Girls Getaway: Setting Sail to the Beach

Blog written by Heather Boothman

A Brit and a Southerner

Planning a girl’s getaway can be difficult especially when trying to come to an agreement on the best destination. Whether it’s shopping sprees or relaxing with spa day treatments, identifying a perfect location is critical before hitting the open road.

After much discussion, we all agreed that our chosen location required a beach, good shopping, fun attractions and of course great food! I soon realized that the choice was not difficult at all and the question had been answered in record time – Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in Alabama. Having visited this stretch of coastline previously with my husband, I knew that taking my girls here was the perfect choice.  All we have to do now is plan our itinerary in an area that has endless possibilities.

Where to Stay

During my last visit to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, we stayed at The Beach Club by Spectrum Resorts and had an amazing experience there. We researched various other alternatives in the area but many of the resorts just didn’t compare to Spectrum Resorts high quality accommodation. A word of caution if you are planning a getaway for early May. Book early because this is the start of the peak season and this is a much sought after destination and you certainly don’t want to settle for something if it is not at the beach.

Spectrum Resorts has the ‘best of the best’ along the Gulf of Mexico so when we stumbled across another property of theirs I didn’t think twice. Turquoise Place is a luxurious resort that is located in the heart of Orange Beach. All the best amenities like a gas grill and your own private Jacuzzi are included, in addition to their Clean Bed Guarantee that is revolutionizing the market.

Have you ever wondered how frequently hotels and resorts actually wash your bed linens? Sometimes comforters may only be washed twice each year. However thanks to Spectrum Resorts, “Each guest bed will be made with a freshly washed duvet and linens prior to your arrival.”  Turquoise Place here we come! 

What are our Plans

When you make a trip to the beach of course there will be morning runs, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets and that amazing beach smell with the waves crashing while we are relaxing. What do you do when you venture away from the beach? 

We are hoping to save time for a little retail therapy in the nearby Tanger Outlet mall in Foley, as well as the local markets and boardwalks within the area.

There is something to be said for being one with the ocean and we are excited to have booked a sunset cruise with Sail Wild Hearts. The cruise will last around 1.5 to 2 hours on a 53-foot catamaran. Tickets are $35 to cruise around while we sooth our souls and embrace the moments with the ocean.

The Waves of Wine Festival will be taking place during our visit, featuring live music, food from a variety of local restaurants as well as craft beer and of course over 120 different wine selections to try. Tickets are also $35 and that includes a cruise around the bay during the event for you to enjoy the breathtaking scenery in the Gulf. An added incentive is the inclusion of a wine glass and bag to help cherish your memories from this experience. The festival will be at a Caribe The Resort, which is in close proximity to Turquoise Place.

Where to Eat 

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is spoiled for choice when it comes to fine restaurants and cuisine options. Seafood here is delicious and the hardest part is choosing which of the many establishments to sample.

One restaurant that I am really excited about trying is The Gulf, which is located directly on the beach. Serving food inspired by the Gulf of Mexico, this outdoor venue is just a really cool looking restaurant. Did you know The Gulf is made out of repurposed shipping containers? This beach bar has much to offer in terms of atmosphere and of course food selection, from burgers to tacos this place looks like it has it all and dinner is going to be amazing.

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Shave an Hour off of Your Drive to the Alabama Gulf Coast

Each year, millions of vacationers will pack their bags and head to the Alabama Gulf Coast.  With so many people all heading to the same destination, traffic can quickly back up and add hours to your trip.  If you and your family are planning on taking a trip to visit Alabama’s beaches this year, there’s good news.  Travelers can now completely by pass Highway 59, and all its traffic lights, via an extension to the Beach Express that opened in 2014.  This extension creates a direct connection between Interstate 10 and Alabama’s sugar sand beaches.

The Baldwin Beach Express

Regular travelers to the Alabama Coast are probably familiar with the Foley Beach Express.  This highway connects with Highway 59 just north of Foley and ends in Orange Beach.  The new extension has been named the Baldwin Beach Express and it connects directly to Interstate 10 just four miles east of Exit 44 (the Highway 59/Gulf Shores Parkway exit in Loxley).  Travelers on Interstate 10 can access the new Baldwin Beach Express via Exit 49.  From there, you will find a four lane highway with minimal traffic lights and businesses that can quickly congest travel routes.  The Baldwin Beach Express ends at an intersection with the Foley Beach Express which takes travelers all of the way to Canal Road in Orange Beach.  If Orange Beach is your destination, there is a toll bridge that you must pass through to access the island, but the $3.50 toll is well worth the time that you will save by using the express way.  You can even prepay the toll and use a mobile app to access the prepaid toll lanes which have significantly less traffic during the summer.

