The best beaches in the USA are without a doubt found along the Gulf Coast. Here you’ll find softer sand, warmer water and prettier sunsets than you would along the Atlantic coast. Alabama has its share of beautiful beach destinations including Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. But when comparing Gulf Shores vs Orange Beach, which one is better?
For a start it’s important to get your bearings. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are only 10 miles apart, so a 20 minute drive away from one another at most. One would think that would make them very similar and interchangeable, however they do have their own unique traits that set them apart.
Gulf Shores vs Orange Beach: Similarities
Both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach both have exquisite beaches with soft white sand, the gentle waves of the emerald green Gulf and plenty of sunshine for days spent outdoors. In terms of watersports, you can do snorkeling, jet skiing, paddleboarding, kayaking and a range of other activities in both towns with very easy access to equipment rental.
Both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have access to beautiful hiking and biking trails, one they in fact share being Hugh S Branyon Backcountry Trail. If seafood platters scream “vacation” to you then you’ll be pleased to know that you can find fresh seafood in abundance in both towns.
Gulf Shores vs Orange Beach: Atmosphere
While both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are small-towns, most people will find Orange Beach a little quieter than Gulf Shores. For peaceful days spent lying on the beach, some will prefer to vacation in Orange Beach. However if you’ve got kids and want a trip with more planned activities, Gulf Shores might suit your family better.
With that being said, Gulf Shores does have more of a small-town vibe than Orange Beach with lots of old-school beach houses and smaller condo complexes. You’ll find a lot of quaint curio shops in town for take-home souvenirs and most of the amenities in town are within walking distance of one another. Even if your hotel isn’t right on the beachfront, walking to the beach will only take a matter of minutes. Pack a coverup in your beach bag and you can mosey up to the beach bars and restaurants when you’re done lazing on the beach. Renting a bike to get around town is also a popular mode of transport for visitors.
Orange Beach tends to have amenities more spaced apart so you might find you need to drive to wherever you’re going as opposed to walking. Much of the town runs along one busy road so in order to access most places, you will need to drive there. Crossing a busy 5-lane road with beach chairs and umbrellas in hand is probably not the best idea in the world! Orange Beach also has more large, modern high-rise condos which some people feel takes away from the small-town vibe but that comes down to your personal opinion.
Gulf Shores vs Orange: What To Do
As we mentioned before, there is a bit more to do in Gulf Shores vs Orange Beach, making it a more kid-friendly holiday destination. Some popular family-friendly activities include:
- Waterville USA
- The Track Family Fun Park
- Zooland Mini Golf
- Gulf Coast Zoo
- Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
That’s just a taste of some of the activities and sights to add to your Gulf Shore vacation itinerary. You won’t run out of things to do by day or by night.
Orange Beach has a much slower pace and more laid back vibe, so it’s more suitable for adult travelers looking to relax and unwind. Spend your days strolling along the shore, relaxing on the beach, playing a leisurely round of golf or doing a spot of fishing. For families, The Wharf has some great adventures and activities for all ages including shops, restaurants, a zipline course, boat cruises and even a ferris wheel.
If you’re a keen boater, you will probably prefer Orange Beach with its abundant marinas for easy access to the water and a safe place to dock your boat. You’ll find fewer marinas in Gulf Shores with less convenient access points.
When comparing the food in Gulf Shores vs Orange Beach it can be tough to pick a clear winner. As we’ve mentioned, there’s no shortage of restaurants serving fresh seafood in either. But does one destination stand out amongst foodies more than the other? Orange Beach may have a slight edge in terms of pleasing foodies with a greater variety on offer ranging from dive bars to fine dining establishments and seafood picnics.
Gulf Shores vs Orange: Where To Stay
You will find more high-rise condos in Orange beach than you would in Gulf Shores at various price points. If you are planning on an extended stay, a condo is a great option for a home away from home. Many of the large, modern complexes have excellent amenities including pools, waterslides and if you’re lucky, possibly even a lazy river!
In Gulf Shores, you’ll find smaller condo complexes and beachfront vacation rentals for a little more space and privacy. There are a lot more freestanding properties in Gulf Shores vs Orange Beach.
For resorts in Orange Beach, Caribe Resort comes out tops with quick access to the beach and marinas. In Gulf Shores, Best Western is right on the beach and within close walking distance to attractions in town.
Gulf Shores vs Orange: Verdict
For families, Gulf Shores may be a slightly better option simply because there is a greater variety of kid-friendly activities on offer so there really is no way you’ll ever run out of things to do. Having everything in walking distance is also easier than loading the kids up in the car whenever you want to go somewhere. Orange Beach lends itself to a more slow-paced and leisurely vacation geared towards couples and retirees looking for a quiet retreat.