Originally considering a trip to Napa, California for Labor Day Weekend, my boyfriend, Tim, and I, along with our friends, Allison and Ryan, decided that it wasn’t worth the risk to fly out there due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we landed on booking a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama instead.
This would be drivable for us, since we live in Houston, and Allison and Ryan conveniently live near the midpoint of our drive in Baton Rouge. We decided to stay with them for a night and to work remotely from their house the next day; I had been working from home for almost six months, and Tim had only started going back into the office part-time, so we were lucky enough to have the luxury to do so.
Tim worked that Wednesday, and when he got home, we loaded up his truck with our luggage and at least six bottles of wine and champagne – you can never be too prepared! – before heading on our four or five hour journey to Baton Rouge.
The next morning, Al headed into work, and Ryan, Tim and I worked from home. We woke to find that she had graciously left us a breakfast bar of options – isn’t she the sweetest?
When she arrived back home, we packed up the car and headed out around 4 PM. Along the way, we stopped at Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner and made a mandatory Buc-ee’s stop for snacks. If you’ve never been to a Buc-ee’s, you’re going to need to get with the program! They have snacks galore, along with anything else your heart may desire, ranging from alcohol, full blown meals, Slurpees, water bottles, beach chairs, candles, home decor, and so much more. This place is amazing!
A BROAD SUMMARY
Lodging: PotteryBarn Gulf Front 2/2 sleeps 7 booked through Airbnb; total cost was $1436.43 for four nights divided by four people
Groceries: Pier 33 Groceries @ 900 W Beach Blvd #6302, Gulf Shores, AL 36542; Walmart @ 170 E Fort Morgan Rd, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Breakfast/Coffee: West Beach Coffee House located upstairs inside Pier 33 Groceries
Lunch: Efes Greek Kitchen @ 1550 AL-59, Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Note: both dinner spots were rated 4+ stars and labeled $$ on Google
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We arrived late into the evening and had no trouble at all with check-in. We chose to stay at the PotteryBarn Gulf Front 2/2 sleeps 7 in Gulf Shores, which we booked through Airbnb. The check-in process was seamless, as there was a keypad on the door to get in, and our host had been quick with communication prior to the trip.
There were charcoal grills, a fitness center, a game room and an indoor/outdoor pool, all of which we didn’t use and can’t speak to – the pool was pretty crowded throughout our trip, though, and looked to be a bit small in my opinion.
The host also provided two beach chairs, a small umbrella and a closet full of beach toys, high chairs, etc. for our visit.
Note: check-in was at 3 PM or later, which was no problem for us since we arrived late into the evening. There were two parking passes and plenty of wristbands, which are required for pool and private beach access, although no one was really checking.
We stayed up for a bit to watch a movie, which most of us started falling asleep during, before heading to bed. Huge thank you to Allison and Ryan who generously gave Tim and me the master bedroom – again, so sweet!
The next morning, I woke up around 8 AM to enjoy some light reading on the balcony, overlooking the beach and listening to the waves. Man, I could certainly get used to this! It was so beautiful and peaceful sitting up on the balcony taking in the view.
Although conveniently located, we decided to get groceries elsewhere, but this place definitely offers your basic needs, including milk, lunch meat, cheese, yogurt, snacks, etc., along with lots of sunblock, beach toys, and souvenirs. We also enjoyed our coffees – I got an Iced Vanilla Chai Latte, and it was yummy!
By 11 AM, we were all loaded up and ready to walk to the beach. The beach was just downstairs and through the pool area and easily accessible. Allison and Ryan had brought their own chairs and umbrella, so Tim and I were able to use the complimentary ones from our host. It’s notable that they actually had more than two chairs for us to use, had we needed them.
A Broad Recommendation: If you would prefer to book your own beach chairs or a cabana, Ike’s Beach Service is available on site.
We had a ton of fun relaxing on the beach, reading books and listening to audiobooks and music – the weather was just oh so wonderful!
