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15 Fun Things to Do in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama

If you didn’t know Alabama has beaches, then you’ve been missing out! Alabama’s Gulf Coast, made up of the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, have so many fun activities for you. From the beaches and beyond, here are the best things to do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.

I grew up going to Gulf Shores for our family beach vacations, but I hadn’t been back to the area as an adult. And I was truly surprised by how many fun things there are to do, besides just enjoying the beach.

From learning the art of building a sand castle to exploring a Civil War fort to relaxing at the spa, here are my favorite things to do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

Parts of my visit were hosted by Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. As always, all opinions are my own!

Sunset over the beach from The Lodge at Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama

Best Things to Do in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

1. Enjoy the White Sand Beaches

White sand beaches in front of The Lodge at Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, Alabama

One of the main reasons to go to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is, of course, to go to the beach.

And Alabama’s Gulf Coast is known for its white sand beaches. The sand here is blindingly white and so soft underfoot that it squeaks when you walk on it. The sand here is made from crushed quarts that washed down form the Appalachian Mountains millions of years ago.

There are 32 miles of beachfront and 15 public-access beaches in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

Prop up a beach chair, sink your toes in the sand, and enjoy your Gulf Coast getaway!

2. The Spa at The Beach Club

Don’t forget to treat yourself on your beach vacation! A spa day is perfect for a romantic getaway or a girls’ trip to the beach.

The Spa at The Beach Club Resort is the perfect way to pamper yourself. Their slogan is “Walk in. Float out.” and I promise you will be floating out of there after a massage or facial! (I was certainly floating after my massage!)

They offer all different types of massages, facial treatments, body wraps and scrubs, manicures and pedicures, hair cuts and styling, and makeup application.

Spa amenities include a free mimosa, a relaxation room with a hot tub and comfy chairs, robes and sandals, and locker rooms with showers and everything you need to get ready after your treatment.

3. Glass Blowing at The Hot Shop

Glass blowing at The Hot Shop at the Coastal Arts Center was a highlight of my visit to Alabama’s Gulf Coast!

You have the option of making an ornament, a paper weight, a starfish, or a flower during your glass blowing session. I’ve previously done glass blowing and made an ornament, so this time I opted for a flower.

Making a glass flower was intense but fun! One of the professional glass artist walked me through every step, from heating up the glass to dipping it in the colors to shaping the flower petals to finishing off the sharp edges. Not only did I get to play with molten glass, I also go to use a blow torch!

Once you’re finished, your creation needs to cool. The Arts Center will ship your work of art to you if you aren’t able to return the next day to pick it up.

Close-toed shoes are required for this activity, so leave the flip-flops at the beach.

4. Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach

Coastal Arts Center, Orange Beach, Alabama

The Coastal Arts Center in Orange Beach overlooks scenic Wolf Bay.

The campus features a 10,000-square-foot fine art gallery where you can see works by Gulf Coast artists, the Clay Studio where you can build your own creation, and The Hot Shop where you can make your own glass piece.

Even if you don’t want to participate in one of the art classes at the Clay Studio and Hot Shop, you can still stop by to watch the artists work, and to watch the amateurs like me in the classes!

The campus is just an all-around beautiful setting on the bay, so be sure to take some time to walk by the water and take in the view.

5. Historic Fort Morgan

It’s a long drive out to Historic Fort Morgan, but it’s well worth it.

Located on Mobile Point on the end of the Fort Morgan Peninsula, this historic Third System masonry fort was built between 1819 and 1833 and played a significant role in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War.

During the Civil War, Fort Morgan’s position provided protective fire for blockade runners and strengthened the Confederate defenses of Mobile Bay. But during the Battle of Mobile Bay, the Union was able to besiege Fort Morgan and use it as a base for reconnaissance raids and a staging area for other decisive battles.

Later, the fort was used during the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II. Fort Morgan was turned over to the state as a historic site in 1946.

Today, you can walk around the ruins of the fort; enjoy the nature areas, a boat launch, picnic area, and boat launch; visit the small museum and gift shop; and attend history events and reenactments.

6. Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is known as the “Little Zoo That Could” for its starring role in the Animal Planet documentary of the same name. It earned its fame in 2004 when it became the first US zoo to evacuate its animals during a natural disaster (Hurricane Ivan).

It is home to over 199 species, from peacocks to monkeys to lions to bears (my favorite!). Spread out over 25 acres, this “little zoo” packs in a whole lot of fun.

One of the highlights of visiting this zoo (besides Boodah the bear, who is my main highlight) is their animal encounters. You can get up close and personal with their sloths and lemurs, go right inside their habitat with them, and learn about taking care of these animals.

