by Jackie Perrin
Overlooking the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, with sparkling sands in either direction, The Island House Hotel offers a gorgeous setting and gracious Southern hospitality, along with sweeping Gulf views from every guestroom.
Situated in Orange Beach, Alabama, on the east end of a 32-mile-long island known for sport fishing, seafood and endless stretches of sugar-white sand, the 10-story, 161-room hotel enjoys a solid reputation as a regular gathering site for enthusiast groups, from power boat fans to Parrotheads. To be certain, the property has plenty to offer the party pack, from private beach barbecues to penthouse views. But it’s also a fine choice for families seeking an affordable alternative to the Gulf Coast condo scene.
On the hotel’s 336-feet of beachfront, kids can play in the sand while mom and dad, search for shells, or kick back and soak up the Southern exposure. Along with boogie boards and beach umbrellas, lounge chairs are available for rental by the day or by the hour. Just outside the lobby, a well-maintained private pool offers more sunning spots along with a wading pool for the little ones.
Of course, a prime reason to stay at The Island House is the property’s proximity to local attractions. In addition to an interactive aquarium, a fabulous fort, and a zoo with multiple opportunities for hands-on animal interaction, within the vicinity, families will find abundant options for water play — from kid-friendly dolphin tours to scenic snorkeling cruises. Across the street, at Zeke’s Landing Marina, and at San Roc Cay Marina nearby, you can rent jet skis, book a parasailing tour, or dine on the dinner you’ve reeled in during your latest angling adventure. A number of local restaurants will cook your catch, so you can enjoy a labor-free family feast.
Back at the hotel cafe, you can dig in to a plate of biscuits and gravy with grits, served up with a generous dose of local charm. Quick to provide local touring tips, the staff at The Island House Hotel is among the friendliest around.
Lodging options at The Island House range from basic standard guestrooms to corner penthouse suites with sweeping Gulf views. Executive Rooms, an attractive option for families, are one-and-a-half the size of a standard room and offer a mid-size refrigerator along with extra floor space suitable for child-play and shell sorting.
Our Editor Loves
- Gulf views from every guestroom
- Beachfront location
- Affordable alternative to the condo scene
- Horse Back Riding
- Theme Park
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Free Wi-Fi
- Kids' Pool
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Situated in a 10-story tower, each of the hotel's 161 guestrooms offers an unobstructed Gulf view along with a picture window and a private balcony from which to enjoy it. Guestrooms feature teak furniture, Denver mattresses and deluxe white linens throughout.
Standard Rooms are 500 square feet and feature two queen-size beds or a king-size bed along with a flat-screen TV, a coffee maker, a safe and complimentary Wi-Fi. Refrigerators are not a standard amenity, but they are available for a fee upon request.
Executive Rooms, situated on the east and west sides of the building, feature a complimentary mini-fridge, along with extra space to stretch out. These accommodations are nearly double the size of a standard room and feature two bathroom vanities, as well as a bar area, convenient for preparing a bedtime snack or a PB&J picnic. Executive Rooms feature two queen beds or a king-size bed, and traditionally sleep up to four. With an optional rollaway bed (fee), executive rooms can accommodate up to five.
Penthouse and Corner Penthouse Suites
Penthouse Suites offer 1,000 square feet and are more than twice the size of a standard room and feature all-new furniture along with two TV's, a separate living room, a wet bar and two bathrooms, one with a whirlpool tub. A galley kitchen has a microwave and a full-size refrigerator, but is without a cook top or an oven. Corner Penthouse suites, 1,100 square feet (four available) are the most deluxe of all and feature a sleeper sofa, as well as an expansive rooftop balcony, suitable for hosting a private party.
Pack 'n Plays are complimentary upon request. Note that corner bed posts protrude a bit and could be an issue if you're visiting with little ones. A makeshift safety cover can be constructed within minutes with a few hand towels and some hair ties.
My kids and I had a few days off and made a quick trip with a very short stay, but it was easy and enjoyable. My requirement for hotel was easy trip to the beach (because my husband couldn't make it) and a balcony. This hotel answered both. It is so lovely that every room has a balcony, so I didn't have to worry if I was going to get one or not, and the beach was right there. The bathroom was outstanding. A clean and spacious walk-in shower and we loved the awesome lit mirror. The beds were comfy and the fruit infused water, in the lobby, was a bonus.
Everything was what I had hoped for. I do love included breakfast, but I knew that wasn't part of the deal going in.
by Sharon G
Every room has stunning view of the beach. I thought it was the best value for the price. We had great service, good food, and we look forward to going back. The pool provided towels, chairs, tables and umbrellas. If you are on the beach, you have to rent the furniture.
The Gulf front hotel pool, surrounded by loungers, is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is heated seasonally. Nearby there's a wading pool for the little ones. No lifeguard is on duty. Within the vicinity, you'll find restrooms along with a machine dispensing soft drinks, water and cold beverages. Swim diapers are required for non potty-trained children. Property policy prohibits the practice of reserving lounge chairs with beach towels. If you want to claim a spot in the sun in summer, plan to arrive early.
