Shopping in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

You don’t have to look far to find stores selling t-shirts, swimsuits, towels, and other cheap beach souvenirs, and there’s a great deal of repetition amongst these stores. With that said, I never miss a chance to stop a Souvenir City and The Purple Octopus when I’m in town.

Conveniently located next door to each other, their entrances are guarded by oversized sea monsters beckoning for a mandatory photo op in the mouth of a shark or in the tentacles of an octopus. Both stores have maintained that old beach town feel, far different from the big, neon Surf Styles on every corner and stretching down to the Florida state line.

Souvenir City and The Purple Octopus feel different from the others. Souvenir City has been family owned and operated since 1956. When you go inside, (after you pass through the shark’s mouth and look inside the shark’s stomach), look immediately to the right on the wall behind the cash register. The store owners have left the line on the wall where the high water mark was when the place was flooded by Category 5 Hurricane Ivan in 2006. That year, Gulf Shores took a direct hit, and the water line inside the store is about 4’ high, which is somewhat surprising since the store is not on the beach.  It shows just how high and far the water came in during the storm.

The Purple Octopus

Both stores have all the typical beach souvenirs one would expect, but they also have the best shell selections anywhere. names The Purple Octopus as the World’s Largest Purple Octopus and mentions Souvenir City as another offbeat place located nearby. Did I mention the full-size pirate ship in the back of Souvenir City? I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it’s all a bit kitchy but totally necessary, even adults can’t resist. The Purple Octopus has the largest and most varied assortment of beach Christmas ornaments and both are iconic features in Gulf Shores not to be missed.

Heading over to The Wharf are my three favorite stores: Melanie’s, MII and Lucca.


Melanie’s and MII

What’s not to love in these stores? Both stores are owned by local interior designer, Melanie Martin. MII serves more as a design studio, while Melanie’s serves more as a retail environment. Although they both sell merchandise, the studio also has samples of various products used for her interiors clients, and they’re conveniently located just a couple doors down from each other.  Melanie‘s shops are full of meaningful and unique pieces, and while so many stores are crammed with junk from The Merchandise Mart, her shops are different. They are thoughtfully curated and offer handmade items and art that support local artists and empower women in other countries.

Melanie brings her overall design aesthetic, which is calm, cool, crisp, and rich in texture and material presence to both of her stores. Her stores are full of glass, shell, stone, alabaster, fur and so many other yummy materials.


One of the most unique finds specific to the area has to be the Indian pottery shard and oyster shell necklaces by Oysterdrift. The Indian pottery and oyster shells are collected from all along Gulf Coast beaches and waterways. The father (an archeologist) and daughter team of Oysterdrift collect pieces and make one-of-kind necklaces out of these artifacts, said to be hundreds to thousands of years old. They also make a similar line of Christmas ornaments.

TheWharfShop13Melanie’s sells Raven+Lily, a socially conscious brand empowering women all over the world. With an exotic look and made with materials such as horn, wood, leather, jute, recycled silver, copper and brass beads (melted down from bullet casings) and many other recycled and organic materials, this brand gives women, including those HIV+, training to use their local resources to design eco-friendly pieces.


The long, recycled copper and brass bead necklace above (pic via Raven+Lily site) is on my must-have list and would look great with a plunging v-neck dress.

Melanie’s also sells GAIA, another socially conscious brand employing and training refugee women in Dallas, TX. Just like Raven+Lily, GAIA is also ethically made by hand from repurposed textiles.  GAIA offers bright, bold, patterned fabric and geometrics with fringe, tassels, and fabric wrapped beads.


I couldn’t resist buying one of these white marble vessels with the gold agate on top, along with a couple other things. I’m saving these colorful GAIA pouches and clutches for my next visit, when spring and summer happily return.

I also bought two of these brown paper, metal cuff note holder. While at the store the girls said they weren’t sure what they were for, but I decided to write quotes and positive affirmations on mine and keep on my nightstand. The friend I’m giving the other one to has several parties throughout the year, and I thought what a great idea to leave out at a party and have friends write notes on them for her to read later, almost like a guest book but something a bit more personal. These would be great for bridal and baby showers, too!


Melanie’s also carries Bella Dahl, a clothing line out of Los Angeles. This effortless line makes it easy to look coastal chic. Bella Dahl has created their own specific wash, so it looks perfectly worn in and soft, and the fabric hangs like a linen which gives it a luxurious, flowy look without trying too hard. I could see being comfy on the weekends with one of these on and some stretch pants, or dressing it up with white skinny jeans, a sparkly necklace, and of course I’d pair it with one of those GAIA clutches.



Just a few shops down from Melanie’s is Lucca.

Lucca carries many different lines: White+Warren, Vince, Rag and Bone, Chan Luu, Theory, DVF and much more. I instantly fell in love with the Rag and Bone hat on the top and had to purchase it.  It’s a perfectly muted mauve color and looks fabulous with grey, beige, creamy white, and even camp/army green.


For the most part, everything is arranged by color or coordinating colors, which I love, and they offer a lot in neutral tones.


Right now, they have some beautiful cashmere capes (pictured above), and below was the most adorable shirt with champagne glasses on it that I’m regretting not buying…because seriously, do champagne glasses ever go out of style? Besides, isn’t this the perfect shirt for a classy girl who’s ready to party?  I did however buy this amazonite necklace with the camel colored leather tassel. I love how this stone ranges from very blue to very brown with all the combinations of those two colors in between.


Lucca also carries a great selection of jewelry and J Brand jeans, and I almost left with this black bracelet, too.


So hopefully amidst all the bright neon, low quality beach stores which cater to a certain crowd and fulfill the quick necessaties, you can head over to The Wharf for a bit more upscale shopping. Enjoy!

All information and photographs were provided by our guest blogger, Cassandra Buckalew. Recently, Cassandra took us on a dream drive down Fort Morgan Road. Follow her adventures and take some on for your own. 

Entrepreneur and designer, Cassandra Buckalew, is an Atlanta native. She and her husband own a home on Fort Morgan and fell in love with the area after their first visit in 2006. She graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta and owns a trolley company, a pedicab company and a ghost tour in the metro Atlanta area. She has traveled all over the world but spends her down town rejuvenating on Alabama’s beautiful coast. She enjoys the Gulf Coast lifestyle and friendly laid-back attitude. A lover of photography, travel, design, food and fashion, you can follow her images and adventures on her Instagram account at: cassbuckalew or her Facebook design page: Cassandra Buckalew Interiors. She can be reached at:

Cassandra Buckalew

Beachy Pinspiration: the Fashion Edition

It’s not even winter yet, and we’ve got beach on the brain. The cold season never lasts long around here, but even if you aren’t feeling the heat quite yet, it’s always good to keep a little beachy inspiration with you on a cold day. Our staff mermaid has some stylish picks to kick start your Pinterest and maybe even your holiday wish list!

Goldfish Kiss Flash Tattoos
Goldfish Kiss Flash Tattoos

Goldfish Kiss blogger Rebekah Stein keeps the beach babes ooh-ing and ahh-ing every day. Her vision is fresh, rad and ultimately beach chic. She partnered with Flash Tattoos to create these adorable metallic, temporary tattoos, for the beach bum in all of us.

Sassafras Maui Cinch Short
Sassafras Maui Cinch Short

These wet-to-dry cinch shorts are perfect for the beach, surfing, hot yoga and even a day on the stand-up paddleboard. Sassafras Maui is a brand with a conscious. These hand-made shorts look great and come with their own good karma.

Purusha People Mermaid II Leggings
Purusha People Mermaid II Leggings

Purusha People is another brand dedicated to women feeling good in their bodies and committed to using ethically-sourced fabrics and materials. These leggings are perfect for the mermaid in your life.

Black Pearls from Pearl Love!

Black pearls are so beautiful and won’t get washed out against our white sand! Adorn yourself with nature’s finest. They were also featured on the latest Hunger Games movie. I predict they’ll be everywhere for 2014.

