A dreamy destination along the Alabama Gulf Coast, Gulf Shores is set to become your new go-to summer holiday destination. Lazing on beautiful beaches, visiting state parks, and treating yourself to fresh oysters are just a few of the best things to do in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Gulf Shores is a picturesque seaside city known for its endless selection of family-friendly tourist attractions, including the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and The Track, located just minutes away in Orange Beach. Traveling to Alabama with your pet? Gulf Shores also features many dog-friendly spots, like Big Beach Brewing and Gulf Shores Dog Park.
Need some ideas for what to do in Gulf Shores? Pack your bags and plan the ultimate Alabama Gulf Coast trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Gulf Shores, AL.
Best places to visit in Gulf Shores, AL
Gulf State Park
You’re not going to go all the way to Gulf Shores without exploring the coastal landscape, are you? Gulf State Park is absolutely the best place around Gulf Shores to do it!
Within Gulf State Park, you’ll adore Alabama’s diverse ecosystems, including unspoiled oceanfront, miles of bike trails winding around Lake Shelby, and brilliant displays of local flora.
Grab a pair of flip-flops and stick your toes into the sand on the two-mile beach. Or, for a more active outdoor adventure, lace up your sneakers and hit the hiking trails around Gulf State Park.
Need to unwind in the evening? The Gulf State Park Pier is one of the best places to go in Gulf Shores to take in a beautiful sunset on the coast; be sure to visit just before dusk for the ultimate Gulf State Park experience!
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is the top Gulf Shores destination for animal lovers. The zoo is home to all your favorite exotic animals like Bengal tigers, dromedary camels, and American alligators. Be sure to check the schedule for daily zookeeper chats when you arrive so you don’t miss any of the action!
If you’d like to enhance your visit to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, consider adding on one of its popular animal encounters. You can get up close to lemurs, sloths, kangaroos—or all three—depending on which cute critters capture your heart.
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo also has a petting zoo where little ones as young as three can feed the resident farm animals.
Gulf Shores Museum
For a lesson on the local history, be sure to head down to the Gulf Shores Museum. This converted beach house will teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about hurricanes, paint a picture of what it’s like to live in a small fishing village, and take you through the story of how Gulf Shores came to be all it is today.
Children will love the crafts, games, and educational programming here; you won’t need to worry about the Gulf Shores Museum being a bore for the little ones!
Before you leave, be sure to take a walk in the butterfly garden outside. If you’re lucky, one might even land on you after fluttering majestically above!
On a slower day, pop over to neighboring Orange Beach to visit Adventure Island. It won’t take long to turn the excitement dial all the way up to ten at this popular attraction.
In this family amusement park, you’ll enjoy carnival rides, laser tag, mini-golf, and paddle boats. You can also visit the Alligator Alley Arcade and cool off while challenging each other to skee ball or riding the Max Flight Roller Coaster Simulator.
Each attraction at Adventure Island is priced separately; it’s okay if you’d just like to pick one or two to fill in a gap in your schedule.
There are also plenty of other fun things to do in Orange Beach that you can pair with your Adventure Island experience, such as a Sun Lady Dolphin Cruise!
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
For some natural sightseeing and mild outdoor activities around Gulf Shores, visit The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The reserve is full of scenic views, with dunes, wetlands, sprawling white-sand beaches, and pretty lagoons, everywhere you turn. It’s also a great spot to try your hand at surf fishing.
If you’d like to get active during your visit, there are plenty of options at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. There’s a non-motorized boat launch available in the park for those who want to spend a day on the water; be sure to rent a canoe or kayak along the way.
Of course, if you prefer to stay on dry land, you’ll love exploring the designated hiking trails that weave throughout Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
On your visit, keep your eye out for the Alabama beach mouse. These sweet little critters, who call the park home, are an endangered species.
