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20 Things To Do in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

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If you dream of sugar-white sandy beaches, emerald green waters, and a laid-back coastal vibe, look no further than Gulf Shores, Alabama.

This charming beach town along the Gulf of Mexico is a true slice of paradise, offering endless opportunities for fun in the sun and unforgettable memories.

My daughter and I visit Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, every summer. If you haven’t been to Gulf Shores, you must put this area on your bucket list.

Let’s start with the obvious – the beaches here are simply stunning. Miles of pristine shoreline beckon you to spread out your towel, slather on some sunscreen, and bask in the warmth of the Gulf Coast sunshine.

Whether you want to swim, surf, or wiggle your toes in the soft sand, you’ll find your happy place on Gulf Shores’ beaches.

But there’s so much more to do in this coastal gem beyond just beach bumming. For adventure seekers, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore the tranquil bays and inlets. Or, book a dolphin cruise and witness these playful marine mammals frolicking in their natural habitat.

If fishing is your passion, you’ve come to the right place. Gulf Shores offers excellent opportunities for surf fishing right off the beach and pier fishing and deep-sea charters for those hoping to reel in a real heavyweight.

When it’s time to refuel, you’ll be spoiled for choice with the incredible array of fresh seafood on offer.

From casual beachside shacks to upscale restaurants, you’ll find everything from succulent Gulf shrimp and tender crab cakes to blackened redfish and tuna steaks that will make your taste buds happy.

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For a break from the beach, explore the vast Gulf State Park, with its hiking trails, picnic areas, and a stunning stretch of undeveloped coastline. Or, venture to nearby Orange Beach and check out the lively entertainment district known as The Wharf, complete with restaurants, shops, a Ferris wheel, and regular live music.

No matter how you spend your time in Gulf Shores, one thing is certain – this coastal gem has a way of leaving an indelible mark on your heart.

With its stunning natural beauty, relaxed vibe, and endless opportunities for fun, it’s the perfect place to create lasting memories with your loved ones.

So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your Gulf Shores getaway today!

👉Don’t Have Time To Read The Whole Article? This Is The Best Gulf Shores Kayak Tour
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orange Beach

Best Beaches In Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores has everything you need for a weekend getaway with the family, a getaway with your hubby, or a solo vacation.

Wanna go parasailing or sit on the dock fishing?

In Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, miles of pristine white quartz sand is washed by blue-green Gulf waters.

Gulf Shores beaches are a year-round attraction, whether you come to swim, sunbathe, do yoga at sunrise, or take a romantic walk at sunset.

Here are a few of my family’s favorite beaches on Alabama’s Gulf Coast: Even though the beaches are not private, there is enough space to build sandcastles, lounge, or listen to music without bothering your neighbor.

  1. Alabama Point East 
  2. Gulf Shores Main Public Beach 
  3. Lagoon Pass Beach
  4. Cotton Bayou 
  5. Gulf State Park Pavilion
  6. Romar Beach 

The warm blue Gulf waters off Alabama’s coast will make you forget your worries and relax.  The water was so warm that it felt like a sauna!  

After a full day at the beach, your next task should be deciding what to eat for dinner.

Where to Eat in Gulf Shores

Speaking of dinner, the most enormous delight for me was the massive number of seafood restaurants.

 Everyone knows how much I love seafood!!

 If I could eat seafood every day, I would, and Gulf Shores offered a variety of restaurants for every palate.

Two of my favorites were Acme and LuLu’s.  

Both offer more than just great seafood, which is important because even though I love seafood, my husband does not.

So, if you have picky eaters in your family, these are still good options because they offer a variety of dishes.  

At LuLu’s, you can sit on the waterside and watch the boats come while waiting for dinner.

My favorite restaurant is Acme because of the chargrilled oysters.  

I have been a fan of Acme for years since I first ate at the one in the New Orleans French Quarter.  It is the largest of the Acme Oyster Houses and has the same open-air concept.  

The staff was friendly and prompt, and the char-grilled oysters did not disappoint.

Things to do in Gulf Shores

1. Wharf in Orange Beach

The Wharf is home to one of the largest Ferris wheels in the South.

Zipline tours, laser tag, bazooka ball, and excursions from the marina are also available. Alternatively, you can sit back and enjoy live performances, dinner, and shopping in the Wharf. 

2. Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is home to over 500 exotic animals, including lions, tigers, primates, wolves, and reptiles.

You can get close and personal with animals like kangaroos, lemurs, snakes, and sloths.

Bird lovers across the country also flock to the Gulf Coast to enjoy the different Orange Beach and Gulf Shores birds.

