The Gulf Coast cities of Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key have grown into a wintertime vacation hotspot, especially for those who hail from northern locales.
There are many reasons our part-time residents from the North, often referred to as “snowbirds” or “winter guests,” migrate south each winter, not the least of which are the warmer temperatures along the Gulf Coast.
Because of the area’s popularity, winter guests are advised to book their preferred vacation property as soon as possible.
Temperatures in January and February typically average in the 40s for the low and in the 60s for the highs, with some days a bit cooler and some a bit warmer.
The temperate climate makes it easy for winter guests to explore their surroundings, either locally or within the region. Here are a few reasons travelers from points north love to winter here.
Winter Activities GaloreThe typical age of wintertime visitors is changing, said Meyer Vacation Rentals Operations Specialist Sarah Kuzma. This has created a trend of very active seniors who enjoy adventurous activities.
“The majority of winter guests flocking to warmer weather from the colder climates are between the ages of 50 and 70, who were born after World War II. Alex Thatcher in an article for Homes.com on Dec. 28, 2016, states that ‘This generation is well-educated, financially secure, and active—a solid foundation for the snowbird lifestyle of adventure and migration.’ We have long recognized the concept that our winter guests are active and that they enjoy outings that enable them to connect with fellow visitors. In fact, studies show that most winter visitors are social butterflies and establish two sets of friends, those at their home and another group at their home-away-from-home.”
There are outstanding opportunities for adventure and fun along our sunny white shores.
From walking the beach with new friends or those you see year after year, dining on the freshest seafood around, and hiking and biking to exploring destinations within a short drive, there are just so many options for fellowship and fun along the Gulf Coast.
Sure, walking on the beach is fun. But it’s also a way to maintain and improve health, especially when on vacation during the winter.
Walking in sand requires greater effort than walking on a hard surface, meaning muscles and tendons work harder as your feet move around. In addition, walking in sand requires 2.1 to 2.7 times more energy than walking on hard surfaces, but it’s also easier on joints and feet, as sand acts as a natural cushion.
Another bonus? Walking on the beach promotes relaxation, meaning that many people find they walk further distances than they normally would on treadmills or on the sidewalk.
A great place to get in some nature walks or bike rides is the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails.
The 15-mile trail system is made up of seven trails winding through six distinct ecosystems. The trail complex is located in Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and the Gulf State Park and is well known for the Butterfly Garden, freshwater marshes and coastal hardwood swamps. It’s not unusual to spot a white tailed deer, a bobcat or an alligator on your journey.
A fun stop for the young and young at heart is Boulder Park, located next to the pavilion and Butterfly Garden about 1.5 miles from the Catman trail head on Hwy. 161 or 1.5 miles from the Orange Beach Sportsplex trail head. Climb on the rocks, pose for a picture or take a brief rest before heading on further down the trails.
“We do a tremendous amount of hiking. We walk the beach nearly every day,” said Carol and Jerry Z. of Cincinnati, who have spent the last several years wintering on the Gulf Coast with Meyer Vacation Rentals. “We have walked from the end of Johnson Beach all the way to Mobile Bay—88 miles. We did six miles a day. We enjoyed seeing the wreck of the Rachel (located near Fort Morgan). We’ve also seen fabulous sea creatures along the way.”
Winter guests also enjoy participating in activities such as yoga classes and pickleball tournaments held at local recreational centers as well as concerts and other events planned by the City of Gulf Shores designed especially to appeal to winter guests.
“We usually do two or three activities a day,” said Jerry and Carol, who stayed at Palacio in Perdido Key. “We just came from yoga class across the bridge. We do a lot of exercising and belong to fitness clubs in Daphne (Ala.) and Pensacola (Fla.).”
Access To Exclusive Events Planned Just For Our GuestsA perk many winter guests enjoy is access to events, activities and day trips planned exclusively for Meyer guests.
The events and activities run the gamut and include special access to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, including an animal show; a visit to the local Hot Shop for a glass blowing demo; dolphin cruises; and day trips to the National WWII Museum and the French Quarter in New Orleans, Palace Casino in Biloxi, GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mobile Carnival Museum in Mobile, and a historic tour and lunch in Pensacola.
