Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Where it's always sunny in the south

For years, people on the southern coast of the United States kept the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, to themselves.
Flying along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.
Zoomed image
Flying along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

But this little-known vacation treasure is a sought-after destination, and its white-sand beaches and Gulf of Mexico breezes will convince you that summer should last forever.

There are 32 miles of soft, sandy beaches along the stretch of coastline of Alabama. Bordered on one side by Pensacola, Florida, famous for its renowned naval air station, the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are popular summer vacation spots that continue to beckon beachgoers year-round. That’s because the average temperature is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit—and the water temperature is the same!

The sand at Gulf Shores truly is remarkable. Made up of quartz grains washed down from the Appalachian Mountains, the sand is a surprisingly bright white and unusually soft. Once you take your sandals off, you’ll walk the beach barefoot for as long as you can. It’s so soft and pillow-like, don’t be surprised if you squeak as you walk. For fishermen, Orange Beach offers the country’s largest artificial fishing reef. Gulf species include the Atlantic sailfish, amberjack, grouper, and black snapper.

Pensacola, Florida, is home to a U.S. naval air station. High rises along Orange Beach. Jack's Aces Pilot and Crew Hangout Salt Air Aviation Center

The airport

Jack Edwards National Airport (JKA) is located just two miles from the center of Gulf Shores. Originally a reliever field for Naval Air Station Pensacola, it was called Canal Field. The city bought the field in 1977 and renamed it for former U.S. Rep. Jack Edwards, who was instrumental in the city’s purchase of the airport. A new terminal was added in 1998 and the main Runway 9/27 was expanded to its current 6,962-foot-long length. Runway 17/35 is 3,596 feet long. It is the second busiest airport in Alabama, averaging approximately 228 operations each day.

Three full-service FBOs serve JKA: Gulf Air Center, Salt Air Aviation Center, and Platinum Air Center. Check out Jack’s Aces Pilot and Crew Hangout, a pilot lounge on the field that honors the military pilots who fly in here. Snacks, DirecTV, and Xbox are provided free to customers of Gulf Air.

[email protected]

Photography by Chris Rose.
Zoomed image
Photography by Chris Rose.
Julie Walker
Julie Summers Walker
AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

Related Articles

Get the full story

With the power of thousands of pilots, members get access to exclusive content, practical benefits, and fierce advocacy that helps enhance and protect the freedom to fly.

Already a member? Sign in