I did the lemur encounter and got to feed some of the black-and-white ring-tailed lemurs. This is part of their enrichment and training, getting the lemurs used to new smells and teaching them to come to the front of the habitat for a treat when the keepers need to do their check-ups.

The zoo also has giraffe feedings, a Contact Barn petting zoo, educational stage shows, a carousel, playgrounds, a zipline, and a restaurant.

7. Hammock Time Tiki Tours

Captain Glenn’s tiki-inspired pontoon boat is the best way to explore the backbays of Orange Beach! We had such a fun time on Hammock Time Tiki Tours.

Come aboard the spacious pontoon boat, equipped with 2 double hammocks, a tiki bar, shaded seating, deck games, Bluetooth audio, and a bathroom onboard (you’re not going to find another tiki boat with a bathroom onboard).

Captain Glenn used to do kayak eco-tours before transitioning to the tiki boat business, so he knows these waters really well. He’s a lot of fun and knows all the cool spots to hang out.

You can set up your 2-hour, 4-hour, or private island tour however you’d like. If you want to find dolphins, Captain Glenn will try to do that for you. If you want to hang out on the islands and drink, you can do that. If you want to swim, if you just want to relax on deck, if you want to bar hop, whatever you’d like.

BYOB, bring along any snacks and drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic), sunscreen, towels, and sunglasses.

This tiki tour boat can fit up to 6 passengers, and you’ll have plenty of room to move around on the boat without feeling like you’re about to go overboard.

On our tour, we pretty much just wanted to drink and enjoy the scenery. Captain Glenn kept an eye out for dolphins, and he found plenty of them for us! We had the best view of about a dozen dolphins who were playing around our boat. And because the pontoon boat is so low to the water, we got to see them closer than any of the dolphin tours did.

The Hammock Time Tiki Tours was hands-down one of my favorite things to do in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores!

8. Flora-Bama

The Flora-Bama is the most famous beach bar on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. This lounge, package store, and oyster bar is so-named because it’s right on the Florida and Alabama state line (though technically its address is in Perdido Key, Florida).

The bar got its start in 1962 when Florida gave Alabama two miles of beachfront land in return for building the Perdido Pass Bridge. The Tampary family built a small bar and package store right up against the state line on the Florida side. At the time, Escambia County, Florida was a wet county, while Baldwin County, Alabama across the line was a dry county, so the Flora-Bama was very popular with Alabama residents.

As the business grew, new rooms were added onto the Flora-Bama lounge piecemeal. That’s why the bar is a bit of a maze to visit today! Because of this, the Flora-Bama has 5 stages with live music playing every day of the year and 5 full-service bars.

They’re known for their Bushwacker, a frozen drink made with Kahlua and Crème de Cacao; Flora-Bama is called the “Home of the Bushwacker” for their famous version of the drink (though the Bushwacker was actually evented in St. Thomas).

There are events throughout the year at the Flora-Bama, but by far the most famous is the Interstate Mullet Toss & Greatest Beach Party. During the event, you can throw a dead mullet fish over the state line to see who can throw the furthest. (The mullets are donated to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo after the event to feed the alligators.)

Ready to visit the Flora-Bama?

The lounge is all-ages before 6 p.m. After 6 p.m., it’s open to 18+, and those ages 18-20 can stay all night as long as they’re in the door by 10 p.m. There is a nightly cover charge that’s $5 for 21+ and $15 for 18-20.

Your first stop should be at the bar to grab a Bushwacker! Since the Flora-Bama can get crowded during the spring and summer, you’ll want to make sure you have a drink in hand to enjoy the rest of the bar. Plus, those Bushwackers are almost pure ice, and you’ll want to give it time to melt before you drink it.

Be sure to check out what’s playing on each stage and find a performer you like. If you want, you can toss a bra up into the rafters to join hundreds of others. And if you need a break from the noise, you can head out to their beach-front bars.

I definitely recommend finding the liquor room and checking that out. To streamline their bar system, all their liquors are centrally located and hooked up to hoses that lead to soda guns at each of the bars (this is also how a lot of Vegas casinos are set up). Every time a bartender uses a soda gun, you can watch the liquor drain from the bottles here. They service this room regularly, and when it’s slow, the guys are nice enough to open the room up and talk with you about the logistics of it.

9. High Tide Daiquiris & Mimosas

Daiquiri flight from High Tide Daiquiris & Mimosas, Gulf Shores, Alabama

High Tide Daiquiris & Mimosas is a really fun restaurant and bar where you can get daiquiri flights and mimosa flights.

