Words by Paige TownleyThirty-two miles of white-sand beaches, beautiful blue waters, and warm, coastal temperatures make Gulf Shores and Orange Beach the ideal destination for vacation. But the Alabama Gulf Coast offers so much more. Whether you’re a nature lover, outdoor enthusiast, or simply looking for a change of scenery, these sister cities are teeming with outdoor activities that are safe, affordable, and just waiting to be explored.
Gulf State Park
There’s a reason Gulf State Park is known as a mecca for lovers of the great outdoors. Sprawling over 6,150 acres, the park offers a plethora of activities:
- With 2,448-square-feet of space, the Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier is the longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico (NOTE: Hurricane Sally did significantly impact the pier, and at this time the southern portion of the pier is closed and under repair). In addition to plenty of space to reel in a fresh catch, there’s also an indoor retail store, concessions area, and shaded seating.
- The recently-renovated Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion offers three miles of beautiful beach for public enjoyment.
- Hikers and bikers will especially enjoy the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, a 28-plus mile paved trail system that meanders through the 6,150 acres of the Park. Featuring nine ecosystems, the trail offers sights of all kinds of wildlife—including resident alligator, Lefty—and recently welcomed a new addition, Hammock Park, where visitors can bring their own hammock and hang out for a while.
- At the heart of the park is Lake Shelby, a large freshwater lake that’s a popular spot for a day of swimming, fishing, boating, or kayaking.
Coastal Alabama Back Bay Blueway
The Coastal Alabama Back Bay Blueway consists of four distinct trails and 21 launch sites that take paddlers—whether it be canoe, kayak, or paddleboard—around the waterways surrounding Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan:
- Fort Morgan Trail—History and nature come together with glimpses of Fort Morgan State Historic Site and coastal wildlife.
- Little Lagoon Trail—Situated near the Gulf of Mexico, the Little Lagoon Trail features a variety of salt and freshwater fish.
- Gulf State Park Trail—Lake Shelby and Middle Lake are two of the natural assets that can be explored on the Gulf State Park Trail.
- Orange Beach Trail—The largest trail, Orange Beach Trail takes paddlers through a variety of areas and bodies of water.
Bon Secour National Wildlife RefugeThe Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge serves as one of the state’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitats. Bon Secour actually means “safe harbor” in French, and it’s home to a variety of flora and fauna, as well as a number of endangered species and migratory birds.
More to Explore
- The Alabama Gulf Coast is known for fishing. The area offers a variety of marinas and charters to fish year-round.
- Some of the best golf courses in the state are located in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
- There’s no better way to enjoy the beautiful views of the Gulf than a parasailing adventure with one of the area’s many parasailing companies.
- Segway tours, sunset cruises, dolphin cruises, and nature tours are available to tour the Alabama Gulf Coast and learn more about the area and its wildlife.