Along the shimmering waters of the Gulf of Mexico lie some of the nicest places to retire. And we’re not talking about the west coast of Florida or the panhandle, but rather… Alabama! Many people forget that this state has its own share of white-sand beaches and charming towns lining the Gulf Coast, and they make for fabulous places to retire. Here’s a look at the tiny – yet beautiful – coast of Alabama and why you need to check it out if you’re thinking about retiring to Florida.
1. Dreamy, Uncrowded Beaches
Sugar-white sand beaches stretch for more than 30 miles in Alabama, between Florida and Mississippi. The fine grains of sand are the result of an evolutionary process that begins far north in the Appalachian Mountains, so these beaches are a bit different from those you may be used to. They are truly like sugar!
2. Impressive Wildlife & Nature
If you care deeply about nature and want to live near a place where you can appreciate wildlife, you should know about Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. It’s perched along a narrow strip of land that juts out westward from Gulf Shores on the eastern half of Alabama’s coastline. Walk for miles on the trails and meet hardly another human being. Enjoy the uncrowded beach area or look for Snowy Plovers, which are a threatened species that sometimes nest in the refuge.
Then there’s the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, which is internationally renowned and covers more than 200 miles. It traverses woods, wetlands and dunes, and more than 400 species of birds have been spotted here. Check out BirdFest during the Fall season, where you can attend workshops, events and tours.
There are also resident dolphin pods in Alabama’s waters, which makes living here on the coast a truly 360 degree nature experience at all times.
3. Lots of Ways to Stay Fit Outdoors
Did you know that Alabama is one of the country’s top five most biodiverse states? That makes the state’s Gulf Coast a dreamlike place to call home for those who love being outdoors. For example, the Gulf State Park has 15 different paved trails for cycling, and one of them, Hugh Branyon Backcountry Trail, flows through six different ecosystems!
4. Opportunities to Eat Well All the Time (and Live Well!)
You’ve heard about Southern cooking. It’s all here for the picking, including fresh seafood, of course. And the po’ boys they make are authentically, deliciously incredible tasting, made from seafood fresh off the boat.
It’s common for local establishments to serve their cuisine with a backdrop of live music, too. They know there are plenty of folks in the area looking for new spots to have a bite to eat and relax or have fun, so entertainment opportunities are everywhere here. Simply put, the Alabama coast makes it incredibly easy for residents to eat well, have tons of fun, and sink into a relaxing, Southern lifestyle the region is famous for.
What’s more, the overall cost of living in Alabama is lower than the national average. So while you’re out dining and living well, you can enjoy knowing that prices will be reasonable, unlike in some major tourist destination spots in Florida.
Did you know that there are financial and tax benefits for veterans retiring in Alabama? Read about the best states for military retirees.
5. An Emphasis on Fun
Not everyone’s idea of fun is a giant Ferris Wheel that can be seen for miles around, but you’ll find it here on the coast of Alabama. It’s part of The Wharf, which is an entertainment district set up for the express purpose of making people happy. It’s located near Orange Beach, which also has boutique shopping and tons of restaurants. Main Street has a Disney-like live show at night with music and new themes all the time. There’s also an amphitheater where you can catch a live show. Get the drift? This is Fun Central – a great place to take visiting friends or relatives and the perfect spot for hanging out if you need a lift.
Fun comes in many forms, and snorkeling is certainly one of them. Did you know that Alabama is famous for installing a wide network of artificial reefs just offshore? Snorkelers of all abilities will absolutely love exploring them, which could easily take years! The program started back in the 1950s with more than 200 cars. The cars made the perfect habitat for fish like grouper and snappers and since then it has grown and grown. Larger structures have been placed and now the “reef” is truly incredible.
Don’t just retire to Alabama – retire to the most desirable location. Read how to choose the best place to retire in Alabama. Hint: these places include cultural centers, beautiful parks, and delicious restaurants.
6. Awesome Day Trips
The Alabama Gulf coast is only a two-to-three hour drive from New Orleans, depending on where you start out on the coast. Have you ever explored the region south of New Orleans? It’s called “The Grand Bayou,” and there are plenty of new areas to explore here, all the way down to Port Fourchon, the southernmost port of Louisiana. It’s a seaport dominated by the petroleum industry but fascinating to see and learn about.
And of course there’s Mobile, which is on the coast itself, if you feel a hankering for some city life for a day. There’s an abundance of military sightseeing to do there, as well as several museums, Botanical Gardens, and too many additional cultural diversions to list here. And if you’re a real military history buff, the National Museum of Naval Aviation is just one hour east in Pensacola, Florida. There are more than 250 aircraft to look at, from all branches of the military. You’ve heard of the Blue Angels, right? This is their home base.
Hank Aaron Stadium hosts ball games and large-scale music events while other smaller venues like the Soul Kitchen Music Hall and others host smaller musical acts. And you could spend an entire day at any one of the state parks that dot the region around Mobile.
7. You Can Still Visit Florida
When we started, you were thinking of retiring to Florida. Why not just visit instead? Living in Alabama on the Gulf Coast offers everything you’d want in a retirement lifestyle and perhaps more. But as one last idea for a day trip, you can choose to head east and there’s the entire panhandle of Florida at your fingertips. They have wildlife refuges too, and their beaches are bigger and often more crowded with tourists and residents, but it can be a fun change of pace from the relaxing shores of Alabama’s Gulf coast!
Still unsure if the Gulf Coast is right for you? Read things you never knew about retiring in Alabama.
For more information on retirement, read these articles by Acts Retirement-Life Communities: