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Family time at the beach

By Joel McNeece

I remain amazed with each passing day at all the things two little girls with smiles that could melt the North Pole can get me to do.

Last week was our family beach trip and we tried a new destination this year — Caribe Resort at Perdido Key, just on the eastern edge of Orange Beach, Alabama. We hadn’t been in the spacious room five minutes when we stepped out on to the balcony overlooking the giant pools with their seeming two-story, twisting water slide.

“We’re getting on that, Joel,” I heard 5-year-old granddaughter Ellie Kathryn shout.

Minutes later there we were following 8-year-old granddaughter Addi Claire, diving into the enclosed tube that twisted around and around at break-neck speeds until you were spit out into the coldest swimming pool I’ve ever been in. But we did it again, and again, and again, and all the teeth chattering was worth the smiles.

Another night we wound up at The Arcade where Ellie wanted me to get in a flight simulator. Step-daughter Jo Ellen had endured it the day before with Addi Claire at The Factory — a fun place for kids in Gulf Shores. I took this round, and we were strapped in as if about to fly a fighter jet, only instead we were going for a roller coaster ride. The machine flips you in every direction, staying upside down most of the time, at least it felt that way, until you can’t tell which way is up. Ellie’s constant laughter told me we were having fun.

We loved our time at the Caribe with their many amenities. From our room, we could see the beach, a short shuttle away, and the inner bay with all the boats coming in and out.

We saw dolphins (porpoises), collected too many crabs, and enjoyed lots of seafood.

The Gulf — the unique dining experience on the beach just before crossing over Perdido bridge — is home to the best fried grouper sandwich you will ever eat. All of the structures are made from shipping containers, not unlike Billy Glen Crutchfield’s tower in front of Weyerhaeuser in Bruce. It’s become an annual stop for us along with Cosmo’s and Big Fish.

The beach is a great location for Big Fish, but it could be dropped in any large city and remain a 5-star restaurant. It’s a long wait without a reservation, but their limitless fresh catch options prepared perfectly every time make it worth it. The granddaughters like Cobalt, located at the Caribe, because they have a fish tank where they can touch the fish (despite the sign that says not to) while waiting for a table, and you’re going to have to wait. We had crab claws at every meal, which I never tire of, because Ellie loves them. Addi Claire abstains from all seafood, but I suspect she will one day come around.

Most enjoyable, however, had to be the countless hours we spent bobbing in the crashing waves just beyond the white sand beach. This was the first year both girls preferred the beach to the pool, which makes me want to go back more than just once each summer.

Joel McNeece is the publisher of The Calhoun County Journal in Bruce. You may email him at joelmcneece@gmail.com.