If you are heading to Gulf Shores, there is a back road route that will take you and your family back to Highway 59 only a half mile away from the Gulf Shores bridge.  This route will add a couple of miles to your trip, but you won’t encounter the same bumper-to-bumper traffic that you would by taking Highway 59 all the way from Interstate 10.

Traffic Times to Avoid

Saturday is the most popular day of the week for reservation arrivals and departures.  This means it is also the most popular travel day and the day that you are most likely to encounter heavy traffic.  If your schedule is flexible, you can save significant drive time and stress by altering your travel plans by a single day.  Coming in on a Friday means the interstates and highways are much less congested, and you’ll be settled in and ready to hit the beach by the time Saturday morning rolls around.  Since that’s the time most people are packing up and heading home, you and your family will find the beaches are less crowed on Saturdays as well.

Unfortunately, many vacation rentals restrict arrivals and departures to Saturdays during the peak season, especially for 4 and 5 bedroom rentals.  If you and your family are staying at a location that requires a Saturday arrival and departure you won’t be able to avoid traveling on this day, but you can still use the new Baldwin Beach Express to avoid the traffic nightmares on Highway 59.

Easter EGGcitement

Easter is a time to rejoice and celebrate life.  Make plans to spend quality time relaxing and creating happy memories with your family. The Gulf Coast is filled with Easter festivities and Spring Break activities.

Are you looking for some Easter EGGcitement? Here are a few events you should add to your must do list for Easter weekend.

Wales West Cottontail Express

Board the Cottontail Express at Wales West on weekends until April 4 for a real Steam trail ride through the Bunny Hutch. Take your pictures with the Easter Bunny, visit the petting zoo and blast Peeps’ from cannon. Hop your way to Wales West and get your complimentary Easter basket and bunny ears.

Spring Azaleas at Bellingrath Gardens

Bellingrath Gardens is showcasing over 250,000 lively azalea blooms on 65 acres.  Azaleas are at their peak in full bloom for the next couple of weeks and the display is a “true southern icon.”  Bellingrath Gardens is open year round featuring floral pageantry in a spectacular estate garden.  As the sun rises over Bellingrath Gardens on Easter Sunday, a sunrise service will begin at 6:30 a.m. and offerings will benefit Family Promise of Coastal Alabama.

Easter Sunday Brunch at The Beach Club

Brunch is an Easter morning tradition and Executive Chef, Brody Olive and his team are serving an annual brunch at Coast Restaurant at The Beach Club.  Enjoy Blue Crab Deviled Eggs, Grilled Leg of Lamb Skewers, Bon Secour Shrimp & Grits, Herb Rubbed Prime Rib and much more. Click here to view the entire menu.

Egg Hunts

The Hangout is offering brunch at 8:00 a.m. and activities for all ages begin at 11:00 a.m. Known as “the Island’s largest kids Easter Egg Hunt.” You can have an EGGcellent time where “59 ends and the fun begins.”

The Beach Club is hiding an ocean of 6,000 eggs for kids 12 and under at the Annual Easter Eggstravanza on the front lawn of The Village for the egg dash at 1:00 p.m.  Get your face painted, take a train ride and get your photo made with the Easter Bunny.

LuLu’s at Homeport Marina is hosting their Annual Easter Egg Hunt at 2:00 p.m. on Easter Sunday. Take  your picture with the Easter Bunny and hunt for EGGciting treasures in the sand.

We hope everyone has an EGGcellent Easter Sunday. For additional information on area events and activities, please visit

We Pack to Travel – Take Home Alabama’s Finest Seafood

There is nothing like sinking your teeth into some of the finest seafood on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Visitors flock to the area to relax on the shore and enjoy the freshest Gulf cuisine. In addition to enjoying fresh shrimp, fish and oysters while you are here, you can also take it home with you. Here is a list of local specialty markets that will pack your seafood to travel home with you or ship it directly to your doorstep.

Blalock Seafood and Specialty Markets are conveniently located in Gulf Shores on Highway 59 and on Canal Road in Orange Beach. Blalock Seafood offers a wide selection of the freshest seafood available and they always have “Royal Red” shrimp. They offer a fresh fish selection according to the season and you can always find a complimentary sample of their famous shrimp bisque. In addition to their Coastal Alabama locations, you can also find a location in Destin, Florida.

