It’s summertime and the start of the holidays and you are already looking for a beach escape with pristine shorelines, swaying palm trees, cool waves, and mouth-watering seafood.
Talking about a beach vacation, the first thing that comes to mind is Florida or rather the Gulf coast of Florida, and if you are looking to vacation on the Gulf coast then you cannot look past the amazing coastal towns of Pensacola Beach and Orange Beach.
If you think only Florida’ got some drool-worthy beaches on the Gulf coast, then you might want to consider Orange Beach in Alabama, which is known for its pristine beaches and a laid-back family-friendly vibe.
While both Pensacola Beach and Orange Beach boast miles of white sand shorelines, they are both unique in their own way and cater to different people looking for different vibes.
Here’s an honest and concise comparison of the two beach cities on the Gulf Coast to help you decide the best one for you.
Pensacola Beach vs Orange Beach
The most obvious attraction that draws thousands of tourists every year to these amazing beach towns is the pristine white sand beaches and the turquoise blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Both these places are located on the Gulf coast are offer equally stunning shorelines with crystal clear waters of the Gulf, but what makes them different from one another and how do they compare?
Located on Florida’s famed Emerald Coast, Pensacola Beach is a barrier island just 12 miles southwest of the city of Pensacola, Pensacola Beach is known for its soft white sand beaches and Emerald blue-green waters of the Gulf, fishing and water sports, and amazing restaurants.
Located on the Gulf Coast of Alabama 25 miles west of the city of the Gulf Shores, Orange Beach is a resort city known for its pristine and wide white sand beaches and warm waters, golf courses, museums, and amazing activities on and off the beach.
While Pensacola Beach a large number of tourists flock to both these destinations each year, Pensacola Beach is a bit popular and touristy destination of the two known for its lively vibe and vibrant nightlife.
On the other hand, the small coastal town of Orange Beach is known for its laid-back vibe with less crowded beaches and a more family-friendly vibe with casual nightlife compared to Pensacola Beach.
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If you’re looking for a night to live it up and let loose, you can’t go wrong with either Pensacola Beach or Orange Beach. Both offer great music, awesome places to grab a bite to eat, and plenty of dancing opportunities until the sun comes up.
The big difference between them is that Pensacola offers more of an old-fashioned good time with a plethora of romantic beachfront bars and a delicious Hawaiian flair.
Think pool bars and beach bonfires, with plenty of options for eating local seafood and jamming along to some classic rock tunes.
Orange Beach is the place for a more modern experience – think dive bars featuring famous DJs and clubs pumping out relentless housemusic until dawn.
Ultimately, both have loads to offer footloose travellers looking for a wild nightlife adventure!
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Best Nightlife hotspots in Pensacola Beach
Check out Bamboo Willie’s for rolling waves of tunes and fine views of the beach, no matter what type of music or vibe you prefer.
Then travel down to Paradise Bar & Grill for live music and delicious bar food that will satisfy your late-night cravings.
If dancing is more your thing, stop by Flounder’s Chowder House for some uncharacteristically wild moves on their dancefloor.
Then end the night off right with craft beers and conversations at Peg Leg Pete’s Oyster Bar! With all these options, you’re sure to have an amazing time in Pensacola Beach!
Best Nightlife spots in Orange Beach
If you’re looking for a glam night out with great music and delicious cocktails, head to Blonde Martini Bar.
With an upscale atmosphere and signature cocktails that feature Grey Goose and St-Germain, it’ll be sure to wow even the pickiest of nightlife-goers.
For a more laid-back vibe, check out Villaggio Grille on Perdido Beach Boulevard. Here you can enjoy live music while sipping their signature drinks on their outdoor deck and take in the beachy views.
Pensacola Beach and Orange Beach are both incredible vacation spots, but the variety of accommodation options sets them apart! Pensacola Beach has a wide range of hotels – from cozy inns to sprawling resorts – while in Orange Beach you can choose to stay at a luxury condo or go camping if that takes your fancy.
So, if you want all the amenities a hotel offers, then Pensacola is the spot for you; and if it’s a more rustic setting with nature on your doorstep that you’re after, Orange beach has got it covered.
Whichever option you choose, one thing’s for sure – an amazing beach holiday awaits.
Best Attractions and Things to do in Pensacola Beach
Relax On The Beach
There’s no better way to spend a hot summer day than lounging on the beach with your toes in the sand and soaking up some Vitamin D.
Build a sandcastle with your kids or just take a nap in a hammock while listening to the sound of crashing waves.
The emerald-green waters of Pensacola Beach provide an oasis of calm that will leave you feeling refreshed and energized.
