Gulf Shores, Alabama

From Music To Mullet

By Michael Vatalaro

Photo of National Shrimp Festival in Gulf Shores, AlabamaThe Annual National Shrimp Festival ( is held the second full weekend of October in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and is free to attend. (Photo: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism)

With three seasons of great weather, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, host more than their fair share of events. As if the sugar-sand beaches, family-friendly atmosphere, and numerous seafood restaurants weren't enough, throw in music and seafood festivals, fishing tournaments and, well, mullet tosses, and the Alabama Gulf Coast can keep a visiting boater entertained just about year round.

The last full weekend in April is home to the Interstate Mullet Toss — possibly the oddest excuse for a party known to man — hosted by the Flora-Bama Bar. In the middle of a three-day beach festival, contestants line up to see who can throw a whole, wet baitfish across state lines the farthest — for charity, of course. Think Pike Place Fish Market, but with sand, sun, and surf.

If you prefer to eat seafood rather than fling it, the LA Gumbo Festival might be more your venue. Held Mother's Day weekend at The Wharf, a large entertainment complex on the ICW anchored by a 200-slip marina, gumbo masters from all over the Gulf compete in a cook-off and then conspire to create "The World's Largest Bowl Of Gumbo," which being more than six feet tall, takes a lot of roux.

Photo of jet skis in back bay, Orange Beach, Alabama

In mid-May, the Hangout Music Festival hosts more than 70 bands over three days, packing 35,000 concert-goers into a huge swath of beach that features six stages. Headliners in 2014 headliners included Jack Johnson, The Black Keys, and Outkast. If you missed the 2014 event, it's time to think ahead, anyway. You need to book plenty early to make next year's edition. But if you don't have plans yet for the rest of summer ...

The Blue Marlin Grand Championship of the Gulf fishing tournament kicks off July 8, with slots for 56 boats, and more than $1,000,000 in prize money expected to be awarded. Though the event is in only its third year, it's generated lots of buzz. Last year, tournament anglers broke the Alabama state record for blue marlin, one that had stood for 24 years, not once but twice in two days of fishing. More than 9,000 spectators gathered to watch the second night weigh-in during the 2013 event, hosted again this year by The Wharf.

photo of aerial view of Orange Beach, Alabama

August 22 brings Thunder On The Gulf, with high-performance powerboats such as Miss Geico racing just off the beach. Additional boating events and a race village hosted in nearby Pensacola, Florida, round out the weekend.

Columbus Day weekend marks the 43rd Annual National Shrimp Festival (see photo above). This four-day event attracts 300,000 visitors and features food, music, lots of mouthwatering samples, and even 5- and 10-K races to help you work up an appetite.

These are just a few highlights. Other events include a wooden-boat festival, lots more music, plus Civil War reenactments, and even a hot-air balloon fest. To find one of the half-dozen BoatUS Cooperating Marinas, which offer discounts to members on fuel or transient dockage, go to 

— Published: June/July 2014

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