Billy’s Seafood is a fresh local market supplying fresh seafood since 1975. Their motto is “If It Swims We’ve Got It.” Located on Bon Secour River, it is considered the hidden gem of fresh off the boat local seafood. Not only will they pack to travel, they will also ship it to your door with overnight delivery. If you tell then you saw it online, they will include a free 5oz shrimp boil.

Gulf Shores Seafood and Meat Market is a one stop source for fresh seafood, steaks and meals to go. Located across from Waterville, USA, you can find fresh Snapper, Grouper, Yellowfin Tuna, Flounder, Crabmeat, Oysters, seafood dips and live or cooked crawfish. They sell premium steaks for land lovers and you can order your meals online and they will have them ready to go so you can spend your time relaxing on the beach.

Lartigue’s Seafood Market offers the real deal in fresh and steamed seafood to go. They offer a complete line of dipping sauce, marinades and hot sauces to compliment the variety of fresh local seafood. In addition to the fresh seafood market, Lartigue’s offers inshore, nearshore and offshore fishing adventures.

Make sure you stop by one these fresh markets while you are on the Alabama Gulf Coast so you can take some of Alabama’s finest seafood home with you or have is shipped.

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Must Have Items for Your Beach Vacation

The weather is getting warmer and the daydreams of your next beach vacation are about to become reality. As you are going down your check list of must have items for your vacation, be sure to add a few things that will maximize your beach fun in the sun. Here are few must have items for your 2015 beach vacation.

SoundStage Aqua Waterproof Bluetooth Speakers– Even though there is the sweet sound of the waves rolling in on the beach, most vacationers like to listen to their favorite tunes while soaking up the sun. Make sure you pack some speakers like the Soundstage Aqua Waterproof Bluetooth speakers that can withstand the sand and sun for the duration of your stay.

GoPro – Take the beach home with you on a GoPro. Make those memories last a lifetime by recording the beautiful scenery and even underwater shots. GoPro’s even allow you to share footage you’re your friends and family through a Wi-Fi connection.

Yeti Cooler – If you are looking for an indestructible cooler to keep your ice cold for days, then we suggest a Yeti cooler for your beach days or every day. For serious outdoor enthusiasts, Yeti coolers were designed for people with a passion for the outdoors.

EasyAcc External Battery Charger – Don’t miss out on snapping that great beach picture or posting on social media because your phone battery dies on the beach. EasyACC External Battery Charger offers a sleek compact design that is easy to hold and store.

Ray Bans – Polarized Ray Bans are perfect for eliminating glare for visual clarity and they offer trendy designs for a contemporary look. Ray Bans are well known for their aviator sunglasses but now offer a variety of styles and designs.

Obagi Medical Sun Shield – Protect your skin for the harmful UVA and UVB rays elegantly with Obagi Medical Sun Shield with a SPF 50. It is non-greasy, fragrance-free and for all skin types.

Let us know if these items work well for you on your next beach trip. Please offer any feedback on any must have beach items you can’t relax without.


Top Travel Award given to The Beach Club

TripAdvisor’s family travel site has recognized The Beach Club as one of the top hotels for families. Managed by Spectrum Resorts, The Beach Club received the honor of being a “Top 10 “Family Vacation Critic Favorite”. The award is given to resorts that have been rated the best by reviewers and the site’s editors.

The Beach Club is a family-focused resort conveniently located on 86 acres on Fort Morgan Road in Gulf Shores. To be included in on the Family Vacation Critic list of top family-friendly hotels, The Beach Club had to be hand-chosen by the editors based on previous guest reviews as a family friendly destination. A member of the Family Vacation Critic’s editorial team had to review the resort in person and have been rated the best for family travelers to be included.

With private beaches spanning the length of nearly five football fields, The Beach Club’s, accommodations range from picturesque lakeside cottages to one to five-bedroom condominiums on the Gulf. Spectrum Resorts manages the majority of rental units at The Beach Club and they offer advantages associated with the Spectrum Advantage including access to all amenities, resort discounts, on-site check-in and concierge services.

“We are honored to have been selected from among the more than 3,500 hotels that are recommended on this family travel site,” said David Clark, General Manager at The Beach Club. “Knowing that we have received a seal of approval from actual vacationing families makes the award that more valuable.” Clark adds, “I’m proud of our team members and owners, they have tremendous pride and continue to raise the bar to create happy memories for the families and guests who visit.”

