The Gulf Shore region of Alabama is one of the nation’s most popular beach destinations during the summer -- but don’t overlook it as an ideal getaway in November or December. In fact, now may be one of the best times of the year to visit. Here’s why.
1. You won’t have to fight the crowds.
During the summer months, the powder white beaches that stretch from the cities of Gulf Shores to Orange Beach are covered with towels, chairs, and screaming kids. You’ll fight bumper-to-bumper traffic to get anywhere, and if that somewhere happens to be a restaurant, you can expect up to a two-hour wait for a table. That all changes once the kids head back to school -- there’s less traffic, more open beach, and minimal waits at local restaurants.
2. The hostess will seat you right away.
We’re not exaggerating: In July and August, it will be well over an hour after you put your name down for a table before you’re called. You won’t have that problem in the off-season (although some restaurants close for the winter and many shorten their hours of operation). This is the perfect time to visit the LuLu’s at Homeport Marina, the laid-back venue owned by singer Jimmy Buffet’s sister, Lucy, or to head to Flora-Bama Lounge & Oyster Bar, where you’ll good food, live music, and a great rendition of the region’s signature drink, the Bushwhacker.
3. It’s oyster season.
They say you shouldn’t eat oysters in months that don’t have an “r” in them, which makes the fall -- not the summer -- the ideal time to slurp down the local favorites, Murder Point Oysters. Sample their “buttery” goodness at Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina, where you can have a more casual experience dockside or an upscale evening upstairs.
4. You’ll find great deals on hotels.
To keep the rooms filled, hotels and vacation rentals drop their rates by 50 percent or more in the off season. As an example, Gulf Shores Plantation is offering a deal on Twitter of $89 per night for a one-bedroom condo. A comparable condo in June runs well over $200 per night. Deals like this can be found at @BeachSpecials, among other resources -- and you can of course check directly on hotels’ websites for their latest specials.
5. There’s still plenty to do.
Granted, the average daily temperature in November is 62.5 degrees (and the water is a chilly 65 degrees), according to the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. That's too cold for a swim, but there’s plenty to do besides sunbathe and play in the waves. Golf the more than 200 local holes, visit historic Fort Morgan, or fish Wolf Bay for redfish, the variety made famous by the beloved Paul Prudhomme.
6. You can find unique holiday gifts.
Having a hard time finding the perfect gift for that special someone? Gulf Shores’ stores aren’t the typical mall offerings. Start at The Wharf, where you can select a new outfit at one of several boutique clothing stores, purchase the latest fishing gear at Mo Fishin Outfitters, and grab a nearly indestructible, double-walled tumbler for your hot or cold drinks at Tervis Tumblers. Sanroc Cay Marina also has great shopping. Don’t miss the boutique fashions at Too Hot Mamas or the children’s wear that can be monogrammed at 3 Grands Boutique.