Southeast

8 Alabama Beach Resorts from Mobile Bay to Orange Beach

Local writer Blake Guthrie takes you through the top eight Alabama beach resorts for a little sandy relaxation along the Gulf of Mexico.

I’m standing on the shore of Mobile Bay marveling at the three-level condos set on 15-foot poles hovering above the water. They weren’t built for humans but are literally for the birds. Purple Martins, to be exact, who spend a lot of time in coastal Alabama during nesting season before continuing on with their annual migration.

An elderly gentleman saunters up and asks what I think about the birds’ lodging. “It’s amazing,” I say. “What a great idea.” As we talk further, I realize that I’m speaking with a local legend, Garland Sims, of the Mobile Bay Audubon Society, the man whose idea it was to erect the Purple Martin Riviera. These kind of encounters are common here. You’re just as likely to run into famous authors like Winston Groom (Forrest Gump), Fannie Flagg (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe), and Pulitzer Prize-winner Rick Bragg, who all call the area home.

From the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico the shores of Mobile Bay, it’s a laid back place with great lodging choices for the birds as well as the humans. Many of these Alabama beach resorts are places where you can park the car (or the boat) and not have to worry about getting back in it until you leave.

Fairhope: An Idyllic Coastal Town

1/4

Fairhope has been drawing dreamers, artists, and authors for generations. This low-key, low-rise hamlet on a part of Mobile Bay known as the Eastern Shore has a Mayberry-like vibe if Mayberry were at the coast and home to famous artists. The Hampton Inn Fairhope-Mobile Bay is situated in downtown, a few tree-lined blocks away from the waterfront where you’ll find a small beach.

The balcony rooms on the second and third floors overlook a quaint downtown filled with art galleries, bookstores, coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants, and antique shops. A don’t-miss eatery is Panini Pete’s, a cozy breakfast and lunch spot with an inviting patio that’s known for its beignets. (It’s a tradition in my family to stop in for a basket of the fried, doughy goodness topped with powdered sugar during our annual visit.) Their signature grilled sandwiches include a muffuletta that has been named one of the “Top 100 Things to Eat in Alabama Before You Die.”

The Fairhope Municipal Pier serves as the town square where locals and tourists gather for special events, sunset strolls, boating, fishing, and bird watching (and it’s home to the Purple Martin Riviera). Back at the hotel, unwind from your day by enjoying complimentary tea time on the sidewalk patio while watching the evening unfold along Section Street.

Hampton Inn Fairhope Mobile Bay

Top rated
8.6 Excellent (549 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.4 / 10
Parking garage
Gym
Indoor swimming pool
Hotel bar
Hotel CTA

Gulf Shores: In the Heart of the Action

What could be better than having the biggest musical acts on the planet playing on the beach within view of the balcony of your hotel suite? That’s what happens each May when the Hangout Fest comes to Gulf Shores right next to Phoenix All Suites. It’s one of the hottest music festivals in the world, bringing top rock and pop acts to the beach, and the hotel is steps away from the action, overlooking it all.

Like many beach resorts on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, this is a condo development that operates as a hotel. All of the suites in the 11-story beachfront property are one-bedroom units with sofa sleepers in the living room, bunk beds for the kids, full kitchens, and balconies overlooking the Gulf. What really sets Phoenix All Suites apart is its central location close to everything. The Hangout, the open-air entertainment complex that gives the music festival its name, is right next door. Also within easy walking distance are plenty of beach shops to pick up supplies and souvenirs, and the Pink Pony Pub right on the sands in the shadow of the Phoenix building, a favorite watering hole since 1956, the best place, other than the balcony of your suite, to watch the sunset in Gulf Shores.

Phoenix All Suites

8.1 Very good (55 reviews)
Excellent Location 8.9 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Gym
Hotel CTA

Gulf Shores: Nature Rules at The Lodge at Gulf State Park

1/3

Hurricane Ivan caused a lot of destruction on the Alabama coast in 2004. Among the damage lay the ruins of a lodge that had stood on the beach at Gulf State Park since 1974. After a 14-year absence, The Lodge at Gulf State Park was re-built and re-opened in late 2018.

Now managed by Hilton, the new lodge is a big step up from the old. It’s literally on a reinforced platform so another storm surge won’t be able to take it out. The property contains five restaurants ranging from fine dining to a poolside bar and grill and a lobby coffeehouse and wine bar. But what really makes the Lodge different is the setting.

Being inside a state park means there’s no other development in the vicinity. Instead, there’s nothing but abundant wildlife, including pelicans and seagulls. The Lodge strives to be a green hotel that practitioners of sustainable tourism will love. The parking lots are permeable so rainwater can be absorbed by the ground. The landscaping uses native species that can survive without chemicals and fertilizers. Collected condensation from the HVAC units is used to replace water in the swimming pool. And the list of green initiatives goes on and on.

The Lodge At Gulf State Park, A Hilton

8.5 Excellent (138 reviews)
Hotel CTA

Mobile: Indulge In Historic Elegance

1/4

Allowing for a bit of leeway with the beach resort concept of these recommendations, I would be remiss not to mention the Battle House in downtown Mobile. Mobile is known as “the Port City,” and the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa is located three blocks away from a cruise ship terminal, which makes the hotel a convenient place to stay before or after your big boat experience.

