ALABAMA GULF COAST

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A recent short trip to the Alabama coast for a work conference made me realize I should write an essay about the most beautiful – and my favorite – part of my home state. I have traveled around quite a bit in my lifetime, and truly I have found no more picturesque destination than the white sand beaches of the Alabama Gulf coast. Alabamians sometimes take the beaches for granted because they are so easily accessible, but we are very lucky to have them. They are a treasure. However, before I tell you all of the reasons why the Alabama coast is a wonderful place, I feel compelled to address an issue that has always bugged me, and that is the delicate matter of the Florida panhandle.

Panhandle Blues

From a very young age I always enjoyed looking at maps. I take after my great-grandmother in this regard, I suppose. She could spend hours examining maps and atlases in her living room, and for many years was the official navigator of family trips. Granny was the original GPS. As a youngster studying a map of Alabama, I noticed what I perceived to be a great injustice in the drawing of the state boundary with Florida.

To my young eyes, the Florida panhandle made no logical sense. It looked as if the state of Florida was encroaching upon coastline territory that should obviously be part of Alabama. No fair! I then researched and learned that Florida enjoyed a bounteous 1350 miles of coastline – almost as much as California and Hawaii combined – to Alabama’s paltry 53 miles. A clear injustice! Surely Florida could make do with just the peninsula-part of their state – claiming the panhandle part too was just obnoxious. What would stop greedy Florida from continuing to consume coastline all the way to Louisiana? Something had to be done!

Upon further furious research I learned that I was not the first person to address the panhandle issue. In 1819 the Alabama constitutional convention petitioned Congress to include the panhandle territory in the boundary line drawings of their new state, but to no avail. Thereafter multiple attempts were made to annex the panhandle into Alabama – which in the 19th century was almost uninhabited – but without success. The most promising effort came in 1868 when the Alabama legislature passed a resolution authorizing negotiations with Florida’s governor and payment of one million dollars in Alabama state bonds. West Florida counties even held a referendum vote on the matter, which heavily favored annexation. However, political infighting within the Alabama legislature over the “high price” (one million dollars!) developed, and the legislature simply took no action. I am reminded of a Bible verse at this point: “where there is no vision, the people perish.”

As it turns out, greedy Florida was not the problem. But for a few shortsighted and stingy Alabama legislators in the 19th century, Alabama would very likely have 253 miles of beautiful coastline instead of 53. That being said, it does us no good to dwell on the foolishness of our forefathers. Let’s move on and focus on what we have, which are several miles of the most beautiful white sand beaches on the planet.

Beach Front Real Estate

Due to the aforementioned annexation blunder, which I have termed the “Panhandle Pass Over of 1868,” Alabama has relatively little coast line to work with, which makes it very valuable. I have heard some people bemoan the fact that much of the coastline is dedicated as a state park, therefore prohibiting commercial development, but I believe the Gulf State Park to be one of Alabama’s greatest assets for that very reason.

The beach front towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach contain numerous modern high-rise condominiums, and as is the case with many gulf front towns have been redeveloped multiple times over the years with bigger and better condos emerging each time. The towns are very nice and tidy, understandably touristy, and are in a constant state of evolution, mostly for the better in my opinion. In between the towns lies Gulf State Park – a 6,150-acre dedicated park with 2 ½ miles of pristine white sand beaches along the Gulf of Mexico.

The state beach is largely untouched by development, which provides a rare unobstructed ocean view from the roadway, and is easily accessible to the public. Although we always stay in a condominium on our beach trips, I would hate to see the Gulf State Park disappear. It’s one of Alabama’s treasures and is worth protecting.

Come on Down, Y’all!

I can’t remember a year in my life that didn’t include a beach trip, and most years two or three. Some of my best memories are of condos cram-packed with family and friends, days spent on the white-hot white sand beach guzzling water and seeking shelter under an umbrella to avoid certain heat stroke, and waiting an hour (or two) for a table to get my fix of blackened grouper and fried oysters. Those days were the best.

Many of our beach trips were spent on Florida beaches, which are admittedly equally beautiful, but in recent years I have come to prefer the Alabama coast. The Gulf oil spill, the long-term effects of which are still largely unknown, probably solidified this preference. The beaches of my home state which I love were suddenly under threat of permanent harm, and I realized that I had probably taken them for granted.

After much hard work, the beaches are now fully restored to their former immaculate condition, and I would encourage everyone who has a chance to give the Alabama coast a try. You won’t be disappointed. The food is great[1], the weather is almost always perfect, and then there are those beaches I have been talking so enthusiastically about. If you don’t believe me, behold exhibits A and B:


[1] I recommend King Neptune’s (www.kingneptuneseafoodrestaurant.com) for an incomparable fried seafood lunch, Original Oyster House (www.theoysterhouse.com) for your raw oyster fix, gumbo and blackened fresh gulf fish, and Cosmo’s (www.cosmosrestaurantandbar.com) for the best crab cakes and their signature Banana Leaf Wrapped Fish.

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10 thoughts on “ALABAMA GULF COAST

  1. A couple of people told me today that they really enjoy your blogs and look forward to reading them. I hear this quite often. Keep up the good work.

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  2. I researched the panhandle issue once for the same reasons and I think there is actually more support historically for Florida to claim the Alabama coast than the other way, so I cut our losses and dropped the case. Didn’t know about the attempt to buy it, though, too bad it didn’t work out.

  3. I like to read your blog. English is my 2nd language and I find that I really enjoy the way you write and the words/vocab that you used in your writing.

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