11 Cool Things to Do in Gulf Shores Alabama

Things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama include visiting the spectacular Alabama Beaches, exploring Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, and dining at amazing Alabama coast restaurants.

While in Gulf Shores Alabama, be sure to savor luscious, soft, white, sugar sand US Gulf Coast Beaches, explore historic and natural attractions, and experience one of USA’s most unique adventure activities. More about these Gulf Shores activities appear below.

Thank you to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism for hosting us.

Where is Gulf Shores Alabama?

Visitors to Gulf Shores and Alabama Beaches can arrive by plane into Pensacola or Mobile Alabama airports. Driving to Gulf Shores Alabama is super easy. Gulf Shores is 35 miles south of the I-10 highway and about 33 miles from downtown Pensacola, Florida.

Gulf Shores Alabama map from LiveBeaches.com
Gulf Shores Alabama map from LiveBeaches.com

Cool Things To Do in Gulf Shores Alabama

1. Visit Alabama Beaches

Most of the fun activities in the Gulf Shores area center around their beaches so I will start there. The soft white sugar sand draws visitors—human and animals—all year round.

savor the soft sugar sand in Gulf Shores AL
one of the top things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama is to spend time on the spectacular beaches

One of the most memorable things to do in Gulf Shores AL is seeing scintillating US Gulf Coast sunsets and sunrises.

gorgeous sunrise in Gulf Shores AL
make time for sunrise and sunset in Gulf Shores Alabama

2. Soar Above the Alabama Beaches

Be a human drone and fly 1,000 feet above Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Gary at BeachFlight Aviation owns and operates this gyroplane, providing scenic tours and flight instruction. I myself flew this super fun craft for about 20 minutes but who was counting.

Watch the video of me flying over Gulf Shores.

3. Explore Gulf State Park

Checking out the 25 miles of hiking and biking trails in Gulf State Park are one of the best things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama. Rent bicycles from Beach Bike Rentals to easily explore the magnificent park. Yes, there are several alligators.

See our photo posing next to a gator there. Do not worry, that water is not bloody or even dirty. Many waterways in southern Alabama and throughout the southern United States have that iced tea tint.

things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
free range gators can be found in Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama

McCool Travel tip: keep your rental bicycle between you and the gators you photograph.

For more gator fun, please read about Greenwood Gator Farm in Houma Louisiana.

4. #LiquidRoadTrip Fun Water Activities

The newest way to enjoy the water on the Alabama Beaches is a night kayak trip with Sea View Tours out of Caribe Marina in Orange Beach. Paddle in a glow in the dark clear kayak from the marina to Robinson Island where the real fun then begins.

Your guide—we had the fun and personable Zion—proceeds to find ghost crabs, which guests are welcome to try and catch (careful, they pinch) or hermit crabs.

glow kayaks in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Alabama
enjoy a glow kayak night paddle along the Alabama coast

You can also rent their clear kayaks during the day for another fantastic experience. Hopefully you will see fish, crabs, and maybe dolphins.

Y’all know Flora-Bama is a fun place, right? Did you know that you can rent boats and Waverunners there? We recently spent a super fun afternoon ripping through the intracoastal waters of Old River between Perdido Key and Ono Island. Rent your craft from Flora-Bama Marina and Watersports and have a super fun liquid road trip experience.

Waverunner rental from Flora-Bama
rent a Jetski/Waverunner from Flora-Bama Marina and Watersports

US Gulf Coast tip: be sure to return to Flora-Bama the same way you left because going around Ono Island at idle speed is very long, monotonous, and frustrating (trust me!).

While our WildNative Tours guide set up our kayaks, dolphins jumped in the water right in front of us.

things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
kayaking is one of the most fun things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama

It is always a nice day when I am on the water. It was really fun to explore nooks and crannies in the Gulf Shores Alabama area.

For more cool kayaking places, please read Fun Kayak Spots in US.

5. Hike Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

While driving to Fort Morgan, make sure you allow time to hike the Jeff Friend Trail in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The one mile loop trail is a lovely oasis highlighted by Little Lagoon, a popular place to bird watch.

Jeff Friend Trail, Bon SecourNational Wildlife Refuge in Alabama
Jeff Friend Trail, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Alabama

The above scene at Bon Secour NWR is one of our top Gulf Coast Photo Locations For Fun Instagrammable Shots.

