A Sunny Oasis on the Alabama Coast

With pristine white-sand shores and outdoor adventure in spades, the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are ready when you are

Photo: Alabama Tourism Department

From left: a day at Gulf State Park; a bird's eye view of Orange Beach; ferris wheel rides at the Wharf.

When the inevitable midwinter slump sets in, it’s natural to long for a change of scenery. On the Alabama coast, a long-beloved vacation spot provides the perfect answer: Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer everything you would want for a sun-soaked getaway, no matter the season. Easily drivable from many Southern cities, the area fronts the calm, bath-like waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and parallels thirty-two miles of pristine white-sand beaches with ample room to roam. Warm and inviting all year long, the coastal haven is ready to welcome you when the time is right, its miles of natural beauty rife with opportunities for relaxation and adventure. 

Photo: Chris Granger | Compass Media

Biking at Gulf State Park.

Naturally, the region’s most treasured aspects are its beautiful public-access beaches. Thought to be the finest in the state, the eleven public access points of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach cater to every kind of visitor, from beach volleyball fanatics and parasailers to those in search of some peace and quiet under a personal umbrella. While the Main Beach at Gulf Place is favorite among locals and travelers, more secluded access points can be found at the end of residential streets. Sunseekers who wander slightly off the beaten path will be rewarded too, with wide stretches of sand and rolling dunes as far as the eye can see at shores such as Alabama Point.

If you’re partial to boats, kayaks, or paddle boards, start your adventure at Fort Morgan State Historic Site, an easy launch point near Mobile Bay. Before you set sail, though, check out the site’s sprawling seacoast fort, built in 1819 and active during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II. Beyond its wealth of history, on display to visitors through a number of exhibitions and experiences, Fort Morgan’s spotless beaches also feature some of the best fishing and birdwatching on the Alabama coast, and a dog-friendly policy throughout the park. 

Photo: Chris Granger | Alabama Tourism Department

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail.

Onshore, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail connects the cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach with twenty-six meandering trails. Winding through nine distinct ecosystems, from the lush marshland of Rosemary Dunes to the pine flatwoods of Rattlesnake Ridge, the interconnecting trail complex is perfect for biking, hiking, and birding, and guarantees plentiful sightings of the coast’s native wildlife (as in alligators, bobcats, and white-tailed deer). For even more up-close encounters, a visit to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is in order—just a few miles from the Gulf Shores coastline, the zoo has the feel of a tropical oasis and is home to 199 species as well as eight endangered creatures. 

Photo: Courtesy of Alabama Tourism

Hanging around at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

No matter what sort of vacation you seek, your ticket to some much-needed R&R can be found along the Alabama Coast. From the glow of a brilliant sunset to the fresh Gulf seafood found in local restaurants, some of the state’s greatest treasures exist in abundance amid Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, perhaps enough to inspire an every-year tradition. 

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