There’s just something special about that first visit to the beautiful beaches in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Nothing quite compares to the feeling of slipping off your shoes, walking barefoot across the sand and dipping your toes in the Gulf of Mexico. If it’s your first time visiting Gulf Shores, welcome! Read on to learn about some of the best things to see and do along our sugar-white shores.
Visiting Gulf Shores for the first time? Enjoy your beach getaway to the fullest when you book a Harris Vacation Rentals vacation rental! We’ve got the best properties around!
After settling into your Gulf Shores condo, the first thing you should do is visit the Gulf Shores Welcome Center. Get a coupon book for goodies like free desserts or appetizers at restaurants, as well as discounts on local attractions. Plus, hear about special events taking place during your visit from the friendly and knowledgeable Welcome Center staff.
The Gulf Shores Welcome Center also provides an official vacation guide, free Wi-Fi access, and public computer terminals. It’s open seven days a week, but closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas.
Next, head to Souvenir City and get your picture taken in the shark’s mouth! It’s a longstanding tradition for families. After you walk through the attraction, browse the store, packed full of great T-shirts, glassware and other gifts to take home. Everyone enjoys the fudge!
You could easily spend the entire day browsing the many shops, restaurants, and family-friendly attractions at The Wharf at Orange Beach. You’ll definitely want to check out the mini-golf courses, arcades, movie theatres, and Alabama’s longest zipline course. And if there’s one thing you absolutely must do, it’s ride the Ferris Wheel! This iconic landmark gives you tree-top views of the coast and costs just $5 per person (kids aged 3 and under ride free). When night falls, make sure to stay for one of the SPECTRA shows. The popular sound and light spectacular happens nightly and is an experience like no other! Admission is free.
LuLu’s is a family-friendly destination restaurant located just over the Intracoastal Waterway Bridge. A favorite hangout for locals and visitors alike, LuLu’s takes the coastal theme to the extreme with great outdoor seating, children’s activities, and entertainment on stage every night of the week. It’s a must-see if you’re visiting Gulf Shores for the first time!
Take a walk on the wild side at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. The zoo, which opened in 1989, is now home to about 500 animals. See alligators, monkeys, lemurs, tigers and more. Get an up-close look at animals in their natural habitat! Play with lemurs, baby kangaroos and sloths. Whether you’re a kid or a kid at heart, you’ll love every second of your visit to this world-class zoo.
It may be last on the list, but it’s the one thing you absolutely have to do while visiting our beautiful beaches on a first-time Gulf Shores vacation. There’s just something magical about watching the sun sink low into the horizon before disappearing into the aquamarine Gulf waters. Who are we kidding? It’s something you’ll want to do each and every visit.
Many of our first-time guests ask us when is the best time to visit Gulf Shores. Long story short, the weather is great all year ‘round! Fall is a beautiful season with highs in the mid-70s and lows in the high 40s. Winter doesn’t get much colder, though there may be some heavy jacket days in January and February. By spring, everyone’s ready to hit the beach again as temperatures warm up. Summertime brings highs near 100 degrees, but the cool breeze from the Gulf keeps it nice for beach-goers.
When it comes to the best accommodations in Gulf Shores, AL, look no further than Harris Vacation Rentals! Our gorgeous vacation homes and condos have everything you need for a memorable first time visiting Gulf Shores. Whether you’re dreaming of a beachfront home, a rental with a private pool, or a large family home, we are sure to have the ideal accommodation for your getaway. Are you ready to make memories to last a lifetime? Browse our properties and contact us to book your stay today. We can’t wait to welcome you to paradise!
