8 Reasons Why Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are World-Class Destinations for Outdoor Lovers

The Alabama Gulf Coast offers much more for outdoor lovers than just the beach.
The Alabama Gulf Coast offers much more for outdoor lovers than just the beach. blgrssby
Made Possible by
Curated by

Lace up the boots, air up the tires, dig out those paddles, and get ready for some fun and adventure in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. They’re more than just beach towns—you’ll find an outdoor-lover’s paradise on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. A getaway to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach provides countless opportunities for adventure. Here are eight of our favorites:

1. World-Class Fishing

Little Lake in Gulf State Park is just one of the endless options for fishing in the area.
Little Lake in Gulf State Park is just one of the endless options for fishing in the area. Stephanie Pluscht

Love fishing? What’s your pleasure because Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have it all. For saltwater fishermen, you don’t need a boat to drop a line in the Gulf, just head out to one of the longest fishing piers on the Gulf Coast at Gulf State Park. Maybe try a little surf fishing on the beach in the crashing waves, take to the Gulf in your sea kayak, or hop aboard one of the many deep-sea fishing charters ported in the Orange Beach area. Alabama's Gulf coast is home to the largest artificial reef program in the U.S., charter captains can help guide you to the right place to reel in the big one.

For freshwater fishing cast your line from the banks of one of the many lakes in the area including Gator Lake at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, or the triad of lakes at Gulf State Park—Lake Shelby, Middle Lake, and Little Lake.

2. Feathered Friends

The great blue heron is just one of the birds you’ll be able to see on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
The great blue heron is just one of the birds you’ll be able to see on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Stephanie Pluscht

South Alabama is a prime area for bird watching with hundreds of species of land, sea, and migratory birds. A popular way to view them is by following either the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach (Birding) Loop or the Fort Morgan Loop. These trails are part of the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail that lead birders to special viewing locations up and down the island. You may spot any number of species of warblers, brown pelicans, piping plover, loons, herons, osprey, and the list goes on and on.

3. Biking the Backcountry

Cycling usually comes with a view in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Cycling usually comes with a view in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Ken Ratcliff

Taking a bike ride on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is a must when visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast. You’ll find eight beautiful, multi-use trails totaling more than 15 miles in length. Along the route you’ll ride past shimmering freshwater lakes, coastal wetlands and marshes, and through a forest of towering longleaf pines. You may cross paths with white-tail deer, bobcat, and even see an alligator or bald eagle.

4. Take a Hike

Hiking in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
Hiking in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. Michael

You’re in for some amazing adventure as you take to the trails in and around Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Hike along the bayous through beautiful marsh grass with a deep, blue sky above at Gulf State Park. Walk through magnificent maritime wetlands and forests as you silently walk through the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge heading to one of the most secluded stretches of beach on the Alabama Gulf Coast, which is also a prime nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles. Or visit the white topped pitcher plant bogs as you trek through the 500-acre Graham Creek Nature Preserve.

5. Get on the Water

Kayaking is a great way to explore Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Kayaking is a great way to explore Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Stephanie Pluscht

If you love to paddle board, canoe, kayak, surf, or scuba dive, then you definitely need to head to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, where you’re only minutes in any direction from spectacular water adventure. Sea kayak alongside playful bottle nose dolphins or paddle the backwaters and bayous of Graham Creek and Wolf Bay. And we can’t forget, surf’s up along the 32-miles of sugar-white beaches.

6. Wildlife and Dolphin Viewing

Local outfitters can help you spot bottlenose dolphins in the wild.
Local outfitters can help you spot bottlenose dolphins in the wild. Joseph Glass

It’s hard to believe the variety of wildlife around these Gulf Coast cities. Hike along the trails at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge where you may see alligator, sea turtles, and ghost crabs. Or catch a glimpse of bobcat, deer, and maybe even wild boar on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. Eco-tours like the ones given by Wild Native Eco-Tours will give you your best chance at getting up close and personal with local wildlife.

Everyone’s favorite adventure is to watch dolphins as they play on the waves. The best way to view them is either by sea kayak or hop on one of the area’s dolphin cruises, including the Cold Mil Fleet and Dolphins Down Under to name only a few.

7. GeoCaching

Geocaching is another way to explore a new area by using GPS to find hidden treasures left by others using their GPS. You can really rack up the finds along the Alabama Gulf Coast. Bring your handheld GPS or smartphone and set up an account at GeoCaching.Com to get the coordinates for your next cache. Kids in particular enjoy the hunt, and you’ll often discover new parks and trails you wouldn’t otherwise visit.

8. Play a Little Disc Golf

Hit the links with a round or two of Disc Golf. There are two world-class courses on Pleasure Island—the 9-hole Orange Beach Disc Golf Course where you’ll have beautiful views of Johnson Cove, or the challenging 18-hole Prairie Disc Golf Course at the Graham Creek Nature Preserve. The Prairie is a Professional Disc Golf Association course. No greens fees or expensive equipment, and anyone can play along.

Originally written for Gulf Shores AL.

Last Updated:

Next Up

Previous

The 8 Best Places to Ride Your Bike on the Alabama Gulf Coast

Next

8 Things to Know Before Your Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Vacation