Orange Beach, Alabama offers a powder-white beach against a gem-green gulf and bright blue sky. We crossed to the marshy bayside and visited Gulf State Park. The miles of boardwalk included up-close and personal encounters with armadillo, frogs and other marsh life.Leaving Alabama and following the Gulf into Florida, we stopped at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. This string of protected barrier islands (more than 1,400 acres have been preserved) runs from Mississippi to Florida. There are forts, lighthouses, hiking trails and camp sites. The Naval Live Oaks area, in Gulf Breeze, Florida, has an interpretive display at the ranger station which explains that it was the first tree farm in the US dating back to 1828. Live Oak trees were used for the building of US Navy ships. No longer used for shipbuilding, we enjoyed walking around the Live Oaks and taking in another view of the Gulf of Mexico.Continuing along the Emerald Coast, we stopped in Destin. It is clear how the aquamarine water and sugar sand have made this beach a tourist destination. We splashed in the calm and cool water and relaxed in the sun for a while. Familiar with small planes with banners advertising local businesses along the northeastern beaches, we were prepared for similar advertising techniques along a tourist-filled town. However, we never expected to see an electronic billboard on a slow moving ship! Enough said, the destiny of Destin.