Headed for the Alabama Gulf Coast and looking for inexpensive Things To Do in Gulf Shores And Orange Beach? Having visited the area a number of times over the years, I have discovered some great options.
Nature At Its Finest
You will find some wonderful places to view and learn about native wildlife in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach region.
Encompassing 6,500 acres of protected land, this park offers a diversity of inexpensive recreation options. At the park, find:
- Nature Center-This living museum features animals and plants native to the Gulf Coast. Through the center, join in on guided nature walks, fishing pier walks, and education programming conducted by naturalists. Most activities are free with just a small parking fee for visitors not staying at parking facilities.
- Beaches-Enjoy part or all of your day exploring over 3.5 miles of beach accessible from the main parking area in Gulf Shores or entry points in Orange Beach. A gorgeous, large beach pavilion equipped with picnic tables, a seasonal concession stand, and air conditioned bathroom and shower facilities is located in Gulf Shores. Reasonable parking fees at the main pavilion and veterans park for free.
- Lake Shelby Picnic And Swimming Area-Freshwater lake with picnic area offering several charcoal grills, picnic tables, and two covered pavilions available for rent. Pets are allowed on leash.
- Dog Park At Lake Shelby-Speaking of pets, enjoy agility and play equipment for free at this lakeside canine fun zone.
- Hugh. S Branyon Backcountry Trail Complex– Hop on to this network of seven trails that cover more than 25 miles and six different ecosytems. At varying points on the trails you will find a butterfly garden, coastal hardwood swamps, and freshwater marshes. And who knows what wildlife you will spot. Trails are free to use. Bikes can be rented from Camp Store in park if needed.
- Fishing Pier-For a small fee, fun to sit and watch what’s being reeled in. Or With an Alabama fishing license, cost for a daily fishing pass is $9.
Have access to canoes or kayaks? Check out for free what some or all of the twelve designated trail sites along the shores of Wolf Bay, Bay La Launch, Arnica Bay, Bayou St. John and Cotton Bayou. So much to see in this combined 15 miles of shoreline paddling.
Offers lovely trails to explore on cooler or more temperate days. Avoid super hot or frigid days. Make a stop at the Visitor’s Center off of State Hwy. 180 on the Fort Morgan Peninsula for maps and tips before you head out. The refuge can also be viewed from Little Lagoon by canoe or kayak by launching at The Jeff Friend Trail. No charge.
Fall and winter opportunities for ranger led programs.
Located on Wolf Bay, this free public park features a 400 feet long fishing pier with covered pavilions and seating. Also, the park includes picnic shelters with grills, restrooms, and a very nice paved walking path. At the front of the park is a fun kids’ playground.
Located next door to the Orange Beach Waterfront Park, the center overlooks Wolf Bay. The centerpiece is a 10,000-square-foot gallery with beautiful Gulf Coast artwork spread across two stories. The huge windows overlooking the bay in the gallery are pretty mesmerizing. Entry into the gallery is free.
Also, if the artists are at work stop by The Hot Shop just down from the gallery. This hot glass blowing studio is fascinating.
Though on a different end of the spectrum from the Coastal Art Center, the Spectra Sound and Light Spectacular at The Wharf offers neat sights to behold. In high season, this coordinated music and light show on Main Street definitely entertains all ages. And just a hint, the palms trees are a big part of the show.
Check out The Wharf’s schedule as well for fireworks shows, kids’ days, dancing in the street, and other special events.
Other Great Things To Do In Gulf Shores And Orange Beach Greater Area
Just up the road from Gulf Shores and well worth the drive. The Model Train Exhibit does not disappoint. In fact, the first time I saw it was when they were actually setting it up in its own building. This 60 feet by 20 feet exhibit boasts a quarter mile of track and 84 model freight cars, 50 passenger cars, and model of the L & N Hummingbird.
The museum is located next door in the Louisville and Nashville railroad station built in 1909. On certain days of the week, kiddos and parents can catch a ride around the surrounding Heritage Park in the Charles Ebert Express II.
Travel a scenic 25 miles west of Gulf Shores. For a less than $10 entry fee per person, experience all that this site has to offer. Explore the masonry fort built between 1819 and 1833 to stand guard where the Mobile Bay met the Gulf of Mexico. Then, explore areas of the site used intermittently through World War II. The site also offers picnic areas and beaches.
All these wonderful inexpensive things to do during your visit to the Alabama Gulf Coast will leave you and your wallet loving that you made the trip.
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