Winter guests are also able to enjoy tours of properties for rent and for sale, a trivia night fundraiser, an ice cream social and fashion show, an annual golf tournament and cookout at Peninsula, and a Mardi Gras celebration and parade.
Vicki F., who celebrated her retirement with her husband Drew with a winter vacation to the Gulf Coast in 2016, said they participated in three activities during their stay. “We went to the zoo, the glass-blowing demo and the photography workshop. These events are beyond anything we expected from a rental agency,” Vicki said.
Closer To Home & Budget-FriendlyWe have also heard from winter visitors that rental and other costs along the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast are also more affordable than what they would pay in destinations further south in Florida. Plus, this area is a bit closer to home for many travelers.
“We love being able to winter here. It’s a manageable driving distance from Cincinnati,” Jerry and Carol said. “This area is not as busy as the areas our friends winter in much farther south. We also enjoy the unique cuisine. There’s no hustle and bustle—there’s no hurry about anything. The lack of crowds is very attractive to us.”
Phil S. of Jenison, Mich., addressed the issue of cost savings. “I can have a beachfront condo for the same price per month as for a week in South Florida.”
Flexible Vacation Rental TimeframesFor many years, Meyer has typically required winter guests to book for more than one month’s stay.
However, the shifting travel pattern among the younger demographic indicates less interest in the historical two- or three-month rentals and more requests for one-month rentals. Therefore, Meyer now offers winter monthly rentals to accommodate this emerging pattern.
It is important to note, however, that winter guests often rebook their favorite properties or seek out new ones that might be more suited to their needs before ever departing the beach for home.
“To reserve their preferred vacation rental, booking early is especially important for winter guests who plan to stay multiple months,” said Meyer Director of Sales and Marketing Steve Wilson. “We have seen a trend of more and more winter guests soon after their arrival this year booking their stays for stays one to two years in the future.”
John and Cheryl B. of Dallas, Wis., winter guests in 2017, discovered other winter guests had already reserved their preferred vacation rental (Island Tower) for the following year. “Before we left home in December, I went online to check the availability of our unit for the following year and saw that the month of February had already been booked for 2018. Thankfully, I started searching the Meyer website and discovered a two-bedroom unit at Island Royale was available for December 2017 and January and February 2018. We decided to book right away for our stay next year.”
Vacation Rentals To Suit Your PreferencesWhether you’re looking for a modern condo with amenities galore, a house with room for everyone to come visit or something in between, Meyer’s 1,100+ vacation rentals fill the bill and are located throughout the area in a variety of settings and featuring a variety of views.
Vicki F. and her husband reserved a month-long stay at a three-bedroom house in a community called The Rookery in the Fort Morgan area. A bit off the beaten path, The Rookery was perfect for this couple.
“It’s incredibly peaceful here. It’s so quiet, which is a top requirement for us. We are right across the street from the beach, and have enjoyed taking walks and watching the sunset,” Vicki said.
With vacation rentals located all along a 38-mile stretch of beach from Fort Morgan in the west to Perdido Key in the east, Meyer’s rentals are uniquely positioned near shopping, dining and attractions.
Vicki said they have taken full advantage of the available activities. “We have walked the trails several times at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. We have gone roller blading on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. One rainy day we spent at the Naval Aviation Museum. We have toured Fort Morgan and visited the Foley Model Railroad Museum. We’ve gone kayaking and tried our hand at disc golf at Graham Creek Nature Preserve. We took the ferry over to Dauphin Island. And we’ve even checked out the local souvenir shops.”
Vicki said she and her husband plan to visit numerous destinations during their retirement but that the Gulf Coast was high on their list for a future return visit. “This is definitely an area we can come back to and be comfortable for a reasonable price. We feel we made a good choice in Meyer Vacation Rentals, and our hopes were exceeded.”
It is recommended that winter guests make reservations up to 24 months in advance. There is only an initial payment of 10% due at the time of booking with the remaining 20% due one year prior to arrival.
Reserve the single months of October, November, December, January or February up to 24 months in advance, when arriving and departing on the first day of the month.
Keep in mind that one, two- and three-bedroom condos and houses are the most frequently selected vacation rentals among winter guests and tend to be booked first.
Browse photos of the following: one-bedroom condos, houses; two-bedroom condos, houses; three-bedroom condos, houses and book as soon as possible.