Gulf Shores Beaches Blog

February 23, 2023

Escape to Paradise: A Tour of Gulf Shores’ Most Stunning Beaches

 “A walk on the beach is a cure for every trouble.”

– Anonymous

As we step into 2024, if you’re looking for a slice of paradise, Gulf Shores has it all—sun-kissed sand, turquoise waters, breathtaking landscapes, and beachfront rentals to soak it all in. Whether you’re a frequent visitor to the shores or your first time, Gulf Shores offers something for everyone. But with so many stunning beaches to choose from, it can be tough to know where to start. 

Therefore, we’ve put together a guide to the best beaches in Gulf Shores that are not to be missed. This year, make sure to explore our top picks for the most unforgettable seaside experiences.

Planning Your 2024 Beach Vacation

Sunset in the Gulf Shores' Beaches
Source – Alabama Beach Vacations 

Planning a beach vacation can be overwhelming, especially if planning for a large family. However, with a little bit of organization and prior insight into the area, you can make sure that everything goes smoothly. When planning your 2024 trip to Gulf Shores, consider the following:

Time of Year: Gulf Shores has a subtropical climate with warm temperatures most of the year. However, peak tourist season is during the summer months, so if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, consider visiting in the spring or fall. 

Budget: Gulf Shores offers a wide range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly condos to large and luxurious family homes. Decide on your budget before you start searching for a place to stay, so you can narrow down your options. 

Transportation: Gulf Shores is accessible by car, but if you’re flying, you’ll need to fly into Pensacola International Airport and drive the rest of the way. We would recommend renting a car as the airport is around an hour and 15-minute drive from Gulf Shores, and having a car for the duration of your trip to go exploring is always a plus. Alternatively, you’ll have to look into a shuttle or taxi service to get around once you arrive. If you don’t plan on renting a car, booking a vacation home or condo that is a short walk to the beach is ideal if you plan on spending most of your time soaking in the sun along the Gulf of Mexico.

Gulf Shores’ Best Beaches

The  best beaches on Gulf Shores, Alabama

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top beaches near and in Gulf Shores.

Little Lagoon Beach

Looking for a peaceful escape from the bustling crowds? The beach at Little Lagoon Pass Park is the oasis you’ve been searching for. This serene stretch of sand provides a tranquil getaway with its calm waters, breathtaking sunsets, and diverse wildlife. Whether you want to enjoy a leisurely picnic, cast a line for a day of fishing, or simply soak up the scenery, the Little Lagoon Pass is the perfect destination to slow down and connect with nature.

You can find Little Lagoon Pass three miles west of Highway 59 along West Beach Boulevard (Highway 182). Amenities include public parking, restrooms, and outdoor showers on the north side, with a public beach just across the street. Parking is available for an all-day fee of $15.

Gulf Shores Main Public Beach (Gulf Place)

Man surf fishing at Fort Morgan Beach
Photo Credit: ‘Surf Fishing’ by Outdoor Alabama via CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 DEED

Gulf Shores Main Public Beach, located where Highway 59 meets the Gulf, is a popular spot for volleyball and has an array of beach bars to choose from. Convenient up-close parking is available for a small fee, making it easy to access the beach with your gear. The area is well-equipped with amenities including restrooms, beach rinse showers, lifeguards, open-air pavilions, and a spacious grassy area known as “Town Green.” Since this is the main public beach in the area visitors can expect a larger crowd here – so if you’re looking for a hustle and bustle beach with great amenities, this is the place.

The City of Gulf Shores prioritizes accessibility, offering four beach mats to enhance the beach’s wheelchair accessibility. Three of these mats are located at Gulf Place, and one can be found at East Gulf Place near the resident parking area, ensuring the beach is accessible to all visitors.

Gulf State Park Pavilion

In contrast to the Gulf Shores Main Public Beach’s living environment, the Gulf State Park Pavilion offers a quiet and serene setting, with 6 miles of gorgeous coastline east of Highway 59. Surrounded by sand dunes and sea oats, this spacious beach offers plenty of room to relax, making it perfect for families loaded with beach gear. Surf fishing is a popular pastime here, adding to the beach’s allure. 

