I’ll just say it: the Gulf Coast has the nicest beaches in the United States. If I had to choose between the two most popular beaches in Alabama, Gulf Shores, and Orange Beach, I’d go to one of them instead of any beach along the Atlantic coast. The waves are more mellow, the sunsets are more beautiful, and the beach is more forgiving.
But even if you limit your search to the Gulf coast, we still have an overwhelming number of options. Even if you limit your search to Alabama, where the people are honest and the cuisine is great, the state has a lot to offer.
You are left with an option that is not as easy as choosing between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. So similar, but so distinct from one another.
(And in a world where there is too much knowledge, it is incredibly simple to get taken aback by analysis paralysis!).
Going back to the fundamentals, what is the distance between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores?
Gulf State Park is located about midway between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, making the driving distance around 20 minutes with the park in the midst.
The distance between the two is small enough that you can (and should!) visit both, but there are just enough stoplights along the way for you to realize that selecting the appropriate base will save you time spent driving. On vacation, nobody likes to get stuck in traffic! (Or maybe that’s simply what I think…?)
What Makes Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Similar and What Sets Them Apart
Both of these Alabama beaches include stunning waterfronts, some of which are open to the public. Both include seafood that is of the highest quality and freshness, including royal red shrimp, snapper, Mahi Mahi, oysters, and grouper, among other options.
Both locations have access to the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry path, which offers miles of hiking, biking, and opportunities to see local animals.
Both locations provide watersport rentals, such as kayaking and parasailing, which may be used for sightseeing.
Both feature a large number of accommodations, so you may choose whichever one is most convenient for your family.
And there are ice cream parlors in each of them. Hello, vacation!
In a Nutshell: Comparing Orange Beach to Gulf Shores
The first thing that stands out to me as a distinction between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama, is that Orange Beach is much calmer and less crowded than Gulf Shores.
Orange Beach can be the first apparent option for you if you are searching for a laid-back getaway with leisurely days by the sea (or if you are skilled at inventing your own fun), because of its proximity to the ocean.
Miniature golf, themed evenings at local pubs and restaurants, and other special events were only some of the organized activities and events that were more prevalent in Gulf Shores than in other nearby cities.
For Beach Lovers, Choose Either Gulf Shores or Orange Beach
As I was saying, the beaches in each of these villages are of an exceptional caliber. Beaches that are spotless and expansive, with warm water that is tempting to swim in.
During my very first trip, there was no one else on the beach except myself.
You have two options, though, if you wish to spend the whole of each and every day at the beach:
Spend some time at Gulf Shores.
Stay at Orange Beach, but do so only at a resort that is located directly on the beach.
Even if your hotel is not directly on the sea in Gulf Shores, it is not difficult to stroll to the beach from there. There are walkways that have been constructed in a convenient location so that you may go to the water or go back to your accommodation to freshen up. You won’t need to get in your vehicle to get some food or a drink since there are beach clubs and restaurants located right on the sand; just remember to bring something to cover yourself up with.
Find a spot that is quite near to the “T” at the junction of Beach Boulevard and Gulf Shores Parkway. This will maximize the amount of time you can spend walking. On the beach itself, you’ll find a handful of hotels, in addition to dining and retail options. My sister has asked me to make sure that I mention to all of you that Sassy Bass Crazy Donuts is also within walking distance from there.
However, if you want to access the beach in Orange Beach, you will either need to stay at a house that is located directly on the beach or you will need make plans to drive there. This is due to the fact that the majority of Orange Beach is situated beside a busy and extensive road, making it difficult to cross all five lanes of traffic on foot. This is particularly true if you are carrying beach chairs and other essential beach supplies with you.
Caribe Resort in Orange Beach provides pedestrian access to Alabama Point beach despite the fact that it is located on the “wrong” side of the gulf. Of course, there is always an exception to the rule, and this is one of those times. This beach is a favorite among the locals, and it has a lively and exciting atmosphere.
Boaters may choose between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.