Elven Forest Hooded Swimsuit Bikini Top
Elven Forest Hooded Bikini

I love the hood on this bikini top. You can use it to shield your face or shoulders from an abundance of sun or remove it when you just want a standard bikini top. I can also see this being a great addition to your Hangout Fest wardrobe!

Hope you liked these beachy pinspirations! Find more like these on our Pinterest account at Meyer Vacations.

Book Signings in Gulf Shores

If you haven’t visited Just Books and Coastal Video in Gulf Shores during your beach trips, be sure to put it on your list—especially if you are in town this Saturday, June 16.

just books coastal video movies gulf shores alabama rental games

Visit with nine authors Saturday, June 16, at Just Books and Coastal Video in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., you will have the opportunity to meet, chat with, and get autographs from nine authors! Their stories or their lives (and sometimes both) involve our Southeastern locale. Some of the material is true to life and some is fiction, and it’s always entertaining.

Stop by to enjoy an afternoon with the following authors:

Gilbert Morris—Christy Award-winning author of more than 200 books, Mr. Morris created the series The House of Winslow among many others, and has just published his most recent book, The River Rose from the Water Wheel series.

Chris Warner and Joe GilchristBushwhacked at the Flora-Bama was released earlier this year, detailing the history of the Flora-Bama Lounge at the Alabama/Florida state line and sharing some philosophies of the future of our country’s entrepreneurial opportunities.

Roger Reid—Among his acclaimed young-adult novels is his newest, Time, which follows teenaged Jason Caldwell through another exciting mystery-solving adventure.

Margaret Childress Long—From a native’s perspective, The Best Place to Be: The Story Of Orange Beach, Alabama describes the history and the people of Ms. Long’s beloved home.

flora-bama lounge, alabama florida state line, bar, joe gilchrist, chris warner

Read about the tough times and the great times behind the scenes at the famous Flora-Bama Lounge in this 2012 publication.

Harvey H. Jackson III—Covering the 1930s to present day development of the Alabama Gulf Coast, Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera begins with the worries of World War II’s effect on the area and includes the recovery from economic and natural disasters.

Ryan Anderson—Ms. Anderson weaves a mighty story in each of her thriller/murder mystery books, the most recent of which is Undelivered.

Paris Love—Coach, speaker, consultant . . . and now author. Debut novel Growing Pains proves the importance of true friendship as her central characters work their way through the ups and downs of the quest for true love.

Mark J. HaindsYear of the Pig chronicles a hunter’s year-long pursuit of wild pigs in America to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Pig (2007).

While at Just Books and Coastal Video in the Bruno’s shopping center on Hwy. 59, don’t forget to pick out a couple of additional books for your beach reading, and also purchase or rent your favorite DVDs or games (system rentals available) to share with your family or friends. Need more details? Give them a call at 251-968-6828.

If you can’t make it here this weekend, join us when you can! How about staying in a 2-bedroom Gulf Shores house?  Or, with more than 1500 properties to choose from—small to large and budget to luxury—we’re sure to have something that fits your needs.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Twitter and Facebook.

Rockin’ Thursdays at The Wharf

Starting May 10 and running throughout the summer, Rockin’ Thursdays will bring a great variety of popular local acts to the Ferris Wheel Palm Plaza at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama.

The Wharf, Orange Beach, Alabama, concert, shopping, dining, marina, condo, pool, Ferris wheel

The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama, offers year-round entertainment and activities, including this summer's Rockin' Thursdays.

Mark your calendars now to enjoy the following acts scheduled thus far:
May 10 — The Jay Williams Band
May 17 — Lee Yankie
May 24 — Bud Smith and The Budz
May 31 — Ryan Balthrop and Friends
June 7 — Jason Justice and Hung Jury

The music begins at 5 p.m. and will keep you hoppin’ for the next three hours. The best part? It’s free! So plan to spend your Thursday evenings at The Wharf this summer—music, dining, shopping and fun!

