The beautiful coastal waters of Gulf Shores are a sure sight when you visit Alabama.
It is a suitable vacation spot for families looking to spend their holidays near the waters.
This town is famous for its scenic view, beaches, and deep sea fishing, which makes it ideal for many outdoor activities.
You’ll see that they offer everything from family-friendly to a fun night-out activity.
The various activities in Gulf Shores will complete your family vacation whether you want to spend it indoors or outdoors.
You’ll appreciate the rich history and wildlife as you visit different spots like parks and museums.
This article will show you more if you are looking for the best things to do in Gulf Shores.
Where is Gulf Shores, Alabama?
You can find Gulf Shores in the southmost part of Alabama, near the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
Along with Orange Beach and Fort Morgan, Gulf Shores has beautiful beaches with many beach access.
Despite being a famous tourist spot, it is still a peaceful and charming city where you can enjoy your private time.
You can easily access Gulf Shores by driving through the I-65 and I-10 lanes if you are from Southern states.
Related Reading: Top Airbnbs In Gulf Shores, AL – Click Here To Learn More.
20 Things to Do in Gulf Shores
Gulf Shores is the best place to create beautiful memories with your family and friends.
They have so much to offer besides the beach, and you’ll fall in love with the city’s charms.
Here are 20 things to do in Gulf Shores and near its area to maximize your family trip.
Gulf Shores Public Beach
The list starts with Gulf Shores Public Beach, a signature tourist spot in the city.
It has beach bars, volleyball courts, and open-air pavilions so you can create great memories.
The rates are affordable for all-day access to the beach, where you can also park your cars to unload your stuff conveniently.
They also have restrooms and rinse showers so you wouldn’t have to hold on to that uncomfortable after-swimming feeling.
They ensure everyone, even those on wheelchairs, can easily access the beach, so they have four beach mats.
The first one is on East Gulf Place, with parking and beach access exclusive to Gulf Shores residents.
Meanwhile, Gulf Place, near Hangout Restaurant, stretches up to 100 feet long.
The third beach mat is at Bathhouse, located at 101 West Beach Blvd. extends up to 100 feet long.
Finally, West Gulf Place also has parking and beach access 200 feet long.
Visit: 101 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores, AL
The Hangout Gulf Shores
The Hangout will welcome you with live entertainment and delicious food if you want a great place to dine in.
Everyone can Hangout at The Hangout, even kids, because they have games, a foam pit, a sandbox, and more.
The Hangout is a full-service entertainment restaurant open for everyone, especially families.
They serve fresh local seafood recipes and Gulf Coast-inspired dishes, so you taste the Gulf Coast with you.
Aside from food, The Hangout is famous for its live music because they host a music festival for everyone to join.
It is a whole entertainment district with retail shops, mermaid bars, braiding stations, henna tattoos, live music, and more.
Visit: 101 E Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL
Gulf State Park
Gulf State Park has almost every outdoor activity that you can do, like swimming, paddling, biking, and hiking.
They have a two-mile beach with campgrounds to enjoy the white sand while appreciating the natural view.
They also have indoor lodging if you prefer staying indoors, but you can still access their different outdoor amenities.
Aside from water activities, they also have a Nature Center that offers educational programs to educate you on different animals and plants.
You can also visit their butterfly garden, which has many beautiful flowers, while you bike on their Backcountry trail.
Anyone of all ages can find something to enjoy in Gulf State park, regardless of their interests.
And if you want to explore other nearby attractions, you can go to the USS Alabama, Weeks Bay Reserve, Meaher State Park, and more.
Visit: 20115 State Park Rd, Gulf Shores, AL
Gulf State Park Pier
Despite Hurricane Sally hitting the Gulf State Park Pier, it recovered at least halfway and is now open to the public.
The Pier features a filet table with several bathrooms to enjoy fishing and sightseeing comfortably.
With the Natural Resources and Alabama Department of Conservation efforts, The Pier received enough support to start its repairs.
The operable parts of the Pier are open to guests so they can still enjoy a quiet time to appreciate the view and fish.