Spectrum Resorts is the only rental management company on the Alabama Coast to offer the same duvet service guests receive at luxury hotels. Every guest bed has a freshly laundered duvet prior to arrival for a better and cleaner experience.

It is because of consumer opinion that The Beach Club become an award-winning resort. Create happy memories with your family at The Beach Club with Spectrum Resorts and give your feedback on Family Vacation Critic and TripAdvisor.

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Coastal Alabama Restaurants that will Cook It when you Hook It

It is no secret that the Alabama Gulf Coast is famous for offshore and inshore fishing. The variety of saltwater and freshwater fish will have you hooked, especially when you catch it yourself. After reeling in the big one, sit back and let one of Coastal Alabama’s restaurants cook it when you hook it.

The Village Hideaway at The Beach Club
925 Beach Club Trail
Gulf Shores, AL 36542
The Village Hideaway is a family friendly sports themed dining establishment with grilled dishes, craft beers, and interactive games including a golf simulator by High Definition Golf™. Get the best of both worlds and enjoy golf and fishing in the same day. Enjoy your fresh catch, drinks, games and good times at the Hideaway.

Wolf Bay Lodge – Orange Beach
26619 Perdido Beach Blvd.
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Wolf Bay Lodge is family owned and operated and is well known for their high quality fresh seafood and local ambience. Nestled in Zeke’s Landing, it is an ideal location for fresh fish right off the boat and great waterfront dining.

Tacky Jack’s – Orange Beach
27206 Safe Harbor Drive
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Located off Marina Road, Tacky Jack’s atmosphere is described as FUN. Quality, value, family and community are the Tacky Jack’s brand standards and the waterfront views and friendly staff makes every guest want to return for multiple visits.

Flora-Bama Yacht Club
17350 Perdido Key Drive
Perdido Key, FL 32507
Technically, the Flora-Bama Yacht Club has a Florida address but Alabamians still claim half of it. You can bring your cleaned, filet fresh catches to the Yacht Club and they will prepare you a delicious meal in the open-air casual restaurant. Located on Ole River, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

If you are planning a trip to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, most likely someone in your party is going to want to catch the big one. Let these restaurants prepare your fresh catch after a fun filled day of fishing.

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2015’s Events You Don’t Want to Miss

The Alabama Coast has great weather year round and Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have become popular destinations not only for beach vacations but for festivals as well. It is a great time to make your plans to visit the pristine beaches on the Gulf Coast and we suggest attending one of these popular events.

Festival of Art
March 14-15
You can find an array of arts at the 41st Annual Festival of Art at the Orange Beach Coastal Arts Center. This free waterfront event features concerts, a kid’s art alley, and live demonstrations. More than 100 artists celebrate culinary, visual, musical and performing arts. Find the works of local and regional artist including sculptors and painters.

Hangout Music Festival
May 15-17
This 3-day event will have you dancing in the sand all weekend long. Event coordinators are known for attracting some of the most sought after musicians to this one of a kind Gulf-front festival. This year’s lineup includes Foo Fighters, Sam Smith, Zak Brown Band, Beck and much more.

Blue Marlin Grand Championship
July 7-12
The greatest show in sports fishing is being recognized as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast for July. The Blue Marlin Grand Championship benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and is unlike any other tournament with an over-the-top weigh-in that is professionally planned, promoted and produced on live TV.

Wharf Uncorked
September 26
Presented by Mercedes-Benz of Mobile, this culinary event is about good wine and culinary arts. Featuring local chefs and restaurants, Wharf Uncorked is the premier wine and culinary event on the Alabama coast. Over 60 wineries serve hundreds of varieties of wine from 7 different countries.

44th Annual National Shrimp Festival
October 8-11
Presented by Zatarain’s, this is a free event on the beautiful Alabama beaches of Gulf Shores where Highway 59 ends and the fun begins. Over 300 vendors attract over 250,000 people indulging in fresh seafood, fine arts, arts and crafts, a retail marketplace and an outdoor village.

Coastal Christmas
November 28-New Year’s
Started in 2013, Coastal Christmas is all about holiday travel and shopping. Christmas is a great time of year to visit the Gulf Coast and enjoy fresh Gulf seafood and enjoy the many activities featured in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach including ice skating and carriage rides at the Wharf, the Lighted Boat Parade, Merry Market and much more.

In addition to the events listed above, please visit for a list of events happening throughout the year.