If you’re planning a trip to Gulf Shores, you’ve probably already know about popular attractions like Waterville, USA , The Hangout, and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. But what about the area’s best-kept-secrets? If you’re looking to explore Gulf Shores off the beaten path, we’ve got you covered! Pack your bags, book your vacation rental, leave the itinerary to us. Here are three of our favorite lesser-known activities and attractions in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Have you ever wanted to explore the hidden backwaters and beaches along the Alabama Coast? Now is your chance! There are several fishing charters to choose from in Gulf Shores. However, if you’re looking for a more unique experience, we recommend taking a tour with Nelson Fishing Charters. Tours are captained by Gator Nelson and Matt White, who will navigate you to all of the best fishing holes and hidden gems along the Alabama Coast. From pontoon reef trips and dolphin cruises to nature tours and fishing trips, they offer a little bit of everything. Their local knowledge and experience makes for a fun and interesting tour every time!
Trade the Gulf waters for a day on scenic Wolf Bay. Orange Beach Waterfront Park is an ideal spot where families with small children can relax and enjoy some quality time together. The water is shallow and calm, and there is a small beach area. Watch the kids build sandcastles, or bring a kayak or stand up paddleboard and paddle away in smooth bay waters. A 400-foot fishing pier offers covered pavilions with seating. Bring your fishing pole and cast a line right from the pier.
The park is open year-round and is rarely crowded, even on a typical summer day. Picnic tables and grills make it easy to spend the entire day at the park. Restroom facilities are nearby, and an outdoor shower is available to rinse the saltwater away before heading back to your Orange Beach vacation rental.
Are you traveling with dogs? It’s also important to note that Orange Beach Waterfront Park is dog-friendly, which is just another reason that we love it so much. Bring your pooch and enjoy a day splashing in the water!
You may have hiked or biked the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, but did you know that there are more scenic trails to explore? Just a short drive from Gulf Shores, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge offers 7,000 acres of protected trails and beaches just waiting to be explored. A great destination for birdwatchers, the refuge is a stopover for more than 300 species of migratory birds.
If you’re looking to reconnect with nature, you will definitely want to plan a visit to the refuge. Away from all the crowds, there’s a large secluded beach area that feels like a private oasis. Numerous trails offer miles of opportunities to see native wildlife. Relax by the beach and then get out and explore miles of scenic trails. Or, take a short hike along the one-mile-long Jeff Friend Trail and launch your canoe or kayak into Little Lagoon. The possibilities are endless!
Experience Gulf Shores off the beaten path when you book your stay with Harris Vacation Rentals. We offer a wide range of vacation rentals in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, and Orange Beach. Whether you prefer an intimate condo, a luxury home, or a beachfront property, we are sure to have the ideal vacation rental for your getaway. We also offer pet-friendly properties for guests who are traveling with their four-legged friends.
If the quiet and tranquility of Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge appeals to you, consider spending your vacation on the Fort Morgan Peninsula. We offer a variety of Fort Morgan rentals near the refuge, including beautiful beach houses and condos. If you prefer to stay near Orange Beach or Gulf Shores, consider booking your stay in Adagio. This great 3-bedroom cottage is ideal for a memorable Orange Beach vacation (and it’s pet-friendly!). Enjoy being just minutes from the waterfront park.
It can be difficult to choose the perfect location for your family beach trip, especially when there are so many amazing options along the Alabama Coast. Where are the best beaches? Are there plenty of activities, dining options, and shops near your vacation rental? What is the nightlife like? Many of our guests ask these types of questions when trying to decide between Gulf Shores vs. Orange Beach for their family vacation. To help make planning easier, we have highlighted a few differences between these two great locations. Read on to learn more and choose the destination that’s right for your family!
The Gulf Coast is home to the best beaches in the country – it’s no secret. Whether you choose to stay in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, Alabama, you’ll experience equally beautiful beaches in both locations. Sugar-white sand, sparkling aquamarine waters, and plenty of sunshine await at either destination. Both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach also offer extremely fresh seafood, access to scenic hiking and biking trails, watersport rentals, great shopping and dining. So, what is the major difference? While either of these amazing destinations would be a great choice for your beach getaway, it depends on your family’s personal preference.