We noticed almost immediately that the water was a jellyfish wonderland. The mornings were okay, but by mid-afternoon, there were jellyfish everywhere! We kept joking that we were getting a baby sting the whole time we were in the water, and at times, we were actually getting stung.
A Broad Recommendation: you may want to bring some anti-itch medicine like Hydrocortisone cream or a Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Relief Stick for the jellyfish stings. We also heard that vinegar can be quite effective! I’m not sure if these little guys are out and about year-round, but it was a little concerning getting in the water with all of them in the afternoon.
Around 1 PM, we headed to Efes Greek Kitchen, where we ordered some Mediterranean food from the drive thru, then parked and sat at the couple of picnic tables they had in front of the restaurant. Three of us can attest that the Gyro Combo was delicious, and Tim had the Cheeseburger Combo, which he also thought was tasty.
Note: the food was good, but this place is super small, so if you have a larger group, you probably won’t be able to eat on the premises.
After lunch, we did a grocery run at the Walmart, which was also close by. Our goal was to not have to go out again for lunch during the rest of the visit and to grab some other essentials like a birthday cake for Tim!
We were unpacked and back on the beach by 4 PM.
Note: you can totally leave your beach chairs, towels and umbrellas on the beach while you’re gone. No one will bother them, but remember to put your umbrella down so it doesn’t blow away while unattended.
We enjoyed sitting on the beach until late into the afternoon/early evening, as the weather began to cool off a bit and the sun began to set.
After freshening up and enjoying some wine on the balcony, we made our way to dinner at Bahama Bob’s Beach Side Cafe, which is one of the top rated restaurants in the area, around 8:30 PM. When we arrived, it was jam-packed – don’t forget to wear your masks! – so we ordered a couple rounds of drinks at the bar and sat outside before we were seated about 45 minutes later.
A Broad Recommendation: Make a reservation before walking here if possible. We arrived during a busy time and had to wait a while. If you don’t mind taking it easy and grabbing some drinks at the bar, then it doesn’t matter if you book ahead!
The food wasn’t bad; Tim and I ended up ordering the Fried Captains Platter. Not sure why we chose this after all, but I think we probably would’ve preferred something that wasn’t fried – our mistake! The vibe inside was also just okay, but we were seated right next to the bathrooms, so maybe that was just our experience. It looked like they had a nice outdoor seating area too.
We walked back to our place, which was just under a half of a mile away and spent the rest of the evening playing Ticket to Ride, one of our favorite board games, before calling it a night.
The next morning, I woke up around 6:50 AM, just as the sun was rising, and was able to capture some beautiful photos and spend some more time reading on the balcony.
Man, this is the life! I never wake up this early and wonder if I lived on the beach, if I would be more inclined to early mornings like this.
We walked to West Beach Coffee House again for our morning brew, and Tim even bought some coffee beans this time – he liked this place so much!
We enjoyed some fruit and muffins that Allison had made before our trip, and again, headed to the beach around 11 AM.
Note: we had no issues finding a place to post up at the beach, despite us making our way out later in the morning each day. I will say that it was much more crowded this particular day, since it was a Saturday and a holiday weekend, but, again, we really had no problems finding a spot.
Around 1 PM, we headed back up for our charcuterie board lunch that we had planned out at the Walmart the day before and popped a bottle of champagne to go with it!
We hung out for a while on the balcony after lunch to avoid being in the sun during the hottest part of the day.
Around 4 PM, we headed back down to the beach for some late-afternoon sun and relaxation.
We also played some Kan Jam, a super fun game that showcases one of my hidden talents. Almost every time I play, I “slot it”, i.e. throw the frisbee into the “Instant Win” slot 🙂 , which you can probably guess by its name automatically wins the game! In fact, I slotted it twice on this trip, and Tim and Allison each slotted it once, so we are practically experts.
We really enjoyed spending the afternoons down on the beach and loved catching the captivating sunsets. We had to take some photos too!
