Spanning over 3 miles of beachfront property in Gulf Shores, Gulf State Park offers great amenities and activities for anyone visiting Gulf Shores, either for the day or to stay!
Most visitors to the State Park are going be at the beach. Admission to the beach is FREE, but there is paid parking. The state park has one of the best beaches at Gulf Shores. It does get busy on weekends and holidays, so my suggestion is just to arrive early. We would arrive very early, get a good parking spot, and because we had to haul a lot of “stuff” out to where we were going to set up for the day, and the sand was thick! We’d set up as close to the boardwalk as possible, then go for a morning walk along the beach. When we returned, we would spend the morning playing at the beach, and then load up and go back in time to clean up for a late lunch and then go out and do something else, like horseback riding or zip lining or parasailing or bike riding or any of the many other things to do in Gulf Shores!
On our last visit, we stayed at Hotel Indigo, which had a shuttle that would take you back and forth to the state park. It was very convenient because the kids (19, 17) wanted to sleep in and could join us later without us losing our good parking spot. Previously we’ve stayed in the State Park, which has this great boardwalk that accesses the beach from the park. If staying in the park, I really suggest trying to get as close to the boardwalk as possible, and bringing your bike!
The State Park also has a lodge right on the beach, and on our next trip to Gulf Shores, that is where I want to stay!
Gulf States Park is HUGE! Over 6,000 acres, with 3 miles of beach in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach! There is plenty to do for a weekend or a week!
Know Before You Go
The “Snow White” beaches of Gulf Shores cause rays to bounce back right in your face, making wearing a hat almost pointless to avoid sun exposure. Bring and use plenty of sunscreen!
We really enjoy the beach at Gulf States Park!
Take beach chairs and an umbrella, plenty of sunscreen as well as a light cooler for drinks.
You can purchase food at the pavilion. Grills are not allowed on the beach.
The beach offers restrooms/shower facilities.
ALWAYS remember life jackets for young/inexperienced swimmers.
During good weather the waves are mild, but always pay attention to the flag warning system.
Stingrays are always present in the Gulf waters, but seem to prefer the milder waves, so teach children to drag their feet along the bottom of the sand.
In the evening, there are plenty of weddings on the beach! A permit is required for all weddings.
Ike’s Beach Services will help you make a great beach vacation! They will have chairs and umbrellas set up for you in advance, as well as rent beach kayaks, paddleboards and fat tire beach bikes!
Check the calendar of events at the Nature Center when visiting the park or beach, for daily guided walks! It’s FREE for park guest, and a great way to learn about the flora and fauna of the Alabama Gulf Coast!
Hugh S. Branton Backcountry Trail
At over 15 miles, the Backcountry Trail takes you through hardwood swamps, and is a perfect hike or bike ride! Bring your own bike or rent one at the park!
It was on a guided eco-tour hike on the trail that we (finally) saw an alligator!
Take PLENTY of water, sunscreen and bug spray!
Click HERE for more information on the trail!
Fish and Education Pier
A huge pier for fishing, with a gift shop and information station, as well as dining options! There is a fee for entering the pier, whether you are fishing or not, but it’s fun to just watch them bring in the fish! Remember that adults and children require a fishing permit at either the Pier or Lake Shelby (children 11 and under fish for free with a paid adult), and there is NO surf fishing at the park.
We arrived at the pier a little before dawn, and were able to watch as a huge school of fish swam past, and then the water started turning as the larger fish were feeding on them!
A view of the beach near the pier. You can also spend the day at this beach, your parking permit works for both state park beaches! We spent a day playing here, but do go out far enough from the pier to avoid any rip currents the pier might create.
Mornings on the beach are my favorite.
We spotted several dolphins from the pier. From the beach we could see the dolphins, also. I was a little bummed to learn that right after we left a manatee was spotted from the pier! They are common and of co
On the pier, there is a restroom, a grill, live music in the evening and a store. They say the pier is the largest in the Gulf of Mexico!
Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf States Park offers lots of fun activities, including paddleboard and kayak rentals on the lake, and a zip line that soars over Lake Shelby!
Kidcam Camp is a daycamp for kids at Gulf States Park! The camp offers various daily activities, and you can choose by the day or week! Click HERE to read more!
We often travel with our dogs, and I love places that accommodate them! Gulf State Park allows leashed dogs in the campgrounds and on the beach, and in some cabins!
The park also has The Dog Pond, an off-leash dog park on Lake Shelby, giving off-leash water access to your furr-babies. The downside? Children under 16 are NOT allowed in the Dog Pond.
Coastal Pet Resort in Gulf Shores offers doggy day camp while you play! Click HERE to visit their website.
Cabins and Cottages
The park offers over 30 cottages and cabins, not on the beach but along the lake and under the shade of pine trees. 30 is not many, so book early or have really good karma!
Want something really special, contact Fancy Camps to set up your tent before you arrive, or special “glamping tents”, complete with bed, couch and all snuggly! Click HERE for more information.
I LOVE that Gulf States offers some “pet-friendly” cabins!
With over 400 RV spaces, it’s easy to see why I say it’s a BIG park. While I thought the RV spaces were all really close together, I loved the 11 primitive camping sites, which allowed much more privacy and separated by plenty of trees and vegetation! Each site offered a fire ring and table. All tent camping at Gulf States is primitive.
The Outpost offers 3 primitive camping tents, already set up, with 4 cots inside. Click HERE for more information.
There is no tent camping on the beach.
Things To Do in Gulf Shores
Waterville USA is a fun waterpark in Gulf Shores! Click HERE to visit their website.
The Original Oyster House has Gulf Oysters and a huge assortment of seafood entrees, all in a fun setting! Click HERE for more information.
Can’t get a reservation at the State Park? Gulf Shores Plantation has Vacation Beach House rentals, with all the ammenties of a condo, such as 6 pools (one indoors), game room, tennis court and more! Click HERE to visit their website.
Gulf States Park
Click HERE to visit their website.
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