Best Things to do in Gulf Shores

Last updated: June 21st, 2023 | Originally published: June 21, 2023
Fort Morgan Alabama Coast

In 1956, the population of Gulf Shores was a miniscule 120 people because the town was quite isolated. These days, G.S. is a hopping beach resort seeing its share of 8 million coastal Alabama vacationers annually. To keep pace with the constant flow of visitors, business owners have created an assortment of things to do in Gulf Shores.

Most folks come to the Alabama Coast for the beaches (link). The quartzite white sand is some of the finest in the United States. And furthermore, the trappings of a typical beach resort are present: Golf courses, go-karts, waterslides, shopping galore… you know the drill.

But there’s quite a bit more going in the the Gulf Shores area.

Gulf State Park Alabama
things to do in Gulf Shores

Some lesser known aspects of G.S. are:

  • There are more freshwater species on the Alabama coast than anywhere in the USA. If you’re into bird watching, whale watching, swimming with manatees (who isn’t, right?), fishing, etc., G.S. is a remarkable place to spend time.
  • There are more than 17,000 artificial off-shore reefs, which makes for some incredible snorkeling.
  • The first Native American village in the United States to have been visited by an explorer is here.
  • Ancient Indian Mounds found in G.S. are believed to be older than the pyramids.
  • There is rich military history covering the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Something worth establishing: We’re going to do our best to separate G.S. from Orange Beach. While the two towns blend together, we think they each deserve their own write-up. To read about all the things to do in Orange Beach, and additional things in the region, click this blue link.

And with that we’ll begin our list of the best things to do in Gulf Shores, Alabama. We hope you enjoy!

1. Cotton Bayou Beach

Things to do in Gulf Shores
Things to Do in Gulf Shores

If you find yourself on the Alabama Coast, you are likely there (at least in part) for the white-sand beaches. There are a handful of beaches in town, and each is one of the best things to do in G.S. Our favorite of the group was Cotton Bayou Beach because of the superior setting.

2. Fort Morgan — Things to Do in Gulf Shores

Things to do in Gulf Shores

Other than sitting in a short-chair on the perfect sands of Alabama, our favorite thing we did was visit Fort Morgan. Since 1834 Fort Morgan has stood as the guardian of Mobile Bay.  The fortress has seen action in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and contains more than 46 million cubic yards of bricks. It also sits on a beach and has some majestic resident herons.

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3. Gulf State Park — Things to Do in Gulf Shores

Gulf State Park Alabama

Gulf State Park is on the short list of best state parks in the USA. The park includes 6,000 acres of Alabama Gulf Coast and is home to nine unique ecosystems.  There are three lakes for fishing, and miles of hiking and biking trails. And best of all, there are beaches.

We stayed in the RV park — it was the best state park RV experience we’ve had.

4. Ferry to Dauphin Island

Ferry to Dauphin Island
Things to do in Gulf Shores

If the beaches of G.S. and Fort Morgan aren’t enough for you, take a ferry ride across Mobile Bay and explore even more beaches on Dauphin Island. While you’re there you can also check out the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Fort Gaines, and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. This is considered one of the best things to do in Gulf shores and on the Alabama Coast.

5. Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail

Things to do in Gulf Shores
Things to do in Gulf Shores

Seven trails make up more than 15 miles of the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail complex. Great for walking and even better for hiking, the trails run from Gulf Shores through Gulf State Park into Orange Beach. Here you can spot wildlife, cross the waterways, and indulge a butterfly house while getting your exercise. Bike rides are one of the best things to do in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

6. The Wharf — Things to Do in Gulf Shores

Things to do in Orange Beach

Every beach town has a mega-shopping complex with arcades, coffee shops, candy stores, etc. The Wharf is a diminutive, two-story commerce center with a large movie theater and a Ferris Wheel. The facility is charming and a pleasant assortment of stores are represented.

Have you ever visited the Florida Panhandle, aka, the Emerald Coast? It is amazing!! Be sure to check it out our article, Emerald Coast Florida: A Complete Guide.

7. Gulf Shores Museum

Gulf Shores Museum
things to do in Gulf Shores

The history of G.S. is interesting, and the city has collected the stories and swag and assembled them in once, small place. It takes about an hour to peruse. We found the hurricane history and the Frank Brown Songwriters Festival to be some of the more interesting exhibits at the Gulf Shores Museum.

8. Souvenir City

Things to do in Gulf Shores

I mean, it’s a big souvenir shop. So BIG that it deserves a mention here. If you want a t-shirt, key chain, sticker, short-chair for the beach, boogie board, you name it, they have it at Souvenir City.

An Honest Conclusion for Things to Do in Gulf Shores

Things to do in Gulf Shores
Things to do in Gulf Shores

We found G.S., Alabama to be one of the cleanest beach towns we’ve ever visited. The people were clean, the streets were clean, even the touristy nonsense was clean. So many USA beach towns are run-down, druggie havens that it was a welcomed surprise to see Alabama has kept it classy on the coast.

The beaches were beautiful. Gulf State Park was a fantastic place to base our getaway.

While G.S. is one of the best things to do on the Alabama Coast (link to another article), we especially enjoyed the neighboring town of Orange Beach. We provide a few additional details about the surrounding area, so if you’re looking to come to Gulf Shores or Orange Beach we recommend reading the Best Things to do in Orange Beach.

We typically vacation in Destin, Florida (link). This time we decided to give Gulf Shores a chance and it did not disappoint. If you would like to read our compare/contrast between the Alabama Coast and the Florida Panhandle, check out our Redneck Riviera Review. We think you’ll like it.

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

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