GULF SHORES, Ala. – It's no secret that the Gulf Coast area of Alabama offers plenty of good golf, but if you're spending all your time on the course, you could be cheating yourself out of the full experience.
By combining such excursions as fishing, parasailing and dolphin cruises with golf at venues like
Kiva Dunes Golf Course, Craft Farms and Peninsula Golf & Racquet Club, traveling golfers can put together a well-rounded itinerary. There are plenty of great restaurants – especially seafood places – and a good bit of Southern nightlife as well.
'We are not your typical golf destination with all there is to do here,' said Duncan Millar, executive director of Golf Gulf Shores. 'The best way to experience the destination is to take about a week to visit and play a round every other day and then mix in the other great things there are to do on the non golfing day. Fishing and golf work great together for your typical buddy trip.'
With that said, here are few suggestions on your next trip to the Gulf Shores area.
Fishing on the Gulf
Golf and fishing go together like shrimp and grits, and you would be hard-pressed to find many locations that combine the two better than the Gulf Shores/Pensacola, Fla., area. By most accounts, recreational deep-sea fishing in the Gulf of Mexico is back after the Gulf oil disaster April, and charter companies are anxious to get your business.
If you have a group, the cost of a fishing charter, complete with a guide, equipment and plenty of refreshments, is comparable to a round of golf – about $50-$80 per participant for a half day. The area boasts one of, if not, the largest charter fishing fleets in the world, and there are a variety of options and sizes of boats to help you catch fish such as red snapper, mackerel, cobia, amberjack, grouper, tuna, marlin, or sailfish. From novices to experts, there's a fishing experience for everyone. Just make sure to take a dose of Dramamine if you're not use to the chop.
Restaurants and nightlife
Down on the Gulf Coast, they have a different way of entertaining – few limits and no pretentions – and the venues reflect that philosophy.
Perhaps no club personifies the area better than the famed Flora-Bama, a beachfront lounge that straddles the Florida-Alabama state line. Opened in 1964, the bar is especially popular during holidays such as Labor Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. Celebrities, bikers, millionaires, nearby Navy personnel and plain folks go to hear bands, celebrate festivals and kick back. Having survived Hurricane Ivan from a few years ago, the establishment (simply referred to by locals as the Bama) has multiple bars and stages, serves drinks like the 'Bushwacker' and is known for its annual Interstate Mullet Toss, an event where people throw fish from Alabama to Florida. Jimmy Buffett wrote a song ('Bama Breeze') about the bar.
Speaking of Buffett, Jimmy's sister, Lucy, owns another favorite establishment in the area – Lulu's at Homeport marina on the Intercoastal Waterway in Gulf Shores. It's actually Lucy Buffett's second location for the restaurant, which was physically transported by barge from its original location on Weeks Bay five years earlier. The restaurant/bar has a very casual, relaxed atmosphere and plenty of favorites on the menu, including local seafood, sandwiches, burgers, appetizers and, of course, desserts. There's also plenty of good live entertainment.
Another popular hangout in the area is The Hangout, located on the beach in Gulf Shores. The Hangout oozes history with hundreds of photographs depicting fun on the beaches going back to the 1950s. You'll also find plenty of vintage lunch pails, signs and other artifacts littered throughout the place. With live entertainment on most nights of the week, it's a great spot to enjoy and outdoor concert. There's also dozens of big screens for sporting events, great food and beer and a souvenir shop. The back of the establishment opens up to the Gulf of Mexico, making The Hangout a great summer spot both in the daytime and at night. There's even a giant bubble machine that produces foam large enough to hide the entire Brady Bunch.
Other fun things to do in the Gulf Shores/Pensacola area
Just a few miles east of Mobile, Ala., near Warrington, Fla., is the Naval Air Station-Pensacola. The base is home to the Blue Angels, which not only perform around the world, but locally as well. It's also home of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, a military and aerospace museum that opened in 1962. It chronicles the history of aviation from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard with more than 150 aircraft on display. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. most days, admission is free.
For another history lesson, you can visit Ft. Morgan, located on the mouth of Mobile Bay. Named in honor of the Revolutionary War here Daniel Morgan, the post was completed in 1834. In 1861 it was seized by the Confederates and was the site of the Battle of Mobile Bay leading to its recapture by Union forces during the latter stages of the Civil War. Today, the fort has a museum as well as battle re-enactments open to the public.
And finally, for the kid in everyone, there's The Track Family Recreation Center, located on Gulf Shores Boulevard in Gulf Shores. Kids and adults can enjoy mini golf, go-carts, bumper boats, arcade and more daring adventures like the SkyCoaster, which straps willing participants into a harness only to freefall from distances up to 110 feet. After surviving the SkyCoaster, those three-foot putts for bogey should be no-sweat.