Gulf Shores offers more activities and attractions such as Zooland Mini-Golf, Waterville USA, the Gulf Coast Zoo, The Track Family Fun Park, South Baldwin Community Theatre, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and much, much more. From amusement parks and family-friendly fun to exciting nightlife and entertainment, the list of things to do in Gulf Shores is endless. If you’re searching for a vacation rental located in the heart of it all, this would be a great option for your stay. Whether you seek adventure or total relaxation, the possibilities are endless in Gulf Shores!
On the other hand, Orange Beach offers a quieter and more laid-back beach vibe. If you’re more interested in lounging by the shoreline during your getaway, this may be more your speed. Cast a line into the Gulf, play a round of golf at Orange Beach golf course, or enjoy spending time with family in your Harris Property. Orange Beach also has its fair share of attractions and activities as well. The Wharf at Orange Beach is your ultimate destination for family fun. Here, you’ll discover fabulous shops and restaurants, Alabama’s longest zipline course, breakout games, arcades, charter boat cruises, mini-golf, a Ferris wheel and more.
When it comes to choosing between Gulf Shores vs. Orange Beach, you really can’t go wrong. Either destination would be an excellent option for your family beach getaway, especially when you’re staying in a Harris Property! Unlike Orange Beach hotels or Gulf Shores hotels, our spacious vacation rentals offer a unique lodging experience that you won’t find elsewhere. Choose the exact home you want, whether it’s a pet-friendly accommodation, a rental with a private pool, a beachfront property, or a luxury home. The whole family will have plenty of room to unwind and socialize after a fabulous day of adventure!
Harris Vacation Rentals offers vacation rentals in three amazing locations: Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan. Choose the location that’s right for your family and get ready for your next unforgettable trip to paradise. Browse our properties and contact us to book your stay. We can’t wait to welcome you!
The Gulf of Mexico is home to the most beautiful beaches in the world — it’s no secret. Spanning more than 150 miles, the Gulf Islands National Seashore is known for its dazzling aquamarine waters and sugar-white sand. From swimming and paddling to hiking and waterfront dining, the list of things to do at the Gulf Shores National Seashore is endless! Here are some of our favorite ways to enjoy a day in paradise.
For more ideas about things to see and do by the Gulf Shores National Seashore, check out our Activities page. It’s full of tips about the best local activities, excursions, tours, and more. And, when you book a Harris Vacation Rentals family vacation rental, you’ll even receive up to $100 0ff local tours and activities through TripShock. Vacation planning has never been easier!
With pristine white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water, it’s no wonder so many are drawn to the natural paradise that is Gulf Shores, Alabama. There are endless water activities to enjoy here, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, boating, diving, snorkeling, and more. Fly high amongst the clouds on a parasailing adventure, dive to colorful underwater reefs, or cast a line into the sparkling Gulf waters. Do you prefer to stay on land? Lounge by the shoreline and soak up the sun, beach comb for shells and other treasures, or simply sink your toes into the sand and relax. The possibilities are endless!
When you’re ready to take a break from the sun and surf, head indoors for a delicious meal overlooking the Gulf. Some of our favorite waterfront dining spots on the Gulf Shores include Lulu’s, The Hangout Gulf Shores, and the iconic Flora-Bama. The Wharf at Orange Beach also features a wide array of fabulous dining and shopping options. Whether you’re in the mood for a casual meal or a gourmet four-course dinner, there is something for everyone here!
Are you searching for the best dolphin excursions? Perhaps you’re interested in taking everyone on a sunset cruise. No matter what your family decides to do, you’ll have a blast exploring the many attractions in Gulf Shores. Play a round of mini-golf, race go-karts at the Track, or take the kids to the Gulf Coast Zoo, or make a splash at Waterville USA. After a fun-filled day of adventure, come rest your head in your comfortable Gulf Shores vacation rental and relax.
