9 Best Things to Do in Gulf Shores, AL

| February 28, 2024

Tired of dreaming of white sand beaches and gentle waves? Soothe your soul in real life with a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. That turquoise water isn’t going to splash itself.

Explore everything the city has to offer, from Alabama beaches to sprawling forests. Swim in the ocean, fish in the nearby Lake Shelby, and indulge in Gulf Shores’ many entertainment options.

But how do you navigate it all, and where do you stay? That’s where Harris Vacations come in. We are delighted to be your go-to guide for your Gulf Shores getaway, welcoming you to our luxurious and accommodating properties. 

But how will you fill your Gulf Shore beach vacation days? Whether it’s having a hangout at some of the best beaches in the state, taking a sunset cruise accompanied by dolphins, or exploring a historic fort, we’ve got you covered!

Hike in Gulf State Park

Photo Credit: Heather Cowper via Flickr CC2.0

When most people picture Gulf Shores, they imagine some sunny place with beaches that are ripe for sandcastle building. The area is also full of outdoor activities, and Gulf State Park’s ecosystem is a great representation of the natural landscape with incredibly diverse nature trails to explore.

You can interact with six distinct ecosystems within the park while cruising scenic hiking trails, like the famous Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. From there, you can dive into the freshwater of Lake Shelby or learn about all things wildlife at the esteemed Nature Center. This park also has a big beach that is perfect for water sports like paddleboarding, kayaking, and parasailing! Peruse the Activities Calendar for itinerary ideas, from pickleball and guided hikes to horseshoes and pine needle basketry. 

Get Wild at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Photo Credit: Yukolthorn Nasongkhla

Looking for animal encounters that will delight the whole family? At the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, guests can interact with over 300 animals and 199 sub-species, including over 50 primates. 

If you want an even more personal experience? An extra fee will allow you to actually pet sloths and kangaroos or even feed lettuce to the giraffes! If you didn’t catch a glimpse of any gators on the ride over, you can see them here at the zoo’s Reptile House, too! It hosts many different lizards and giant snakes as well. 

Don’t worry if you’re nervous; the zoo has a few more familiar animals at the family-friendly Contact Barn. Bring the kids and take some adorable photos as you interact with goats, sheep, donkeys, and deer! 

And once you’re done with all the animals, your inner shopper might crave a little retail therapy. Keep reading to scratch that itch!

Shop at The Wharf at Orange Beach 

Photo Credit: Innisfree Hotels via Flickr CC2.0

The Wharf at Orange Beach is home to a genuinely mind-boggling number of shops and entertainment options, but let’s start with retail. 

You’ll find everything from beachwear to jewelry there. Notable standouts include Sand and Kisses Children’s Boutique and Island Time Daiquiris. But there’s loads more! You’ll walk for hours in the shopper’s paradise at Orange Beach once you’re all tuckered out? The Wharf is home to several acclaimed restaurants, including Ginny Lane Bar and Grill, Vilaggio Grille, and the Southern Grind Coffee House, a celebrated spot for coffee and baked goods. 

In terms of entertainment, you’ve got plenty to choose from at The Wharf, from flicks at the AMC Theatre to the imaginative 18-hole mini-golf course, which, although “fun for all ages,” will have you rethinking your short game for months. Crave something different? Why not try an escape room escape room experience at Orange Beach Breakout Games? Or perhaps a boat rental to catch some panoramic views on the water. 

And when you crave something a little more relaxed? Wake up your inner history buff with the next activity on our docket! 

Dive into History at Fort Morgan 

Photo Credit: George Dodd III

Stepping into Fort Morgan feels like immersing yourself into the pages of a history book. Not a boring one, though; an exciting one, filled to the brim with tales of sword fights and epic battles. The kind of stuff that makes you say, “Wow, I can’t believe that actually happened here.”

The fort, completed in 1834, is perhaps most famous for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay, where Union Rear Admiral David bellowed the now-historic battlecry “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” And, if you didn’t know that was a real thing until now, it is, and you can visit the iconic spot where it happened. 

Admission to Fort Morgan includes a self-guided tour of the site and its museum. The latter features various exciting exhibits on weapons, uniforms, letters, and even photographs from soldiers who served at the fort. So, you’re guaranteed to leave feeling enriched. 

During your visit, you’ll be able to explore every nook and cranny of the fort’s massive structure, which is a whopping 40 million bricks firm — a true testament to the skilled masonry of the era. 

