My husband Marc and I had the most amazing honeymoon in Gulf Shores, Alabama!
If you’re looking for a place for a honeymoon, or any romantic getaway, Gulf Shores is the perfect destination for anyone wanting white sand beaches, pink sunsets, and palm trees, and is less expensive than many other similar destinations. It has so much to offer everyone!
How did we choose Gulf Shores?
Marc and I were married in August 2023 here in Minnesota. We knew we wanted a honeymoon somewhere warm, and we had heard about Gulf Shores from some friends who visited there regularly. It looked perfect for us, but we decided to wait until January, when Minnesota is its coldest. Temperatures are in the 50s and 60s in Gulf Shores at this time of year, but average in the warm 80s in the summer, so it’s ideal year-round. The beaches and the views are breathtaking, it was romantic in so many ways, and it was everything we expected it to be. Though this was our first visit, we knew it was going to be our “hidden gem” budget-friendly getaway.
We escaped Minnesota just as temps dove below zero (brr), and flew to Pensacola, Florida, where I watched for palm trees excitedly from the airplane window. This was the first time I was seeing palm trees in 17 years and I COULD NOT WAIT! When we saw palm trees I knew we were in paradise.
Then we picked up our rental car and drove the 1-hour scenic drive along the coast to Gulf Shores. And I have to say, for this Minnesota girl who had a beach-themed bedroom growing up, I was in love as soon as we first saw the Gulf from our car.
Where is Gulf Shores?
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are located at the southernmost tip of Alabama, right by the Gulf of Mexico.
Here’s a map:
Note: Our visit was in partnership with Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. All opinions are 100% mine.
6 Reasons Gulf Shores, Alabama is the Perfect Honeymoon Destination
Clean Beaches with Stunning, Romantic Sunsets!
Beaches, in Alabama?
This may be surprising to some, as it was at first to me, but yes, there are 32 miles of clean, white sand beaches along the Alabama Gulf Coast, with 15 public-access beaches along the shoreline. And there are many hotels and condos right along the beach as well.
The sand is sugar white, the water is turquoise blue, and there are shells everywhere to collect and bring home. I picked up a bunch easily, though we did talk to some people who really spend time looking for the best ones.
In the summer the water is warm and in the 80s. You can’t really swim in it in winter (the water was too chilly), but we dipped our toes in and walked along the gently lapping waves, hand-in-hand.
And yes, the beaches are clean, among the cleanest in the country. Their “Leave Only Footprints” initiative helps keep the beaches healthy and safe for all. We found absolutely nothing unnatural on the beach – just sand and shells. And there is a beach flag system that keeps beach goers updated about current water conditions. This is super important to be aware of before going near the waves any time of year.
And best of all are the sunsets. Oh man – they are beautiful. We had an amazing view from our condo (more on that below) and you could see for miles over the gulf. The colors are stunning. What’s better for a romantic evening with your sweetheart than that.
Plenty of beachfront places to stay
We wanted something quiet but with a view, so we spent 4 days/3 nights here at a beautiful, privately-owned condo on the gulf. It was one of 18,000 accommodation units that Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have to offer. 18,000! And many of them, like ours, have full kitchens, washers and dryers, and private balconies facing the gulf.
Our condo was located at Surfside Shores, which is two gulf-front buildings with vacation rentals, two pools, a hot tub, and beach access. We had a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo that could sleep 6, so we had plenty of space to ourselves. I have to say – the view of the gulf was stunning. We had a balcony we could access from both the livingroom and our bedroom. Marc’s favorite thing was the sound of the waves crashing, which we listened to, day and night.
Our condo also had everything we could need. So if we wanted to just stay there the whole time, we could. The kitchen was fully stocked with dishes, cookware and cleaning supplies. There were 3 TVs with satellite channels, books and games (Marc taught me poker with a Texas Hold-em set that they had!). We really felt like we were getting away from it all, without any distractions.
We HIGHLY recommend booking a stay at this condo. You can learn more about it here.
In addition to a private condo rental, you can also stay in a hotel, resort, bed and breakfast, or even a beach house. We saw all of these while driving around the area. There is an abundance of options here, from budget to luxury and everything in between!
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have more high quality dining options than you’ll ever need. We wanted to hit more restaurants than we had time for, but we made sure to visit a few (and we did go twice to one in particular that we loved).
Some of our recommendations for the most romantic dining:
CoastAL is a waterfront restaurant with an open-air bar, store and live music. It’s a newer place, located in Orange Beach right on the gulf. We visited our first evening in the area so of course we were craving some seafood. We enjoyed Gulf Grouper and Local Crab Cakes along with our beach-worthy cocktails. Plus, we had some Bushwacker Tiramisu for dessert. If you go here, don’t miss the tiramisu! Yummm!
Woodside Restaurant is unique because it’s a restaurant located in Gulf State Park. And it’s great food! We had breakfast here on our second day and it was the perfect fuel for our bike ride, which started right there at the restaurant. You can get free bikes to rent right outside the window! Woodside also has live music and events like trivia night. It’s quite the spot to get together.
Voyagers was the fanciest, most romantic place we ate at during our honeymoon, and it was truly amazing. The service is top notch. And you will truly enjoy the best seafood here. In 2023, Executive Chef Brody Olive won first place in the nationwide “Great American Seafood Cook-Off Championship” in New Orleans. My husband had a whole fish, and I had steak and a salt-crusted potato that was out of this world. Then our server surprised us with a chocolate-dipped strawberry dessert that said “Congratulations” in chocolate sauce. Everything is A+ here.
