Best things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama

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When you’re talking the best things to do in Gulf Shores, Alabama, you’ll likely start with family beach activities like playing in the surf, long walks along the shoreline, building sand castles and playing catch. The wide sandy beaches of Gulf Shores are perfect for that! 

Birds flying overhead as people walk along the beach in Gulf Shores Alabama.

But, there’s lots more than water activities on the Alabama Gulf Coast to do on your fun family beach vacation. Whether looking for rainy day activities, outdoor activities besides the beach or family friendly attractions like mini golf, we’ve got you covered in this guide of the best things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama.

Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park is regularly rated one of the best state parks in Alabama, and for good reason. Encompassing more than 6,000 acres, you’ll never run out of things to do at Gulf State Park. The park offers overnight accommodations, an onsite restaurant, miles of hiking and biking trails, a golf course, fishing lakes and easy access to the Gulf of Mexico where park goers can enjoy boating, swimming, fishing and even educational programs to learn more about local plants, animals and the ecosystems of the area.

Gulf State Park headquarters and information center with pink blooming azalea out front.

Budget travelers will appreciate the free bike rental program at the park, which park visitors can use to explore the miles of the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail throughout the park.

Bicycle Share Station at Gulf State Park.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Famously known as The Little Zoo That Could, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo moved to a larger space at considerably less risk of flooding from hurricanes a few years ago. Moving an entire zoo is not an easy task, but I can say that having visited both sites, the new location is a tremendous improvement. The animals have more space, and visitor amenities are much improved, as well.

Entrance to the new location for the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, a large building with water feature out front.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the zoo staff’s dedication to animal care. I spoke with one of the zoo keepers who shared that she most loves providing a healthy, stimulating environment for the animals, many of whom came to the zoo after being injured in the wild or abandoned as babies. She feels that educating the public while training the animals to participate in their own care are two of the most rewarding parts of her job.

Lemur at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo photo by Karen Dawkins.
Look at that cute little guy!

The zoo has also added an onsite restaurant, Savanna, which has the absolute best blue waldorf salad, loaded with blue cheese, apples, blueberries and walnuts, in Gulf Shores! I highly recommend enjoying lunch here after visiting the zoo.

Blue waldorf salad at Savanna at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo.

The zoo’s new address is 20499 Oak Rd E, Gulf Shores, Alabama.


Besides using the free bikes available at Gulf State Park, there are lots of bike rental companies in Gulf Shores and nearby Orange Beach. There are bike lanes and a number of bike trails to enjoy beyond the state park, so biking is an easy way to get around in Gulf Shores. With a combination of bike lanes and multi-use trails, it’s truly easy to get around the area on bike. Avid bikers can use the connector trails to get to Fort Morgan and Orange Beach as well.

Tiki’s Bike Rentals offer a wide selection of bikes that you can reserve online. Prices are $25/day and $90 for 4-7 days. If you prefer an e-bike, Gulf Shores Bike Rentals offers a half day rental for $50 and a full day rental for $75. Coyote Beach Rentals is another option for bikes, e-bikes, scooters and slingshots. Or, if you prefer, bring your own!

Waterville USA

Open seasonally, Waterville USA is loads of fun for the whole family. With water slides, a wave pool and a lazy river, the kids can play all day. But, even when it’s not warm enough for the water park, there are other amusements to entertain the whole family like an escape room, trampoline park, mini golf and race track to name a few. Single day tickets begin at $28.95.

PRO TIP: Waterville USA is busiest on Saturdays, so go midweek to avoid the crowds.

The Track

One of my daughter’s all-time favorite things to do in Gulf Shores is enjoying The Track amusements, like go kart racing and arcade games. There’s also a sky coaster, mini golf and kids’ rides for the little ones. Take my daughter’s advice, parents, and join in on the fun! Take a turn racing around the track or challenge your youngster to the best score at the arcade. It’s more fun when mom and dad race, too.

Mom and daughter in go carts at The Track in Gulf Shores.
Racing my daughter at The Track

PRO TIP: Check online before you go for package deals you can’t get at the door!

Mini Golf

Would it be a family friendly beach destination without mini golf? I don’t think so! And, there are lots of miniature golf places in Gulf Shores to enjoy on your family vacation.

