32 miles of sugar white sands line the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama. Many of those who have discovered this little piece of paradise first come to enjoy those beaches. They soon discover, though, that there’s more to this town than meets the eye. In addition to its miles of coastline, there are an abundance of back bays, bayous and rivers connecting Orange Beach to the world.
It’s well known as a deep-sea fishing hot spot, but there are also canoe and kayak rentals for exploring the city’s in-water trails, party boats to charter for offshore dinners and sunset cruises, and, of course, swimming in the gulf and lounging on the wide, powdery beaches.
Visitors find plenty of other activities to enjoy. There are network of paths that run through more than 11 miles of the stunning woodlands in Gulf State Park. Wander through oak hammocks, over swamps and marshes and along sandy dunes. The area offers many annual festivals including the Seafood Festival and Hangout Music Festivals bringing in music lovers from all over the country.
Don’t forget about food! The restaurants are almost as plentiful as the fish they serve.
Sugar white sands line the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama. Many of those who have discovered this little piece of paradise first come to enjoy those beaches. They soon discover, though, that there's more to this town than meets the eye. In addition to its miles of coastline, there are an abundance of back bays, bayous, and rivers connecting Orange Beach to the world.
Orange Beach is spoiled for options when it comes to water recreation. It's well known as a deep-sea fishing hot spot, but there are also canoe and kayak rentals for exploring the city's in-water trails, party boats to charter for offshore dinners and sunset cruises, and, of course, swimming in the gulf and lounging on the wide, powdery beaches to soak up the sun and be lulled by the waves.
Once refreshed by the sand and the sea, visitors find plenty of other activities to enjoy. Inland, the Hugh Branyon Back Country Trails are network of paths that runs through more than 11 miles of the stunning woodlands in Gulf State Park. Wander through oak hammocks, over swamps and marshes, and along sandy dunes. Gulf State Park encompasses more than 5,000 acres and has a campground, nature center, beachfront pavilion, and one of the longest fishing piers on the gulf.
For shopping, don't miss Orange Beach's eclectic collection of retailers and boutiques. Centers like San Roc Cay and The Wharf feature locally owned clothing, home decor, and specialty shops, while freestanding places such as Tallulah's Treasures and Prosperous Pelican dot the main streets of town and will not disappoint.
The Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach sits on the shore of Wolf Bay in a 1920's-era hotel, and includes a gallery that features the work of regional artists in a variety of media. Special exhibits spotlight works by visiting artists. There's also an onsite glass-blowing studio and a pottery studio, and pieces from each can be purchased at the gift shop. Each spring, the center helps host the Orange Beach Festival of Art, a two-day celebration of arts and crafts, music, and food.
Other events that bring visitors to the area include the Bama Coast Cruise classic-car show in April and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship Tournament in July. The Wharf Boat & Yacht Show, held in March, is the number one boat-buying show on the Gulf Coast. This past year, $90 million in boats and marine products were on display, including more than 125 in-water vessels.
And everyone should visit the Flora-Bama Lounge the self- proclaimed Last American Roadhouse especially if you can catch the epic fish-flinging spectacle that is the Interstate Mullet Toss in April. The venue is a bit quieter during the Frank Brown International Songwriters' Festival in November.
While in Orange Beach, visitors have an impressive array of lodging options. There are hotels, beach houses, and both family- affordable and luxury condominiums lining the oceanfront as well as the bays. Information about accommodations, events, and other attractions can be found at orangebeach.com.
SAVE THE DATE! GULFAPALOOZA: NOVEMBER 12-14, 2014
Homeport Marina (251-968-4528)
Orange Beach Marina (251-981-4207)
Saunders Yachtworks (251-981-3700)
The Wharf Marina (251-224-1900)
Cobalt (28099 Perdido Beach Blvd., 251-923-5300)
Fisher's (27075 Marina Road, 251-981-7305)
The Wharf (4830 Main St., 251-224-1000)
We are proud to announce the winners of Marinalife's 7th Annual Best Marina Contest. Thousands of votes poured in for marinas that offer superb customer service and hospitality to all boaters. Thank you to marinas and boaters nationwide for participating in this year's contest.