Lulu’s is the one place we went to TWICE during our stay – it was that good! Lulu’s has a fun, beachy, relaxed vibe. It’s right along Portage Creek, the waterway that actually makes Gulf Shores an island. And there are dolphins! We ate by the water both times – and saw a dolphin both times! There is everything here: attractions (ropes course, arcade), shopping, and of course, food. We recommend the Fried Crab Claws, Fish Tacos, Shrimp & Grits, and most of all, the Smoked Tuna Dip!
Villaggio Grille is an elegant, Italian restaurant located at the Wharf. Just outside, there’s a nightly laser light show you can watch from your table! We enjoyed a show while enjoying our dinner, which was very romantic.
There are many other places we ate at and recommend, like the Sunliner Diner, which is a 50s style diner, and BuzzCats Coffee, a quirky and fun coffee shop with a great breakfast menu. Plus there’s Flora-Bama, where we stopped for drinks because it’s such a unique place – located right on the border between Florida and Alabama. (Flora… Bama… Get it? 🙂
We’ve also heard good things about The Gulf, The Hangout and others, so you have plenty of options for great food here!
Adventures for all
Though the beach and dining are enough to make for a romantic honeymoon, if you’re seeking adventure, you will find so many options! Not just for honeymooners, but all ages, from families with little kids, to singles, to couples, to snowbirds.
We wanted a little adventure, so one of the things we did was explore Gulf State Park by bike. It is located right in the middle of the city. There are FREE bike rentals, so we picked up a couple and biked on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail around Lake Shelby, which was approximately 6.5 miles. It is scenic and has a leisurely, flat-level path, which makes it a popular choice for bikers and walkers.
We also visited the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach, which has FREE admission. It has fine art by local artists in a lovely building that overlooks Wolf Bay. Plus you can make art here! I took a glass blowing class and made a paperweight (you can choose from 4 glass projects to make). They help you through the whole process and it was a fascinating experience.
We drove out to historic Fort Morgan, which is just at the very western end of the peninsula. Fort Morgan is a “Third System masonry fort built between 1819 and 1833.” It played a significant role in the Battle of Mobile Bay, which was in August 1864. There’s a free museum here, nature areas and a boat launch. We enjoyed the views of the gulf including Dauphin Island. Plus you could see many oil rigs (derricks) in various directions. Admission is not expensive too, at $8 per adult, $5 per child/senior/student, $20 per family of four.
In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, you can enjoy a helicopter tour, a dolphin cruise, a fishing charter, parasailing, a pirate ship cruise, a ferris wheel, or even get up close and personal with an alligator. We wanted to do some of these things but had limited time, plus some of these activities had limited hours or availability in winter (be sure to check in advance). But we filled our time with just exploring the area and enjoying the sunshine and laid-back vibe of the area.
Everyone we encountered was so friendly here! There really is something to be said for southern hospitality. When you travel somewhere, especially for something big like your honeymoon, you want to be treated well, and from our experience, people in Gulf Shores definitely will make you glad you came.
In Minnesota, we are known for “Minnesota nice.” But down here there’s really Southern Hospitality, which we encountered firsthand as very warm, relaxed and welcoming of visitors. Everyone was so friendly to talk to, from Valerie at the Gulf Shores Welcome Center, to our very attentive server at Voyagers, to the servers at Sunliner Diner who had fun dressing the part, to our server at Lulu’s (who was also named Lisa!).
And they were happy to take pictures with me which scored some bonus points from me – lol!
Last but not least, Gulf Shores makes a perfect honeymoon destination because it’s so AFFORDABLE.
We checked some other places but Gulf Shores was definitely appealing to us as a frugal option. Just a simple search online reveals that Gulf Shores ranks highly on lists for affordable beach destinations. For example, Money Inc lists Gulf Shores as #4 on the list of “20 Cheapest but Best Beach Vacations in the U.S.” The Alabama Gulf Coast also made the list of “22 Most Affordable Spring Break Escapes” released by Home ToGo, according to Gulf Coast Media. And in 2023, Gulf Shores was named the #1 Place to Buy a Beach Home by Vacasa, as mentioned in Southern Living Magazine. Gulf Shores is growing in popularity for a reason!
We went in January which is the off season here (and is therefore lower in cost), and we loved that most things were open but without crowds. This was definitely snowbird season, as we met many retired couples from the midwest who lived here in the winter.
Flying to Gulf Shores was doable for around $500 each for my husband and me. We flew to Pensacola, Florida, which is an hour east of Gulf Shores. You can also fly into Mobile, Alabama, which is about the same distance away, but northwest. Rental cars are affordable – ours was from Budget rental for about $150 for 4 days. Plus we got a free upgrade to a Toyota SUV! Our condo was priced at $149 a night for this time of year, though like with any rental, be aware of fees like a cleaning fee and taxes.
To save money on a honeymoon (or any trip) in Gulf Shores, here are some tips:
- Book early (the earlier you book, the better the rates)
- Book direct from condo owners rather than via VRBO. This way you can avoid some of the fees. I recommend using AlabamaVacationHomeRentals.com. That’s where the condo we stayed at is listed.
- Go off season. Our visit in January was great because rates were cheaper and there were no crowds.
- Get supplies in Pensacola. If you plan to cook your meals in your condo, be aware that groceries are taxed in Alabama. I recommend getting groceries in Florida, or go to Walmart in Gulf Shores, or ALDI in Foley (north of Gulf Shores).
- Get a rental car. Consider getting a cab to a rental car place somewhere other than the airport, because rates can be lower.
- Stop by the Welcome Center when you arrive for info and coupons! There are actually two – one in Gulf Shores, and one in Orange Beach. Both have a lot of information, plus coupons! Pick up some coupons for attractions and restaurants.
- Visit the Gulf Shores website for tons of vacation coupons and specials.
Have you been to Gulf Shores? Plan your next trip!
And happy honeymooning!
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Thank you to Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism for hosting us!