Known for pristine beaches, white sand and beautiful views, the Gulf Shores is one of the south’s most desired destinations. The 32-mile stretch of sugary sand is family-friendly with restaurants to pick from, great historic destinations and activities for thrill seekers. Not too far from our home in Atlanta, it’s one of our family’s favorite beach getaways! Here are my top picks for the BEST kid-friendly outdoor activities in Gulf Shores, Alabama to add to your itinerary.
Gulf shores is a nature haven with beaches, bayous, rivers and lakes. Those natural landmarks aid in the numerous outdoor adventures that tourists love about Gulf Shores. With the beautiful southern weather, you’ve got almost year round access to being outside. If you’re worried about the hot summer months, just plan to cool off with a Lulu’s Famous Bushwacker Cocktail after a day outside.
Best Outdoor Activities In Gulf Shores For Families
What I love about visiting Gulf Shores is how stroller-friendly the community is. Families can easily park in one spot all day and use a stroller for young kids. Paved pathways, parks and restaurants with outdoor eating areas are easy to find. Gulf Shores isn’t a flashy beach with nightlife – it’s rooted in family values and focuses on a good time.
Hit The Pool
As much as kids love to splash around at the beach, the pool is somewhat easier for families. Pools might be dependent on where you stay – whether a resort or vacation rental – but it’s a great way to be outside with the kids.
If you don’t have access to one, grab a day pass for the Orange Beach Aquatic Center which offers public access. The center offers a Junior Olympic heated outdoor swimming pool, 11 1/2′ diving well, and separate wading pool with spray features for little tykes.
On a previous trip we stayed in a cottage at The Beach Club by Spectrum Resorts and had the added benefit of having a private pool. This resort is a great pick for families and even offer cottages if you need the extra space.
Family Fishing In Gulf Shores
There are plenty of fishing charters you can take, but if you would like to fish locally with your family, head to Gulf State Park. Their fishing options include both saltwater and freshwater.
Saltwater fishing, from the pier, is great for beginners. You can also fish from the beach or head across the street and do freshwater fishing in Lake Shelby from multiple piers around the park.
Keep in mind that non-residents 16 years of age and older must first purchase a fishing license before fishing the public waters of Alabama. Visitors can easily get an online fishing day license, and pay a fee, online at Alabama Outdoors.
Biking Paths At Gulf State Park
Gulf State Park offers a fantastic bike-share program that’s not well known – almost like a great secret! These bikes are available for use within Gulf State Park for up to 3 hours – for FREE. It’s an awesome way to explore the 28 miles of backcountry trails as a family.
Download the Bloom app and head to a bike pick up location within the park such as Woodside restaurant or The Lodge. Something to remember – the bikes are only for use within Gulf State Park. There are child carrier options and kid bikes available too.
For up to three hours, riders can use one of 50 complimentary bikes free of charge. If you’re still exploring after that, you can keep your bike for a small charge. When you’re done riding, just return the bike to the station of your choice.
Fresh Water & Saltwater Kayaking
Head to Ike’s Beach Services to rent kayaks and pick tandem kayak to use with kids. Lake Shelby is the perfect spot for beginners and Ike’s will provide everything you need, including life jackets. Paddle around the lake for a peaceful exploration of the nature that lines the lake shores year round. Canoes and paddleboards are also available for rent at Ike’s.
Families can also take a guided kayak tour – it’s one of my favorite outdoor activities in Gulf Shores! Coastal Kayaking Excursions offers a 3 hour tour (better for slightly older kids) and the tours are limited to six people. You’ll paddle around to check out the local wildlife and take a rest stop on one of the small islands in the bay. A total of 2 hours will be spent kayaking.
Segway Tours At Gulf Shores
If your kids are over the age of 12, consider booking Gulf Shores Segway Tours to see the local sites. There’s 14 miles that make up the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system. It connects the cities of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores and winds through the Gulf State Park.
It’s such a gorgeous way to see nature, without wearing out your legs. Catch a glimpse of an amazing array of wildlife from alligators, bobcats, eagles, gopher tortoises, foxes and butterflies.
Rent A Pontoon Boat Or Jet Skis
Heading out for four hours on a pontoon boat from The Flora-Bama Marina is one of my favorite things we’ve done in Gulf Shores! The geographic location makes boating easy since highlands and breaks aren’t a big issue.
Per state law, Non-residents 12 years old and older, may operate on Alabama waters up to 45 days per calendar year without having to obtain a vessel operator’s license. This makes renting a boat in Alabama fairly easy for visitors.
The boat rental company will go over the basic functions and ensure you’re comfortable before heading out on the water. They’ll also ensure your family has coastguard approved life jackets.
Anchor in coves and sandbars where kids can easily hop out to play. Kids love using a net to fish for crabs, snails and other critters. After a day of boating, dock at at one of the Gulf Shores Boat-In Restaurants to dine at.
Fort Morgan (Favorite Outdoor Activities in Gulf Shores That’s Historic)
If your family prefers to be on solid ground for a bit, take a drive down the Fort Morgan Peninsula to Mobile Point and check out Historic Fort Morgan. The fort was built between 1819 and 1833, but in August 1864 it featured prominently in the Battle of Mobile Bay.
It’s a great historic site for kids because they can go in and run around. Head up to the top of the fort and check out the amazing view. The admission fee is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors, college students & children, and $20 for a family of 2 adults and 2 children.
Audio tours, live weapons demonstrations and a hands-on museum area are favorite fort activities for kids.
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
Well known for being featured on Animal Planet’s The Little Zoo That Could tv series, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is up and coming. The little zoo has survived 3 major hurricanes and has made a fantastic comeback to be even better for visitors.
The zoo relocated to 25 donated acres and built habitats that are more accommodating for the animals. The zoo paths offer kids plenty of space to roam among the animals and there is even a large playground. For extra fees, you guests can do personalized experiences – like animal encounters.
Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge
The Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge is home to Alabama’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitat. Families can explore a variety of outdoor paved paths. Keep your eyes peeled for various critters that call the Alabama coast home. The refuge is stroller-friendly. I recommend plenty of bug spray and sunscreen for a day of exploring.
Other wildlife refuge activities include birding, paddling, fishing and non-motorized boating. The refuge is peaceful and not overcrowded, which I love for kids that are sensitive to overstimulation.
The Wharf At Gulf Shores
The hip new cool spot to hang out is the The Wharf. It’s a beautiful planned outdoor space that features great restaurants, shops and things to do – during the daytime and at night. Kids love to take a ride on the ferris wheel for the ultimate views and check out the event calendar for the SPECTRA laser light experience at night. If you love the idea of a pristine indoor/outdoor area that has everything your family needs for entertainment, consider one of the Wharf rental properties.
Gulf Shores Alabama Beaches (Most Popular Of Outdoor Activities)
There are plenty of public access points in the Gulf Shores – Orange Beach area, so don’t worry if you stay at a hotel that doesn’t offer beach access. Spend the day digging holes, building sandcastles and looking for seashells.
Don’t want to drag around your beach gear? Consider using the Beach Moms Concierge Services. They offer basic beach day services like chair delivery, sand toy rentals and umbrella set up. I also recommend using them for dining reservations, photo shoot reservations and grocery shopping needs.
No matter what adventure your kids want to take you on, you can easily find it in Gulf Shores. I love that there’s something to do for kids of all ages and so much of it is free! Spend your day relaxing on the beach all day or fill your itinerary with exploring. No doubt, your kids will have fun either way.