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Sprawled along miles of sugar-white sand and the warm, clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf Shores is an enchanting vacation destination for those seeking sunshine and relaxation. But there's more to this Alabama Gulf Coast town than its gorgeous beaches and abundant resorts—you can also find world-class golf courses, incredible fishing locales, serene hiking trails, and plenty of exciting water sports right at your fingertips. Whether you're a wildlife enthusiast, history buff, adrenaline seeker, or nightlife lover, Gulf Shores offers a wealth of things to see and do if you're looking to venture away from your beach chair.
Beyond your hotel, resort, or vacation rental, there are a variety of places worth visiting in and around Gulf Shores. In addition to the many shops, restaurants, and beaches in the city proper, tranquil nature areas and fun-filled attractions are just a short drive away.
One of the most-traveled spots in all of Alabama, this famous stretch of public beachfront marks the spot where Highway 59 runs right into the Gulf. Shopping and dining options abound, and it's also home base for Hangout Fest, an annual 3-day music extravaganza that draws festival-goers to see A-list acts performing right on the beach.
Mosey over to Gulf Shores' next-door neighbor to explore The Wharf, a family-friendly entertainment district featuring an old-timey boardwalk, a Ferris wheel, and an array of inviting shops and boutiques. Stay until it gets dark to witness the free nightly display known as SPECTRA, which transforms the palm tree-lined Main Street with lights and music.
If you're looking for outdoor fun, you'll find it at Gulf State Park. This recreation area encompasses 6,500 acres (2,600 ha) worth of places to camp, hike, bike, and swim amidst a stunning landscape of white-sand beaches, pine forests, and freshwater lakes. After getting your nature fix, grab your golf clubs for 18 holes on the Refuge Golf Course, or check out the swimming pool and sport courts on the modern campground.
Gulf Shores draws thousands of visitors each year with its pristine beaches, but its location on the Gulf of Mexico also means that saltwater marshes, rolling sand dunes, and shrub-filled forests enhance the picturesque coastal scenery. Hop on a boat tour and soak up the views of the area's cerulean waters, or wander the nature trails of the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to migratory birds and several endangered species of sea turtles. You can also immerse yourself in Civil War history with a visit to Fort Morgan, the site that helped decide the course of the fateful Battle of Mobile Bay.
Between lounge sessions on the beach, it's easy to find ways to soak up the waterfront beauty and charm of Gulf Shores. Take advantage of the many opportunities for watersports like kayaking, paddleboarding, and parasailing, or pursue the perfect catch on an inshore fishing trip in the teeming waters of Pensacola Bay. If you're vacationing with the family, take the kids to meet kangaroos, lemurs, and sloths at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, or check out the variety of splashy rides and attractions at Waterville USA. Foodies and beer lovers will also find plenty of fresh seafood joints and beachside bars to satisfy their appetite in the Gulf Shores area. For a chance to experience a true Gulf Coast landmark, head to the Flora-Bama, the lively honky-tonk and oyster bar that has inspired songs by the likes of Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffet, and Blake Shelton.