The Getaway
The Best Things to Do at Gulf State Park

With white beaches, 6,500 acres, and multiple lakes, Gulf State Park is a great vacation destination. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico in Baldwin County, Alabama, Gulf Shores is accessible via the SH161 and Highway 59. Gulf State Park is perfect for outdoor lovers, including campers, walkers, and water sport enthusiasts. Expect typical warm Gulf weather with occasional stormy downpours. Because the Gulf State Park is so large, most of the time it feels almost empty. The big open spaces and fun sports activities are a great way to relax, unwind, and enjoy time with friends and loved ones.


01 Play On The White Beaches

Sand dunes in Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama

With two miles of beaches, the warm white sand is the main draw for many visitors to the Gulf State Park. For sunbathers, these well looked after beaches are a pleasant place to soak up the rays and read a good book. Beach chairs are available to rent. The beaches are family-friendly and also popular with weddings. Windsurfers and careful swimmers enjoy the sea water. Lifeguards are not on duty in many locations, and the water currents in the Gulf can be strong, so be careful and stay in the shallows to be safe.


02 Get Closer To Nature

Gulf Shore State Park is in Alabama near the Florida Border on the Gulf of Mexico

Gulf State Park has a dedicated Nature Center which is open to visitors from every day except for Sunday when the center is closed. The Nature Center offers guided nature walks and other fun educational programs for the whole family. Most of the activities on offer are free, although there is a parking fee of which campers and lodgers are exempt.


03 Explore Your Wild Side

Caravan camping on the lake in the summer vacation

If you want to spend even more time outdoors, consider booking a tent pitch. Gulf State Park has 496 hookup campsites with paved pitches for large tents. There are also primitive sites with no electricity, water, or other amenities for those that prefer the simple pleasures of camping. Campgrounds have bathhouses, laundry facilities, swimming pools, and sports activities such as tennis and volleyball.


04 Fish For Supper

Catfish caught on the fishing line.

There are four location options if you want to go fishing:

  • Off the pier
  • Lake Shelby
  • Middle Lake
  • Little Lake

Make sure you have a freshwater fishing license to catch in Lake Shelby and read the creel limit signs by the shores. Depending on the location, season, and time of day, you may catch Bass, Bream, Trout, Mackerel, and many others.


05 Swimming

Aerial view of recreation center at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Find respite from the summer heat at the campsite swimming pool or Splash Pad. Both are for overnight guests at Gulf State Park and are open daily. If the swimming pool is not wild enough, but the sea is too rough, there are also places where visitors can swim in the lakes and streams. If swimming is dangerous or forbidden, a sign will indicate no one should enter the water.


06 Take A Hike

View of the beach at Gulf State Par

There are seven different trails at Gulf State Park, with maps available to keep you on the right track. With six distinct ecological niches, hikers can see butterfly gardens, freshwater wetlands, forests, and more. The keen-eyed might see deer, bobcats, and alligators. Remember to enjoy the wildlife sensibly, and watch the animals from a distance. If you prefer a faster way to explore the trails, rent a bike, or bring your own along.


07 Book A Cozy Cottage

Wooden cabin by the lake

There are 20 cabins and cottages in Gulf State Park available to rent. Some are lakeside others are in woodland, so you can pick the scenery you want to wake up to. Explore the Park’s website for information on the different sizes and facilities of the accommodation on offer. Book well in advance to ensure you get your first choice.


08 Eating Local Food

Seafood Restaurant overlooking a marsh

There are different options to suit your needs and budget. If you fancy a quick bite or family-friendly meal, try one of the seasonal stands such as the Beach Pavilion, Repicci’s Ice Cream, the Camp Store shop, or the Restaurant on the Pier.

Gulf State Park also has more upscale restaurants for sit down meals:

    • Perch has views of the Gulf and specializes in seafood
    • Food Craft has family-friendly dining all day
    • The Roasted Oak serves coffee during the day and transforms into a classy wine bar at night. It offers light bites all day.


09 Whiz Down A Zipline


Although not part of the Gulf State Park, the nearby Hummingbird Zipline course at Orange Beach is not far away. The course has eight zip-lines with over 6,000 feet of wire to zoom along. Some views are 115 feet high - so make sure you have a head for heights! Prices start from $89 per person, and you will need to book in advance.


10 Enjoy Some Sports

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Although the on-site golf course closed in December 2018, there are plenty of other sports options available. The most popular are water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding. Ike’s Beach Service offers various equipment for rent including kayaks, paddleboards, and beach wheelchairs. There are also geocaching courses at the Park, and parasailing on Lake Shelby. For something more relaxing, try yoga on the white beaches. Always check seasonal availability for the activities.


Scroll Down

for the Next Article

The Getaway Badge
Sign up to receive insider info and deals that will help you travel smarter.