Your Guide to Alabama's Gulf State Park—A Coastal Gem You'll Want to Visit Again and Again
Before planning your next beach vacation, consider jumping off the beaten path and letting the wind blow you to Gulf State Park. Tucked right on the coast of Alabama just miles from uber-popular (and pricier) beach towns Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, this Southern natural wonder boasts over 6,000 acres of land that includes a tranquil, barely touched beach away from the crazy crowds down the road and enough outdoor pastimes beyond sunbathing and boogie-boarding to keep everyone entertained. Once primarily open for camping and RVs, the state park now offers lodging on-site that has all the comforts of home.
Gulf State Park just wants visitors to sit back, relax, spend quality time together, and enjoy the bountiful coastal surroundings—including over 100 species of wildlife. (Bird-watching, anyone?) Here's everything to know before heading to Alabama's prized natural gem, where "doing nothing is really something."
What to Do
On a jaunt to Gulf State Park, your agenda can be as packed or scant as you want. Enjoy over two miles of quiet beach, as well as 900-acre Lake Shelby, with favorite activities including swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and lazy lounge chair-sitting. The beach pavilion is a popular spot to take in the scenery, eat some lunch, and enjoy a brief respite from the sun. Throw out a line on the fishing pier, or visit the educational Nature Center to learn about the area's flora and fauna (it's great for kids!). And there are also over 28 miles of hiking and biking trails for those looking for more action, as well as a butterfly garden stocked with plenty of in-season blooms. To summarize, boredom's definitely not something you'll find on your trip. For more information, visit alapark.com.
Where to Stay
Previously most known for its Gulf State Park Campground with almost 500 full-hookup campsites, plus an Outpost of campsites with raised, canvas-covered shelters, front porches, and cots, the state park now also offers modern accommodations for a no-fuss, comfortable stay. The Lodge at Gulf State Park is a newly reconstructed Hilton hotel with a goal of promoting sustainable ecotourism. While looking and operating much like your usual beach resort—the size alone is impressive!—it employs environmentally-friendly operations that support the natural surroundings. Grab a room and some beach chairs, and enjoy the many dining options on site.
Another lodging option includes booking one of the Lakeside Cabins or Eagle Cottages inside the park. These offer a slightly more secluded, serene stay with direct access to all of the outdoor amenities—and some killer views. (Following Hurricane Sally, the Lakeside Cabins are undergoing renovation and will reopen sometime later in 2021. The Eagle Cottages are reopening for booking in May 2021.)
No matter your vacation style, Gulf State Park is a unique Southern destination for those wanting to appreciate Alabama's coastal beaches and beauty in the most natural way.