Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are more than Alabama’s beaches. They’re 32 miles of sugar sand beaches on the warm and gentle Gulf of Mexico. In our opinion, what separates them from other Gulf Coast destinations is Gulf State Park, which sits between the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, may we suggest the beautiful and innovative Lodge at Gulf State Park? They claim to be “A Unique Destination On The Alabama Gulf Coast Where Nature Is At Your Doorstep,” and we would agree, but we also think they’re so much more. Read on to hear our ten reasons to stay at The Lodge at Gulf State Park.
You’re Inside Gulf State Park
Harold Samuel said the three most important things in real estate are location, location, and location. The Lodge at Gulf State Park has all of these in spades because they are located inside Gulf State Park, but what does that mean to you?
The first location would be access to the park’s interior via a pedestrian bridge over Beach Blvd. You can ride your bike over the bridge to access Gulf State Park’s 28 miles of biking trails. Didn’t bring a bike? No worries. Just pick one from the free bike share kiosk in front of The Lodge once you download the app. If you want to do more than riding, you can even rent a kayak just across the bridge and paddle Lake Shelby.
The second location is your access to the Gulf State Park Fishing Pier, which used to be the largest fishing pier on the Gulf Coast. You can try your luck with a variety of fish that include Sheepshead, Red Drum, Spanish Mackerel, Flounder, Florida Pompano, King Mackerel, Whiting, and more! Or, you can be a sightseer and enjoy the live music and stunning sunsets.
The third location is the incomparable access to the Gulf State Park Beaches. The beach is just outside your door, and it doesn’t take too many footsteps in the sand to find a secluded section of surf where you can let your mind wander, and your troubles wash away.
It’s A True Beachside Resort
It takes more than sand and water to make a beachside resort, and the Lodge delivers. On the beach, you’ll find lifeguard towers, sand volleyball, and a wide range of beach rentals, including umbrellas. At the Lodge, there’s an outside pool, snack bar, corn hole, and convenient showers to keep the salt and sand from getting out of hand.
With all of these amenities, you don’t have to plan your beach day around the squeakiest wheel. There’s something for everyone and ways to throttle your activities up or down, depending on the mood.
Gulf State Park offers weekly programs for children and adults to learn about Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Their programs include guided nature walks, beach walks, pier walks, and nature time, with many activities starting adjacent to the Lodge.
Gulf State Park is a living museum of native plants and animals with every major coastal ecosystem represented. It’s a one-stop eco-tour with trained park naturalists and interpretive trails.
Rooms with a View
Escaping into nature is one thing. Being able to enjoy it from the comfort of your private balcony is something else. The Lodge’s website states – Each of the 350 non-smoking Guest Rooms, including 20 suites, weave comfort and sustainability with a contemporary flair. All rooms and suites bring the outdoors in by providing guests views of either The Gulf of Mexico or Lake Shelby/Gulf State Park. Most rooms have balconies and all rooms have a window that opens slightly to allow the gulf breezes into the room.
For us, that meant that we could wake up and check the sunrise to help us decide if we should sleep in or head down to the beach. Some mornings, we just opened the curtains and enjoyed the show while snuggling in bed. Even if we were enjoying the air conditioning, we could get our dose of Vitamin Sea by looking out the window.
Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days… but for us, these are the most magical times of our beach vacation. And since The Lodge at Gulf State Park is right on the beach, we could make the most of these golden hours. Jenn loves sleeping in, and I’m a straight-out-of-bed kind of guy. Some mornings she set me free to go adventuring. Others, I stayed in with her. But the times I liked the best were when we could go out and explore the empty beaches together.
Sunsets were always together time because the Lodge creates so many little sitting areas to enjoy nature’s finest show. Of course there’s the beach and pool, but there are other places you can grab a bite to eat and watch the sun go down. We loved getting an Irish coffee from the Roasted Oak cafe and sitting in the comfortable chairs outside the lobby. We also loved ordering a cocktail to drink on the Perch Patio or Foodcraft deck. Pro-tip, if you want a frozen concoction to help you hang on 😉, order a blender drink downstairs at Foodcraft and carry it upstairs to the Perch Patio.
We have already mentioned three on-premise restaurants, but there are four in total: Roasted Oak, Perch, Foodcraft, and Dragonfly.
Roasted Oak is a coffee shop and wine bar just off the lobby. We loved their lattes and grab-and-go breakfasts when we wanted to get out and explore Gulf State Park.