The 2014 Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf © 2014 Courtland William RichardsAll Rights Reserved

Questions to ask When Choosing a House or Condo for Spring Break

When it comes to choosing the perfect house or condo for Spring Break, we suggest doing as much research as possible. Before booking your much anticipated Spring Break getaway, check out all of your options. Both have benefits and it all depends on the environment that is suitable for your guests.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are popular family-friendly destinations year round but during Spring Break, college students like to hit the beach as well. There is a huge selection of vacation rentals to choose from and the beauty of staying on Alabama beaches is there is something for everyone from partying Spring Breakers who like to party to families with children of all ages.

Whether you are looking for a relaxing Spring Break on the beach or a week of high-energy partying, we have a few questions you should ask when choosing between a house or condo.

Amenities – If you are looking for the comfort of onsite amenities, then condos typically offer more amenities than a house. Look for full-service resorts and make sure they have an indoor pool as well as an outdoor pool. If looking for a house, look for one with a private pool or a Jacuzzi. Spring Break tends to be early in the year so the Gulf waters may not be warm enough to swim in. Full service resorts offer onsite dining, full-service spas, activities and front-desk services. Ask the rental company what amenities are included in the rates and which ones have an additional fee.

Privacy and Security – When seeking privacy during Spring Break, a standalone house may be a good choice for you. Ask the vacation management company about parking to ensure there is plenty for your guests. If you are planning of staying in a condo, ask about onsite security for your protection. Ask about a house on a well lit street and any safety concerns you have especially if you have kids old enough to walk around town on their own but aren’t old enough to drive.

Location – Location is extremely important when booking a vacation rental in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach because there are 32 miles of beautiful sugar-white beach so you have a lot of options to choose from. Are you looking for something in Orange Beach close to the Flora-Bama or something off the beaten path in a village resort community like The Beach Club? Ask about the distance to restaurants and bars if you are looking to dine out a lot or go out in the evenings. If you are looking for something family friendly, then ask about local attractions for all ages.

We suggest composing a list of questions and concerns you may have before booking your Spring Break vacation rental. Everyone has different concerns and questions so we suggest looking for FAQ sheets on your rental management company’s websites. Make sure you book the right rental for you and have a safe and happy Spring Break.

Mardi Gras Madness on Alabama Beaches

It only happens once a year, but people from all over flock to the Gulf Coast to celebrate Mardi Gras. There are beads, masks, costumes and parades galore. Many people think of New Orleans as the birthplace of Mardi Gras but French settlers organized the first Mardi Gras celebration in Mobile. The first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans in 1837 and is now considered the place where the good times roll.

If you are staying in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach this Mardi Gras season, there are many ways to celebrate. You can line the streets to yell at passing floats for beads, you can attend a Mardi Gras ball or enjoy a Mardi Gras boat parade.

Here are 5 parades you won’t want to miss in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

1. LuLu’s is hosting the 3rd Annual Birds of Paradise Mardi Gras Ball on February 11 at 7 p.m. Tickets include open bar, music by the Tip Tops and dinner. Guests must be 21 or older to attend this event.

2. The Mystical Order of Mirams rolls down Perdido Beach Boulevard on February 13 at 6:30 p.m. in Orange Beach.

3. The Mystic of Pleasures starts in Orange Beach on February 14 at 5:30 p.m. on Perdido Beach Boulevard.

4. Two family-friendly parades make their way down Main Street at The Wharf on February 14. The Children and Pet Parade begins at 4 p.m. and the traditional float parade begins at 6 p.m. All kids are invited to jump in the free bounce houses and the nightly light show will feature the sounds and sights of Mardi Gras.

5. Three parades occur on Fat Tuesday, February 17:
• The Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parade starts at 10 a.m. on Highway 59 from Clubhouse Drive to the Main Public Beach by Hangout.
• The Orange Beach Mardi Gras Parade begins at 2 p.m. on Perdido Beach Boulevard and ends at Alabama Highway 161.
The Annual LuLu’s Mardi Gras Boat Parade will depart from The Wharf at 3 p.m. and travel along the Intracoastal Waterway to LuLu’s. It is also LuLu’s 16th anniversary so indulge in a slice of complimentary cake to celebrate.

Freelance writer, Karon Warren recently shared her tips with Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism on how to Have a Family-Friendly Mardi Gras on Alabama Beaches. Please read her blog post and let us know how you celebrate Mardi Gras.

Laissez les bons temps rouler! (Let the good times roll!)