They have a Gulf Shores location and an Orange Beach locations. I really like the Gulf Shores location because its on Little Lagoon and you can take swan and flamingo peddle boats out on the water.

For food, they have a breakfast menu, a coffee menu, and a light bites menu of appetizers, sandwiches, and charcuterie boards.

For drinks, they have so many fun daiquiri and mimosa flavors, like Bushwacker, Pimento Cheese, and Key Lime. You can get them in a cup, a pouch, a flight, or a bucket. I recommend getting a flight so you can try a bunch of different flavors!

10. The Wharf

Ferris wheel at The Wharf, Orange Beach, Alabama

The Wharf is Orange Beach’s waterfront dining and entertainment complex located on the Intracoastal Waterway.

There’s a lot to do here: The Ferris Wheel is the tallest in the Southeast and offers a great view of Orange Beach. Take the Wharf Express Train for a fun ride around Main Street. At night, you can enjoy the SPECTRA Sound and Light Show. There’s also a 10,000-seat amphitheater where you can see your favorite artists from across genres.

Go shopping, see a movie, visit the Selfie Museum, go axe throwing, play at the arcade, or try an escape game.

The Wharf also has plenty of restaurants and eateries from coffeeshops to fine dining to snacks.

11. Gulf State Park

One of the things I love about Gulf Shores is the 6,500 acres of protected parkland at Gulf State Park. It’s such a diverse area with beaches, marshlands, streams, pine forests, and 3 beautiful lakes: Lake Shelby, Middle Lake, and Little Lake.

Biking the 28+ miles of paved trails is one of the most popular things to do in Gulf State Park. I didn’t go biking, but I did walk a little of the trails (there’s a nice pedestrian bridge that connects to The Lodge across the street, so it was super easy to access).

The park also has camping, cabins, picnic areas, playgrounds, a nature center, a fishing pier, a swimming pool, and canoe and kayak rentals.

12. Sand Castle University

Southern Travelers Explore Logo as sand art from Sandcastle University, Gulf Shores, Alabama

Sand Castle University is such a unique Gulf Shores activity! You can learn how to build your own sand castle and become a pro at sand art.

During your private Sand Castle University class, you’ll learn the best tips and tricks for building an amazing sand castle. You’ll build your own creation with the help of your instructor.

They have a 101 class for beginners where you can learn to make a traditional castle, a turtle, or a hammerhead shark; and they have a 201 class for when you’re ready to take it to the next level where you can learn to make a traditional castle or a sea serpent.

The beginner class is recommended for all ages and skill levels, so you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy it, but it’s also not just for kids!

13. Fort Morgan Oyster Festival

The annual Fort Morgan Oyster Festival happens the last weekend of February every year at The Beach Club Resort & Spa.

With your ticket to the festival, you get all-you-can-eat Navy Cove and Admiral oysters served raw on the half shell, charbroiled, Rockefeller, with garlic butter, with bearnaise, and with bacon. There’s also oyster chowder, oyster stew, and oyster spaghetti.

In addition to oysters, the festival has live music, arts and crafts, and fun games and contest throughout the day.

This is a great event for oyster-lovers!

14. City Donut

Assorted donuts from City Donut, Orange Beach, Alabama

City Donut is Orange Beach’s oldest donut shop. This family-owned local business makes traditional yeast and cake donuts fresh and from scratch every day.

Their donut flavors change daily and there’s always something new. They also offer a full ice cream menu and boba tea.

This is your one-stop-shop to appease your sweet tooth!

15. Relax at the Pool

Outdoor pool at The Beach Club Resort & Spa, Gulf Shores, Alabama

A pool day and a beach day go hand-in-hand. When you’re done exploring all the fun things to do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, you can retire to your hotel or condo’s swimming pool for some relaxation.

Most of the accommodations at Alabama Beaches will have access to a pool. Here are some I recommend:

  • The Lodge at Gulf State Park has an infinity edge pool overlooking the beach that’s open year-round
  • Turquoise Place has indoor and outdoor pools, a lazy river, a water slide, and splash pad. Plus, they have steam rooms and saunas, and my favorite part: private hot tubs on every balcony.
  • The Beach Club Resort & Spa has an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a kids pool, and hot tubs. Plus, the spa has a hot tub in the relaxation room.

Things to Do in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Map

Ready to explore all these fun things to do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama? Use the map below to plan out your trip!

I hope you enjoy exploring all these fun Alabama Gulf Coast activities!

Where to Stay at Alabama Beaches

More Alabama Itineraries


Ready to visit Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama? Plan your trip with these tips.


Cheers!

Paige

15 Fun Things to Do in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama

What are your favorite things to do in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama? Let me know in the comments!

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