Discover Gulf Shores’ rich and fascinating past! History-buffs will love exploring the local museums, historic forts, and other sites along the Gulf Shores National Seashore. Discover what life was like for this region’s earliest inhabitants at the Gulf Shores Museum or catch a live reenactment at Fort Morgan historic site. And if you’ve never taken a tour of the Swift-Coles Historic Home, you’re in for a very special treat. With incredible architecture and a unique story, it’s easy to envision what life was like during the Gilded Age in the South.
Calling all nature-lovers and outdoor enthusiasts! Beautiful beaches are not all that the Gulf Shores National Seashore has to offer. In fact, this region is home to miles of scenic hiking trails, state parks, and wildlife refuges. Gulf State Park is one of the most beloved landmarks in Alabama filled with great spots for hiking, fishing, or lounging by the shoreline. Are you interested in wildlife-viewing or birding? Make sure to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge to see Alabama wildlife in their natural habitat! Keep an eye out for common and rare animals including bobcats, red foxes, armadillos, alligators, and six-lined race runners. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
After an amazing day by the Gulf Shores National Seashore, come kick back and relax in a Harris Property. We offer a wide range of vacation rentals in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan. Whether you prefer a home with a private pool, a beachfront condo, a pet-friendly accommodation, or a luxury property, we are sure to have the ideal accommodation for your family beach getaway. Plus, you’ll enjoy being just minutes from all of these amazing activities and attractions. So, what are you waiting for? Contact us to start planning your beach vacation today! We can’t wait to welcome you.
Music. Food. Fun. These are the three ingredients for an unforgettable Gulf Shores vacation. Where can you go to find all of these elements in one place? The Hangout Gulf Shores! This colorful, open-air attraction features various restaurants, live music, bars, and shops. It’s a great spot to spend the day with family or friends.
The only other thing you need for an unforgettable vacation is the perfect rental home. At Harris Vacation Rentals, we ensure the best experience for our guests. From beachfront bungalows to luxurious condos, there’s something to fit everyone’s vacation style. Book your rental home today!
Today, The Hangout has become the heart and soul of Gulf Shores. Its vibrant, lively atmosphere has been a staple of Gulf Shores culture since the 1950s and 60s. Nearly 70 years ago, The Hangout was a meeting place for surfers enjoying the local beaches.
The Hangout remained a local gathering place until Hurricane Ivan destroyed the property in 2004. However, The Hangout returned bigger and better than ever in 2008! After a significant rebuild, the entertainment venue continues to grow to this day.
The Hangout is one of our favorite places for family fun in Gulf Shores. The venue is just feet away from the Gulf of Mexico, making it a beautiful place to spend time after a day at the beach.
What kind of food are you in the mood for today?
The Hangout dining room is constantly buzzing with excitement and delicious food. The venue’s signature dishes include the Cajun Campfire Steak, Hangout Jambalaya, Hang 10 Cheeseburger, Big Beach Burger, and Shaka Wrap. Are you feeling hungry yet?
Peruse all of the menus at The Hangout, then select some of the tastiest beachfront cuisine you’ll ever have!
You can also find Gulf Shores’s most famous drinks here. Chill out with a cocktail at the mermaid bar, sip on a draft beer, enjoy a frozen drink at the daiquiri bar, or try one of the featured brews. You can’t go wrong!
There’s something fun for those of all ages at The Hangout! Unique photo ops include the giant shaka hand, hangout chairs, and, of course, the beach.
Kids (and adults, too!) love playing in the sandpit and participating in the hourly foam party. There’s also an area for backyard games, a souvenir T-shirt shop, and a colorful wish wall. Enjoy live music at the mermaid stage and huddle around the fire pit on cool nights.
Our favorite aspect of The Hangout is all of the vintage decor, especially the wall collections. From old-school lunch boxes to black and white photographs, these memorabilia will transport you back in time!