We headed back up for showers and began cooking a delicious dinner that Allison and Tim so graciously prepared for us! Al had gotten some steaks from the farmers market before the trip, and we made sweet potatoes, asparagus and broccoli to go with it.
Around 10 PM, we headed back out to the beach to enjoy the amazing weather and to observe the stars – and even some planets!
When we got back around 11:30, we celebrated Tim’s birthday month with our Walmart-purchased carrot cake.
Then, we played Sagrada, a new game Tim and I had never played before. Tim actually almost won, but Ryan swooped in at the end rounding out first place.
We were all ready for a lazy Sunday, and Tim and I slept in until 10 AM. We enjoyed some more fruit and muffins for breakfast, and you guessed it! – we headed to the beach again around 11 AM.
After another sun-filled morning of reading and napping on the beach, we came back up around 1:30 for round two of our charcuterie lunch buffet with champagne.
Taking our time again, we made it back to the beach around 3 PM, which was actually much more impressive for us than the previous two days – ha. And, we kicked off another rousing game of Kan Jam, this time in a small pool of water that had formed closer to the ocean.
We had so much fun that we could hardly tear ourselves away from the beach, and of course, we had to capture the moment with a million pictures. Yes, I know – we took enough pictures that it looks like we were here for two plus weeks, haha.
But, I mean, look at this sunset, you guys! We just couldn’t get enough of it.
We started taking some couple shots when someone offered to take a full group shot – how kind! We were happy to get one that wasn’t just a selfie.
After lots of fun on the beach, we pre-ordered dinner from Aji Sai Asian Cuisine and drove to pick it up. It was a bit of a wait, but the food was pretty yummy! Ryan and I would highly recommend the Volcano roll.
We downloaded the Skyview Lite app, since we had been trying to figure out which stars and planets we had been seeing every night and made our way back to the beach, where we discovered we had seen Mars, Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky! How cool.
We decided to call it a night when we came back up, in anticipation of our early morning departure the next day.
I woke up again for the sunrise, this time around 6:15 AM, and watched the whole thing.
Don’t judge me, but I also ate my leftover sushi and some watermelon for breakfast and topped my morning off with some more reading on the balcony.
Around 7:30 AM, Tim and I were out on the beach strolling along the ocean when we ran into these bird friends!
After about an hour, we made our way back to the condo to help clean and pack up. We had a 10 AM sharp check-out time, and we ended up checking out just mere minutes before.
Apparently leaving around 10 AM on a holiday weekend was a bad idea! It took us a couple hours just to get out of the area and nearly seven hours to make it back to Allison and Ryan’s house in Baton Rouge.
Then, Tim and I had another four-hour drive back to Houston, which ended up taking us around five hours. Luckily, we had learned in Iceland that podcasts are a great way to fill the time, so we listened to The Habitat and The Dating Game Killer on our way back to Baton Rouge and Houston, respectively.
Sadly, just a couple weeks after our visit, Gulf Shores was devastated by Hurricane Sally. Here are a few ways you can help the impacted communities:
- The American Red Cross is asking people to volunteer or to donate blood to help those affected by Sally. Due to COVID-19, the American Red Cross of Alabama is unable to accept donations in the form of clothing or other supplies.
- The United Cajun Navy is a volunteer organization dedicated to providing relief efforts and equipping rescue teams to areas affected by natural disasters.
- The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster is an association of organizations that mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters, through promotion of cooperation, communication, coordination and collaboration and the effective delivery of services.
Have you ever been to Gulf Shores? Would you consider visiting after hearing more about it? Let us know in the comments below!
And, don’t forget to pin it!
For other U.S. adventures, check out our posts below:
- A Summer Getaway to Sun Valley, Idaho
- Solo Adventures in the Pacific Northwest
- Two Days Exploring the Olympic Peninsula
- A West Coast Road Trip From Seattle to Austin
XOXO Travel A-Broads