They are open 24/7, but the staff on duty only work from 6 am to 6 pm.
You can pay the fees using the honor box system they prepared in case the staff is out.
A concessionaire also operates until 5:30 pm, where you can buy snacks, drinks, and food.
For your fishing needs, the Bait and Tackle Shop is open from 7 am to 4 pm, but their schedules may be subject to change.
People who enjoy fishing can freely explore their 725 feet fishing space on either side of the Pier.
Finally, The Pier also has rest areas where you can do retail shopping for fishing equipment and souvenirs and read about wildlife information.
Visit: 20800 E Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL
Gulf State Park Pavillion
The Beach Pavilion in Gulf State park is one of the best places to enjoy the beach while having private time.
The place has complete equipment like a concession stand, bathrooms, showers, ramps, and picnic tables.
Anyone can access the Pavilion during operating hours from 7 am until sunset seven days a week.
They also have parking spaces for those who come with a car, and you can pay at Parking Pay Stations.
The parking rates range from $3 to $100 depending on your vehicle type and how long you stay.
Visit: 22250 E Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
Little Zoo, or Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, is another famous family-friendly destination in Gulf Shores.
It is a non-profit park that shelters about 200 species, more than 30 sub-species, and eight endangered animal species.
If you are coming from the beach, the zoo is just six miles away, so you can easily travel to and from places.
Entering the zoo is like entering an oasis full of exotic animals like monkeys, peacocks, giraffes, tigers, and more.
The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is 25 acres wide with broad tracks that let you see animals up close.
They also have benches, picnic areas, souvenir shops, and a restaurant within the zoo so you can rest and eat without leaving.
The zoo is also highly accessible for all ages and mobility because anyone on wheels can easily navigate the park.
It will give kids an informative and interactive animal experience and the elders a peaceful site to chat and relax.
Visit: 20499 Oak Rd E, Gulf Shores, AL
Waterville US is a 20-acre water park with escape rooms and an amusement park for all ages.
It is near the beach and has different new and improved attractions that will complete your Gulf Shores experience.
They offer different packages like the general admission ticket or their Season Pass so that you can plan your whole day with them.
If you love riding go-cards, they also have a Nascar Go-Karts attraction where you can avail of their single ride passes.
Visit: 906 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores, AL
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a 7,000-acre habitat for neotropical migratory birds and endangered species.
The place is a migrating stopover and a natural habitat for some bird species through fall and spring on the Alabama shoreline.
You can consider the place the last safe harbor, tranquil, and a large refuge for animals and plants.
While Gulf Shores continue to improve, the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge remains a natural oasis amidst it.
Visit: 12295 AL-180, Gulf Shores, AL
Pink Pony Pub
Pink Pony Pub is a beachfront restaurant and bar for all the 21 years old and up with pink all over its exterior.
It is hard to miss their place because of their color and painted Pink Pony Pub logo outside.
Despite being on the beachfront, it survived various disasters like hurricanes, the establishment of condominiums, spring breakers, and more.
It may not be a prominent fancy place, but the pink building is a legendary site when visiting Gulf Shores.
You can try their Gulf Shores seafood and tasty burgers, which will exceed your expectations for a beach bar.
During the night, they have live music to rev up your beach nightlife while you dance inside or outside the bar.
If you prefer to stay outdoors, they have a wooden deck that looks out to the sea while you enjoy their food on the picnic tables.
You can bring along kids until 9 pm before the live music starts so they can also enjoy their food and beachfront experience.
Their burgers, seafood, gumbos, buffalo wings, chicken fingers, and sandwiches are best with their drinks.
Visit: 137 E Gulf Pl, Gulf Shores, AL
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail
The Backcountry Trail back in Gulf State Park has many tracks for you to try, all with complete parking and trail access.
They also have six restrooms scattered around the trails and two water fountains near the tracks.
The Backcountry Trails is at the trail system hub, where you can find four trails connected.
This intersection features the Butterfly Garden, where you can find different butterfly species and charming flowers.
You can see them in their best state during the sprint to fall, so you can take a seat at their swing and admire them.
They also host informative shows that educate visitors about nature and the environment while you enjoy a picnic.
