Gulf Shores, AL: In The Redneck Riviera

You know how every state has that special place that people go when they want to kick back and have fun in the sun? In Alabama, that place is Gulf Shores, on the Gulf of Mexico, smack-dab in the middle of what they call the Redneck Riviera.

Gulf Shores and the related town of Orange Beach are known for their pristine, white sugar-sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Shores alone has 32 miles of gorgeous, uncrowded beaches.

There is lots to do here, including scenic cruises, dophin watching, mega-amusement and water parks, boating, kayaking and more. The skyline is dotted with old-Florida-style highrises and timeshares to accommodate all the happy travelers.

Though most of the Gulf Shores action is on water, the 28-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry system of trails in Gulf State Park takes you through nine different ecosystems, and is perfect for a spin on two wheels.

Gulf State Park is also a favorite for RV camping, with huge, full hookup sites in scenic locations throughout the park.

When we planned this trip almost a year ago, their 490 (!!) campsites were already all booked. So we splurged on an expensive, but fabulous, RV resort in nearby Orange Beach, with cobblestone streets, pool and jacuzzi overlooking Bayou St. John, and our own private outdoor area at our site. See the rig parked right there next to it?

Heritage also had a private and generally empty beach where Finn and Sprinkles could frolic unleashed. Oh, the canine joy!

In our neverending quest for fun dive bars around the country, we hit the Flora-Bama, a sprawling roadhouse-type establishment that has been around in various forms since 1964, located right on the state line between Florida and Alabama.

It’s not just a bar, it’s an attitude. Country singer Kenny Chesney even wrote a song called Flora-Bama, and the lyrics are spelled out in license plate slivers on the wall. For a fantastic “feel” of the Flora-Bama, watch the official music video for this song!

Sitting here at the Flora-Bama
‘Bout to open up a big old can of
Good times, unwind
Fall in and out of love in the same night
Can’t say I got a whole lot of cares
I’m in the red neck Riviera
It’s getting crazy, getting hammered
Sitting right here at the Flora-Bama
At the Flora-Bama

In the full swing of the summer season, and especially during spring break, they have music on multiple stages, big-name concerts, and crowds-a-plenty. For headliner acts, they build a stage right in the middle of the beach to handle the crowds. Here in the shoulder season before the crush, it’s quieter but no less fun to explore.

Lots of and lots of people have passed through the Flora-Bama in 58 years, as evidence by the ever-changing display of intimate garments thrown into the rafters, and graffiti blanketing every surface.

Our favorite part of Flora-Bama was the fresh oyster bar. You can take your order out back onto the beach and enjoy the cool breezes and happy hour sunsets. These oysters were baked with gouda cheese, bacon and green onions and washed down with cold Yeungling beer.

Flora-Bama has grown over the years and now has the roadhouse, concert venues and bars, oyster bar, beach, package sales, river grill, and “yacht club,” to which you can boat up, with surprisingly good food! It’s definitely a “must-do” when you’re in Gulf Shores.

The Gulf Coast might be considered Alabama’s playground, but it’s also the private playground of a super-wealthy local billionaire, George Barber. Here, in nowheresville-Alabama in a hidden field just off a country road, Mr. Barber hired a local artist to create “BamaHenge,” a partial to-scale reproduction of the original Stonehenge in England, because that’s what rich people do when they get a whim.

There are multiple versions of Stonehenges scattered throughout the country, and our most recent visit to Carhenge in Nebraska has us hooked to visit more of them!

The roadside scavenger hunt for Bamahenge also led us to his marina in Elberta, about 20 miles from Gulf Shores, and the “Lady of the Bay.” How shocked would you be to pull your yacht into this marina and see a 50-foot-tall beauty just reclining lazily in the water?

She’s a modest one, with only head and knees exposed. Some think her face is a combination of country singer Sara Evans and actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. She’s made of fiberglass, like Bamahenge, but her insides are filled with styrofoam so that she floats. She was badly damaged in a 2020 hurricane, but was put back together like Humpty-Dumpty and now is back where she belongs. Note the relative sizes of the houses in the background!

Traveling to the Redneck Riviera from Louisiana took us over swamps and bayous on miles-long bridges. The dreamy, steamy views were mesmerizing in their beauty. We’re definitely not in Arizona anymore!

We’ve since left Alabama and are in our 42nd state … the Sunshine State of Florida … where we will be for the entire month of March!

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