Sweet Home Alabama

Spring 2010 CSANews Issue 74  |  Posted date : May 27, 2010.Back to list

Snowbirds Jon and Carole Kent have wintered in faraway places such as New Zealand and Australia. They spent some time in the Fort Pierce area of Florida, as well. But, as of yet, no place has matched their home away from home in Gulf Shores, Alabama. (www.gulfshores.com, 1-800-745-7263).

"We love everything about our stay in Alabama," says Jon. "There is a wide range of activities for all interests. And we love the local people and the beautiful countryside lined with oak trees."

For the past five years, the Kents have rented a three-bedroom "villa" at the Martinique on the Gulf (www.martinique-gulf.com), a resort community located on the Fort Morgan Peninsula. The resort is adjacent to the 6,800-acre Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, a natural paradise that is just steps from Jon and Carole's backyard. Martinique on the Gulf is comprised of both condos and homes of all different sizes and styles, and boasts amenities such as indoor and outdoor pools, children's wading pool, whirlpool spa, dry sauna, fitness centre and tennis court. The activities room is a great place for playing bridge and various board games, as well as for joining the book club and utilizing the wireless Internet service.

The beach is simply beautiful, according to Jon, and it is less than a 10-minute walk from the house. Long, quiet walks along the beach with its "sugar-white sand" are treasured by Jon. "During the snowbird season," he comments, "the beach is relatively empty. I can walk for four miles in one direction and may only see two or three other walkers." The serenity of Gulf Shores is just one of the reasons the Kents decided to make it their winter home. Says Jon, "we chose Gulf Shores because it is still in the southern U.S., is reasonably economical and has similar weather to the Florida Panhandle. But it is much less crowded here." The great beach, affordable shopping opportunities and an abundance of community activities are what keep the Kents coming back year after year. The local residents and merchants are also significant in making Jon and Carole's stay in Alabama so pleasant. "What we enjoy most are the local people, who are friendly and interesting," says Jon. "Those working in the service industry are very conscious of the impact of tourism in the off-season. Their service is exceptional and always friendly."

Amidst the tranquil setting of the resort and the relaxed atmosphere of Gulf Shores, Jon and Carole maintain an active and invigorating lifestyle. Jon plays tennis and golf on a regular basis, while Carole swims and walks daily. They enjoy country drives, birding, movies and attending a wide variety of community activities, such as home and garden tours, arts and crafts festivals, choral concerts and Mardi Gras parades. According to Jon, the surrounding area of Gulf Shores is teeming with interesting places to visit. New Orleans, Biloxi, Mobile and Pensacola are all within a few hours' driving distance. Jon likens the quaint town of Fairhope, located about 45 minutes north of Gulf Shores, to the California town of Carmel. During the holidays, the Kents brought their children and grandchildren to Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, which features "Magic Christmas in Lights," a stunning spectacle with more than three million lights and 900 displays.

Jon and Carole drive to Gulf Shores from their home in eastern Ontario, a journey that normally takes 22 hours. They always enjoy sightseeing on the trip down, stopping in such places as Branson and Chattanooga.

When asked about Canadian functions in their winter community, Jon comments that there aren't too many Canadians in Gulf Shores. "I have met a few Canadians while playing golf and tennis," says Jon. "I think some would find the climate too cool." The Royal Bank of Canada has branches located in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach that host Canadian functions, the latest of which welcomed more than 100 Canadians to a wine and cheese event. Jon wasn't able to attend this year's get-together, but he made sure that his name is on the guest list for next year. "From what I heard," says Jon, "the wine and cheese were hardly touched by the Canadians attending the event. That's because RBC brought in Tim Hortons coffee!"

Related links
Gulf Shores, AL
Martinique on the Gulf