For the kids, they can try rock climbing at the Bouldering Park, which is near the Pavilion and Rosemary Dune Trail.
The hiking trails let you walk, bike, or skate through them so you can enjoy the beauty of nature at your pace.
If you want a guide, you can avail a two-hour eco-tour that teaches you about the area’s history, wildlife, and plants.
Aside from trailing, the place also has a camping area under the tall pines called Outpost.
Their three campsites have tents on an elevated rustic floor with cots, fire pits, and a pump sink.
Visit: 3801 Orange Beach Blvd., Orange Beach, AL
Bahama Bob’s Beach Side Cafe
Bahama Bob’s Beach Side Cafe offers the best beach dining experience in Gulf Shores with their best seafood and American cuisine.
Their best menu is their seafood, gumbo, and fries which many customers also enjoyed because of their quick customer service.
The cafe’s name came from the story of Bob’s sailboat that almost sank when a hurricane hit it during a treasure hunt in the Bahamas.
He celebrated life after his near-death experience by partying for three days and traveling to different places.
Then he met his old friends from Gulf Shores, who convinced him to start building “a little slice of Island living” on West Beach.
Visit: 601 W Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL
Sea N Suds
Sea N Suds is a restaurant that started in an old bait shop in 1975 because of the founders’ love for seafood.
Gerald King and his two classmates wanted a place for guests to visit regularly for seafood, lively chat, and a cold drink.
Sea n Suds nestles on the beachfront of the Gulf of Mexico, so you have a good view of the sunset and waves.
This family-friendly restaurant serves a seafood menu like Shrimp Sandwich and Fried Crab Claws.
Because the owners are seafood enthusiasts, you can ensure that you get quality dishes and fan favorites.
They also take pride in their gumbo, a family-style cooking style from Grandma Sellers.
Their gumbo recipe runs through generations after generations for 200 years and is a staple menu in Sea N Suds.
Visit: 405 E Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL
Craft Farms Golf Club
You can never miss a chance to play golf wherever you are.
That’s why Craft Farms Golf Club is here to indulge you.
Craft Farms is an excellent place for a golf outing, whether a local or a tourist.
You can imagine how relaxing and beautiful it is to play while you have the sunshine and white beaches in view.
Arnold Palmer built his signature courses at Craft Farms because of the fantastic white sand Gulf Shores beaches.
Your golf game is undoubtedly an unforgettable experience because of the rich nature and environment.
Aside from playing golf, the place is also open for any event reservations like weddings, birthdays, and more.
The magnificent view and accommodating staff will make any special event even more special and unforgettable.
If you are starving, the golf club also has a bar and grill restaurant that serves contemporary American cuisine.
Visit: 3840 Cotton Creek Cir, Gulf Shores, AL
Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf
Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf will give you an experience like no other with their unique gold courses.
The park features expedition-like miniature golf courses that can test your skills with the feeling of going on an adventure.
You can board their Queen Anne’s Revenge treasure ship with two caves full of gold and jewels.
The fun thing about their mini golf courses is that you can find them over streams, on top of a mountain, in tropical landscapes, and more.
There is never a dull-looking course, and you’ll have different difficulty levels every time you play.
You will also love their clean restrooms, excellent customer service, and magnificent landscape.
All of their courses are unique and entertaining for all members of the family and all skill levels.
Visit: 3201 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores, AL
The Track – Gulf Shores
The Track is more than just Go-Kart tracks, but it is a whole amusement park experience for the family.
The park offers fun rides like Blaster Boats, Skycoaster, Spinning Coaster, Mini Golf, Kids Country Rides, and Go-Kart Tracks.
Their highlight is the Fat Daddy’s Arcade, 5,000 square feet wide and indoor fun with various games and prizes.
They have classic arcade games like basketball, claw machine, and 50 more that you can play with your point card.
Their Go-Karts are open for all ages and have three levels for different tracks like the Family Track and the Kiddie & Rookie Tracks.
Visit: 3200 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores, AL
The Little Lagoon Pass Park is a sightseeing spot where you can also pass by to access the beach.
