Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Waterfront or Gulf-front - what's your dream view?

If you are thinking that waterfront views and gulf-front views are the same? It's true that they both overlook water but there is a difference. Our coastal area is blessed with an abundance of what we locally call "backwaters" in addition to the majestic Gulf of Mexico. Here's a guide to some of the backwater views available for your vacation retreat:

Fort Morgan area: This area is a peninsula, which is a piece of land boarded by water on three sides but connected to the mainland, with the Gulf of Mexico to the south and Mobile bay to the north. A couple of choices for a get-away-from-it-all treat are Fort Morgan Baywatch, a 1-bedroom, 1-bath cottage sleeping 4 that has a small pier, and Bay Breeze, a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house sleeping 8 with a private pier for fishing or watching gorgeous sunsets on the bay.

Adventure tip: For a cool day experience you can hop on the Mobile Bay Ferry to the barrier island of Dauphin Island to visit Fort Gaines and the Estuarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Gulf Shores: Little Lagoon and Lake Shelby are situated immediately to the south of the Gulf of Mexico. Here you can find both condos and houses with great views of the lagoon and sometimes a partial gulf view as well. A couple of waterfront choices in a 3-bedroom, 3-bath property sleeping 8 include the house A Dolphins Tale and condo Unit 1502; Bel Sole' both on Little Lagoon.

Adventure tip: The Hummingbird Ziplines send you flying from tower to tower with amazing water views of the Gulf and Lake Shelby. In fact the final tower is located in the lake.

Orange Beach: The backwater in this area has a variety of names depending on the specific location such as Cotton Bayou, Terry Cove and Ole River but each one is commonly called "the bay." Waterfront accommodation choices include a number of condos such as The Pass, Bella Luna, Mariner Pass, Phoenix on the Bay, The Wharf and Caribe. A 2-bedroom, 2-bath condo option that sleeps 4 and offers lots of amenities is Unit 401C; Caribe located at Perdido Pass. A large 6-bedroom, 5.5-bath house located on Ono Island is Ono's Latitude Adjustment which sleeps 16 friends or family members.

Adventure tip: Treat the family to a dolphin cruise or take your sweetheart on a sunset cruise for a memorable nautical experience.

Perdido Key: Ole River is a beautiful sight from your screened porch when you choose the 5-bedroom, 4.5-bath house Marbella which features a private boat dock and sleeps 14. You can sleep 10 at Unit 303; Sailmaker's Place, a 5-bedroom, 5.5-bath condo choice located on the Intracoastal Waterway.

Adventure tip: Climb to the top of the observatory tower at Big Lagoon State Park for a birds eye view.

So I hope you won't be confused by the property description of a "waterfront view" and that you will find this guide helpful to discover a coastal backwater treasure.

See you at the beach.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Coastal Christmas Lighted Boat Parade Dec. 14 in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

See Santa on land and water too when he visits our island in December. For a special treat gather your family and friends to see a non-traditional Christmas parade with a coastal flair. For miles and miles along the banks of the Intracoastal Waterway from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach, a festive boat parade lights up the night sky. Dozens of boats, large and small, are decked out from bow to stern with not only lights but creative nautical-themed holiday decorations for the 28th annual Christmas Lighted Boat Parade.

WHEN: Saturday, December 14, 2013 beginning at 5:30 p.m. and ending at approximately 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: The parade route begins at LuLu's at Homeport Marina and moves along the Intracoastal Waterway eastward past The Wharf, ending at Zeke’s Landing in Orange Beach

PARKING: Lots of free parking is available along the Intracoastal Waterway, at LuLu's, Tacky Jacks and The Wharf.

MY PARADE TIP: I actually like to go to three places to view the parade. First I go to LuLu's before the parade begins and photograph the boats while they are still docked and before it gets too dark. Then I hurry across the bridge to Tacky Jack's in Gulf Shores and position myself along the canal front to see the boats as they head out from LuLu's on their eastward journey. Finally I move to The Wharf to see them pass by on their way to Zeke's Landing. By then I'm ready to eat at one of the many wonderful options at The Wharf and enjoy the rest of my evening.