The newly constructed beach pavilion enhances your visit with air-conditioned restrooms, private showers, and a snack bar. Comfort is key, with ample shaded seating and even a large fireplace for cooler days. The beach at Gulf State Park Pavilion is definitely a top choice for your vacation.

Cotton Bayou (A Gulf State Park Beach Area)

Cotton Bayou is a cozy beach spot found at the intersection of Highway 182 and Highway 161 in Orange Beach and is perfect for those who enjoy a lively beach atmosphere. Surrounded by popular condominiums, this area offers excellent opportunities for people-watching and partaking in vibrant beach activities. Amenities include restrooms, outdoor showers, and an ADA beach access mat at the east ramp, ensuring comfort and accessibility. 

If you’re planning on hitting the trails during your 2024 Gulf Shores vacation, this beach is close to the Cotton Bayou Trail, meaning after your hike you can retreat to the beach for a well-deserved rest and refreshing sea swim.

Romar Beach (A Gulf State Park Beach Area)

Romar Beach is an accessible and inviting stretch of sand located just 6.8 miles east of Highway 59 in Orange Beach. It’s a convenient spot for a quick stroll or an impromptu picnic by the sea. Currently, there are no restrooms or showers, but plans are in place to add these amenities in the future. 

Just a five-minute drive west of Cotton Bayou, Romar Beach offers a prime location if you’re interested in exploring multiple beaches in one day. Romar Beach is a lesser-known gem, making it perfect for visitors who appreciate simplicity and natural beauty; it promises a relaxed and hassle-free beach experience.

Alabama Point East (A Gulf State Park Beach Area)

Located a bit farther east of Gulf Shores, Alabama Point East is found near the Perdido Pass Bridge in Orange Beach and is a local favorite for its stunning views and ample amenities. This expansive beach offers large stretches of fine sand, ideal for sunbathing leisurely sandy walks. With convenient parking, restrooms, and outdoor showers, it’s equipped for a comfortable day at the beach. 

The nearby jetties not only provide excellent fishing spots but also create picturesque backdrops for photographers and nature lovers alike. Alabama Point East is a top choice for a beach day located under a 20-minute drive away from Gulf Shores.

Branyon Beach

Located at the intersection of Highway 182 and Campground Road, Branyon Beach Access offers a quaint entry point to the beach. The beach has limited free parking, a traffic light for safely crossing the highway, and a scenic boardwalk that meanders through the sand dunes. This spot is perfect for anyone staying in the nearby campground or visiting the area, providing a beautiful stretch of beach ideal for leisurely strolls or sunrise viewings. Please note that there are no restrooms or showers available at this location. 

Fun Fact: This beach access point was named in honor of former park superintendent Hugh S. Branyon

Shell Beach

Shell Beach, located east of Perdido Pass Bridge, serves as the gateway to the easternmost beaches of Gulf State Park. For a small fee, visitors can enjoy easy access to the stunning white sands and picturesque dunes. This serene spot is ideal for those looking to collect seashells along the water’s edge; the perfect souvenir of your Gulf Shores vacation. While parking is available, please note that there are no restroom facilities at this location.

West Beach

West Beach offers a long stretch of sandy coastline perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and beach volleyball. Perfect for a family beach day out, this beach is a hub of activity, featuring lively music, delicious food, a variety of water sports, and the perfect spot for sandcastle building. 

Orange sunset on Gulf Shores Beach
Photo Credit: ‘Gulf Shores Alabama Sunset’ by John Tuggle via CC BY 4.0 DEED

Conveniently located along West Beach Boulevard, this popular beach has lots of parking options and thankfully features public restrooms for visitors. Access is straightforward, with multiple entry points along the boulevard. West Beach is an excellent spot for those seeking a classic beach day out filled with fun activities and amenities. Don’t forget to stay on to catch the spectacular Gulf sunset.