There are marinas all around right on the Intracoastal canal, which means that you can dock your boat and then go back out in any direction. I believe that the majority of boaters will find Orange Beach to be the more appealing alternative. You simply cannot beat the convenience if your vacation plans involve activities such as fishing, sailing, searching for dolphins, or going to one of the sandbars on one of the barrier islands (quick note: some of them have prohibited access due to bird nesting).
On the Gulf Shores side, there are, of course, marinas; but, there are fewer of them, and they are spaced out more widely, and their positions are less handy if you want to go on your boat as soon as you get out of bed in the morning.
Which Is Better for Families: Gulf Shores or Orange Beach?
Or, you might say, children at heart!
In this regard, Gulf Shores is unquestionably the victor. Restaurants with rope courses, go-kart courses, and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo are just some of the ways that they cater to families in a way that you wouldn’t believe.
Lulu’s Buffett in Gulf Shores, Alabama has a ropes course.
While I’m here at Lulu’s Monkey Business in Gulf Shores, I can’t help but think that if I were a child, I’d want to be here. To tell you the truth, even though I’m not a child anymore, I still had a great time acting like one in Gulf Shores!
Not to be outdone, Orange Beach offers a variety of fun activities that people of all ages will enjoy, such as learning how to create pottery or blow glass at the Coastal Arts Center.
Which Beach Is the Best for People Who Love to Eat?
In this regard, I believe that Orange Beach excels.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not denying that Gulf Shores is home to some excellent dining establishments. However, after looking over the menus of the many restaurants in Gulf Shores, it seemed as if they all featured variants of the same dish, such as fried fish, burgers, and crawfish with an unlimited supply.
There is a wide range of dining options available in Orange Beach, from dive pubs to elegant “date night” restaurants to seafood that is simply cooked and served on a picnic table. Although my sister would attest to the fact that we gave it our best shot, I just did not have enough time to eat at each of the highly-rated restaurants that Orange Beach has to offer.
The most regal of red shrimp Comparison of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores
Lunch at the Gulf Shores Steamer served on the waterfront (which strangely enough, is in Orange Beach)
Although there are significant differences in the sorts of properties found in each city, both locations offer a good number of places to stay available to their residents.
There are several condo buildings in Orange Beach, and their prices fluctuate widely. This is fantastic for anybody who wants to stay for a while and have a kitchen in which to cook some meals or have a living space that is separate from their bedroom in which to relax in addition to having a bedroom (or two). The fact that these condominiums may house a significant number of residents necessitates the provision of a multitude of shared facilities. In our complex, they include a lazy river, waterslides, hot tubs, and even indoor pools for use on days when the weather is uncooperative.
Orange Beach Gulf Shores offers greater choices in smaller condos (if you don’t want to deal with hundreds of people), as well as waterfront beach villas, so that you may have 100% of your own space. Our lovely unit is located at the Caribe Resort. Gulf Shores, particularly farther out near Fort Morgan, offers more of those isolated houses where you have more room to yourself, which is ideal for folks who place high importance on privacy and the sensation of genuinely being away from it all.
If you want to stay in a standard hotel, you may do so in either location; however, it seems that the majority of the hotel chains I’m acquainted with were located on the Orange Beach side of the island.
If you think you’d like Orange Beach… Our time at the Caribe Resort, where all of the accommodations are condominiums with one to three bedrooms, was wonderful.
If Gulf Shores is a better match for you, Best Western provides the ideal location for strolling anywhere you need to go.
The Lodge at Gulf State Park, which is owned by Hilton and is located closer to Gulf Shores, offers a little of the laid-back atmosphere that is associated with Orange Beach. If you are looking for a location that is basically in the middle, consider staying at this hotel.
Do you find yourself asking, “Should I Stay in Orange Beach or Gulf Shores?” more than once a day?
Don’t worry about it if you’re still debating whether or not to do anything. It’s sort of like having to choose between chocolate ice cream and vanilla ice cream at the end of the day: you could enjoy one flavor more than the other, but either way, you’re going to receive something great
In addition, if you’re anything like the other people who travel to the beaches in Alabama, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll end up coming back for the third trip at some point in the future.
And when that moment comes, you’ll be the expert who knows for certain which side of the debate between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores to choose in order to maximize your happiness.