With 32 miles of stunning beaches and more than 28 miles of scenic trails waiting to be explored, the coastal communities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are an enchanting destination for experiencing the Gulf Coast’s natural wonders. With just a quick road trip from cities such as Nashville, Atlanta, and New Orleans, outdoor enthusiasts can easily get away from it all in this southern Alabama retreat, and enjoy paddleboarding, hiking, or just soaking up the sun in one of the South’s best-kept secrets. Here are the best ways to discover the beauty of the Alabama Gulf Coast and bask in the great outdoors.
Unplug on a sugar-sand beach
Offering white quartz sand, warm water, and a myriad of options for relaxation and exploration, Alabama’s Gulf of Mexico beaches are sublime. Spend a lazy afternoon lounging on the shore at Romar Beach, hunt for seashells while admiring scenic dunes at the aptly named Shell Beach, take a class with Sand Castle University, and cruise along the Gulf while looking for charismatic dolphins on a private boat.
Discover Gulf State Park
Gulf State Park lies at the center of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. A destination in itself, this exceptional backcountry spans 6,150 acres and boasts nine unique ecosystems. The park’s 28 miles of trails are great for hiking, running, and cycling on complimentary bikes and provide visitors the chance to come face-to-face with native wildlife, including bobcats, alligators, eagles, and gopher tortoises. For a distinctive experience, you can even navigate the trails on a guided Segway tour.
Try a new watersport
Prefer to hit the water? From the 900-acre freshwater Lake Shelby to Gulf State Park’s beaches, there are plentiful places and ways to make a splash in this thriving watersports hub. Get your adrenaline pumping while bounding over the waves on a jet ski. Glide through the water on a paddleboard or kayak. Master the art of sailing. For a truly unforgettable experience, try parasailing and soar above the ocean.
Catch the big one
If you’re an angler, you’ll have a blast casting a line on the Alabama Gulf Coast. With several well-equipped marinas, there’s an abundance of opportunities to fish in the area, including surf, on-shore, off-shore, and pier fishing on Gulf State Park Pier, one of the longest in the Gulf of Mexico. For a truly memorable experience, charter a deep sea fishing expedition for cobia, wahoo, swordfish, and more with Intimidator Sport Fishing Inc. and get ready for the trip of a lifetime.
Take the plunge
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are home to one of the country’s largest artificial reef programs, so it’s no surprise that snorkeling and diving are two favorite activities here. While underwater, you’ll have the chance to explore more than 1,136 square miles of the Gulf and watch local sea life, like red snapper, amberjack, and grouper.
In addition to five incredible spots for snorkeling and shore diving that are ideal for both beginners and experienced divers, you’ll find various sites that allow scuba divers to go deeper and explore the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, from The Whiskey Wreck and Poseidon’s Playground to The Lulu, a sunken ship.
Sleep under the stars
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer a variety of different lodging options, such as condos, beach houses, and resorts. But one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the destination’s natural wonders is by camping in Gulf State Park. Whether you prefer to kick it old school with a tent or live it up in an RV, there’s a place for you.
If you’re searching for a one-of-a-kind camping experience, consider The Outpost at Gulf State Park. Guests at this glamping area stay along the trail in canvas tents on raised wooden platforms. Equipped with bathrooms, outdoor showers, campfire rings, grill tops, and picnic tables, this primitive-yet-comfortable lodging has everything you need for a proper camping trip—just bring your own bedding and food.