The waves along the panhandle are pretty small, although it sounds like you may have been here when we may have been having some weather events out in the Gulf when the water can be rougher. However much of the time, the water has very small waves and the it is beautifully clear. So hard to say if you picked FWB on X date, that the waves would be calmer. because if you booked at Orange Beach, you may find the same rough waves on that particular week there too.
Where the beaches are so beautiful and white, we traditionally do not have many shells on our beaches. Down below Venice Beach to Naples is major sea shell heaven if that is something you like to do while on the beach. I had once heard that we had a barrier reef several miles off of our shore that caught much of the seashells. but don't quote me, but that is what I heard. I actually like the few shells because you can walk barefoot easier and the sand is so much softer.
Depending on the time of year, Orange beach might be a little less crowded that FWB, which may be an advantage. Destin is also a nice tourist destination, but more expensive and more crowded. And same beach/water conditions as FWB.
Wherever you decide to go, hope you have a nice time.