I’ve driven across Alabama, but had never been to the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Area prior to the BP oil spill of 2010. Its beautiful beaches overwhelmed us, but what was more interesting was watching a mammoth clean-up effort that was bringing the community back from tragedy.

When I was there in November 2010, the beaches looked white as ever, but every evening after dark, we would go out on our patio and witness the HAZMAT crew. With custom machinery whose raking blades extended an extra two feet, they cleaned the beaches. Suited-up workers with headlamps would spot and pick up any minute bit of oil not visible during the day.

By early spring, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were ready to welcome visitors. Cleaning equipment was left behind for the two communities to continue keeping the beaches as clean as possible.

This area appeals to families as well as adults, with all types of accommodations. Here are four luxury properties that offer the best stays.

Turquoise Place

Turquoise Place, a Spectrum Resort property, is the premier luxury condo in Gulf Shores/Orange Beach. Two high-rise towers soar above everything else on the beach. We enjoyed a three-bedroom unit, but all were roomy with oceanview balconies and luxury throughout. At night, we especially enjoyed sitting in the hot tub on our balcony, watching the workers. Many resort occupants were using gas grills, but we dined out at the local restaurants, serving everything from simple to gourmet. The property has a health club and pool.

Phoenix West

Phoenix West is another condo rental property directly on the beach. From its balcony, guests can see both the Gulf of Mexico and Perdido Pass, and shops and restaurants are within walking distance. This is one of the newest properties on the beach and has an indoor and outdoor pool—the lazy river and waterslide are favourites! One of its most relaxing spots is on the balconies, especially the extra-large corner ones.

Caribe Resort

Caribe Resort, in addition to being a luxury condo, also features a five-star restaurant and deli. This is extremely family-friendly, as well as a honeymoon choice, with more than 40,000 square feet of pools (both inside and out), a lazy river, a waterslide and tennis courts. Caribe also offers boat slip rentals and has an electric trolley to transport guests to the beach.

Perdido Beach Resort

Perdido Beach Resort is a traditional hotel, with rooms ranging from gulf-front or pool-view to deluxe, courtyard suite or executive gulf suite. It features an indoor/outdoor pool, tennis courts and a health club. The pool bar and Café Palm Breeze are popular, but its Voyagers Restaurant is a shining star for ambience, with piano music in the lounge and live entertainment.

When we visited Orange Beach and Gulf Shores the first time, I did not expect to be impressed. But we went with an open mind and wanted to see the state of affairs as they continue to clean up. We came away finding a destination that we look forward to visiting again—and often.