Orange Beach Marina has state-of-the-art docks, facilities and friendly marina staff that enables them to standout as one of the premier marinas on the Gulf Coast. With 161 in-water slips, the marina offers a safe, fully protected harbor and family-friendly environment for all types of boaters. On-site there are two dining options upstairs or dockside at Fisher's, along with two retail shops, watersport rentals, yacht and engine repairs and fishing charters
Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina in Grand Rivers, Kentucky was named one of the must stop destinations for boaters circumnavigating the Great Loop! Offering more than over 450 covered and uncovered slips for cruisers and houseboats. Their full-service marina features two on-site restaurants, courtesy vehicles, access to an indoor pool,spa and exercise equipment and much more!
Wentworth by the Sea in New Castle, New Hampshire is a picturesque marina located in scenic Little Harbor offers amenities including heated pool with Tiki bar, tennis, spa, onsite restaurants, as well as several nearby golf courses. To top this all off, it is only 10 minutes from historic Portsmouth.
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is a world-class maritime museum dedicated to preserving and exploring the history, environment and people of the Chesapeake Bay. Boasting 40 in-water slips, the marina offers electric, pump-out, climate-controlled showers and other amenities to members.
Harbour Town Yacht Basin in Hilton Head, South Carolina is an intimate marina offering 100 slips in a world-class resort setting. The red and white striped Harbour Town Lighthouse welcomes guests to enjoy the marina's modern facilities and services, and access to The Sea Pines Resort's outstanding amenities and accommodations.
South Jersey Marina in Cape May, New Jersey provides first-class accommodations and services for boats up to 140 feet. In addition to hosting some of the East Coast's largest sportfishing events, the marina is geared for the transient boater with outstanding spa-like bathrooms, showers and a state-of-the-art laundry facility. The marina is the closest destination to the downtown historic district of Cape May.
We've put together a list of 10 spots worth a look whether you simply want a change of venue or are looking to cross a species off your bucket list. Keep in mind some of these same locales have dedicated seasons, size and bag limits for the species noted and some also require a fishing license. The best point of reference no matter where you travel is a local tackle shop which can provide guidance on tackle and bait selections as well as other tips and tricks and perhaps even insight to their favorite honey hole.
The waters around Nantucket boast a variety of game fish whether fishing from the beach, pier, jetty or boat. The best action takes place beginning in April as schools of hungry striped bass arrive with a vengeance. It continues through mid-July then again from September through mid-October. A variety of techniques work including plugs, live bait and trolling. Early May sees the arrival of massive schools of bluefish and surface plugs provide excitement as choppers crash lures often within close range of the angler! Offshore trips can range outward to 100 miles for action with bluefin, yellowfin and big eye tuna, blue marlin and white marlin, swordfish, mahi mahi as well as mako and blue sharks especially during the months of June through September. Sight casting along the sandbars for large stripers, bonito and false albacore is also popular.
Where to Dock: Nantucket Boat Basin (508-325-1350, nantucketboatbasin.com)
Montauk sits at the far end of Long Island some 100 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. From the waters of Long Island Sound to its famed surf to the offshore waters there's a species to be caught from spring through late fall. May finds striped bass and bluefish arriving in a hungry mood and near shore anglers find sea bass and fluke which are present through October (with specific regulated seasons). Offshore action kicks into gear in June with mako sharks the prime target followed by bluefin, yellowfin and big eye tuna, which are available June through mid-October. White and blue marlin, dolphin and wahoo are also available during the same timeframe. For surfcasters, schools of striped bass and bluefish crashing through schools of bait as birds overhead pick an easy meal from the remains is the ultimate venue. Casting plugs into this frenzy with the Montauk Lighthouse as the backdrop is their paradise during the months of late September through November.
Where to Dock: Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina (631-668-7702, montaukyachtclub.com
This tiny Victorian town is the nation's oldest seaside resort and lies at the southernmost point of the Garden State and is popular year-round. For anglers looking to tangle with feisty white marlin, it is hard to beat the canyons off the South Jersey coast from August through mid-October. This is prime season to tangle with these popular billfish, which range in size from 40 to 70 pounds. This is light tackle fishing at its finest and 20 or 30-pound outfits are all you need. Catch-and-release fishing and a growth in the use of circle hooks with ballyhoo have helped white marlin stocks rebound and good days see a dozen or more of tailwalking white marlin released. Look for an occasional blue marlin to make your trip interesting and sailfish bites make a grand slam rare but possible. Dolphin, yellowfin and big eye tuna are also found during the same time of year.