The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail features several bird-spotting locations, including the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, which has recently been extended and now winds more than 27 miles through Orange Beach.

The Branyon area is one of coastal Alabama’s last intact maritime forests and an important stopping point for millions of migrating birds each spring and fall.

Keep your binoculars handy for everything from tiny hummingbirds to majestic herons.

3. Dolphin Tours

Gulf Shores is home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna, including bottlenose dolphins. Take a dolphin cruise to get up close to these playful mammals.

Dolphins typically travel in pods, so you’ll likely see several animals on excursions.

Several tour operators in the area, most of which leave from nearby Orange Beach. 

Fun Boats Dolphin Cruises earns routine praise from recent visitors for the number of dolphins seen on the tour and the company’s well-known water fight on deck.

I also recommend Cetacean Cruises for its relaxing atmosphere and friendly, knowledgeable crew.

4. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, named for the French phrase “safe harbor,” is home to various stunning wildlife.

Each year, migratory songbirds stop on the refuge’s land to rest and eat before migrating along the Alabama coastline. In addition to the various birds,

Bon Secour also preserves endangered species like sea turtles and the Alabama beach mouse. To take in the wildlife, visitors can hike one of the refuge’s trails, kayak or canoe through its waters, or try fishing.

5. Waterville USA

The park, which spans 20 acres, offers water and theme park rides.

Visitors can float down the lazy river, brave the waves in the wave pool, or shoot down one of several waterslides.

Meanwhile, those looking to stay dry can visit Waterville’s amusement park, which features attractions like mini-golf and go-karts.

6. Alligator Alley

See over 450 alligators, from hatchlings to mature adults, relaxing, sunbathing, courting, and nesting in their natural environment with an opportunity to feed them.

Meet Captain Crunch, who is 13 feet and 2 inches long and weighs over 800 pounds. He holds the world record for bite strength at 2,982 pounds.

7. Go kayaking or paddleboarding

Rent some gear and explore the coastline and back bays at your own pace. Visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo – A smaller zoo perfect for families with kids who love animals.

8. Play mini-golf

There are several fun and themed mini-golf courses to challenge your putting skills. Check out the Wharf – This massive entertainment complex has shopping, restaurants, a Ferris wheel, and regular live music.

9. Take a helicopter tour

Get a bird’s-eye view of the stunning coastline from a helicopter. Go ziplining – Experience the thrill of ziplining through the trees at places like Gulf Adventure Center.

10. Attend a festival

From seafood festivals to music fests, there’s almost always something going on.

11. Visit Fort Morgan

This historic fort played a role in the Civil War and offers great views. Go parasailing – Soar above the Gulf waters and take in the incredible views.

12. Play beach volleyball

Join a game or tournament at one of the beach volleyball courts.

13. Go shopping

From beachwear to souvenirs, there are plenty of shops to explore.

14. Ride the Ferris wheel

Take a spin on the giant Ferris wheel at The Wharf for stunning views.

15. Try stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) – An increasingly popular way to explore the calm coastal waters.

16. Just relax

Sometimes, the best thing to do is absolutely nothing. Kick back, listen to the waves, and recharge your batteries.

17. Go fishing

The fishing opportunities here are excellent if you prefer surf fishing, pier fishing, or deep-sea charters. Reel in some tasty redfish, trout, or even a shark.

18. Rent a beach house

Skip the hotel and rent a beach house right on the water. Wake up to the sound of waves and have your private beach access.

19. Eat seafood until you burst

From casual seafood shacks to upscale restaurants, you’ll find some of the freshest and most delicious seafood you’ve ever tasted.

20. Explore the Gulf State Park

This 6,500-acre park offers hiking trails, a pier, and a fantastic beach.

Where to stay in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

If you are traveling with a crowd or prefer to relax when surrounded by the comforts of home, Alabama Gulf Coast beach houses have you covered.

Choose a vacation rental in Orange Beach or Gulf Shores, right on the sand or in a nearby community with public beach access.

Your beach house will grant you space and amenities to maximize your time away.  

Are you visiting the area this weekend or next?   

1. Turquoise Place

I stayed at Turquoise Place, and I don’t know where to start because this place was so AWESOME!  Every little detail, from the decor to the amenities.

 I loved the assigned parking- it’s all in a 3-level garage! The wristbands work as access cards like theme parks and are ocean/waterproof.

 It just made it easy to access your room without searching for keys.  The indoor pool, which included a sauna and steam room, was never busy and always clean.  

 My room was huge and opened to an outside patio on the beach.  If you decide you want to stay in and cook dinner instead of eating out, each unit is equipped with stainless steel appliances and utensils in the kitchen.  