The Hangout Gulf Shores is best known for its fantastic annual music festival. The Hangout Music Fest is the most famous Gulf Shores concert, and thousands flock to attend every year. Held the weekend before Memorial Day, this multi-day outdoor festival features some of the industry’s top artists. Relax beachside, jam out to amazing music, and take part in all the fun activities at the event. What’s not to love?
For more information about the music festival, check out the official website.
After you’ve explored The Hangout Gulf Shores, return to your stunning Harris Vacation Rentals vacation rental. Our homes are an attraction in and of themselves, and La Mahana is no exception. This gorgeous ground-level unit features a private patio, tropical decor, and a fully equipped kitchen, You’ll also have access to unbeatable amenities, from a crystal blue swimming pool to an outdoor shower and grilling area. The rental includes beachfront access so that you can start your mornings with a sunrise walk along the shore.
It’s no secret that Gulf Shores is home to beautiful weather year-round. The next time you take a trip to the Gulf Coast, take advantage of the sunshine and blue skies with a visit to one of the top Gulf Shores AL golf courses! Whether you’re a lifelong golfer or have never set foot on the green before, Gulf Shores, AL is the perfect place to tee off. Enjoy expertly designed courses against the backdrop of a tropical paradise. Check out some of our favorite places to play, then get ready to book your Gulf Shores family vacation with Harris Vacation Rentals!
Get ready to test out your swing! We’ve compiled a lost of the eight leading Gulf Shores AL golf courses for you and your family to visit.
Note: After the closure of the Gulf State Park Golf Course, many other courses in the area are offering discounted rates. Check individual websites for deal details.
Kiva Dunes is one of our favorite golf courses in Gulf Shores, and we’re not the only ones who think so! Golf Digest ranked this exquisite course as one of the Top 100 Public Courses in the country. With over 7,000 yards of play area and plenty of secluded, natural scenery, this links-style course is perfect for any avid golfer. If you’d like to improve your skills before playing a game of your own, Kiva Dunes offers private and group lessons.
Tip: Book your tee time online in advance. The earlier you book, the more money you can save!
The Peninsula is a beautiful, private, and unforgettable golf resort nestled between Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. This 27-hole, 7,026-yard course is located next to the Bon Secour Wildlife Preserve and features lovely scenery and wildlife along the green. Enjoy views of Mobile Bay and access to the club restaurant and private beach.
Peninsula Golf is also a member of Honours Golf, a golf management company dedicated to providing exceptional golf experiences. As a member, you’ll receive preferred rates, onsite accommodations, and advance booking privileges at their courses.
Two Honours Golf courses, Cotton Creek and Cypress Bend, are both located at Craft Farms. Golf legend Arnold Palmer designed them to provide a challenging, yet inviting golf experience. As the only two courses designed by Palmer in the state, they are a must-visit for any avid golfer planning a trip to Alabama.
The greens are well-manicured, the staff is friendly, and the views (especially if you’re lucky enough to see a sunset) are stunning. Golf Digest rated the courses at 4.5/5 stars. But don’t take their word for it; come and test it out for yourself!
Head over to the small, adjoining city of Orange Beach for your next round of golf! The Orange Beach Golf Center is a 9-hole, par-3 course open every day of the week. The facility features a Pro Shop, golf clinic, and lighted driving range for you to practice your skills before stepping out on the green. The best part? You can revel in a spectacular Orange Beach sunset and keep playing golf! The driving range and Pro Shop are open until 9 p.m. daily.
Are you planning on taking a quick and fun day trip from Gulf Shores? Fairhope, AL is the perfect destination! Fairhope is just an hour from downtown Gulf Shores and is located along the Mobile Bay shoreline. Check out the pier, visit a history museum, and play a round of golf or two!
Another Honours Golf certified course, Rock Creek is an 18-hole, player-friendly golf green. Enjoy 6,900 yards of golf, perfect for long hitters eager to practice their swing. The green of the championship golf course exhibits a variety of shapes and putting surfaces with lovely views of the surrounding wetlands. You can even rent out the club to host your own on-site golf tournament!