But it’s worthy of a trip in and of itself. Part of the Historic Hotels of America collection, the AAA Four Diamond landmark property has been playing host to travelers since 1852. Its stature among Southern resorts is equivalent to that of the Grand Hotel across the bay (listed above), the main difference being the Battle House is set in the heart of a large city. You see the grandeur and feel the history as soon as you walk into the plush and elegant lobby. The Greek-style columns, ornate archways, and rotunda skylight high above are perfectly lit, providing a head-spinning preview of what’s to come when staying in Mobile’s most historic and finely renovated accommodations.

The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa

Top rated
Mobile, 1.7 miles to USS Alabama Memorial Park
9.0 Excellent (1094 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.3 / 10
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Wellness center / Spa
Gym
Hotel CTA

Orange Beach: Modern Marina Life at Springhill Suites at The Wharf

1/4

It wasn’t until I took a sightseeing cruise in Orange Beach that I realized dolphins don’t always live in the ocean. You’re more likely to see them in the back bays where they spend most of their time. The best place for dolphin spotting in the Orange Beach area is Wolf Bay, which is connected to the Intracoastal Waterway near Springhill Suites at The Wharf.

The Wharf is a new master-planned development on the waterway that feels like a city within a city. There’s a large marina, plentiful shopping and dining options, an amphitheater that brings in top touring acts, and the largest Ferris wheel on the Gulf Coast, among other amusements. Springhill Suites is located on the water and sits at an angle so that rooms have long-range views of the Intracoastal Waterway and the busy marina.

Regarding the dolphins, the easiest way to spot them when staying here is to step outside the front of your hotel where the Sunny Lady is docked yards away from where you checked in. She’s a hard-to-miss, bright-yellow, two-level boat offering dolphin excursions of the back bays, as well as sunset cruises.

SpringHill Suites Orange Beach at The Wharf

Top rated
8.8 Excellent (370 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Outdoor swimming pool
Hotel CTA

Orange Beach: Memorable Views, Food, and Family Time

1/4

One of the more memorable sunsets I’ve ever witnessed was accompanied by one of the better seafood meals I’ve ever eaten. Cobalt, the on-site restaurant at Caribe Resort by Wyndham Vacation Rentals, is perched on sandy Alabama Point at Perdido Pass. This is where pleasure craft and fishing boats head in and out on their Gulf excursions. If you have your own boat, you can dock at the restaurant, or have your own private slip when staying at Caribe.

The westward-facing patio and floor-to-ceiling windows at Cobalt showcase the water. The boat traffic, as well as the Perdido Pass Bridge, soaring overhead close by, only serve to enhance the view. The resort is the only development on Alabama Point, so you get the best of both worlds with the bay on one side of your unit, the beach on the other. Beach access is quick and easy, but it’s often the case that kids want to stick around the three massive swimming pool areas with water slides, a splash pad, and a lazy river.

Caribe Resort by Wyndham Vacation Rentals

7.9 Good (27 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 8.8 / 10
WiFi in rooms
Parking garage
Gym
Indoor swimming pool
Hotel CTA

Orange Beach: A Natural Wonderland

1/4

The only time I’ve ever seen two bald eagles and an alligator during a single outing was on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail in Orange Beach. The two eagles were soaring high overhead, circling in a mating sky dance, the gator peeking its beady eyes just above the waterline surrounded by lily pads in the middle of a swamp next to the trail, part of a 15-mile system that cuts through a maritime forest, secondary dune system, and wetlands.

This natural wonderland sits adjacent to the Hotel Indigo Orange Beach-Gulf Shores. A trailhead leading to it all can be found at the east end of the hotel’s parking lot. The Orange Beach outpost of the Hotel Indigo chain blends in well with the landscape with its wave-like design and local artwork hanging on the walls showing dunes, shimmering water, and crashing waves. A popular locally-owned coffee shop, Southern Grind Coffee, has a location in the lobby. The beach is across the road, or you can hop on the hotel’s shuttle bus for the two-mile journey to one of the longest piers on the Gulf of Mexico (inside Gulf State Park) for fishing, strolling, and Instagram-worthy views.

Hotel Indigo Orange Beach - Gulf Shores

Top rated
8.6 Excellent (151 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.4 / 10
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Indoor swimming pool
Outdoor swimming pool
Hotel CTA

Point Clear: The Queen of Southern Resorts

1/4

On my first visit to the Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa on windswept Point Clear, what surprised me the most was the private beach. I wasn’t expecting much of a beach at all since the resort is located on the bay and not the Gulf. I thought I would see a little ribbon of brown sand that no one paid much attention to other than to walk past it to look at the bay. It turned out to be a wide, white-sand affair filled with sunbathers, sand-castle-building kids, and families swimming and splashing in the water where gentle waves lap ashore.

Steps away from the beach, I discovered a palatial pool area with waterfalls and hidden coves. Further inland, two of the best and oldest golf courses in the state are found at the Lakewood Golf Club, which is part of the resort.

Long known as the ‘Queen of Southern Resorts’ by generations of travelers, tradition reigns at the Grand. People have been vacationing here since 1847. Centuries-old oak trees grace the grounds, their long swooping limbs, draped by Spanish moss. One of the longtime traditions is the daily military procession and cannon firing over the bay to commemorate the Grand’s place in military history during wartime when it served as a hospital for recovering soldiers.

Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (528 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.2 / 10
Parking garage
Pets allowed
Wellness center / Spa
Gym
Hotel CTA

Feature image by Angel Madera Jr on Unsplash