Travel Tips

Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Alabama Gulf Coast

Locations in this article:  New Orleans, LA

Blue Heron - Gulf Coast region of AlabamaThis past weekend, Peter was broadcasting his radio show from The Hangout in Gulf Shores, Alabama, which has been hit hard by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite the problems associated with the spill, the area still boasts a number of interesting attractions, restaurants, and outdoor activities.

So we asked a local to fill us in on her favorites in the area, which includes Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Bon Secour and basically the entirety of the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Rebecca Wilson, Former TV Anchor & Longtime Resident

Nature in Gulf Shores, AlabamaGulf State Park is located in the city of Gulf Shores and provides a range of different activities from camping in cottages and cabins, to hiking through the well preserved trails. One trail of particular interest is the Hugh Branyon Back Country Trail, which presents a different view of the park that differs from the sandy beaches of Gulf Shores. Named after the superintendent of the park, the trail is a nice place to hike, run or even take the kids on a bike ride. Hiking the trail is especially easy since it is paved.

Only a few blocks from the coast, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo offers an escape into the animal life. Besides the usual lions, tigers and bears, the zoo provides a different experience with their petting zoo and summer-time animal shows. Also, the zoo opens its doors once a year for a week-long children’s camp where they can gain more hands-on time with the animals, though this must be booked in advance.

Get more insider advice in our Ask the Locals Travel Guides section.

Red Royal Shrimp - a local specialtyFull of charm and great seafood, Tin Top Restaurant provides the palate with a taste New Orleans. The family-run restaurant is complete with an indoor wood burning fireplace and an outdoor oyster bar, adding to the quaint atmosphere.

Tin Top offers a few ongoing specials, such as an all-you-can-eat mullet fish special with grits on Wednesday night, which is sure to fill even the hungriest of travelers.

Located in the old L&N Railroad Depot 15 minutes north of Gulf Shores, Foley Railroad Museum displays assembled model trains stations. The models are put together and managed by the Caboose Club, a club for railroad buffs. While this free museum contains automated model trains, it also celebrates the history of the city of Foley in pictures and artifacts found around the museum.

Find more great museum experiences in our Museums section.

Hope’s Cheesecake - Gulf Shores, AlabamaHope’s Cheesecake was established in 2006 and has been baking mouthwatering cheesecakes ever since. One of the best places in town to get dessert, their cheesecake options include everything from the original New York Style to Key Lime Cheesecake, June’s flavor of the month. Hope’s also offers Hope Bars, which are chocolate-dipped cheesecake slices on a stick, a favorite portable treat.

Located at the small port of Bon Secour, Billy’s Seafood has been providing fresh seafood since 1975. With a motto that says “if it swims, we got it,” Billy’s offers a nice way to get fresh shrimp directly from the boats as they pull in. Retired shrimp boats can still be found resting in the harbor, which is always nice to view with your kids.

By Catherine Flanagan for

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