Where to Dock: Canyon Club Resort Marina (609-884-0199, canyonclubmarina.com), South Jersey Marina (609-884-2400, southjerseymarina.com)
Florida's famed Gold Coast is a playground for the rich and famous from its elegantly groomed and ultra-exclusive golf and polo clubs to the glitz and glamour of Worth Ave. Here the Gulf Stream brushes the shoreline often within two miles of the coast and the best fishing occurs during the winter months as pods of sailfish invade the area from November through February. Leave your shorts at home if you want to score with spindlebeaks as seasonal cold fronts from the north kick up the sea and get the sails in a feeding mood. Live bait from kites will draw the most strikes though many prefer the traditional approach of trolling ballyhoo. In between sailfish bites look for dolphin, wahoo, kingfish and blackfin tuna to fill out the day. When the bite is on double-digit releases of sails are possible.
Where to Dock: Old Port Cove Marina (561-626-1760, opch.com)
The Florida Keys stretch from Key Largo to Key West along nearly 120 miles of US Highway 1, also known as the Overseas Highway. From the backcountry of Florida Bay to the flats which brush the coastline on both sides of the chain of islands to the crystal blue offshore waters there's a species to be caught year round. Winter months find sailfish snapping from the edge of the reef to offshore during cold fronts. Dolphin, wahoo, kingfish, blackfin tuna, bonito and Spanish mackerel are also available. The Keys are also a prime spot to add the elusive swordfish to your rÃ©sumÃ©. Bonefish, tarpon and permit patrol the flats as spring arrives while Florida Bay and Flamingo offer a shot at a backcountry slam with redfish, snook and trout. Look for wrecks and reefs to yield an abundance of tasty snapper and grouper. Other less desirable species which put up a good fight include jacks, barracuda and numerous species of sharks.
Where to Dock: Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina (305-852-2381, pyh.com), Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina (305-664-2321, holidayisle.com)
Orange Beach and nearby Gulf Shores, Alabama combined are home to one of the largest charter boat fleets on the Gulf Coast. These experienced captains and crews, together with the area's popular shore and pier fishing combine to offer an extensive menu of fishing opportunities. Gulf State Pier, the second largest pier in the Gulf, measures 1540 feet and is an excellent spot for land-based anglers to catch pompano, redfish, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish and flounder. Casting lures and baits from the beaches of the back bays, lagoons and gulf shore yields most of the same species as you wade the warm waters of summer. Near-shore Little Lagoon, Mobile Bay, Wolf Bay and Perdido Bay are where you'll find specked trout, redfish, sheepshead, black drum Spanish and king mackerel. On the offshore grounds look for blue and white marlin, king mackerel, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, and wahoo when trolling, while bottom dwellers such as a variety of snappers will keep rods bent on your trip.
Where to Dock: Orange Beach Marina (251-981-4207, orangebeachmarina.com), Saunders Yachtworks Orange Beach (251-981-3700, saundersyacht.com)
The Bahamas has a huge variety of species. From its sandy flats to cobalt-blue offshore waters, this popular island cluster has something for every angler. The flats of nearly every island offer excellent opportunities to cast flies or shrimp at tailing bonefish and permit year round the best action is during the spring and summer months when winds are light and fish are easy to spot. Bottom fishing for grouper and snapper species can be accomplished all year around wrecks and reefs near shore. Offshore look for the best shots at big blue marlin to occur from late March through June in the Abaco and Eleuthera islands. White marlin and sailfish are also abundant along with big mahi-mahi. San Salvador, Rum Cay and Long Island each offer great wahoo fishing during the late fall and early winter months.
