The Best Sun and Fun Things to Do in Gulf Shores, Alabama
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The Best Sun and Fun Things to Do in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Getaway Staff

Experience the stunning beauty of sugar-sand beaches, turquoise waters, sea breezes and warm Southern hospitality in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Bordered by four bodies of water, Gulf Shores is the perfect destination for exploring six distinct ecosystems by bike, air or on foot. Trails through freshwater marshes and swamps invite explorers to meet wildlife up-close and personal, like “Lefty” the sunbathing alligator. He loves attention, so be sure to say hi. Whether your idea of a perfect vacation is playing golf, boating, snorkeling, sipping margaritas on a deck at sunset or exploring historic sites, Gulf Shores has it all and more.


01 Things to know before you go

Red chair on the beach welcome-to-carol-world / Getty Images

Visit the Gulf Shores early in June, before or after the Fourth of July weekend and anytime in August. These times are also the most economical. Gulf Shores has a laid-back and casual character, even in restaurants and bars. Activewear such as shorts, jeans, casual tops, and comfortable shoes are acceptable, but bring shoes appropriate for hiking or running. An umbrella is helpful in the occasional downpour. When things cool down, layered clothing or a zip-up jacket keep you cozy. Equipment like kayaks, boats, and bikes are easy to rent. “Leave Only Footprints” is more than a motto: it’s your responsibility to help maintain the area’s beauty.


02 Paddle and fish on a Gulf Shores kayaking trip

A kayaker takes in the sunset as dusk settles over Mobile Bay as seen from Fairhope, Alabama, USA mrolands / Getty Images

One of the best places to kayak or learn the activity is Gulf Shores. Even if you have never kayaked before, you can find a class and hone your skills. The area features rental boats and gear as well as kayaking tours. Common areas open to kayaking enthusiasts include the Little Lagoon, Bon Secour River in the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, Perdido Pass, Lake Shelby inside of Gulf Shores State Park, and Wolf Bay. Regardless of when you go, you can see gulf-shore birds and turtles, or find plenty of fish biting in the rivers and streams.


03 Find entertainment and excitement at the Fun Park at OWA

Named one of Alabama's outstanding attractions, OWA, which is located in Foley, Alabama, is a big amusement park and entertainment complex. A Creek Indian word,  OWA stands for Big Water - a good name for the site, whose 14-acre amusement park is built around a lake. You don't have to pay for admission if you don't ride one of the 23 featured rides, but who wouldn't want to ride the Rollin’ Thunder Roller Coaster, which takes you on a twisty and turvy, if not mind-bending, ride over the span of the park? Children 3 and under also receive free admission. The downtown shopping and dining area next to the park also offers plenty of fun things to do.


04 Explore the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail

Whether you want to camp at one of the primitive campsites at Gulf State Park or just want to hike for the day, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail will take you where you want to go. Experience the great outdoors, trekking along the marshy terrain and through the attraction's butterfly garden. There's always a photo opportunity waiting at the site, as you never know when you might see a white-tailed deer or bobcat, or see one of the area alligators catching the late afternoon sun. The 15-mile long backcountry trail highlights 7 pathways that diverge on 6 separate ecosystems that run through Orange Beach, Gulf State Park, and the surrounding Gulf Shores area.


05 Experience a hurricane at the Gulf Shores Museum

Open free to the public, the Gulf Shores Museum, located at 244 West 19th Avenue in Gulf Shores, is a good place to begin your adventure of the Gulf Shore area. The museum features all types of engaging exhibits that take you through time and provide you with a historic account of Gulf Shore events. The main feature at the museum is the archived film of Hurricane Ivan, part of the site's interactive Hurricane display. An old-time pre-World War II cottage, once located on West Beach, is the museum's current home.


06 Savor the surfside barbecue at Hog Wild Beach and Barbecue

One of the eateries, unique to Gulf Shores, is the Hog Wild Beach and Barbecue, which offers everything you could hope for in barbecue-based cuisine. The southern-style barbecue restaurant with a Gulf Coast beach theme is a must-visit place to eat during your Gulf Shores stay. Hog Wild's slow-cooked barbecue entrees offer up tender servings of meat, complete with one of the various barbecue specialties. If you don't know what to pick, choose the restaurant's delectable and popular White BBQ sauce topping.