Follow a wooden walkway to a wide expanse of white sand, where you'll enjoy an unobstructed view of emerald waters. Beach access points -- both featuring an outdoor shower -- are situated on the west and east sides of the property. On the beachfront, a number of items, from umbrellas to boogie boards, are available for rental. Lounge chairs can be rented by the day or by the hour.
Across the street at Zeke's Landing Marina, you can rent jet skis or pontoon boats, or book a sky-high parasailing tour. Inshore and deep sea fishing excursions are also available, in half- and full-day increments. After your adventure, head to Wolf Bay Lodge, where chefs will cook up what you reel in so that you can enjoy a labor-free family dinner. Down the street at San Roc Cay Marina, Reel Surprise Charters also offers four-hour tours that are well-suited to aspiring youthful anglers. You can get your catch cooked up at one of the onsite restaurants, which include Louisiana Lagniappe, Shrimp Shack, Cafe Grazie and Gulf Shores Steamer.
Onsite dining options are limited to a single restaurant open for breakfast and lunch, along with room service, available during the same hours. Alternatively, for those days when the kids aren't up to eating out, a number of local venues offer take-out and delivery service.
The Island Grille
At the first floor cafe, order up an omelet or dig into a home-style breakfast with sausage and grits. Belgian waffles, a house specialty, are available in a number of varieties, from pecan to apple cinnamon to blueberry. For kids, a single egg is available from an a la carte menu, which also offers yogurt, fresh fruit and oatmeal. For smaller appetites, upon request, the chef will substitute a single chocolate chip pancake for a full stack. Breakfast is available from 7 to 11 a.m. On Sundays, there's a breakfast buffet.
Lunch and early dinner service are available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. In addition to a snack menu featuring chicken wings, cheese sticks and nachos, choices include salads and a selection of sandwiches, from "The Island Burger" to the "Sand Bar Club." A special daily soup is available by the cup or by the bowl. Kids selections, all served with French fries, include a hamburger, a cheeseburger, a hot dog and chicken fingers. High chairs are available.
From May 15 through summer, the property presents Saturday summer celebrations. Highlights include a cookout, weather permitting, with a live band performing on the pool deck.
Sand Bar Lounge
Open at 11 a.m. seasonally, this lobby level lounge serves up alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.
Available from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. from The Island Grille. A service charge applies.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
While the hotel offers few extra frills, its gorgeous setting, friendly staff and proximity to area attractions make it a reliable base for a beach-centered vacation. As a no-deposit-required lodging available for short stays, it's a nice alternative to the condominiums that heavily populate the area.
On the lobby level, a small fitness room is open 24-hours.
Located on the east end of the building on the Lobby level, a guest laundry contains coin-op washers and dryers. Detergent is sold at the front desk.
Grocery and Children's Essentials
You'll find several grocery stores within the area and Home Away Groceries provides door-to-door delivery of essentials and supplies, including diapers, sandwich makings and sunscreen.
Baby and Children's Equipment
Baby Beach Rentals offers a range of equipment suitable for those planning a beach getaway, from kid cabanas to sand-ready strollers.
The Art of Smart Timing
Spring and summer are prime tourist seasons in Orange Beach as well in nearby Gulf Coastal communities. If you visit during these times, expect to find a plethora of local activities and special events, along with increased rates and plenty of company on the beach. Winter is a favorite visitation period for snowbirds that flock to the area to escape the cold of the North and soak up some Southern sun and warmth. Fall brings milder but still pleasant temperatures, along with special events, like October's National Shrimp Festival. February and March are Mardi Gras -- at this time, area schools let out for special parades and kid-friendly celebrations. Also in March, the hotel typically plays host to a group of Parrotheads (a band of Jimmy Buffet fans) who fill the building while attending an entertaining event benefiting local charities.
Room rates are lowest in winter and fall, rise in spring, peak in summer, and are at their highest on summer holidays. In winter, you can book a Corner Penthouse Suite for slightly more than the cost of a standard room in the summer.
To take full advantage of the property's beachfront position as well as many of the seasonal water-based area activities, it's best to visit during a time when Gulf temperatures are still warm enough to swim without the need for a wetsuit. If you're looking for less company, mid to late-August, when area students are back in school, is a great time to visit. Another prime time is the month of September (after Labor Day), when rates are lower and high temperature average in the mid 80s.
Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport (26 miles) and Mobile Regional Airport (48 miles) are the closest sites for air travel. The hotel is accessible from both I-10 and I-65.
Orange Beach is primarily a driving destination. Most visitors originate from surrounding states and arrive by car. It's possible to enjoy a beach vacation without wheels, but if you intend to explore the area with kids, it's best to rent or bring your own vehicle.
For Mom and Dad
If you brought your own babysitter and can steal away for a few hours, head to the Perdido Beach Resort Soundside Pier, where Wild Hearts is docked. From spring to fall, the 53-foot catamaran offers 90-minute sunset cruises.