Some of the Best Gulf Beaches Are in Alabama
Some of us can remember when Gulf Shores was a sleepy fishing village with no condos, no music festival, and just a handful of restaurants (one of which was a chicken shack, if memory serves). And Orange Beach? Where’s that?
Today, Alabama beaches are among the state’s most popular tourist destinations, even attracting visitors from other Gulf Coast beaches with surf of their own. While Alabama doesn’t have as much coastline as its neighbors, the 32 miles of white sand and saltwater just south of Mobile are top-notch, offering gorgeous seascapes, abundant wildlife, a laid-back pace, and a family-friendly environment with plenty to see and do. And while all of these beaches are in close proximity, each one has something unique to offer.
Even though it saw major growth after Hurricane Frederic devastated this area in 1979, Gulf Shores still felt like an old school beach town for many years. It has retained some of that character while attracting a new generation of travelers with special events like the Hangout Music Festival and the National Shrimp Festival. The 6500-acre Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores is home to pristine beaches, freshwater lakes, a paved backcountry trail, golf course, popular fishing pier, and more.
Just 7 miles east of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach is condo central, with families flocking here to cart their groceries and boogie boards into their temporary home away from home, and settle in for some serious beach time. It’s the kind of place where you’ll tell the rental guys, “What the heck—we’ll take the chairs and umbrellas for the whole week—we’re on vacation!”
Lots of travelers bypass Dauphin Island—the town and island share the same name—en route to more popular beach burgs, and that’s a good thing for you when you vacation here. This quiet, relaxing community with nary a traffic jam in sight has just over 1,200 residents, so it’s easy to find a spot to call your own. Don’t miss the 164-acre Audubon Bird Sanctuary. And if you need a taste of the city, downtown Mobile is less than an hour away.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
The more development on Alabama’s coast, the more critical places like this breathtaking refuge become. With 7,000 acres of protected lands, Bon Secour (French for “safe harbor”) hosts some 350 documented species of birds, as well as loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, and green sea turtles. It is the only remaining habitat for the endangered Alabama beach mouse. Admission to its trails, beaches, and Little Lagoon (ideal for paddlers) is free. Respect the dunes and the wildlife. (Hint: Bring bring plenty of water and bug spray.)
The actual U.S. Army fort is located at the tip of Scenic Fort Morgan Peninsula, where Mobile Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico. Built between 1819 and 1833, it played a role in four wars, from the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 to the Spanish American War and both World Wars. But this area also features tucked-away beaches that offer relaxation and gorgeous scenery.