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When planning a beach vacation for the family, you don’t need to look any further than the Gulf Coast of Alabama! The beaches are some of the best in the country, complete with soft, white sand and clear, warm water. Relax on the beach or pursue outdoor adventure in the surrounding waterways, wetlands, and maritime forest. Throw in some fabulous family entertainment options nearby, and you have the ultimate vacation. Read on to discover all things to do in Gulf Shores, Alabama and why it is a perfect spot for family-friendly beach vacations on the Gulf of Mexico.
Gulf Shores, Alabama Beaches
First and foremost, earmark a significant chunk of time to spend on the beautiful beaches in and around Gulf Shores, Alabama. Beach walks are rejuvenating year round due to mild temperatures in winter and the ocean breeze in summer. The clear, warm gulf water is great for swimming from May through October, with an average water temperature of 80+ degrees June through September! The spring and fall “shoulder” seasons are an ideal time to enjoy everything the area has to offer, because it is cool enough to hike and bike, yet still warm enough to swim.
One of the best ways to enjoy early morning walks or long evening reads on the beach is to stay at an oceanfront resort. The Beach Club by Spectrum Resorts is a large, family-friendly resort where you can spread out in multi-bedroom oceanfront condos. Every condo has a balcony looking out over the endless waves, providing the ultimate in both luxury and convenience.
However, if you can’t stay on the beach, don’t worry! Gulf Shores, Alabama maintains 8 public access points to the beach. The Gulf State Park beach pavilion is another great access point with a large parking lot, interpretive center, and picnic/bathroom facilities.
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The Maritime Forest of Alabama’s Gulf Coast
Watch the tall, Alabama pines morph to sea grass covered dunes right before your eyes as you explore the unique ecosystem of Gulf State Park. Just east of Gulf Shores, the park is one of the last intact maritime forests in coastal Alabama. It encompasses over 6,500 acres of land covered with live oak forest, wet long-leaf pine savanna, freshwater wetlands and lakes, and 2.5 miles of oceanfront beach.
There are 30+ miles of trails and elevated walkways in the park, perfect for exploring by bike. Bike rentals are available at the entrance of the Rosemary Dunes Trail Head and from the park camp store. Don’t miss the 15 miles of trails that go through Gulf Shores and Orange Beach via the Branyon Backcountry Trail.
Never want to leave? Stay in a multi-bedroom cabin or pitch a tent on a campsite here as long as you like. Want to have great access to the park with the amenities of an upscale hotel? The Hotel Indigo Orange Beach-Gulf Shores is located directly on one of the trail heads entering the park.
Outdoor Adventures on Alabama’s Gulf Coast
On either side of the town of Gulf Shores, undeveloped landscape stretches out for miles. Take the opportunity to connect with nature and your family while you are here. There are multiple local outfitters for deep sea fishing, as well as just about every other type of water activity you can dream up.
Kayaking, paddleboarding, and jet skiing are some of the more active pursuits. Parasailing is a great activity to try because it’s a surprisingly smooth, mellow experience. Blue Sky Parasail and Water Sports has several locations in the area and specializes in parasailing and banana boat rides.
Wild Native Tours leads several nature tours, including a 3-hour, guided kayak tour through prime bottlenose dolphin habitat. On this dolphin cruise you may be lucky enough to see dolphins, sea turtles and manatees. You will certainly learn a ton about the animals and their habitat all while getting sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. What’s not to love about that?
Need more thrill? Zoom through the skies on Alabama’s longest zipline course, the Hummingbird. This course begins and ends at The Wharf in Orange Beach and is a 2-hour, guided tour over the coastal wetlands.
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The town of Gulf Shores anchors the region and offers tons of options for eating, shopping, and playing. Additionally, just north, there are several small towns that lend the area loads of southern charm. There are three major entertainment hubs in the area: The Park at OWA, The Wharf at Orange Beach, and Waterville USA.
The Park at OWA is a brand new amusement park, just north of Gulf Shores in the quaint town of Foley, Alabama. It’s clean and comfortable, easy to navigate, and has rides for every age group.
The Wharf at Orange Beach is an entertainment complex. It has everything from shopping and dining venues to a mini-golf course, a Ferris wheel, an amphitheater, and a marina. No doubt your tweens and teens would love to be set loose here for a couple of hours!
Beat the heat at Waterville USA. The waterpark has a wave pool, lazy river, several high-speed water slides, and two differently themed escape rooms. If you haven’t tried an escape room with your family, give it a try, it’s a great bonding activity!
Last but not least, don’t miss a trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo if you have younger children. Known as “The Little Zoo that Grew”, the Gulf Coast Zoo may be small, but it packs a mighty punch with its unique Animal Encounters program. Kids of all ages can get up close and personal with a kangaroo, lemur, reptile, sloth, and anteater. Not too many zoos offer such a unique range of encounters, so this is a “must-do” if you have little animal lovers in the family!