6 Places to Find Serenity on the Alabama Gulf Coast

Explore the the maritime forest as it transitions from boardwalk to dune swales and swamps.
Explore the the maritime forest as it transitions from boardwalk to dune swales and swamps. Amber Jones
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The outdoors is synonymous with a breath of fresh air. But what about a peace of mind? If you're looking for a getaway where time slows down a bit, the Alabama Gulf Coast has several options for people who prefer a calm tranquility that transcends the touristy shores. Take the time to explore the outdoors and find some serenity at these six great Gulf Coast destinations.

1. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Jeff Friend Trail

The gentle breeze and the waves of Little Lagoon in Gulf Shores make it a great spot for a retreat.
The gentle breeze and the waves of Little Lagoon in Gulf Shores make it a great spot for a retreat. USFWS/ Southeast

The Jeff Friend Trail is a short one mile loop on a gravel and sand path. The trail is shrouded by windswept Sand Live Oaks veiled with Spanish moss. Midway down the path a boardwalk begins and takes you to an observation deck overlooking Little Lagoon. The breeze flowing over the brackish water from the gulf generates a soft lullaby beat. It’s a perfect place to picnic and reflect on the beauty of southern Alabama's natural spaces.

2. Little Lagoon Kayak drop off adjoining the Jeff Friend Trail

Very few, if any, motorized boats venture into Little Lagoon, making it the ideal spot to kayak with the tranquil backdrop. Only a half mile wide but 10 miles long,  Little Lagoon is bordered by the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and a half-mile stretch of sand dunes. If you decide to throw in a line while you kayak, a bountiful catch can include speckled trout, flounder, and redfish. Little Lagoon is carefully cradled from most wind gusts making it a more placid paddle than other options in the area.

3. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Centennial Trail

The rustling of the leaves and chatter of birds may be the only sound you hear except for your footsteps on the Centennial Trail Boardwalk in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores.
The rustling of the leaves and chatter of birds may be the only sound you hear except for your footsteps on the Centennial Trail Boardwalk in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge in Gulf Shores. Amber Jones

The Centennial Trail begins at the Jeff Friend Trailhead continuing two miles through the Refuge’s more natural habitats. A boardwalk meanders along through tall pines, towering Sycamores, and wispy River Birch trees filled with chattering birds and curious salamanders scuttering among the dense undergrowth.

4. Bon Secour National Wildlife, Pine Beach Trail

The Pine Beach Trail is known for a diversity of plants and wildlife in its valleys and ebbs of sand dunes. A lookout platform provides a 360-degree view of Little Lagoon, a saltwater body, and Gator Lake, a freshwater body, making this trail unique. At the end of Pine Beach Trail is a private beach with an amazing panorama of undisturbed white sand. Your footprints may be the only ones you see.

5. Gulf State Park on Lake Shelby

Sit on your screened in porch, fish on one of the piers, or paddle on Lake Shelby.
Sit on your screened in porch, fish on one of the piers, or paddle on Lake Shelby. Bryan Jones

Cottages and cabins line the shores of Lake Shelby. All include screened porches with a view of the lake and shared community piers. Tucked within the natural habitat, these cabins provide a quiet atmosphere. Kayak rentals are available with hiking and biking trails only a few steps away. Across the lake, shaded under massive oaks, are picnic pavilions and even a zip line.

6. The Gulf State Park Public Pier

Enjoy the setting of the sun as you stroll the shores near the Gulf State Park Public Pier.
Enjoy the setting of the sun as you stroll the shores near the Gulf State Park Public Pier. Cindy M. Jones

The second longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf State Park Public Pier is a 1,540-foot long and 20-foot wide space that provides a tranquil walk above the teeming sea life and churning water. While the gulf breeze soothes your soul, take in the fishermen's daily catch and the watercraft swashing about up and down the coastline. Pelicans, cranes, blue herons, and seagulls add to its charm. Cast your own line and relax or watch for the dolphins.

The Gulf State Park beach offers two miles of undeveloped shoreline within Gulf Shores and Orange Beach city limits. It is a beautiful asset of the Alabama Gulf Coast, with pristine sands and uninhabited space.

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