Gulf Shores Public Beach
Calling all beach bums: Gulf Shores Public Beach awaits! With its easy-to-find access point, all you need to do is follow Highway 59 to the shoreline to find yourself on this immaculate stretch of sand.
The picturesque views at Gulf Shores Public Beach are unmatched. You’ll often spot sailboats cruising by and you won’t be able to stop snapping pictures of the palm trees lining the footpath. With its turquoise waters, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the beaches of the Caribbean.
Any beachgoers who can’t sit still? Gulf Shores Public Beach has got you covered. Plenty of beach bars line the beach path for imbibing and relishing in good times. You’ll also find sand volleyball courts for when you’re feeling sporty.
Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf
Ahoy Matey! For a slower-paced activity that can fit into the nooks and crannies of your itinerary, plan a quick round at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf. Miniature golf is a fun activity that everyone can enjoy, from your littlest traveler to the eldest. And this course is extra special!
Pirate’s Island will take you on an adventure through caves, aboard a pirate ship, and under waterfalls, eventually leading you to a trove of not-so-hidden treasure.
The best part? This Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf course is double the length of a regular mini-golf course, so you can keep the fun going for even longer.
After your round in the sun, be sure to stop for ice cream or hit the beach to cool off.
The Hangout Gulf Shores
Looking for an exciting place to eat? The Hangout Gulf Shores is so much more than just a restaurant. This popular local hotspot takes casual beachfront dining to a new level, offering ample entertainment at all times.
The Hangout hosts daily concerts, contests, foam parties, cookoffs, bonfires, and more. Don’t forget to take a family photo sitting on one of the giant beach chairs outside before you leave.
All that said, we should take a moment to mention all the good eats available at The Hangout Gulf Shores—there are plenty!
The menu is chocked full of Gulf Coast classics like seafood boil, gumbo, po’boys, and popcorn shrimp. For the foodies out there, they even serve a wagyu beef burger that’s to die for!
Gulf Shores Dog Park
If you’re bringing Fido along on your Alabama holiday, you’re going to be searching for a place for them to spend some time off-leash. (After all, they’re on vacation, too!) Look no further: The Gulf Shores Dog Park tops the list of where to go in Gulf Shores with furry friends.
The park features waterfront access, an agility course, and lots of space to run for a premium playtime experience for your pups. Gulf Shores Dog Park is a wonderful place to hang out for four-legged pals—and their humans.
Besides the coastal sea breeze and spectacular views, the dog park also offers plenty of places for owners to kick their feet up and rest.
Gulf Shores Wetlands Nature Park
For a quick & easy stroll in nature, the Gulf Shores Wetlands Nature Park is one of the top points of interest in Gulf Shores.
This wetlands path is leveled off and finished with gravel, so you won’t need to worry about uneven footing. You won’t be trading convenience for lackluster curb appeal at Gulf Shores Wetlands Nature Park either; this gorgeous trail is lined with tall pines and lilypad-speckled lakes.
Even if you’ve never picked up a rod before, the Gulf Shores Wetlands Nature Park fishing pier is the perfect place to give this relaxing sport a try.
Hit up the local tackle shop, pack yourself a sandwich, and see if you can hook anything to bring home for dinner!
Fort Morgan State Historic Site
For history buffs, the Fort Morgan State Historic Site is one of the top tourist attractions in Gulf Shores. This military fort has had a significant past, playing a role in World War I, World War II, and the Spanish American War. Most intriguing, perhaps, was the Battle of Mobile Bay, which took place right on Fort Morgan’s soil in 1864 during the American Civil War.
On your Fort Morgan visit, walk through the barracks, get your hands on historic cannons, and look out over the coastline in search of military ships; you’ll feel like you’ve been sent back in time and dropped into a different reality.
Not into history? The Fort Morgan State Historic Site also has beautiful beaches, nature trails, and waterfront picnic sites to enjoy.
