory of this type of vacation lodging continues to grow. Browse condos and cottages for your dog-friendly vacation and find the one that best meets your needs.

Read pet policies for lodging carefully. A pet fee is applicable on all accommodations that allow dogs. With minor exceptions, the number of pets is generally limited to two. For the most hassle-free fun, be sure to familiarize yourself with pet policies prior to your arrival.


For more great information on dog-friendly vacation in Gulf Shores A:, read

The Best Dog-Friendly Restaurants in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach.



Top 3 Tips for a Gulf Shores Pet-Friendly Rentals

Dog-friendly vacation at The Southern GrindIf you’re one of the 15 million Americans who likes to travel with your fur child, add a dog-friendly vacation in Gulf Shores AL to your list of things to do, love and do again. For many dog-loving families, traveling with Fido in tow is the norm. However, the truth is, a pet-friendly vacation isn’t always easy to plan. It takes careful research and planning to decide if a destination is woof worthy. With that in mind, check out these three pointers for planning the perfect stay in one of our Gulf Shores pet-friendly house rentals.


Make a List of Gulf Shores Dog-friendly Attractions

There’s more to bringing your pooch on vacation than leaving them cooped up inside. In a good, dog-friendly destination, there are plenty of pet-loving attractions that are fun for the whole family. Some of our favorite Gulf Shores AL dog-friendly vacation attractions include:

    • Historic Fort Morgan. Take a step back in time at this Civil War-era fort. Your pooch will enjoy the fresh air and salty breezes. There’s plenty of room to roam, but your pup must be on a leash. Explore barracks and imagine military life in the 1800s. Re-enactments and living history tours are held throughout the year. Fort Morgan guards the entrance to Mobile Bay, which means it’s surrounded by beaches. On the Mobile Bay side of the Fort, the area between old Fort Morgan pier and Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a dog-friendly beach.
    • Orange Beach Waterfront Park. When you want to beach it with your pooch, head to Orange Beach Waterfront Park. This small stretch of sandy beach on the banks of Wolf Bay is pet friendly. There is also a 400-foot-long fishing pier, covered pavilions, restrooms and an outdoor shower to spray off the two-legged AND four-legged family members. If you enjoy kayaking or standup paddle boarding, bring your boats and boards to the park, too. The water is calm and perfect for paddling. Give Fido a spot on a kayak or SUP and paddle out for an afternoon of fun.

dog-friendly vacation on Fort Morgan Beaches

  • Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. If you’re a dog lover, chances are you’re an outdoor lover, too. Bike or hike the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. This dog-friendly attraction consists of 25 miles of paved trails and boardwalks, running from Orange Beach through the Gulf State Park. New to the trail system are wooden boardwalks taking you into areas not possible to explore before, as well as pedestrian sky bridges.
  • Tiki’s Mini Golf. “Tee off” for a day of family fun with Fido at Tiki’s Mini Golf in Gulf Shores. Tiki’s allows well-behaved pups on leashes. Tiki’s is home to Gulf Shores’ $5 all-you-can-play miniature golf. The 18-hole course is shaded by majestic oak trees so your fur child will stay a little cooler during the summer months.
  • The Beach! There are some rules to follow to get you in-the-know on the do’s and don’ts of Gulf Shores dog-friendly beaches. Dogs are not permitted on the public beaches in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach. However, for those vacationing in a pet-friendly Fort Morgan rental, there are plenty of white-sand beaches for your pooch to play. The Fort Morgan community is just a short drive from downtown Gulf Shores and is a popular spot for those who embark on a beach vacation with their dog.

Research Dog-friendly Restaurants

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are home to more than 13 pet-friendly restaurants, and there’s cuisine to please any palate. From beachside dives like the Flora-Bama Yacht Club to more refined experiences like Villaggio Grille at The Wharf, you can take your pick of pooch-pleasing dining options, including the following:

dog-friendly vacation at Pirates Cove

  • Pirate’s Cove Marina & Restaurant. You likely won’t find a more dog-friendly restaurant or beach than Pirate’s Cove in Josephine, AL. It’s a short boat ride from Orange Beach or a slightly longer car ride, but if you love a great beachside dive where your pup can play in the water sans leash, Pirate’s Cove is your spot. Plan to spend the day at Pirate’s Cove. Bring plenty of sunscreen, beach chairs and an appetite. Pirate’s Cove is packed with dog-loving locals, great burgers and one of the best bushwackers on the beach.
  • Cosmo’s Restaurant & Bar. The owners at Cosmo’s love dogs so much they named their restaurant after their family dog. Cosmo’s is a local’s favorite for unique entrees, including hand-cut steaks, local seafood and even sushi. The chef’s Banana Leaf Wrapped Fish is even on the list of “100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.” The casual outdoor deck is the perfect spot to have a cocktail with friends and your fur child.
  • The Gulf. Built from shipping containers, this unique restaurant offers some of the best views of Alabama Point. It’s a great spot to watch the boats come and go. A large sand area offers ample space for you and your pooch.
  • The Southern Grind Coffee House. This coastal chic coffee house has a great spot for Fido on the patio. There are also water bowls available. The Southern Grind earns top marks with us for great breakfast and lunch eats, as well as gelato and coffee drinks during a dog-friendly vacation.

Perfect Gulf Shores Pet-Friendly Rentals

Finding Gulf Shores pet-friendly vacation rentals may seem like finding a needle in a haystack. However, it only takes finding the right vacation rental management company. Harris Vacation Rentals Management offers the largest selection of dog-friendly rentals on Alabama beaches. You’ll want to book early to ensure you get the accommodations that best meet your needs. Browse the entire selection of dog-friendly vacation rentals on the website. For a sampling, keep reading.

    • Sunset Tides. This two-bedroom Fort Morgan condo at The Dunes features an oversized balcony with Gulf views.

dog-friendly vacation rental

  • Lemon Drop. Lemon Drop is a four-bedroom Fort Morgan beach house in the beachside Morgantown community. This house offers spacious decks and screened porches and is just a short walk to the beach.
  • Dock of the Bay. Your fur child will have plenty of grassy areas to run and play at Dock of the Bay. This four-bedroom beach house is located on Wolf Bay in Orange Beach and features a fishing pier.
  • Blue Parrot #3 and Blue Parrot #7. This Gulf Shores duplex is the perfect spot for large families who want to be close, but still have their own space. Each beachfront duplex offers five bedrooms and a shared swimming pool.


Planning a dog-friendly vacation doesn’t have to be stressful. Following these tips can help you enjoy a hassle-free experience. We do have one, last tip. Remember to call the attractions and restaurants prior to your arrival to ensure they are still pup friendly and the establishment’s rules haven’t changed.


Follow us on Facebook and share your favorite pooch photos with us from your Alabama beaches vacation in our pet friendly oceanfront rentals gulf shores AL.



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