From Gulf Shores down through the pan handle of Florida, the soft, white sand beaches dominate the coast. Thank you to Alabama for creating the Gulf State Park, to allow us ordinary folks to enjoy the beauty of the area. Between the Gulf State Park and the National Shoreline Recreation Area, there are plenty of public beach access points for the budget minded traveler to enjoy the ocean and catch a sunset or two.
We ended up staying at the massive campground in the Gulf State Park. A little on the pricey side at $40 /day, but we were able to average that out with some free nights, thanks to our wonderful friends in Tennessee, Boondocker’s Welcome Hosts and some free National Forest Campgrounds. We decided to to splurge for 4 nights so that we could maximize our time near the ocean. The Gulf State Park has over 400 campsites mainly for RVs and motor homes, but they do have tent sites as well. We visited the park at the end of October and the place was relatively empty. I can imagine that it must be buzzing with activity in the summer and upon arrival of the snowbirds. As far as State campgrounds go, this one ranks as top notch. With the large camping space and awesome ammenities, I have to believe that this would beat most resort RV places in the area.
Even though the Gulf State Park is on the pricey side, you can tell that they put a lot of money back into it. They have created an extensive paved bike trail through the park that ties into the much larger Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. The trail system takes you through a variety of ecosystems, including Spanish Moss covered Southern Oaks to Everglade like wetlands.
They built and continue to expand boardwalks through the marsh areas, where, if you are quiet and lucky, you might get a chance encounter with an alligator. We were lucky enough to meet the resident alligator “Lefty” during one of our outings.
As part of our visit to the area, we decided to hit the National Seashore to pick up our National Park Pass and get a little swimming in at Johnson Beach. The National Seashore is mile after mile of beautiful, white sand beaches.
The beaches down by the Gulf State Park are just as nice as the National Seashore, but the dangerous marine life flags were up and we wanted to go for a swim in the ocean. Normally I would take my chances with maybe getting stung by a Jelly Fish, but what we witnessed from our visit to the pier the night before, there was no way I was going to put even my little toe into the water. I have never seen a jelly fish up to this point in my life, but out on the pier we literally saw hundreds of them. It was unbelievable.
We went out on the town a little more than usual on this stop. The cities, unfortunately, are filled with cheesy souvenir shops. Buying unnecessary stuff is no longer an issue for us, but we did stop for a photo-op for those that enjoy that kind of thing….mom.
If you are this close to Foley, Alabama, you also need to stop at Lambert’s, “home of the throwed rolls”. This is a good time place where the food is pretty darn good too. You wont leave hungry, but you will leave with a smile on your face.
When we visit an area, we try to find something unique to the area and hopefully find a place the locals tend to go as well. In this area, I wanted to try some Gumbo. Thanks to Restaurant Finder we found a place called Sea-n-Suds. I don’t know if it is the best Gumbo out there, but it is outstanding. We would have never found this place just driving down the road. Even with the help of Google Maps it was still hard to find. The restaurant is out on the beach behind a massive Condominium complex. The sign was barely visible from the road. It had all the markings of a good local seafood restaurant. It did not disappoint.
We had a great time in Gulf Shores. We got to meet up with our son, spend some time on the beach, see an alligator and get a lot of miles in on our bikes. Now it’s time to leave and point our journey to the west with our aim to hit San Diego by Christmas. I love the ocean and the forests, but I’m ready for some dry desert.