It is a perfect spot for a beach vacation with the family because it has complete amenities like parking, restrooms, and rinse showers.
The Little Lagoon is another place to search for different bird species like gulls, terns, pelicans, and shorebirds.
It stretches 10 miles long, and its water is mainly from the freshwater of Lake Shelby and saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico.
Gulf Shores Museum
Gulf Shores Museum is a place for people who want to know the history of this coastal town, its people, and more.
There are various exhibits that people can visit; some are special ones that you only get to see once.
They also host events and films for children and adults so they can learn more about Gulf Shores.
Initially, the museum was in West Beach and was a beach cottage during pre-World War II.
The Gulf Shores Museum rose with the help of donations from various families and organizations as part of their contribution to the community.
Visit: 244 W 19th Ave, Gulf Shores, AL
De Soto’s Seafood Kitchen
De Soto’s Seafood Kitchen is an award-winning restaurant that serves fresh seafood, pasta, steak, salad, and more.
Their lunch specials include chicken, hamburger steak, baked rolls, sides, ham, and seafood.
Meanwhile, the dinner they serve comprises appetizers, chicken, pasta, and Ribeye steak.
You can choose to have your seafood grilled, steamed, fried, broiled, blackened, or with Cajun sauce.
You can also have their seafood menu in Pecan Encrusted Style, along with Caribbean and Mediterranean.
If you feel a little fancy, you can add wine and desserts to your meal.
Your stomach will be completely satisfied once you try their homemade meals and excellent customer service.
Visit: 138 W 1st Ave, Gulf Shores, AL
Ike’s Beach Service
Ike’s Beach Service offers different beach equipment you can rent while on vacation.
Some of their rentals include umbrellas, beach chairs, paddle boards, kayaks, wheelchairs, and more.
You can easily find their store at West Beach Blvd., and many people enjoy availing of their services.
You can say that they are Gulf Shores vacation essentials because they have all that you need.
Their staff even put effort into cleaning trash and debris from the sand, especially during peak season.
Not only are they a family-owned business, but they are clean-up volunteers and donors to keep the coast healthy.
Visit: 800 W Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL
Wade Ward Nature Park
Wade Ward Nature Park is near the main public beach if you want to see some natural wetlands and waterways.
Amidst the commercial buildings along the Gulf Shores coastline, you’ll find a hidden treasure of Gulf Shores’ nature.
You may sightsee on the elevated boardwalk while overlooking the wetlands that connect Little Lagoon and Lake Shelby.
There are animals like pelicans and otters in the area, and on rare occasions, alligators hunt for food in shallow waters.
It is a part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, which means many local and migrating birds drop by in this area.
Visit: 500 Gulf Shores Pkwy, Gulf Shores, AL
Related Reading: Beaches Of Gulf Shores Alabama – Learn More Here.
How to Go to Gulf Shores?
Gulf Shores is a very accessible city, whether you want to go by car, ferry, or airplane.
The travel time is fast, and you’ll get into your family vacation spot.
Here are some standard modes of transportation if you are planning to visit Gulf Shores.
By Land – Baldwin and Foley Beach Express
If you prefer driving, you can take the Baldwin Beach Express for a more efficient trip.
It allows all vehicles to pass through, even large ones for those who come in big groups.
Most people drive on I-65 or I-10 that crosses Alabama and down Highway 59, but the Beach Express is a better route.
You must take the Bay Minetter exit 37 and continue south until you reach I-10.
The east of I-10 will lead you to Pensacola until exit 53 in Baldwin Beach Express.
You need to prepare the money to pay the toll, but you’ll reach your destination faster because of fewer stoplights.
By Sea – Mobile Bay Ferry
Many schedules on Mobile Bay Ferry can take you from Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan.
From there, you can quickly drive towards Gulf Shores and enjoy the view that comes with it.
You may check Mobile Bay Ferry’s website to see the available dates and where they load passengers.
By Air – Jack Edwards National Airport
Traveling by air is your best option if you live far and want to visit Gulf Shores’ irresistible charms.
