Visit Gulf Shores with our Guide of the Best Things to Do
Summer and fall are both great times of the year to visit Gulf Shores! Summer is hot, steamy, and pretty lively. In the fall, things begin to cool down a bit, and the crowds begin to thin out. Whether you like the bustle and boisterous summer crowds or prefer a little less hyper beach experience, Gulf Shores is the place to be.
Head to the Beach
The beach is the best place to be all year round, but in the summer, the water is warm and so is the breeze. Grab a brightly colored beach towel, stake out a spot on the warm toasty sand, lay back, and just take a much-needed break. Soak in the sun for a while, then splash in the surf to cool off. Do a little body surfing, a little surf fishing, or practice your master builder skills in the damp sand. Join a friendly beach volleyball game, or just wander the beach looking for that perfect souvenir shell. Do things right and rent one of our beachfront cottages so you’ll have access to all of this (and more) within just a few steps from your rental.
Get Out on the Water
There’s so much you can do on the water! Rent jet skis for the entire family and zip up and down the coast, or learn to parasail or paraglide. Bring your own boat or kayak or rent what you need from one of the many local marinas while you’re here. Why not rent something fun for the day? Spend the day out on a magnificent sailboat, or fun catamaran, or party pontoon boat.
Take the entire family out to sea on a dolphin-watching tour, or book a romantic sunset dinner cruise for just you and your partner. Get a new perspective on the gulf when you rent a kayak or canoe and glide through the cool, brackish backwaters. A guided eco-tour can take you deep into the cypress swamps where you’ll get up close and personal with mossy cypress trees, alligators, turtles, wading birds, and more as you glide past ancient mangroves, marshes, and bayous.
Do some serious fishing and charter a deep-sea fishing adventure that everyone will remember. Head offshore to deep water and put your skills to the test against amberjack, tuna, mahi-mahi, and maybe an occasional shark. The world’s largest artificial reef system is right here in Gulf Shores. You can fish for king mackerel almost year-round here, and it is home to some of the best grouper and snapper fishing you can find. The reef and nearby wrecks not only offer amazing fishing opportunities but they’re great scuba diving spots too. A few of the wrecks are close to shore too, making them easy to access.
Head to Gulf State Park
Spend the day – or several days – at Gulf State Park, where you can enjoy miles of bright, white beaches, freshwater lakes, a wonderful fishing pier, and more. Rent kayaks, canoes, or jet skis for fun on Lake Shelby, Middle Lake, or Little Lake. Play volleyball, hit the links or tennis courts, or do some geocaching. Be sure to leave time for the Butterfly Pavilion!
Fish from the banks of Lake Shelby or from your kayak for redfish, bass, speckled trout, and catfish. Fish from the fully accessible Fishing and Education Pier for flounder, sheepshead, pompano, speckled trout, and more. Not really into fishing? This half-mile-long pier also has a concession area, indoor seating, and restrooms. It’s the perfect spot to watch the action, whether you fish or not. And the action isn’t just on the pier, where fishermen are pulling in their catches and seagulls are angling for a little fishy snack; some amazing things swim by in the water beneath the pier, such as turtles, stingrays, dolphins, sharks, and more! Plus, the view over the water is amazing!
Hike or bike over the 30 miles of paved trails and boardwalks including those in The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. Originally Native American hunting trails, these multi-use trails wind through a series of six different ecosystems. All paths are fully accessible and you can jog, walk, skate, and bike your way along the paths past freshwater lakes, wetlands and marshes, and over sand ridges. Since the trail is part of the Alabama Coastal Bird Trail, it’s a great stop for birdwatchers. Watch for osprey, bald eagles, whitetail deer, coyote, otters, turtles, alligators, and bobcats. While you’re keeping an eye out for the gators, be on the lookout for the elusive “Catman,” a part-man/part wildcat creature and a local legend!
So Many Other Things to Do
Fall in Gulf Shores is also the perfect time for golf! The temperatures are mild, and the crowds are down! Kiva Dunes Resort & Golf and the Gulf State Park Golf Course are just two of the many great courses in the area. Why not take a short, but exciting, helicopter ride up and down the coast looking for dolphins while you get an aerial overview of the coastline.
When was the last time you went to the Zoo? Fun all year round, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is home to over 600 animals including 22 endangered species and has exhibits, animal encounters, a petting zoo, and more. One of the more distinctive (and fun) exhibits, Lemur Island, is home to a small colony of lemurs from the Madagascar rainforests. Fruit-loving red-ruffed lemurs and black-and-white ruffed lemur are just two of the endangered species that have found a haven here at the zoo. In addition to the regular exhibits, the zoo offers animal encounters to give you and your children a unique opportunity to learn about certain species like baby red kangaroos and lemurs in an up-close and personal format. The zoo is fortunate to have three endangered but magnificent Bengals tigers here. And friend and animal lover Jack Hanna gifted the zoo with a beautiful, sleek black leopard (a near-threatened species) named Katrina. Other zoo inhabitants include camels Mack and Maggie, Australian kookaburras, free-roaming peacocks, and over 50 primates (including baboons and endangered back-headed spider monkeys). And no zoo would be complete without a Reptile House! The Gulf Coast Zoo is filled with huge anacondas, lizards, iguanas, and tons of creepy weird bugs that the kids will love.