Whether you’re a novice angler or an experienced fisherman, there are plenty of ways to wet your line at Pensacola Beach.
Cast a line from one of the many piers or charter a boat for some deep sea fishing—you never know what you’ll catch.
From grouper and snapper to redfish and flounder, there’s something for everyone who enjoys fishing in Pensacola Beach.
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Explore Historic Fort Pickens
Located on the western tip of Santa Rosa Island, Fort Pickens is one of Florida’s most famous military sites.
Built between 1829–1834 as part of President Andrew Jackson’s plan to protect America’s coastline from invasion by foreign powers, it offers visitors an opportunity to explore its historic grounds and learn about its rich history.
Take a Dolphin Cruise
Dolphin cruises are one of the most popular activities in Pensacola Beach, with many companies offering tours for visitors who want to get up close and personal with these friendly creatures. You can even book private charters so you can have an unforgettable experience with your family or friends.
Enjoy Delicious Seafood
The seafood in Pensacola Beach is second-to-none—from fresh oysters plucked straight from Apalachicola Bay to flavorful grouper sandwiches that have become an iconic dish along the Emerald Coast—there are plenty of delicious dishes that will have your taste buds singing!
Shop & Dine At Quietwater Boardwalk
Located right on Pensacola Bay near downtown Pensacola, Quietwater Boardwalk is stuffed full of unique boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and bars where you can soak up some culture while enjoying views across the bay.
Attend A Festival
If you happen to be visiting during one of Pensacola’s numerous festivals, don’t miss out.
From music festivals like Hangout Fest and DeLuna Fest, which feature nationally renowned acts, to cultural celebrations like Fiesta de Santa Rosa which pays homage to local Hispanic heritage, there’s something for everyone.
Best Attractions and Things to do in Orange Beach
Hit the Beach
With miles of white sand beaches and crystal blue waters, Orange Beach is an ideal spot to catch some sun, sand and seaside bliss with your loved ones.
Whether you want to go kayaking, snorkeling, or simply soak up some rays, there is never a dull moment on the beach here.
If you’re looking for something more active, nearby Gulf State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities like hiking trails, fishing spots, biking paths, and more.
And finally, if you are exhausted after a day filled with activities and games on the beach head straight to one of the many restaurants that serve freshly cooked seafood and indulge yourself in some shopping at one of the wide selection of shops and boutique outlets along the beach.
Visit an Animal Sanctuary
Animal lovers won’t want to miss out on visiting The Wharf’s Interactive Marine Park.
Here you can get up close and personal with a variety of animals including dolphins, sea lions, stingrays and more.
You can even participate in interactive programs that allow you to learn about these amazing creatures while you have fun with them.
There are dozens of delicious restaurants in Orange Beach that offer something for everyone.
From fresh seafood to steaks to Mexican tacos and more, there is something for every palate here.
Don’t forget to save room for dessert as there are plenty of tasty treats like homemade ice cream and donuts!
Shop ‘Til You Drop
If shopping is your thing then head over to The Wharf which features over 50 unique shops offering everything from clothing and accessories to jewelry and home decor items.
With so much to choose from it’s easy to find something special for yourself or someone else.
Take a Cruise
One great way to experience all that Orange Beach has to offer is by taking one of its boat cruises.
From sunset cruises with live music onboard to dolphin tours that let you get up close with these friendly mammals, there are plenty of ways to explore the area from the water.
Stroll Through History
Learn more about the history of this town at Fort Morgan which was an important site during the Civil War era.
Take a guided tour through its grounds where visitors will be able to view old cannons, earthworks and other historic artifacts that tell stories about this important time period in American history.
Experience World-Class Golfing
Golfers will love this beach paradise. There are several courses located throughout town that offer challenging play as well as stunning views overlooking Mobile Bay or Cotton Bayou Marshlands.
After your round is done? Make sure to stop by one of Orange Beach’s golf clubs for dinner or drinks with friends before heading back into town.
Take Part in Festivals & Events
Each year Orange Beach celebrates its vibrant culture with special events like Taste Of The Beaches Food Festival where visitors can sample delicacies from local restaurants as well as live music performances.
Plus, don’t miss out on other exciting events such as Fourth Of July Fireworks On The Pier or Mardi Gras Parades which take place throughout town all year long.
So there you have it, the answer to the age-old question: Pensacola Beach or Orange Beach? The truth is, both are great choices depending on what you’re looking for in a beach vacation.
If you want more history and activity options, go with Pensacola. But if you want peace and quiet with fewer crowds, Orange Beach is probably your best bet. No matter which one you choose, you’re sure to have a relaxing time in the sun!