Where to Dock: Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour Marina (242-367-2158,abacobeachresort.com), Treasure Cay Beach Marina (242-365-8250, treasurecay.com), Hope Town Inn (242-366-0003, hopetownmarina.com)
Popular with cruise ship vacationers and honeymooners alike, St. Thomas is well known for its beautiful beaches, luxurious all-inclusive resorts and popular shopping district. If blue marlin are on your bucket list, than this island is the place to be in late summer through early fall. The backside of the full moon is when the bite for blue ones typically goes off on the North Drop and while the fish are rarely huge, most are in the 150- to 400-pound class. Trade winds can make conditions a bit sporty at times so those with a tendency to come down with a case of mal de mare should prepare accordingly. White marlin, sailfish, wahoo and big yellowfin tuna are also possibilities, though most of the billfish pros will shy away from tactics for those species because the blue marlin bite is that good.
Where to Dock: IGY's American Yacht Harbor (340-775-6454, igy-americanyachtharbor.com)
The Dominican Republic offers excellent winter and early spring billfish action with most action taking place two to 50 miles offshore. Blue marlin and white marlin are the predominant billfish species, though an occasional spearfish will also be caught. Sailfish are scarce, though yellowfin tuna, wahoo and mahi-mahi are a regular by-catch by billfish anglers. The south side of the island off La Romana tends to have a pretty good bite of blue marlin though whites are not as prevalent. From December through February blue marlin become prevalent on the FAD's (Fish Attracting Devices) though seas get sporty due to a constant breeze. The resorts off Punta Cana and La Romana get their shot at white marlin from March through May. Look for the best action to occur with white marlin on the back side of the full moon while the blues tend to bite leading up to the full moon.
Where to Dock: Marina Casa de Campo in La Romana (809-523-2111, marinacasadecampo.com.do)
Isla Mujeres, Mexico is a mecca for winter and spring sailfish action. The weather is warm, though trade winds can create rough seas but when the sailfish gang up to gorge themselves on massive schools of sardines you can rack up some serious numbers here. January through July offers the best chance at sailfish while April through July sees the arrival of white marlin. Blue marlin are found during summer months of June through August. Trolling ballyhoo is the preferred attack strategy and the location of prime fishing areas varies based on where the billfish are feeding but runs of 10-50 miles are the norm. Wahoo, dolphin and blackfin tuna make each day even more enjoyable. Nearshore you can tangle with snapper and grouper during these same months.
Where to Dock: Puerto Isla Mujeres Resort and Yacht Club (011-52-998-287-3356, puertoislamujeres.com)
Mixing up the perfect cocktail (from a secret recipe) onboard your boat is a rite of passage for most boaters. We were inspired by mixologist and tiki cocktail master, Tom Brown (who was featured in the Marinalife Chesapeake Bay Edition this summer). Tom was raised in Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay, and is the mastermind of hip, tropical-themed pop-up restaurants in DC. One was Hogo, a nuevo tiki rum bar that set a new standard for Polynesian funk. Another was New York Avenue Beach Bar, where he filled a parking lot with 70 tons of sand, food wagons, and a cocktail bar to create an oasis of beachy fun near the convention center. It's hard to go wrong when you mix good rum with island ingredients such as pineapples, limes, coconuts, oranges even nutmeg and vanilla. The flavors are refreshing and unexpected, says Tom.We decided to ask Marinalife readers to share their favorite onboard cocktail recipes for this issue. The response was overwhelming, so we selected a handful of our favorite recipes and had our neighborhood bartenders at the Tiki Barge Bar located at BMC's Harborview Marina mix up the winning concoctions for a fun photo shoot.
Submitted by Denise Averill
Garnish: 1 slip of pineapple, 1 cherry, 1 toothpick. Pour over rocks.
Garnish: Lime and orange slice. Pour over rocks.
Submitted by Doug McPeters
Garnish: Orange Slice (optional: Myers floater)
Submitted by Joseph Dimarzo
Garnish: Mint Leaves
Submitted by Rick Wells
Pour over rocks.
Designated Skipper Campaign from the Sea Tow Foundation: Boating should be both FUN and safe! Help the Sea Tow foundation spread the word about the importance of having a Designated Skipper. Take the Pledge, learn more and get FREE materials to distribute at designatedskipper.com. The Sea Tow foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting boater safety, is proud to announce the launch of its Designated Skipper campaign across the U.S. The goal of this important new program, supported by a grant administered by the U.S. Coast Guard, is to help eliminate boating under the influence (BUI) and alcohol-related accidents on the water while keeping boating fun for everyone!