Gulf Shores, Alabama, is a summer tradition for our little household. My husband’s family has been vacationing together here for many years, and now that I’m part of the family I’m lucky to be part of the tradition.
While family is what draws us here, the appeal of the Gulf coast makes it a pleasure to come back year after year. Despite the fact that I am a native Floridian, I enjoy the beaches in Alabama for the slower pace, the friendly people and all the great Southern food.
I’ll review our trip in three parts: the beach, the eats and the rest. If you’re considering a Gulf Shores vacation, I hope they’re helpful.
The Beach is Back
The Gulf Coast is back! We made our annual visit despite the oil spill last summer, and the damage to the area’s natural beauty was heartbreaking. That makes the area’s recovery even more remarkable. The beach looks fresh and clean everywhere we went, and more importantly the crowds are back. New businesses are open, houses up and down the beach are full, fresh, local seafood was on the table and we even saw two weddings on the beach during our stay!
Check out the before and after photos below to see the beach’s transformation is just one year.
In June 2010, the sand was littered with tar balls up and down the shore.
Today, the sand is as clean and white as ever.
In 2010, the inlet to the lagoon was filled with sand to protect the lagoon’s sensitive ecosystem.
Today, the lagoon is back to normal and is a magnet for both swimmers and fishers.
In 2010, the beach was populated by clean-up crews shoveling contaminated sand.
Today, the crowds are back to enjoy soaking up the sun.
Visiting the beach with our six-month-old for the first time was quite the adventure. It’s amazing to imagine the beach through a little one’s eyes.
Our little guy was not so sure he liked the beach on his first visit. We took him down to the shore and let the waves gently touch his toes… And he howled. We went back up the beach and let him sit in the dry sand. He explored for a few minutes, then decided the beach was not for him and began to cry again. I think it was too many brand new sights, smells, touches and sounds all at once. So we went back I indoors and did nap time instead.
We gave the beach another try later in the week. Our little guy was still not a fan of the water, but he fell in love with the sand. Too bad we don’t have a yard because this is a kid that would love a sandbox.
We also enjoyed some late afternoon family walks. I wore ‘Lil Buddy in a ring sling–a must-have for the beach–and he was relaxed as can be. Definitely an ideal way to get in some beach time in a baby-friendly way.
Based on our lessons learned this week, here are my tips on beach-going with an infant:
1. Go slowly. The sensory stimulation of visiting the beach for the first time is pretty intense, so don’t rush your baby to experience too many new sensations at once. If possible, let them see and hear the ocean for a while before you introduce the tactile stimuli.
2. Have a Plan B. Be able to go somewhere quiet if your little one gets overwhelmed.
3. Be sun-safe and heat-savvy. Your infant will likely need to nurse or bottle-feed more to replenish fluids lost through sweat. Be sure to offer milk or formula often. Don’t forget to bring cover-ups and baby-friendly sunblock, and better yet, an umbrella, tent or other source of shade.
4. Wear your baby. One of my favorite beach activities is taking long walks, but strollers aren’t much use in the sand. I highly recommend packing your favorite baby carrier, so you have more flexibility to be active on your vacation. I especially love my ring sling since it’s light and cool, even in the summer.
Readers, are you headed to the Gulf this summer? What is your favorite tip for babies and the beach?