Waterville USA

Photo Credit: nola.agent via Flickr CC2.0

Waterpark thrills are fun for the whole family. And Waterville USA, with its 20 sprawling acres of wetness and wildness, supplies them by the tubeful.

Seriously though, this massive water park, which opened in 1986, has become one of the most iconic attractions in the area thanks to its large selection of rides and keen ability to cater to all age groups.

Thrill seekers will taste sweet exhilaration as they descend the Gold Rush’s 20-foot plummet into a lagoon that twists and turns at incredibly high speeds. Others will enjoy the much-tamer journey of The Great White. This tubing adventure takes guests of all groups past scenic waterfalls. 

And don’t worry if you’ve got friends and family who prefer to be dry at all times. You won’t have to leave them in the car. The park has plenty of water-free attractions, including a few acclaimed escape rooms.

The only downside? The park is seasonal, operating primarily during the summer months. So you won’t get a chance to visit if you’re in Gulf Shores during the wintertime. 

Fish at Gulf Shores Little Lagoon

Photo Credit: John Malone via Flickr CC2.0

Are kayaking and fishing two of your favorite hobbies? There’s no better place to spend your time in Gulf Shores than at Little Lagoon. The 10-mile long and half-a-mile-wide body of water found on the north side of Gulf Shores is a prime spot for fishing and a downright idyllic place to dip a water vessel into.

If you love nature but want to avoid breaking a sweat, head down to the Lagoon’s pier for a leisurely stroll, where you’ll get to marvel at big-beaked brown pelicans and graceful blue herons. 

Walk a little longer, and you’ll immerse yourself in Wade Ward Nature Park, where you can catch glimpses of alligators and otters along the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail

You can take your time on the trail, exploring the area’s natural splendor as your more active companions tackle the challenging trails of Lagoon Park, located west of Highway 59.

Ride a Roller Coaster at The Park at OWA

Photo Credit: Derek Gates via Flickr CC2.0

Six Flags, eat your heart out. The Park at OWA has just as many thrills, and its inviting atmosphere is guaranteed to entertain the whole family. Take your pick of thrills, from the Rollin’ Thunder coaster’s instant adrenaline rush to the Flying Carousel’s whimsical flight that gently spins you around in the air, allowing you to take in its grounds from all kinds of unique angles. 

This place truly has something for everybody. So if you want a little less blow-your-hair-back and a bit more family picture book, we highly recommend you hop abroad at the Southern Express, the park’s train ride that meanders around at a relaxing pace. It’s perfect for little ones. 

Now, back to the thrills! Did you know that the park’s Freedom Flyer attraction allows riders to control their own flight experience? It’s a whole new spin on the classic swing ride format. 

Hop Aboard the USS Alabama Battleship at Memorial Park

Photo Credit: George Dodd III

When you step inside the USS Alabama, a battleship with a storied past, you’ll feel like walking into the pages of a history book. Launched during a critical point of World War II, the ship played a crucial role in several notable battles across the Gilbert and Marshall Islands.

These days, the USS Alabama helps give back to the community by operating as a one-of-a-kind museum. Visitors can embark on three self-guided tours, all offering an intimate look into life at sea during the historic conflict. 

But the exhibits don’t stop there; the museum also allows guests to step into the USS Drum, the oldest World War II submarine to be made accessible to the public, and honor fallen heroes in its Aircraft Pavillion. 

Take a Dolphin Cruise

Photo Credit: The Pug Father via Flickr CC2.0

It’s no secret that Gulf Shores has some of the best Dolphin tours in the world. During these excursions, which many companies provide, participants are offered life-changing glimpses into the world of one of Mother Nature’s most intelligent creatures. 

A dolphin cruise gives you first-hand views of wildlife, including sea turtles and dolphins, as well as a striking contrast of sugar-white sand beaches and ultramarine-blue waters. Notable adventures include the Alabama Gulf Coast Dolphin Cruise and the Orange Beach Dolphin Eco Boat Tour. 

Enjoy Gulf Shores with Harris Vacations! 

Gulf Shores is a hodgepodge of historical, beachy, and culinary fun things to do within its bounds. The best part? You can get a taste of it all when you stay in one of Harris Vacations’ beachfront rentals — a luxurious fit for honeymooners, big groups, and family vacations alike. 

We’re ready to give you the keys to your dream vacation home in the heart of Gulf Shores and open the doors to lifelong memories.

Book your Gulf Shores vacation today!


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