  • Pirates Island Adventure at 3201 Gulf Shores Pkwy offers monthly online specials and a savings coupon where kids under 12 play free with a paying adult.
  • Jurassic Golf at 3800 Gulf Shores Pkwy is an indoor, blacklight mini golf course, great for rainy days. Discount offered on same day second game.
  • Zooland Mini Golf at 1204 Gulf Shores Pkwy isn’t fancy, but it’s $10/ages 12+ and $5/under 12 for all you care to play. The course is fairly well shaded by oak trees and great fun for cheap!


Of course, shopping makes the list for beach vacation fun. There are lots of souvenir shops throughout Gulf Shores to find a beach t-shirt, koozies and fridge magnets. But, there are some nicer shops, too. For fun, head to Souvenir City at 217 Gulf Shores Pkwy to shop at the shark! I stopped in on my last trip to the beach for a silly selfie, and I chatted with a grandma waiting on her four grandkids who she let loose inside. She might still be waiting on them! HA!

Silly selfie in front of the shark entrance at Souvenir City in Gulf Shores Alabama.

For clothing, I recommend Tiki Island Boutique at 517 Gulf Shores Pkwy. I got to meet the owner and a couple of the staff when I was last in town, and her daughter is responsible for most of their “32 Mile Island” designs. It’s a charming shop run by a friendly, helpful staff.

Gray hat with "32 Mi Island" on front.

Though, there are lots more places to shop in Gulf Shores. I just haven’t been everywhere yet!

Kayak and Paddleboard rentals

I’ve gone this far without talking about water sports, and that’s just a shame! I learned to paddleboard in Gulf Shores many years ago. I loved it so much, I came home and bought my own board! I love spending quiet summer mornings paddling on the lake near my home.

There are lots of places to rent kayaks and paddleboards in Gulf Shores, on Wolf Bay, in Fort Morgan and in Orange Beach. And, there are lots more watersports activities, too, like snorkeling, jet skiing and parasailing to name a few.

Use this guide to find convenient kayak and paddleboard rentals near where you’re staying.

And, this guide to water activities in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach can help you explore all the other fun options available to you!

Fishing Charters

I’ll be honest, I don’t see a fishing charter in my vacation future, but I do appreciate that many people enjoy a great fishing charter on vacation. And, many of the local restaurants will cook your fresh catch for you to enjoy at dinnertime. So, for all you fishermen and fisherwomen out there, here’s a guide to the fishing charters offered in Gulf Shores.

Fishing charter boats at the marina at dusk.

And here’s a guide to the many restaurants that will cook your fresh catch to order for you! While I don’t see myself on a fishing charter anytime in the near (or distant) future, I have eaten at many of these Gulf Shores restaurants, and I know the food is great! I can only imagine how delicious your fresh catch would be!

Magni Gyro Flight

For a truly unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime flight over the beach from Gulf Shores to Fort Morgan, where you’ll see dolphins, sharks, rays and the most incredible aerial views of the dunes and Fort Morgan, schedule a Magni Gyro Flight.

Lady with headphones on in a Magni Gyro Plane.

I got to enjoy a hosted flight my last visit to Gulf Shores, and it was amazing! A Magni Gyro is a gyroplane that looks like a helicopter, but isn’t. These lightweight, two person gyroplanes use the overhead rotor for balance, but are rear propelled and take off and land like a plane. I could not believe the views I saw as we flew over Fort Morgan and the beautiful gulf waters.

To see my experience, head over to my Instagram feed at Family Travels on a Budget for a reel of the full experience.. It was absolutely incredible.

When planning a beach vacation, I hope you’ll consider all the great things to do in Gulf Shores Alabama and give it a try! They have all the great beach fun you could want with biking trails, mini golf, boating, kayaking and wide sandy beaches. Add in the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and great restaurants, and it’s even better.

BUT, there is one thing that makes Gulf Shores stand out from any other beach destination I have visited — and why it’s my favorite place for a beach vacation — the friendliness of the people who live here. It’s just part of the Gulf Shores DNA. Everyone is so genuinely friendly, it’s a truly relaxing place to go. Even driving in Gulf Shores is easy, because people don’t rush. They go the speed limit. They don’t run red lights. They ease off the gas if you use your turn signal to change lanes. It’s safe. It’s friendly. It’s clean. They’re nice. It’s what makes Gulf Shores (and Orange Beach) so very special.