4 Places to Explore near Gulf Shores


Jul 13, 2016


Gulf Shores, Pensacola travel guide

Every summer I’m lucky enough to travel and see my Southern family for an entire week camped out on a beach.  It’s a family tradition I absolutely adore and while some may see an entire week spent with forty family members in one house as something no less than torture, I’ve always relished it.  

And luckily enough we have been traveling to the same beach house for quite a while (it’s almost as though not every beach builds monsterous 12 bedroom houses to stay in), that I’ve been able to explore quite a bit, up and down the “Flora-Bama” coast.

So here they are.  My favorite places to explore + must sees for those who can’t make up their minds between Florida or Alabama.

Gulf Shores, AL, Alabama beaches

^^ My summer essentials sunglasses, boater hat, and soft cotten towel

Downtown Pensacola, FL

Historic Downtown Pensacola, FL

Easily one of my favorite spots that is just across the Alabama border.  Just cruising through this town chocked full of southern charm and Spanish details, makes me smile and snap as many photos as possible.  

The downtown streets are filled with lots of scrolling handrails and beautifully weathered brick buildings.  Finding a refreshing ice cream cone (it does get  h o t) is as simple as ducking into a coffee shop or local candy store.  And for a lazy afternoon lunch, relaxing at Jaco’s Bar & Grille right off the bay is the perfect spot to watch the yachts roll in and out.  

Jaco’s is at the end of dead end street looking out over the bay.  It is a bit overpriced, though for the views and ambience we are always happy to pay a little more and catch the breeze off the bay.

Pensacola Lighthouse

Gulf Shores, AL, beach

^^ My beach sister (my momma coined this term) and I exploring the white sand beaches

Pensacola Lighthouse

I swear that land locked girls like myself cannot get enough of exploring around lighthouses.  They are such a cultural norm for those lucky enough to grow up around water, but they are a bit unneeded in the high plains of Wyoming.

The Pensacola Lighthouse boasts 177 steps to the top and has three historic forts as it’s neighbors.  Though it’s a bit of a climb, the view makes it absolutely worth it.  And with the original keeper’s house turned into a museum, kids + adults can keep happy b learning to tie knots and understand all the woes of being a light house keeper.

If the views of a lighthouse aren’t enough to tempt you out into the sun, the Blue Angels (the US Navy flight squadron) practice most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings and watching the jets dip and dive so close to one another, with the lighthouse in the backdrop is such a sight to see.  My favorite part of the lighthouse is clear turquoise colors of Quiet-Water beach just steps away from the boardwalk.

Bon Secour, AL

A quaint little Alabama town known for its traditional southern comfort food.  For a family night out we sneak off to Tin Top a delicious seafood based restaurant and then always find ourselves touring the Spanish moss covered streets.

It can get a bit muggy as there isn’t much of a breeze to catch off the water, so I would suggest visiting either earlier or later in the day. And especially make sure to swing on by the Swift-Coles Historic Home, a Southern home tucked back in between Spanish moss and low hanging branches. 

Gulf Shores, AL, Alabama beaches

Gulf Shores, AL, Alabama beaches

Gulf Shores, AL, Alabama beaches

The Wharf Orange Beach, AL

The Wharf

A bit of a concrete jungle nestled in Orange Beach, AL, but a unique jungle that offers cute views of a ferris wheel tucked next to a line of palm trees.  The Wharf has an upscale feel to it as there are no stores plastered with the latest pool inflatable trends and rather focuses on distinct shops + restaurants.  

I love the shops it showcases as they cannot be found on every corner, nor in every outlet mall.  And the restaurants are beyond charming.  Whether you want a decadent meal at Driftwood or to slip into a local beach themed coffee house, is your decision.

The Wharf is the perfect way to unwind a day spent at the beach, when you need a bit of cover from the last of the sunshine.

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Aside from my love of the sandy beaches and palm lined streets, exploring the Southern coast could be endless as streets and landmarks are just soaked in charm and history.

xo Kelsey 



4 Places to Explore near Gulf Shores


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