6. Explore Fort Morgan

After your Alabama National Park property hike in Bon Secour, drive to the end of the peninsula and visit Fort Morgan. The classic fort, built before 1833, protected Mobile Bay during several wars and is now a state historic site. Take time to visit the museum, walk the fort walls, and check out the vistas. During our short visit, a super tanker left Mobile Bay, which provided a grad show for everyone within sight.

historic Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores Alabama. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
historic Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores Alabama

7. Have Fun at Flora-bama

Flora-bama Lounge and Oyster Bar is a classic roadhouse style bar known for live music and good times. It has been selected Best Bar in US and Best Beach Bar several times by different entities. See our Flora-bama photo.

So, yes, you simply must visit Florabama to see what the fuss is about whether for its biggest event, the Mullet Toss, or surprise …

McCool Travel tip: Flora-bama hosts church services every Sunday at 9am and 11am, and it is not unusual to attend service with a frosty adult beverage (a Flora-bama Bushwhacker is the popular choice).

Bushwhacker at Flora-Bama church
Bushwhacker at Flora-Bama church

8. The Hangout in Gulf Shores

Right at the intersection of highway 59 and Beach Blvd is the place many people go to hangout, especially during Gulf Shores Spring Break when it is open until 2:30am. In fact, the place is called The Hangout and is a restaurant, live music venue, and overall fun spot. Here are The Hangout menus and upcoming events at The Hangout.

9. The Wharf in Orange Beach

The Wharf Orange Beach is a massive entertainment, retail, residential, and marina space. See all the biggest shows along the Alabama coast at The Wharf, in its 10,000 seat amphitheater. Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Chesney performed in April 2019. See all events at The Wharf and a listing of The Wharf restaurants.

10. Where to Eat in Gulf Shores Alabama

See also our favorite top Orange Beach restaurants.

Local Gulf Shores cuisine experiences we love include eating Royal reds (local shrimp) at The Steamer, sampling craft beer at Big Beach Brewing, dining on fresh grilled seafood and rum drinks at LuLu’s (Jimmy Buffett’s sister), local BBQ (amazing) at Hog Wild, and happy hour at Bill’s by the Beach (now closed).

Royal Reds at The Steamer in Gulf Shores AL. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
Royal Reds shrimp at The Steamer in Gulf Shores AL
cool beer taps at Big Beach Brewing in Gulf Shores AL. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel.
try local craft beer at Big Beach Brewing in Gulf Shores AL

On our way out of Gulf Shores, heading toward Pensacola, Ruby Slipper in Orange Beach for brunch was an amazing treat. See a photo of our Ruby Slipper breakfast.

We attended a NUISANCE dinner at Voyagers, at Perdido Beach Resort in Orange Beach, under the direction of Chef Brody Olive. NUISANCE raises awareness of flora and fauna which are a nuisance, underutilized or invasive, but sustainable and available through noble, culinary endeavors. In other words, our meal included ingredients that are not friendly to the local environment, like oyster drills and venison. That was a unique Alabama beaches dining experience.

seared Gulf blackfin tuna and quail egg at Voyagers in Orange Beach Alabama
seared Gulf blackfin tuna and quail egg at Voyagers in Orange Beach Alabama

11. Where to Stay in Gulf Shores Alabama

Lodging along Alabama beaches varies from campsites to luxury hotels in Gulf Shores AL. Harris Properties and Southern Vacation Rentals hosted us in convenient 2 bedroom condos in beachfront buildings. One US Gulf Coast play to stay for my next Alabama Beaches trip will be The Lodge at Gulf State Park. I toured the property soon after it opened and it is magnificent.

See also our The Lodge of Gulf State Park review.

Here is a comprehensive list of Gulf Shores AL lodging. Here is an Alabama Beaches luxury condo review.

cloudy sunrise from Gulf Shores Alabama condo
cloudy sunrise from my Southern Vacation condo in Gulf Shores Alabama condo

Another Gulf Shores lodging option is vacation rentals, including condos, apartments, and houses.

Let us know your favorite things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama.

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things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama include the magnificent beach, outdoor activities, amazing places to eat. Alabama Beaches. Orange Beach. Gulf Shores.

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