When you are planning a vacation, heading to the sunny Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida is almost a no-brainer. The brilliant blue water of the Gulf of Mexico is constantly lapping at the white sand beaches in this region, where there are opportunities galore for recreation, dining and fun. You can book Gulf Shores rentals in Alabama and access activities in Orange Beach, Fort Morgan and also Perdido Key, Fla., all of which are exciting in their own ways, but each of these coastal communities has its own flavor that may especially suit your interests. 

Although beach houses in Gulf Shores are central to all the action, you may also choose to stay in the other neighboring cities and towns because of their distinct personalities. Get to know the area a bit better with this guide:

Perdido Key

All of the rental destinations along the Gulf Coast offer stunning beaches, but each has its own personality, too.Located just east of the Alabama state line bordering Florida, Perdido Key offers some seclusion from the excitement of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores with a bit of an upscale touch. When you rent condos or beach houses in this Florida destination, you can enjoy a quieter beach experience at Perdido Key State Park, which is known for its rolling dunes and sea oats. This peaceful spot is perfect for fishing, sunbathing or playing with the kids, but nature enthusiasts might also love seeing the shorebirds that enjoy the protected habitats here. There are also plentiful opportunities for oceanfront dining, whether you want to keep it casual at The Crab Trap or enjoy refined service and gourmet food at the Oyster Bar Restaurant and Marina

Orange Beach

This central Alabama beach community is made up largely of the back bays of the Gulf Coast, which means there are tons of fishing and boating adventures awaiting you on these calmer back waters. Of course, you can still get condos on the beach and enjoy splashing in the refreshing Gulf waters, but with all the options for fishing charters, kayak rentals and other boating options, you'd be missing out if you didn't explore the many canals, bays and rivers across the street from the beach. Orange Beach is also where many of the restaurants in the Gulf Coast region are located, whether you're looking for the best breakfast on the coast (you've got to try the Farmers Omelet at Tacky Jack's) or want upscale Creole food on the water (Louisiana Lagniappe is the go-to). 

Gulf Shores

The city of Gulf Shores, Alabama's original beach town, is the most centrally located city on this strip of beach communities, and is home to many of the recreational options in the area. If you're traveling with the kids, renting Gulf Shores condos may be the best option, since they are conveniently located near fun-filled attractions like the water park, zoo and more. Head over to The Track Family Recreation Center for a go-kart race or game of mini-golf with the family, or visit the tigers, monkeys and lions at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Fort Morgan

If you're looking to get away from it all, head to Fort Morgan. The most secluded and undeveloped of the four Gulf Coast destinations, Fort Morgan is home to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, a 7,000-acre stretch of land for migratory birds, nesting turtles and endangered species. History buffs may also want to explore Fort Morgan, the historic edifice on the westernmost point of the Alabama peninsula.

There are beach houses and condos available for rent in all of these destinations, but the area is small enough that you can access all of the best attractions no matter where you stay.