I love winter and cannot wait to get out there and ski again soon but growing up a true beach bum, I am holding on to summer as long as I can. I am also holding on to my recent vacation to Orange Beach, Alabama as well. Not willing to let go and recognize that I am back to reality, I keep thinking about the good times my family and I had and how much we want to go back. I may be a ski bum in the winter but, when those summer months roll around, it's nothing but bare feet, board shorts and tank tops for me. So it is no surprise that when you transplant me from one beach town on the Jersey Shore to another on the Gulf of Mexico, I am going to be in my element. Especially when that element is an apres surf paradise like Alabama's Gulf Coast. Visitors and locals alike love to spend the day doing some sort of water activity prior to cozying up to a beach bar in the area, and there are many of them. So many that it can be tough to choose. However, if you do happen to read this blog and take my advice to visit, I want to make sure that you hit up the right ones so I have put together my first timer's list of the top beach bars in Alabama's Orange Beach and Gulf Shores (okay and maybe one in Perdido Key).
Photo Credit: Please Island Tiki Bar Instagram Account
When a local tells you to go someplace, you should listen. When two locals tell you to go someplace without prior knowledge of the other, you NEED to listen. So we did. My only regret is that we didn't go here earlier in the week because we would have been back more than once. Pulling up, the parking lot feels a bit Weekend at Bernie's as many locals roll up to this bar on the bay in their custom golf carts. Many also boat right up to the sand and hop out to join the fun that way. It is exactly what the name says it is, an all open tiki bar and there is nothing not to love about that. With some excellent mixed drink options including their version of the famous Painkiller (a personal favorite), a solid tap list and, of course, live music starting in the afternoon you simply cannot go wrong here.
Order drinks and chill out with some sweet water views and what originally began as a few drinks will, more than likely, turn into dinner. Trust me, it's that kind of place. Just be sure to try the wings when you end up staying. They are damn good!
Okay, this is not technically a beach bar. It's a brewery and it's not on the water. However, there is water across the street and it has beach in the name so that counts in my book. Located a bit inland in Gulf Shores, Big Beach Brewing is a must visit. In fact, it is the first place that we went to when arrived and we liked it so much we went back. The atmosphere is family friendly and fun. My girls loved the popcorn machine and the oversize Jenga is always a favorite among families. The space itself has a really cool beach vibe that flows nicely from the inner space filled with chic wood furniture through the open garage doors into it's rustic outdoor space. Live music? Duh, that's the norm down there. They pack them in for some of the good bands that we saw but I have a feeling that is really the beer that keeps the conversation flowing and everyone there. It's quite good. Visiting twice, I am pretty sure that I had at least a small pour of everything on the menu and they were all tasty. The go to is definitely the Hundred Daze IPA, their flagship, but if you are feeling adventurous, venture out of your comfort zone and give their Lemon Gose or the highly unique Lemongrass and Ginger Wheat Ale a try. Both are refreshing warm weather beers that will have your taste buds screaming for more.
3. The Hangout
The Hangout is great during the day when you want to take a break from chilling on Gulf Shores' big beach (it's legitimately that big) and want some apps and a cocktail. However, where they really excel is in the late afternoon. Whereas, you'll need to clear out of the Flora Bama with your kids, The Hangout gets bonus points for family friendly. A DJ broadcasting right from the indoor lifeguard stand turned dj booth has the place hopping while the MC amps up the crowd even more.
The kids foam party, yes, you read that right, starts around this time and runs every hour on the hour. In between they can play in the sand, crawl through tunnels, bounce on bungee cords all while the adults enjoy cocktails and dance to the band that is playing live on any of the two stages they have in their courtyard. Not sure who wanted to leave less here, the kids or the adults but it this place is like a vortex that sucks you in and can keep you there for quite some time.
4. Flora Bama
How could I not include the Flora Bama on this list, even if it is technically in Florida? Hell it's really right on the border of Perdido and Orange Beach, thus the name. If you haven't heard of this famous bar, listen to some Chesney music and it is guaranteed to come up. A three floor dive bar right on the beach, with two other buildings across the street on the bay, it is famous for a reason. Walk in and sign your name among the many that are on the wall throughout then grab a drink (I liked the Island Girl but you should try a Bushwhacker, it's equally as famous) and listen to the live music that starts at one and runs throughout the night. During the day, it is totally family friendly. My girls loved the daily Bingo, which is quite a sight to see and they have arguably some of the best chicken strips out there. However, after 6 those kiddos have to go and understandably. It is wall to wall and a party for sure. That's fine, get a sitter or head across the street to listen to more live music and tasty food at the Flora Bama Yacht Club.
5. The Gulf
I have The Gulf at five on this list only because the two times we visited it wasn't super nice out. This ultimately limited the true potential of this place for us but otherwise I do believe this spot would be much higher. The Gulf is constructed with a series of shipping containers that, when put together, forms a one of the most uniquely cool beach bars you will ever see. When you walk in, you instantly know that you are in paradise. Turn the corner and you are afforded incredible views of the Gulf of Mexico with the beautiful Alabama Point beach in the foreground.
Order up some drinks at the bar and some of the freshest food you will find. In fact you can bet that what they caught that day will be the basis of their fish dishes. That's what I'd go for, especially the fish tacos, they were the best thing that I ate all week. Then take a seat at any of the picnic tables scattered throughout the palm trees and sand that make up The Gulf's laid back beachy atmosphere. Sit back and enjoy each other's company, play cornhole, peruse their cute little gift shop...it's all worth it when you have views like this.
Cobalt- a beautiful restaurant with equally beautiful views and delicious food that you can enjoy with cocktails from their own tiki bar and live music all night long.
The Anchor Bar - a favorite among the locals and for good reason. Their menu is limited for a reason. Do a few things and do them really well...and they do.
Luna's - They have craft beer and a lot of it. 30 taps to choose from and southern comfort food that will have your belly good and full when you leave.