During your next visit to Gulf Shores, gather everyone together and head to Waterville Gulf Shores – it’s a water park and more. There’s something for everyone here. Have a fun family tournament on the thirty-six holes of mini-golf, play out your inner NASCAR dreams on the thrilling go-kart tracks, and the exhilarating Cannonball Run rollercoaster will get your heart racing in no time. The Starcade is a retro gaming experience for all video arcade game lovers. And try their Escape Rooms where there’s only an hour to figure out the hints, codes, and clues to escape! Of course, there are tons of water rides to choose from too, with slow and easy or fast and wild, and everything in between. And there’s the Fun Depot with a merry-go-round and House of Bounce for all the smaller kids to enjoy.
Want to focus more on go-karts than water fun? Then the Track Family Recreation Center is the place to go. There’s a kid zone too with a carousel, kiddie karts and a train, and a mini Ferris Wheel. Enjoy mini-golf, bumper cars, and blaster boats where you can enjoy blasting each other with water cannons as you battle. It’s a fun way to cool off! Six go-kart tracks will keep the entire family occupied, including the park’s famous elevated wooden track – the Wild Woody (over three stories high) and the Slick Track where the slick surface lets drivers slip and slide as they race around. And speaking of elevated, the Skycoaster takes you over 110-feet up in the air, before you let go and fly. Fat Daddy’s Arcade has over 5,000 square feet of arcade fun for arcade game enthusiasts.
Where to Eat and Play
After plenty of fun in the surf and sand, head to LuLu’s, The Hangout, or any one of our local beachfront spots for live music and delicious fresh seafood. Cool off inside with the AC, or grab a cool beverage and head outside to enjoy the balmy sea breeze and do some serious people-watching. LuLu’s is owned and managed by LuLu Buffet and is just the fun place you’d think it would be. Kids will love LuLu’s arcade and climbing the ‘Mountain of Youth’ – a three-story climbing extravaganza. The Hangout is family-friendly too, but geared more towards young adults, and their beachfront bar is always hopping. Both LuLu’s and The Hangout always have something special going on.
Another beachfront spot, the Gulf Island Grill is family-friendly with a colorful, Caribbean flair and twist to their seafood offerings. And GT’s on the Bay has a pirate-themed playground for the kids, a large deck overlooking the bay, and fresh, local seafood dishes that everyone will enjoy.
Are the kids demanding pizza? Try a local spot like Crico’s Pizza & Subs (pizza, wings, and subs) or Marco’s Pizza (pizzas, pizza bowls – think pizza in a bowl w/o the crust – and more). Feeling the need for mouthwatering southern BBQ? Locally owned and operated Hog Wild has hand-rubbed BBQ that is smoked long and slow, with made from scratch sauces like their famous White BBQ Sauce. Want Chinese? The China Dragon has everyone’s favorites – BBQ ribs, chicken, pork or duck, egg rolls, Mongolian Beef, Sesame Chicken, and General Tso’s Chicken. If your gang can’t agree on what to eat, take everybody to The Ugly Diner. With fried shrimp or fish, grilled shrimp or fish, burgers, omelets, and French toast, and more, there’s sure to be something for everyone here.
Tucked in among the dunes, Sassy Bass Amazin’ Grill’s outdoor deck is a quirky beachfront hang out with a fun atmosphere and great ocean views, and the Anchor Bar and Grill has a huge covered deck overhanging the water with great views and fresh seafood. The popular Fin and Fork offers a casual upscale experience with fresh local seafood. Head to Cosmos the Restaurant for cool adult beverages, sushi, and more as you dine on their outdoor patio. Want oysters? Head for The Royal Oyster for fresh, right-off-the-boat oysters and cool refreshing adult beverages. Sit on the deck overlooking the beach and relax the Gulf Shores way.
No stay in Gulf Shores is truly complete without at least one trip to the world-famous honky-tonk, the Flora-Bama. This southern landmark has several stages that are always filled with live music, a couple of restaurants and beach-side bars, an amazing oyster bar, and their famous bushwhackers!
Book One of Our Vacation Rentals
Our vacation rentals are located throughout the Gulf Shores area. We have beachfront cottages and vacation homes with private boardwalks that take you from the back deck of your rental over the dunes, right to the bright sandy beach. The kids will love waking up and running right out to the beach, where you can watch them from your comfy lounger on the deck as you sip that first cup of coffee. Rent one of our beach-adjacent private homes with a private pool or hot tub for even more fun while you’re here. We also have waterfront homes with private piers and docks that boating and fishing enthusiasts will appreciate.
Give us a call today and let us help you find the perfect beachfront cottage for that romantic getaway or second honeymoon, or a larger private home for your big family reunion. We offer pet-friendly and no-smoking rentals too. Our rentals come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and they all have open, inviting floor plans and amazing views of the beautiful Gulf.