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
Want to hit up one of the top natural attractions in Gulf Shores during your stay? The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is the area’s shining star, with a 28-mile network of trails, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Don’t forget your camera: The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is a spectacular spot for wildlife watching; even alligators and boars live along the trail! Plus, there’s a butterfly garden, where you can spot several local species landing on milkweed and beautiful blooms.
For an enhanced outdoor adventure, consider booking one of the glamping tents lining the trail. With soft sand below foot and pines stretching into the sky, you couldn’t find a prettier place to set up camp around Gulf Shores!
Got an extra day in Gulf Shores? Add a day trip to The Track in nearby Orange Beach to your plans. One of the best things to do in Gulf Shores with kids, this fun attraction will help you to let loose after a hectic travel day. It’ll set the tone for an exciting vacation or end your holiday with an unforgettable day of thrills.
The main feature, and namesake, of The Track, are its sky-high go-kart tracks. But that’s not the only thing worth doing at this family fun park.
The Track also offers a lineup of quirky renditions of classic carnival rides. The most popular rides include bumper boats (from the traditional bumper cars) and spinning tops (from the traditional spinning teacups), as well as exhilarating coasters for the older kids.
Sun Lady Dolphin Cruises
Looking for a day out on the water? Sun Lady Dolphin Cruises is a top destination for wildlife spotting around Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. It’s a great excuse to get out on the water and enjoy a tour around Mobile Bay.
The boat has both upper and lower decks for optimal views of bottlenose dolphins playing in the wake and splashing at the bow. For animal lovers, Sun Lady Dolphin Cruises are a dream come true!
This dolphin cruise departs from The Wharf at Orange Beach; the cute yellow boat should be easy to spot out in the bay or docked along the shores.
Sun Lady Dolphin Cruises offers daily departures, three times a day, plus a special sunset sail. No matter what your Gulf Shores itinerary looks like, there shouldn’t be any reason you can’t squeeze this in.
You’re allowed to bring your own cooler of snacks and drinks onto the cruise. For the 21+ crew, alcohol is permitted on board, so long as you don’t bring any glass containers.
Didn’t come prepared? No worries: You can trade your pocket change on board for simple munchies like chips and cookies.
Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina
If you’re going to spend the day in Orange Beach then you’rev going to need to chow down on some good food. End your day of sightseeing with a delicious meal at Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina The restaurant describes its menu as “Southern coastal cuisine.” But this is no ordinary fish and chips shop!
Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina offers diners an elevated experience, with a casual fine dining atmosphere and reinvented Southern classics.
Though fresh seafood is the star of the show at Fisher’s Upstairs, you’ll also love its succulent meat options like duck and quail.
When visiting Orange Beach, an afternoon at The Wharf is practically a right of passage; be sure to make time in your itinerary for this top Gulf Shores area point of interest.
When wandering along The Wharf’s boardwalk, you’ll be faced with oodles of hip and happening attractions. Whether you want to attend a concert, ride the Ferris wheel, or depart on a dolphin-watching cruise, The Wharf is the go-to destination for entertainment on the island.
Ideally, you’ll arrive without time constraints: The Wharf is a “go and see what happens” kind of place. You could spend an entire weekend here and still find more things to see & do, from restaurants and bars to shopping and trendy hotels.
Big Beach Brewing
While you’re in Gulf Shores, don’t forget to carve some time out of your itinerary to wet your whistle at Big Beach Brewing. Located along Portage Creek, this local microbrewery serves up major summery vibes. The indoor/outdoor taproom has not one, not two, but three sliding doors so you can feel the ocean air envelop you while you sip.
In the courtyard, there’s live music each weekend. You’ll often also find events and food trucks popping up throughout the summer.
Even the brews on tap have a Gulf Coast flair, with a rotating selection of sour beer, cream ales, and IPAs. Be sure to stock up on cans to bring back to the hotel room, or home from your vacation to share with friends.
Big Beach Brewing is also dog-friendly, so you’re welcome to bring your furry family members along if they’re traveling with you.