Jack Edwards National Airport is the nearest airport to Gulf Shores, approximately 2.5 miles away.
You may want to check the available flights and airline options because it is a small airport.
But they are currently on their way to constructing a giant terminal by 2023 to cater to more tourists.
Other nearby airports may offer more options, namely Pensacola International Airport and the Mobile Regional Airport.
It may not be as near as JKA, but you can still quickly drive from the airports to Gulf Shores in no time.
Related Reading: Best Scuba Diving Spots At Gulf Shores – Find Out Here.
How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Gulf Shore Vacation?
Gulf Shores has everything you need for a vacation for yourself or your family.
However, you may find some destinations to be expensive, and you are on a tight budget.
Don’t fret because you can still have fun if you know how to plan a budget-friendly trip.
This section will help you plan your vacation to get the best deals.
Booking Your Stay
Depending on your budget, you can find different accommodations in the beach town, from condos to beach houses.
It may be best to reserve directly to the properties instead of third-party platforms because you’ll find more significant discounts.
Most of the coastal properties are from the locals, so you also get tips on spending your vacation appropriately.
Before your visit, it is crucial to plan everything, whether you are going to indoor or outdoor activities.
You’ll find that there are affordable attractions, and some are even free in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and nearby areas.
The list above has a lot of budget-friendly rates, and you may want to check which fits your budget.
Additionally, when you book rentals ahead of time, you’ll most likely get the best rates compared to walk-ins.
Not only are you saving yourself from the inconvenience of walk-ins during peak season, but you’re also saving a lot.
One thing you can’t skip when traveling is trying out food from local restaurants.
However, some tend to overspend when it comes to dining because they want to try everything as much as possible.
Luckily, there are a lot of budget-friendly restaurants in the city, and they even have happy hours to save you money.
You may want to avail yourself of coupons and deals while ordering food, primarily online.
Avoid Peak Season
Summer is the peak season because of the pristine white sands and water.
You’ll expect many people to visit at this period, so it is best to avoid it if possible.
Summer rates can also be expensive, so you may consider planning an offseason trip.
Aside from the beaches, there is still a lot to see, so you know you still have much to do.
Stay Off Beach Views
While having your accommodation directly in front of the beach view is tempting, you need to know that it can be expensive.
The farther you are from the beachfront, the cheaper your rentals can be.
You can always admire the view when visiting the beach and other attractions.
Things To Do In Gulf Shores – FAQs
While most of the activities in Gulf Shores are kid-friendly, there are specific places where kids can have extra fun.
The Hangout, Waterville USA, Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf, The Track, and Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo may be the best spots for them.
You can also unleash your inner child while you play games, explore animals, and eat delicious food while joining them.
Mardi Gras is an annual celebration and series of festivities to prepare for the start of the Lent season.
Each year, various parades stroll down the streets of Alabama colorful decorations, live music, and more.
In Gulf Shores, they host parades during Mardi Gras with nearby cities like Mobile for a fun experience for everyone.
Gulf Shores will not be without its famous waters, so you’ll need your beach essentials.
You may pack a beach bag with an extra change of clothes, sunscreen, towels, hat, sunglasses, and more.
But you can also bring a first aid kit, extra storage for your souvenirs, and lip balm to keep you moisturized.
If you are coming in by air, do not forget your passport and other receipts so you can travel in and out hassle-free.
To fully appreciate the beach in Gulf Shores, visiting the city from March to May and September to November is best.
They have the best weather for any of your summer plans while you also explore other places.
But if you want to go during summer, you must anticipate that many people will also see it.
You may want to book your accommodation and rentals ahead to get the best units and rates.
Related Reading: Beach Rentals In Gulf Shores – Check Out Here.
It is effortless to look for fun things to do in Gulf Shores, and it will be extra special because of new memories.
There are many things to try, whether you feel a little adventurous or want to chill.
Gulf Shores is the best place for a balance of relaxation, excitement, and healing of your soul.
While the city is famous for its pristine waters, the wildlife, outdoor activities, and restaurants are still worth trying.
So take this guide and hopefully add it to your Gulf Shores plan to experience every bit of the city.