Perch and Foodcraft are both sit-down dining with excellent menus. Perch is a little fancier, and Foodcraft is a little more family-oriented, but you can’t go wrong with either option. They’re both unique dining experiences where you’ll get locally sourced ingredients. Also, the Sunday Brunch at Foodcraft is not to be missed.
We didn’t get a chance to visit Dragonfly, the poolside bar and grill, but we saw plenty of people enjoying yummy-looking food as they played around the pool.
We have a theory about nightlife, aka date nights. You need at least two activities to constitute a date, such as a dinner and a movie. We created a list of 15 Perfect Date Ideas in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, two of which are at or by The Lodge at Gulf State Park.
The first is our Partake in a Pedaling Picnic, where you ride your bike through the park and eat at Woodside Restaurant. If you remember, the Lodge has a convenient bike share and pedestrian bridge into the park, which makes it an excellent starting point for this date.
Another date idea we call Sunset Serenades. We’ve already talked about dining at the Perch or Foodcraft, but we haven’t mentioned live music on the Perch Patio. Be sure to get a schedule when you check in and make plans for the easiest date ever.
Access to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach
When I heard we were staying inside a state park, I imagined being surrounded by nature, miles away from everything. I was half right in that there was nature all around us. However, we were located in the middle of it all.
The Lodge at Gulf State Park sits in the middle of an imaginary triangle between Little Lagoon Park (the west end of Gulf Shores public beaches), The Wharf (the area’s premier entertainment district), and SunRoc Cay Marina (the Orange Beach Marina where we went scuba diving).
In fact, diving distances between the Lodge and these three points are:
- Little Lagoon Pass – 6.6 miles west
- The Wharf – 6.9 miles north
- SunRoc Cay Marina – 6.6 miles east
You are close enough to everything, and you could even anchor a biking vacation from the Lodge and not get in your car once during your entire trip!
One of the Most Romantic Hotels In Alabama
We love kids. They’re delicious with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, but you don’t always want them underfoot on a romantic getaway. The Lodge is very family friendly with all the education programs, a beautiful beach, and an oversized pool. But there are enough quiet spaces for romance to blossom, even at the height of summer vacation.
You can walk a little bit down the beach to the east, and you’ll have the place to yourself, or choose dinner at the Perch instead of the family-friendly Foodcraft. Afternoons at the pool and hot tub are definitely family time, but during early mornings you’ll have the place to yourself.
We do have a secret for you…if you want our number one tip for visiting Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, it’s to come down at the end of summer after school starts. The crowds (and costs) are down, but the weather is pretty much perfect, with plenty of sunshine and the warmest water of the year.
Part of us was nervous about booking a room in a state park hotel. We asked ourselves how they could possibly get that permit and were worried about post-trip regret. It turns out that The Lodge at Gulf State Park is the sort of place you can feel good about long after you check out. In fact, the Gulf State Park Vision Statement is “Gulf State Park will be an international benchmark for environmental and economic sustainability, demonstrating best practices for outdoor recreation, education and hospitable accommodations.”
They had extensive recycling programs, solar power, turtle-safe lighting, and storm water-safe parking. 75% of the site is dedicated to landscaping using native species that can thrive without irrigation, chemical pesticides, or fertilizers. There’s even a dune rehabilitation program that offsets all the land displaced during construction.
Worse case, this is a low-impact hotel where you can feel good about your stay. If you happen to learn at least one thing from their environmental outreach, your visit might be a net positive for the world.
Final Thoughts on Why to Stay at The Lodge at Gulf State Park.
We put many superlatives in this article: romantic, environmental, close, and beautiful. We should have also mentioned fun. You’ll have a good time staying at The Lodge at Gulf State Park. If not, it’s on you.
We should also mention that it’s a Hilton, which means Hilton Points and rewards. It also means that the property will be up to at least Hilton standards. However, Hilton wants this property, in particular, to be a leader in the Sustainable Tourism movement. As a flagship property, we found that all of their services exceeded the high Hilton standards we have come to expect. There’s a lot of pride in this property, which shows in everything they do.
Disclosure: A big thank you to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism for hosting us and setting up a fantastic itinerary! For more Gulf Shores and Orange Beach travel inspiration, check out their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.
As always, the views and opinions expressed are entirely our own, and we only recommend brands and destinations that we 100% stand behind.
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