Fun fact: Rock Creek may have been the first place on the continent where golf was played in 1170 by Prince Madoc. Come and rub the famous rock for luck before you start your game!
Quail Creek is an affordable, accessible course just minutes away from downtown Fairhope. This well-landscaped, challenging fairway has 18 holes, three lakes, and more than 40 sand traps ‒ be sure to bring your best swing! The fairway is open to walkers, so spectators and family members are welcome to explore the greenway as well. After a game, head to the Pro Shop for a golf-themed souvenir. You can ever grab a quick bite to eat at the Quail Creek snack shop and grill.
Are you ready to make your vacation a hole in one? There are so many reasons to tee off in Golf Shores, especially our world-class accommodations. After spending a day at one of the best Gulf Shores AL golf courses, come back and relax at a Harris Vacation Rentals vacation rental.
Across the street from the Orange Beach Golf Center, our Pelican Condo is part of the Orange Beach villas. This quaint community features an onsite clubhouse, outdoor swimming pool, and a serene gazebo on the lake. The Pelican unit comfortably sleeps eight, and it is equipped with chic furnishings, a full-sized kitchen, and a covered patio. And, when you stay in the Orange Beach villas, you’ll be just a mile away from The Wharf at Orange Beach, one of our favorite entertainment and concert venues in Gulf Shores.
Since opening, Waterville USA in the heart of Gulf Shores has become one of the premier entertainment destinations for families vacationing along the Alabama Gulf Coast. From the start of the season in late May to the end of the season in mid-August, Waterville is a favorite for those looking to break from the pristine beaches for a change. So, what’s there to do at Waterville? Well, there’s the water—bucket loads of it! This may be the best place to spend a day when you cannot get into the Gulf water.
One of the coolest attractions is the Flowrider, especially if you like hanging ten. The Flowrider creates a continuous wave over a base of soft foam. You will be able to practice all your tricks on a perfect wave with no fear of falling or injury.
If you’re a thrill seeker, then you’ll want to get in line for Great White, a world-class one, two, and three passenger tubing adventure through the jaws of the Great White Shark, a tunnel, a waterfall, and then a quick drop to the lagoon below. This ride is the Gulf Coast’s most awesome tube ride.
And if that isn’t fun enough, then really get your heart going on the Screamin’ Demon. Yeah, it’s that scary—and thrilling! What is it? It’s a water slide not for the faint of heart! Drop almost 60 feet in a flash on Waterville’s white-knuckle scream machine. This high-speed body slide is a must for thrill seekers.
But not all the attractions at Waterville USA might make you skip lunch; there’s plenty of relaxing water-centric attractions like Shrimp Boat Village—a waterworks attraction and the ultimate water playground. This water wonderland has something around every corner. Three stories of sprays, geysers, net crawls, slides, water cannons, and dumping buckets abound on this amazing attraction. Turn the handles and soak a friend or family member on Waterville’s interactive water playground. Shrimp Boat Village is fun for the whole family and must be experienced firsthand, but beware of the giant shrimp bucket dump!
There’s also Rainbow Falls, Crystal Waters River, North Shore Wave Pool, Gold Rush, and much more, with plenty of things to do for the really little ones. And when it comes time for some grub, Waterville’s got a great snack and lunch bar. Want to just get some rays? Then relax on a lounge chair and let your troubles float away!
Last but not least, Waterville USA is home to the Cannonball Run, a wooden rollercoaster that hits 50 MPH. Feel the thrill of zero-gravity and pure speed with family and friends on the Gulf Coast’s fastest wooden coaster, day or night. This is definitely one of the Gulf Coast’s coolest attractions and a must ride for sure.
Looking for the most family-friendly attraction in Gulf Shores? It’s Waterville USA, and it’s nearby your very own Gulf Shores vacation rental from Harris Vacation Rentals. Book today and take your family on a wet and wild vacation! Browse through our condo rentals as well as our deals.