07 Gulf State Park

Aerial photo of a beautiful sunset over Gulf Shores Alabama nick1803 / Getty Images

Make this park your one-stop spot for entertainment, especially if you’re short on time. This gorgeous park offers a variety of activities for a modest entrance fee. The white, sandy beach is roomy, and there’s a convenient outside shower for cleaning up. Keep an eye peeled for the sea turtles that frequent the area. If you see nests, look but don’t touch. The Wharf is a great place to take in the nightly light show from the huge Ferris wheel. RV parking is abundant, there’s a pool, and bike trails abound.


08 Fort Morgan Historic Site

Aerial photo of Fort Morgan, Alabama

This stately fort is a great example of the adaptation and fortification measures taken by the U.S. Army to defend the country. The fort has served sporadically through several wars, from the Spanish American War through World War II. The small entrance fee gives you access to fishing, tours, and nature areas. There’s a beach, boat launch, and picnic area. Dogs are welcome if leashed and cleaned up after.


09 Alligator Alley

Alligator swimming through Gulf Shores Cheri Alguire / Getty Images

What would a trip to Gulf Shores be without an alligator exposure — Lefty the sunbathing alligator’s acquaintance notwithstanding. Separated by age in secure enclosures, the Gators love to crowd and crawl all over each other. An elevated boardwalk keeps you safe while observing the alligators. Feeding time is often frantic and very noisy. However, as you move more deeply into the fluorescent green, lighted swamp, the ambiance becomes peaceful, quiet and beautiful. You can hold a young alligator and feel how soft and smooth the skin is. Be sure to bring quarters to buy food to feed them.


10 Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Profile of a Beautiful White Bengal Tiger Cub EMPPhotography / Getty Images

An exciting, fun, and educational time awaits, and the entry fee is very reasonable. A leisurely stroll along wide paths provides close views of more than 500 exotic animals. Favorites include leopards, wolves, primates and more. There’s also a large aviary, reptile house, and a petting zoo. As the season permits, there are animal shows and informative talks by zookeepers. Pick up souvenirs at the gift shop, buy food at the concessions and sit in a shaded picnic area for lunch.


11 Orange Beach Marina

Walkway to Orange Beach, Alabama BlazenImages / Getty Images

Ride the wild waves along the Alabama coastal waterways on a jet ski. Dolphins are often spotted on this two-hour adventure, and the scenery is breathtaking at 40 miles per hour. Get harnessed up for an amazing parasail escapade, then journey back to shore on a stimulating speed boat ride. Be sure to pack your things in dry bags, or they’ll get soaked. Bring a few ginger candies along to ease seasickness if it’s an issue.


12 Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge dehooks / Getty Images

This sanctuary is one of the area's last coastal barrier habitats that's undisturbed. Bring along your camera for some spectacular photo opportunities. There are over 370 species of birds, including seven hummingbird species, as well as alligators, armadillos, red fox, and bobcats. For elevated views of Little Lagoon and Gator Lake, take a hike on the Jeff Friend trail or climb the observation tower on Pine Beach, which is also open to surf fishing.


13 Go fish

Fishing boat on the Gulf Shores Diana Meister / Getty Images

Fishing is permitted in several Gulf Shores locations: along the shore, from piers, and beside burbling streams. However, if you’d love a deep sea or even a shark fishing trip, consider booking a chartered excursion from a local company. If you catch a fish but have nowhere to prepare it for eating, several area restaurants are happy to cook it for you. Just bring in your cleaned fish and turn it over to the chef.


14 Oak Hollow Farm

Three horses in a stable acceptfoto / Getty Images

Abandon the jet skis, swimsuits, and flip-flops and opt for a stimulating horseback ride on this family-owned farm. Guides escort you to the stables via a hayride. There are over 50 gentle and well-trained horses, so people of all ages and riding skill levels have a great time. Upon your return, you can pet the horses and thank them with carrots provided by your guide.


15 Where to eat

Finding a delicious meal in Gulf Shores is not a problem, but there are a few highly recommended ones. The Hangout is a huge restaurant with beach and ocean views on one side. The other side has a play area for kids. The inside walls are lined with toys and foam parties happen on the hour. For a relaxing, romantic dinner, go to Villaggio Grille or Sunset Cork Room.