Choose to vacation in a one-bedroom, two-bedroom or three-bedroom condo at The Wharf, each with a marina view. Play all day in the pools, lazy river and waterfall, then walk to dinner and pick up a few fun items in the unique shops before taking the boardwalk to a headliner concert in the amphitheater.  Or take in a current movie showing on one of 15 Rave Theatre screens, followed by a ride on the Southeast’s largest Ferris wheel. You may find that you never want to leave!

The Wharf, Orange Beach, Alabama, condo, music, pool, waterfall, lazy river, dining, shopping, concert, movie

Play all day in the pools, lazy river and waterfall, then enjoy dining, shopping, the Ferris wheel, music and more through the evening.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

Waves of Wine in Orange Beach

Sipping wine while relaxing by the beach. Doesn’t that sound like an idyllic way to spend an afternoon?

Waves of Wine, tasting, Orange Beach, Alabama, festival

Sample wines, enjoy car and yacht exhibits, take a water tour of the bay, and enjoy arts and crafts as well as sumptuous hors d'oeuvres and brunch this weekend at Waves of Wine in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Take that picture in your mind and put yourself into it by attending the 2nd Annual Waves of Wine festival in Orange Beach, Alabama. Two days, two different opportunities—and you’ll want to attend both.

Saturday, May 5 is your opportunity to leisurely stroll the event, stopping at each of the wine stations to learn about, sample and/or purchase your own wine from the 120 varieties available. Beginning at noon until 5 p.m., make a few stops for a few sips, then intersperse the tasting with visits to the arts and crafts area, premium automobiles exhibit, Galati yachts show and a water tour of the bay. Savor wonderful hors d’oeuvres offered by top local restaurants, and relax to live music from three local bands.

Sunday, May 6 brings a five-star brunch accompanied by flights of champagne. Between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., you’ll be treated to delicious food and samples of sparkling delight, with a backdrop of live music.

Purchase your Waves of Wine tickets online—Saturday is $45, and Sunday is $35. They can be purchased individually or as a set.

The weekend’s activities take place on the grounds of the upscale Caribe The Resort. The scenic location lends itself well to the event, and the view from the condos is stunning. Take a peek at the 2- and 3-bedroom Caribe properties available for your next vacation. Fair warning: Deciding which of these luxurious properties to reserve will be a difficult but fun mission.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

Mardi Gras Festival

It’s not just parades and fancy balls.

Mardi Gras, Festival, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Alabama, The Wharf

Warm up your voices and your catching arms, and go home with plenty of treasures from the 2012 Pleasure Island Mardi Gras Festival at The Wharf.

Some of you may find that hard to believe, but the Mardi Gras season really does include a wide range of activities. Proof of such is offered this Monday, February 20, at The Pleasure Island Mardi Gras Festival held at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama.

The all-day party begins at 10 a.m. with street entertainers, face painting, clowns and fire breathers. Let the kids put their high energy to use in the bounce house and on the giant slide. At 2 p.m., even Fido can be part of the merriment during the Kid & Pet Parade along Main Street.

From 3 until 5 p.m., Wes Bayliss will break out his guitar and keep everyone happily engaged in the festivities with his country music.

The official Wharf Mardi Gras Parade begins at 5 p.m. Start warming up your voice now so your “Throw me some beads!” yell will bring you plenty of goodies for your bag. The people on the floats and go-carts are prepared to be generous, and the bands will punctuate the treasure collecting with their driving beats.

But don’t go away after that! Hang out with your friends and let those dancing feet prove their stuff as Knee Deep—with their funky blues, reggae and more—keeps things lively until 10 p.m.

Admission and parking are free, so if you can’t stay for the full day, feel free to come and go as you please. Don’t forget to shop, dine, ride the Ferris wheel or take in a movie while you are there. It’s a day for fun, and The Wharf is prepared to make that happen for you.

Can’t join us for Mardi Gras? How about a free night when you stay with us between March 1 and May 6, 2012? Find out how by checking out our spring special.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

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