Two options that come to mind are Gulf Shores / Orange Beach, Alabama, the surrounding areas, and the Secret Mississippi Coast.
Gulf Shores, Alabama, enjoys a hot and humid climate tempered by sea breezes. The average winter temperature is between the low to mid-1960s. While peak travel occurs during the hot summer months (June through August), winter is uncrowded.
There is just something special and relaxing about a beach town. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach serve sand, surf, and a slower pace. They are also less cluttered and affordable.
White sand beaches cover over 30 miles of shoreline with plenty of activities for the mature visitor. Orange Beach even hosts an annual January event, Snowbird Fest.
Many older travelers want to maintain an active lifestyle year round, and becoming a snowbird makes that easy. Snowbirds enjoy an environment that encourages time outdoors, participation in favorite activities and the pursuit of new passions while being part of a new community.
Let’s explore some of the things you can do as a snowbird in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, BeachFlight Aviation and the Foley Depot Museum and Model Train Exhibit provided experiences during our visit. Meyer Vacation Rentals provided the accommodation. All opinions are mine.
1. Visit the beach
Who doesn’t love the beach? White sand beaches and beautiful turquoise water are the main attractions of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. There are 32 miles of shoreline for the mature traveler to explore.
During the winter months, you can take a walk on the beach, search for seashells, explore various ecosystems, or just soak up the sun. The beach is beautiful when it is uncrowded.
2. Dabble With Glass Art au Coastal Arts Centre
The Orange Beach Coastal Arts Center is a great place to visit. It overlooks picturesque Wolf Bay and offers a variety of artistic experiences. Gulf Coast artists display their work in the two-story 10,000-square-foot art gallery. The gardens are immaculately kept and offer stunning views over the bay.
A Clay Studio and The Hot Shop are also on campus. You can make your own clay creation or participate in glassblowing projects or other glass art projects. During my visit, I watched several hot glass demonstrations and participated in a Make-Your-Own molten glass project. I created a molten glass starfish.
The Arts Center also offers art classes and workshops for adults.
3. Attend local festivals
Events and festivals take place all year round along the Gulf Coast. Events and festivals include craft shows, history tours, music, food festivals, and more. You can keep up to date with the activities of the Gulf Coast Events Calendar.
4. Drop a line
Board a charter boat and fish along Alabama’s Gulf Coast, considered a premier fishing destination. You could catch a huge grouper.
Maybe you prefer to fish from a pier. Gulf State Park has a massive jetty with over 2,000 feet of space for fishing along the rails.
You also have the option of launching on the beach. Find a spot anywhere along the shore and hang your dinner. However you like to fish, you won’t be disappointed with the catch.
5. Visit the Gulf State Park
When you visit Gulf State Park, you are surrounded by abundant natural beauty. They have 2 miles of beaches and much more.
The hike at Gulf State Park is great as the over 20 miles of trails are paved or wooded. There are no roots, stones, etc. to trip over. Just great surfaces to walk or ride on. And there is a lot to see: lakes, natural habitat, wildlife, wild flowers, etc.
You can also cycle on all trails, and they have bikes that you can use for free for 3 hours.
If you have a good balance, you can hire a segway to visit the park. On our visit we enjoyed this option and were able to walk the segway for 12 miles to see most of the park. It was great to have a guide pointing out various things in the park.
A large swimming pool and a playground and a nature center are part of the park. Kayaks, paddleboards, and even beach wheelchairs are available for hire.
They also have a large RV campground, and Gulf State Park has a pavilion and a conference center. If you stay in the park, you can use all the facilities free of charge. If they are just coming to visit the park, they charge a nominal fee for the day.
6. Take a walk
I mentioned the hiking trails above, but you can walk along the beach, around the lakes, and to various other places in the area. You can definitely walk in and never get bored with the view as you walk.
7. Hit the links
There are 15 beautiful courses in the Gulf Shores / Orange Beach area. Some were designed by Arnold Palmer, Earl Stone, and Jerry Pate. You can find a course suited to your level of play. The courses are open all year round and are just waiting for the snowbirds to escape the snow and swing their clubs.
8. Discover a little history
A short drive along the beach is Fort Morgan. There is a museum and an almost 200-year-old fort to explore. Travel to a time when cannons protected waterways.
Be aware that if you plan to explore the fort there are many steep steps. But you can see a lot of things without going up the steps. I recommend visiting the museum first and reviewing the timeline information. It helps you understand what you are looking at as you explore the fort.
Many snowbirds enjoy volunteering and giving back to the area. A volunteer program welcomes visitors and is always happy to give you ideas on how you can be of service. Why not help make your second home a better place by participating?
10. Attend the Winter Educational Lecture Series
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism offer a series of free educational lectures highlighting various local interests, such as nature, local artisans, and military history.
11. Join your state club meetings
The Gulf Shores area offers plenty of opportunities to get out and socialize. State-specific clubs for winter snowbirds allow you to band together with those in your home state. Weekly potlucks and bridge clubs bring everyone in the state together.
12. Take day trips
There are many places within a short drive to take day trips to see more of the area. During our visit we made our way to Foley to enjoy the Railway Museum and the Model Train Exhibit.
Other places of interest include Alabama’s coastal connection to Fairhope, the ferry to Dauphin Island, visiting Pensacola, Florida, or the secret Mississippi coast. You can complete each in a day.
13. Fly like a bird
Try something new during your visit and have something to say to the neighbors when you get home. Maybe a helicopter ride or a hot air balloon ride or, better yet… a gyroplane.
I rode in an autogyro with Beachflight Aviation during my visit, and it was a fantastic experience. When you looked down you could see the bigger fish and dolphins underwater. Everything looks different from the air. I highly recommend this adventure.
14. Eat seafood
If you are a seafood lover, Gulf Shores is the right place for snowbirds. Seafood is plentiful and there are some great restaurants to visit. I recommend Fresh Off The Boat, Stephi Cocktails and Cuisine, Safari Club and Sea-N-Suds.
Where to stay in Gulf Shores
Accommodation options at Gulf Shores include beach house rentals, luxury hotels, beach condos, and year-round RV campgrounds. You are sure to find the perfect home away from home in Gulf Shores.
If you’re tired of the long, harsh winters, snow shoveling, and icy roads, consider becoming a snowbird and remember all of the fantastic activity options available in and around Gulf Shores. Gulf Shores just might be the perfect snowbirding destination for you.
Tips for snowbirding
Plan ahead. Due to the many details like travel, accommodation, preparing your primary residence for departure, notifying the post office, etc., it will take some time, so you need to plan ahead.
Create a budget. While snowbirding is wonderful, you need to be prepared for the cost, including health care, food, activities, travel, and more. Decide if you will be looking for a snowbird job to help cover costs and finance the lifestyle you desire.
Find the best place to snowbird. While the heat looks fantastic, be sure to pick a location where there is an active adult community with activities and clubs to bring people together and help build a routine.