16 Dolphin Watching

Three dolphins leaping out of the sea near a fishing boat Andrew TB Tan / Getty Images

Experience the thrill of spotting playful dolphins in their natural habitat. Gulf Shores is renowned for its diverse marine life, and dolphin watching is an adventure you can't afford to miss. Embark on a serene cruise ride, and let the gentle waves of the Gulf carry you into the heart of dolphin territory. With the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair, watch as these magnificent creatures leap and dive, their silhouettes etched against the shimmering water. It's a spectacle that will leave you in awe of nature's beauty.


17 Gulf Shores Seafood Market

A visit to Gulf Shores is incomplete without indulging in the local seafood. At the Gulf Shores Seafood Market, you can sample the freshest catch of the day. From succulent shrimp to tender Yellowfin Tuna, the market is a seafood lover's paradise. Whether you prefer to cook your own meal or savor the prepared "seafood meals to go," the market offers a culinary experience that will tantalize your taste buds. Don't forget to pick up some Cajun spices to recreate your favorite Alabama meals back home.


18 Kayaking in the Gulf

Adult couple doing kayaking RuslanDashinsky / Getty Images

Immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the Gulf by kayaking through its serene waters. Whether you're an experienced paddler or a novice, kayaking offers a unique perspective of the Gulf's stunning coastline. Glide through the calm waters of the Little Lagoon or venture into the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. As you paddle, keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife that calls these waters home. It's an adventure that combines exercise, exploration, and the joy of being one with nature.


19 Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf

foursome of golfers walking toward green Hero Images / Getty Images

Step into a world of swashbuckling fun at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf. This family-friendly attraction features two exciting 18-hole courses that transport you to a tropical paradise. Navigate your way past pirate ships, over bridges, and around waterfalls as you compete for the treasure. Whether you're a seasoned golfer or a beginner, Pirate’s Island offers a fun-filled outing that will bring out the adventurer in you.


20 Jet skiing

Jet ski adventure. Aja Koska / Getty Images

Feel the adrenaline rush as you zip across the Gulf on a jet ski. At Bear Point Marina, you can rent a Yamaha 3-seater jet ski and embark on an exhilarating ride. Whether you're a speed enthusiast or prefer a leisurely pace, jet skiing offers an unforgettable experience. As you navigate through the beautiful coastline and estuaries, keep an eye out for dolphins and pelicans. It's a thrilling adventure that combines speed, excitement, and the beauty of nature.


21 Fishing Charter

charter fishing catscandotcom / Getty Images

For a unique fishing adventure, charter a boat and head into the Gulf of Mexico. Whether you're an experienced angler or a first-timer, a fishing charter offers a memorable experience. With a variety of fish including tigerfish, napper, and grouper, the Gulf's waters promise a rewarding catch. With all fishing licenses, bait, and tackle included, all you need to bring is your sense of adventure.


22 Gulf State Park Fishing Pier

Spend a day fishing at the Gulf State Park Fishing Pier. With over 700 feet of space, the pier offers ample room for a relaxing day of fishing. Whether you're a seasoned angler or a beginner, the pier is a great place to cast your line and enjoy the serene surroundings. And if you don't have your own equipment, you can rent rods and reels at the pier.


23 The Track

Two people with helmets racing go-carts around a track fotogaby / Getty Images

Get ready for a day of high-octane fun at The Track. This amusement park features go-kart tracks, an arcade, bumper cars, and more. Whether you prefer the thrill of racing on the elevated tracks or the fun of sliding on the slick track, The Track offers endless entertainment. It's a place where you can let loose, challenge your friends, and create unforgettable memories.


24 Try a Helicopter Tour

Take to the skies and experience Gulf Shores from a bird's eye view. A helicopter tour offers a unique perspective of the stunning coastline, trails, and dunes. Whether you choose a short flight over the beach or a longer tour over the picturesque islands, a helicopter tour is an experience you'll cherish forever. It's a chance to see Gulf Shores in all its glory, from a vantage point few get to enjoy.


25 Waterville USA

Dive into a world of fun at Waterville USA. This 20-acre water park and amusement park offers a plethora of attractions for all ages. From a lazy river and racing slide to a water playground and thrilling rides, Waterville promises a day of non-stop fun. Whether you're looking to cool off in the water, test your skills in the amusement park, or solve puzzles in the escape rooms, Waterville USA has something for everyone.


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