Explore Our Interactive Map of Gulf Shores Beaches

Fort Morgan Beaches

Fort Morgan Beach is located at the tip of the scenic Fort Morgan peninsula and offers a unique blend of history and natural beauty. This beach provides easy access to the historic Fort Morgan, a military fortification dating back to 1819, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts seeking a quick history lesson during their trip. With parking and restroom facilities available, visitors can comfortably enjoy a day exploring the rich cultural heritage or relaxing on the sandy shores. 

Whether you’re looking for a spot to relax and reflect after exploring the Fort Morgan State Historic Site or simply coming to soak up the sun, Fort Morgan Beach is a gorgeous beach offering a unique day out.

Fun Fact: Fort Morgan in Alabama is known for its strategic role during the Battle of Mobile Bay in the Civil War, famously associated with Admiral David Farragut’s command, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Wooden posts walkway down to the sandy beach
Photo Credit: ‘My Public Lands Roadtrip: Sunny Alabama Shores for National Trails Day!’ by Bureau of Land Management via CC BY 4.0 DEED

More Public Beach Access Points

Gulf Shores 4th Street Public Access: Here you’ll find a pedestrian crossing access point. There is no parking but ideal if you’re staying in a vacation rental nearby.

Gulf Shores 6th Street Public Access: This beach access is located five blocks west of Highway 59, and conveniently offers parking options on both the north and south sides. From the north side, you can enjoy a scenic walk along the boardwalk to the beach. On the south side, parking fees are $5 for 4 hours or $15 for an all-day pass. Lucky for Gulf Shores residents they benefit from free parking at this site.

Gulf Shores 10th Street Public Access: This access point offers street-side parking with a scenic dune to walk over onto the beach. It has showers and temporary restrooms. The parking cost is $15 for a full day and Gulf Shores residents can park for free. 

Gulf Shores 12th Street Public Access: This access point offers beach access only. However, there is parking available for $15 for the day across the street. Temporary Restroom facilities are available. This is the perfect access point for those staying in nearby vacation rentals and are on foot.

Gulf Shores 13th Street Public Access: There is no parking available at this access point, just sandy beach access. There are temporary restrooms and showers available. Perfect for on-foot beachgoers. 

Exploring the Surrounding Areas

Surrounding areas at the beaches on gulf shores

Gulf Shores isn’t just about the beaches, there are plenty of exciting things to do and experience in the surrounding area. Take a trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, where you can see exotic animals from around the world. Explore a diverse collection of creatures, ranging from majestic big cats, and playful primates to scaly reptiles. Stroll through the zoo to catch a glimpse of exotic animals in their habitats or join in on one of the animal encounters and feedings. You can even get a selfie with a sloth!

Visit the Gulf Shores Museum, where you can learn about the rich history and culture of the Gulf Coast. Or take a trip to the nearby city of Pensacola, Florida, home to the National Naval Aviation Museum, a must-see for aviation enthusiasts.

What Are You Waiting For? Pack Your Bags!

With its incredible beaches, rich history, and endless activities, Gulf Shores is the perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries. For those looking for the ultimate beach holiday, with a pinch of adventure and history, look no further than the serene beaches of Gulf Shores. So, what are you waiting for? Book your dream vacation rental today and start planning your escape to paradise.

Commonly Asked Questions About Beaches in Gulf Shores, Alabama

1. Are beaches in Gulf Shores pet-friendly?

Beaches in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are not pet friendly. For pet friendly beaches visit Fort Morgan. However, it is important to note that each beach has different rules and regulations regarding pets, so it’s best to check in advance to avoid any surprises. 

Which is the best public beach in Gulf Shores?

Some of the most popular and highly rated public beaches in Gulf Shores include Gulf State Park, West Beach, and East Beach. Each beach offers its own unique features, such as calm waters for swimming, pristine white sand, and beautiful sunsets.

Are Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan the same?

No, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan are three separate communities located along the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama. While they are all popular tourist destinations for beachgoers, each offers its own unique attractions, dining, and shopping options.