The living room was spacious, and the bathrooms were enormous!!  I will most definitely be going back.

Spacious white-sand beaches stretch across the Gulf of Mexico,, setting the stage for memorable days in the sand and surf with those who matter most.

Enjoy a gated and secure atmosphere for a worry-free vacation experience.

Click here to book now!

Book Now with Expedia

2. KIVA DUNES RESORT

Kiva Dunes Resort, located within a conservation area on the Fort Morgan peninsula minutes from Gulf Shores, is home to over a mile of sugar-white beaches, natural lakes, and vibrant greenery, perfect for a beach-side escape. 

The resort at Kiva presents Alabama’s coastal beauty and charm with vacation rentals ranging from coastal homes to fully-furnished condos – each offering varying access to the resort’s four poolstwo restaurants, and over 3,000ft of private beachfront

Click here to book now!

Book Now with Expedia

3. CARIBE RESORT

Discover the most secluded vacation destination in Orange Beach because you deserve to escape it all.

They offer many relaxing condos and amenities designed with families in mind.

You won’t have to go far to enjoy luxuries like our lazy river, pools, slides, saunas, hot tubs, tennis courts, and more.

A vacation to Gulf Shores offers the same sandy beaches,  outdoor adventures, and great dining you’d find in other faraway places, but Gulf Shores is a short drive from Tennessee, Arkansas, or Louisiana.   Have you vacationed in Gulf Shores?

Click here to book now!

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4. The Lodge At Gulf State Park

The Lodge at Gulf State Park, A Hilton Hotel, is located on the white sands of Gulf Shores, AL.  The location inside the naturally beautiful 6,150-acre Gulf State Park makes us a truly unique destination because of its size and the diversity of our preserved ecosystems.

Their commitment to sustainable tourism is evident throughout the property. Enjoy beautiful beach and park views from our guest rooms, suites, and restaurants.

The beach location provides easy access to a host of water activities.

Dine on locally sourced, freshly prepared cuisine at one of their five restaurants. Each offers a unique flavor and feel and participates in meaningful sustainability initiatives.

Click here to book now!

Book Now with Expedia

When to Visit Gulf Shores

The best times to visit Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, are March through May and September through November.

I suggest going in the off-season because summers are hectic and substantially more expensive. 

If you decide to visit Gulf Shores and Orange Beach in late spring and early fall the weather is still warm, there are a variety of festivals during these months.

If you’re interested in visiting during the summer months of June, July, and August, be aware that these are three of the area’s wettest and most popular months.

If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll also want to book your hotel or vacation rental well in advance to secure the best price.

Weather in Gulf Shores

Conclusion: Best Things to do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

All in all, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are about as perfect as you can get for a beach getaway. With the stunning scenery, kayaking, delicious seafood, beach bars, and Southern hospitality, this area has it all.

You can’t go wrong here if you want to relax on the beach, get your adrenaline pumping, or feast on mouthwatering cuisine.

I had the best time soaking up the laidback vibes and sunny skies. I know I’ll be returning year after year to enjoy the crystal blue waters and make more unforgettable memories.

If you’re looking for your next beach destination, look no further than Alabama’s Gulf Coast. I hope you enjoy this incredible place as much as I did!

Ready to plan your trip? Grab my FREE Vacation Planner to help you plan it in the time it takes to watch your favorite TV show!

Travel Guide

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES

3 Days on Alabama Gulf Coast

Explore Birmingham for Black History Month

What To Pack For Mexico

What is your favorite thing to do in Gulf Shores?  I would love to hear your thoughts so leave me a comment on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

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19 Comments

  1. Truthfully l would never have thought about Alabama as a travel destination. I had no idea they had beaches too. Very cool. Must reconsider next time we are close by. Thanks for sharing :-).

  2. Oh wow!! Like you I have my own preconceived notions about visiting beaches in the US. I always prefer the Caribbean because the water is so blue/turquoise and the sand is so soft/clean. I am happy to read your post on the Alabama Coast. I might actually have to make a weekend getaway. Oh and I’m definitely down for the seafood. Thanks.

  3. I would never think to visit Alabama as a vacation destination. But this post makes me think what I might be missing. Because I love a good foodie vacation!

  4. Right on time! I’m moving to a new country this summer and my passport will be hemmed up by a foreign consulate. I’ve been building a list of domestic locales I could enjoy while I’m home, totally forgot about the Gulf Shores. Saved!

  5. I love your reasons to visit Alabama. I’ve never been. Give me good food, and I will visit anywhere… I mean, as long as it is safe!

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