MY TRAVEL TIP: Rent a condo or house for four nights and get a 50% discount. Sounds like a great BOGO type sale to me - buy 2 and get 2 free - and I do love a bargain.

MY ITINERARY TIP: Take a look at all of the Coastal Christmas happenings throughout the month of December, so you can plan your itinerary around the fun events taking place on the Gulf Coast.

See you at the beach.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Homeschool Coastal Edutainment

A trip to Alabama and Florida’s Gulf Coast makes an entertaining addition to your home school curriculum, especially in the spring and fall when the beaches are less crowded and the weather is great for exploring abundant educational venues.

I’ve assembled a few options for you to choose from based on the ages of your children and their particular course of study. You just might create a whole new curriculum once you see the amazing ways to entertain while educating the youth in your family. In fact, I’ll bet you will enjoy these attractions as much as the kids do. Take a look at the possibilities for:edutainment at the beach:

Walk on the Wild Side
  • Add an animal encounter or two to your trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores for an up-close and personal animal experience. Plan your visit around the free animal show for extra information.
  • You definitely will not want to cuddle a reptile at Alligator Alley in Summerdale (north of Foley) but you can hold a small one and gain lots of knowledge during the guided tour, especially at feeding time.
  • The Gulf State Park Nature Center is a living museum of plants and animals native to our Gulf Coast region that can be found in the park’s 6,000+ acres.
  • Even more plants and animals are indigenous to the 7,000-acre Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, which is a wildlife habitat for more than 350 species of migratory birds, nesting sea turtles and the endangered Alabama beach mouse. Stop by the refuge office during the week to view a video and view wildlife exhibits or check the schedule to take a guided trail hike.

 For the Birds
  • Each spring and fall the Hummer Bird Study Group sets up a station inside Historic Fort Morgan to monitor the condition of migratory birds heading to South America in winter and returning to their first US landfall in spring. Planning your coastal visit to observe this process is an extraordinary experience.
  • The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, which runs throughout Baldwin and Mobile counties, provides 50 stops that are organized into loops where you can appreciate the observation points and avian education.
 Something Fishy
  • Add an extra layer of learning to your coastal experience when you spend time at the Estuarium at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. This educational facility highlights the four key habitats of coastal Alabama: the Mobile Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the Barrier Islands and the Northern Gulf of Mexico. For a special treat take the Mobile Bay Ferry ride from Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island for the day.
  • See marine science in action at the Claude Peteet Mariculture Center in Gulf Shores.
 Step Back in Time

  • Celebrating the birthplace of Mardi Gras in Mobile, not New Orleans as most people think, you’ll find the Mobile Carnival Museum.
Planes & Trains
  • An expansive free museum filled to the brim with aircraft is located at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. Be sure to sign up for a free guided tour for the behind-the-scenes, inside scoop about the planes, pilots and military personnel.
  • Most Wednesday’s you can view the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, as they practice for 65 upcoming shows for 2014 at their home at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola.

  • Three train adventures can be found just north of the beaches at the Foley Depot Museum where you’ll see an impressive model train exhibit inside a turn-of-the-century railroad station. Then you can board the Charles J. Ebert, Jr. Memorial Train for a free ride around Heritage Park.
Science Treasure
  • A terrific hands-on science experience makes learning fun at the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center in Mobile, where exhibits change frequently and the IMAX theatre add an extra level of entertainment.
Whew, that seems like a lot of action and fun adventures and it is. So now you just need to pack up the kids and head to the beach. But first check our specials and Hot Deals to pick up a bargain on your accommodations at a condo or beach house. Your vacation property comes equipped with a full kitchen, private bedrooms and baths plus a living area and balcony. Chose a gulf-front view overlooking the sugar-white sands and rolling gulf surf or a serene backwater vista.

See you at the beach.