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Gulf Shores

Life generally moves at a lazy pace in Gulf Shores, a beachside community on the Alabama coast. White sand, waving palm trees, and the clear emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico make lazing oceanside the preferred pastime for locals and visitors alike.

But for those who prefer more action, there's plenty to do. Fishing, swimming, sailing, and other water sports are all popular options. So is shopping in a multitude of stores and outlet malls offering everything from swimsuits to cookware to original artwork.

Nature preserves, such as the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, offer a walk on the wild side. For another up-close encounter with nature, try a boat tour of the area's bays, bayous, and marshes, all of which teem with native flora and fauna. At the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, interactive exhibits showcasing the aquatic animal and plant life of Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast region entrance visitors of all ages.

History buffs are sure to enjoy visits to Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan. The latter, which guards the main channel into Mobile Bay, was part of a major naval battle during the Civil War.

Just a short drive inland are the picturesque towns of Fairhope and Magnolia Springs. Founded more than 100 years ago, Fairhope is best known for its lovely parks, moss-draped live oaks, and spectacular views of Mobile Bay. It also offers a sophisticated mix of shops, boutiques, cafes and art galleries. Tree-shaded streets, gracious homes, and well-tended gardens give Magnolia Springs its special charm. Originally developed from a Spanish land grant in 1800, the town boasts natural springs once dubbed “the purest in the world.”.

With mild temperatures and sunny skies the norm year-round, Gulf Shores is an ideal spot for an off-season getaway. It also offers a variety of special events throughout the year, including the National Shrimp Festival, which celebrates its 37th year this October, and the annual Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival, a 10-day musical celebration held each November.

With a year-round population of just over 7,000, Gulf Shores may be a tiny town, but don't be deceived. When it comes to fun, it delivers big time.

Where to stay

Accommodations include vacation rentals for every budget, from quiet cottages on sheltered lagoons to high-rise condos with an ocean view. To see photos, amenities, and other details on Gulf Shores vacation rentals, choose from our list of condos, hotels, and beach houses. Or use our custom search feature to find the Gulf Shores vacation rental that's best for you.


Seafood, fresh from local waters, fried to crispy perfection, and served with tangy tartar sauce, hush puppies, and coleslaw, tops the menu at some of the most popular Gulf Shores eateries. You can also order it grilled, poached, stuffed, baked, or seared - and paired, in season, with locally grown produce.

If you prefer meat and potatoes or a juicy burger and fries, that's no problem. Gulf Shores restaurants serve everything from pizza and pasta to Southern-fried chicken and turnip greens.

Restaurants range from family-friendly casual overlooking the beach to white-tablecloth eateries with extensive wine lists and elegant menus that change with the seasons.

For more about delicious dining in Gulf Shores , check out our list of restaurants.


Nine picturesque courses, some skimming the coast and others carved from the thick Alabama forests, make the Gulf Shores area a golfer's paradise. And warm, sunny weather virtually year-round means it's possible to get in a game just about any time.

Courses designed by such golfing legends as Arnold Palmer, Bruce Devlin, Jerry Pate, Earl Stone, and Robert Von Hagge offer challenges for players at all skill levels. Both stay-and-play and golf-only packages are available and may include everything from green fees and cart rental to rooms and meals.

Our list of golf courses and resorts will help you plan your Gulf Shores golfing vacation.


Access to the Gulf of Mexico - and deep-sea bottom fishing - is easy via Perdido Pass at neighboring Orange Beach. Depending on what's in season, anglers can expect the catch of the day to include grouper, amberjack, scamp, triggerfish, cobia, and snapper. In fact, the waters off the Alabama Gulf Coast offer some of the best red snapper fishing in the world.

Spring through fall is ideal for trolling, when catches usually include migratory fish such as king and Spanish mackerel, dolphin, redfish, bonita, and cobia. Summer is the best time to troll for big game fish, including wahoo, bull dolphin, and sailfish.

Landing the big one may involve nothing more than casting your line at the edge of the beach and being patient. King mackerel, amberjack, cobia, flounder, bluefish, and tuna have all been caught by landlubbing anglers.

The lake at Gulf State Park and the wetlands of the nearby Mobile Delta are ideal spots to catch freshwater favorites such as largemouth bass, crappie, and bream.

For more about Gulf Shores fishing, and to charter a boat, check out our list of Gulf Shores fishing charters.


Shopping in Gulf Shores is almost as popular a pastime as lounging on the beach. Whether you're looking for souvenirs to take home or trendy new duds for an evening out, chances are you'll find them in one of the area's shops, malls, or outlet stores. The shops in Gulf Shores and nearby communities carry everything from discount clothing and housewares to one-of-a-kind artwork, quirky antiques, and hand-crafted jewelry.

Our list of stores, malls, and outlet centers will help you plan your Gulf Shores shopping excursion.


There's plenty to do in Gulf Shores when the sun goes down. Many local bars and restaurants offer live music nightly, with choices ranging from acoustic to jazz, country to rock to soul. Or, for a really memorable evening out, consider a dinner cruise. What could be more relaxing than sipping cocktails on deck while the sun sets and enjoying dinner - featuring fresh local seafood, of course ¬- overlooking the moonlit waters of the Gulf?

For less formal fun, there are plenty of places to go for pizza or a juicy burger, an ice-cold beer, and the opportunity to watch your favorite sporting event on a wide-screen TV.

Our list of Gulf Shores restaurants, bars, and other entertainment venues can help you plan your nights on the town.

Other things to do

The great thing about a beach vacation is that you can do as little or as much as you like. If you crave more action than watching the tide ebb and flow, you'll find plenty of it in Gulf Shores. Just about every kind of activity that involves water is available, from diving and snorkeling to sailing and parasailing.

Less effort but lots of fun is stepping aboard a glass-bottom boat for a dolphin-watching cruise. Some captains also offer drinks and snacks, plus a fascinating commentary on the abundant wildlife that populates Alabama's coastal waterways and bayous.

And the whole family's sure to enjoy a wet and wild adventure in one of the area's water parks. Food is available at park concession stands, so you can go early and spend the day.

For a break from water sports, you can go bird watching on Dauphin Island, admire the manicured beauty of Bellingrath Gardens, or tour the World War II battleship USS Alabama, anchored in nearby Mobile Bay.

Or, for a one-of-a-kind of adventure ¬- and a view of the area from a whole new vantage point - sign up for a hot-air balloon ride over the Gulf and coastal wetlands.

For more options, and for diving/snorkeling and boat charter information, check out our list of area businesses.

Special events

Sunny skies and comfortable temperatures most of the year mean that any time's a good time for a celebration in Gulf Shores. Two of the best-known festivals celebrate the local shrimping industry and the talent of area musicians.

More than 300 vendors offering arts, crafts, clothing, jewelry, and other retail goods make the National Shrimp Festival one of the nation's most exciting outdoor events. The four-day festival celebrates its 37th year this October.

The Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival, held each November at various spots in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and other nearby communities, offers 10 days of live musical entertainment. It's named for the late Frank Brown, a music fan who worked as night watchman at the legendary Flora-Bama Lounge for 28 years. The festival was founded as a venue for aspiring writers and musicians to showcase their work.

The city also celebrates the Fourth of July with a fireworks display, and ushers in the holiday season with a Christmas tree lighting and open house.

And there are plenty of other special events scheduled year-round - concerts, theater and dance performances, wine tastings, food festivals, arts and crafts shows - even a rodeo. Check out our calendar of events for an up-to-date list of what's going on while you're in town.