Gulf Shores, Alabama
Fall is one of the best times to visit Gulf Shores. Located approximately 50 miles south of Mobile, Alabama, the community’s most popular event is the National Shrimp Festival held every October. The free four-day festival attracts more than 300,000 crustacean lovers.
Most vacationers rent a condo and soak up the sun along a 32-mile span of white beaches. Kaiser Realty by Wyndham Vacation Rentals manages some 600 properties in the area and more than two-thirds are condominiums. During the peak season, a week long stay in a Gulf front one-bedroom unit averages $1,650. Wait until after Labor Day and the price drops to $895. Guests can save even more by using the fully furnished kitchen. For the scoop on deals, visit the website www.wyndhamvacationrentals.com or call (800) 225-4853.
Fish off the longest pier in the Gulf of Mexico. At 1,540 feet long, the Gulf State Park’s Pier has a comfort station at the midway point and wheelchair accessible railing. Bike or hike along the Gulf State Park trails. Entrance to the park is free and the pier charges $2 to walk or $8 to fish. See the endangered Alabama beach mouse, nesting sea turtles and migratory birds at the 7,000 acre Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. One of the largest undeveloped parcels of land in the state, its French name means “Safe Harbor.” In October, monarch butterflies migrating to Mexico fill the refuge. More than 370 birds have been sighted in the refuge–herons and ospreys are the most frequently spotted. There is no charge to visit the refuge and its trails.
Travel through the estuaries and backwaters of Wolf Bay and Longs Bayou with Captain Skip’s Sailaway Charters. Passengers aboard a 24-foot pontoon boat learn about oystering techniques, crabbing and shrimping with a state certified nature guide. Bring some friends along to share the $175 cost of a two hour cruise, the boat seats a maximum of six guests. Keep a camera handy to capture the diverse wildlife that lives in Alabama–pelicans, great blue herons, cormorants and even dolphins. Take an eco tour with informative guides through the natural habitats and woodlands of Pleasure Island. Guests ride on covered electric carts during a two-hour Backcountry Trail Eco Tours, the cost is $15.
The largest artificial reef program in the country is on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Anglers can arrange for a variety of charters from four hour trolling trips–ideal for first timers to serious excursions lasting up to two days. The mild year-round climate of the area is paradise for golfers who can play on three courses designed by Arnold Palmer or on Golfweek Magazine’s No. 1 public course in Alabama–Kiva Dunes.
History buffs won’t want to miss Fort Morgan–overlooking Mobile Bay. The fort was established as part of America’s early coast defense. It is here where Admiral David Farragut led his Union fleet against the Confederacy in 1864. During this battle, the admiral uttered his famous–paraphrased–quote, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Mobile Bay is in 2014. Open daily, Fort Morgan’s programs include living history encampments and a bird migration watch in the fall. Admission to the fort is $8.
Getting to Gulf Shores
Two airports are within an hour’s drive of Gulf Shores. Fly into Mobile, Alabama or Pensacola, Florida. For more info on the area visit the Gulf Shores online.
Whichever Gulf Coast beach you choose for a fall getaway, the mild weather and affordable rates makes for a cool deal.
By Jim and Barbara Twardowski. Jim and Barbara cover the travel industry writing about a broad range of topics. They specialize in boomer travel, luxury accommodations, culinary/cultural offerings, and destinations. Their work has run in AAA Home & Away, PeterGreenberg.com, Quest.mda.org, Room77.com, Global Traveler, and VisitBritain’s Super Blog.
Photo credit Jim Twardowski