I experienced some of these attractions on a sponsored press trip, but all recommendations and opinions are my own.
Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway runs along the Gulf Coast and is a unique way to explore Gulf Shores, Alabama. As you drive, you’ll find yourself immersed in history and nature.
Here are some of my favorite Gulf Shores experiences along this delightful drive.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
The Jeff Friend Loop Trail at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best places in the area for bird-watching and spotting other critters. Park in the refuge’s parking lot and be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. You will also want to bring bug spray, sunscreen, binoculars, and bottled water. Coastal development has impacted the natural habitat of the endangered Alabama beach mouse, and Bon Secour provides a home for them.
The trail, a mix of crushed limestone and a boardwalk, is 0.9 miles, relatively flat, and ADA compliant. If you plan on fishing along the way, be sure to purchase your Alabama fishing license before casting your line into the waters.
Allow 2 hours to explore this sliver of paradise. You’ll love the colorful birds that frequent the area!
Fort Morgan State Historic Site
Fort Morgan is at the tip of the peninsula that lies west of Gulf Shores and along Alabama’s Coastal Connection. This massive fort was constructed between 1819 and 1833, but what I love most about this attraction is that it offers more than just history. From the top of the fort, you can see for miles around. Beautiful beaches, a picnic area, and a boat launch are all nearby.
If you enjoy taking photos of historic spots, you will find many photo opportunities at Fort Morgan. The volunteers stationed throughout the site are available to answer all of your questions.
Plan to spend a minimum of 2 hours on-site, as you will find something interesting around every corner. The Fort Morgan grounds are open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
I had the opportunity to fly over Fort Morgan with Beach Flight Aviation in Gulf Shores, and the area was even more beautiful from above. If you want a unique perspective, consider flying over Fort Morgan.
Mobile Bay Ferry
The Mobile Bay Ferry boards near Fort Morgan. This is one of the easiest ways to travel to Dauphin Island, which is a continuation of the scenic byway. Taking the ferry is a unique way to see a part of the Gulf Shores area that many visitors do not see. On my last trip across the bay, we spotted several jellyfish in the water.
If you have never driven your car onto a ferry, this is an experience you will want to make time for. If you want to ride the ferry and leave your car in the parking lot, you can do that as well.
The hours vary by season, so it’s important to check the website before your trip.
Gulf Shores Museum
The Gulf Shores Museum exists today because of the generosity of the local people. The museum features several permanent exhibits, including Portrait of a Fishing Village, Drawing a Line in the Sand, and Hurricanes: What You Need to Know. Rotating special exhibits are also on display.
Butterfly enthusiasts will love the museum’s butterfly garden. The garden can get quite crowded, so build some extra time into your schedule for butterfly viewing. Benches and tables are nearby, so guests can rest their feet while they observe the colorful butterflies.
Gulf State Park
Gulf State Park is home to 2 miles of pristine beaches along Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway. There is nothing like sinking your toes into the fine, sugary sand that these beaches are known for.
At Gulf State, you can fish, bike, kayak, or canoe to your heart’s content, and picnic areas are available for when you need a lunch break. Birding and hiking are also popular in this area. If you enjoy riding Segways, the state park offers a Segway tour. Even if you’ve never ridden one, the tour guides will keep you upright and make sure that you enjoy your experience. I can attest to their patience, as they helped me quite a bit when I took this tour.
Cottages, cabins, lodges, RV campsites, and primitive campsites are all available in the park if you decide to stay the night. If you enjoy tent camping, Gulf State Park is a great place to do so, since the park is very clean and well maintained.
Kayaking is one of the easiest ways to explore the Gulf Shores area along the scenic byway.
On my most recent visit to Gulf Shores, I had the opportunity to try kayak fishing with Whistlin’ Waters. Scott, our friendly guide, knew everything there was to know about the area and helped us maneuver our kayaks. He provided all of our fishing gear as well. I knew nothing about fishing or kayaking at the beginning of our adventure, but I still had the time of my life!
The kayaks we used were peddle kayaks, or lazy man’s kayaks, as I like to call them. The next time I hop in a kayak and need to use my arms, I might be complaining a little!
I am not into geocaching, but during my visits to Gulf Shores, I noticed that it was a popular activity along the scenic byway. Participants in this international treasure hunt flock to Alabama’s Coastal Connection in search of hidden objects at particular GPS coordinates.
Visitors of all ages can participate in this activity, and your chances of connecting with fellow geocachers are pretty good. If you’re interested in seeing what all the fuss is about, visit the Geocaching website. Participants have told me that this is a great way to explore this scenic part of Coastal Alabama.
Note that there are rules to follow when searching for these treasures. One very important one is that you do not move the cache when you find it.
Lulu’s Gulf Shores
Food is an important part of every vacation, and some of the best food in the country can be found along Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway.
If you’re skeptical, head to Lulu’s in Gulf Shores, which serves up spectacular Southern dishes. The fresh Gulf red snapper sandwich is a fan favorite, and the fried green tomatoes and tuna dip are also popular. I order the tuna dip every time I visit; a waitress insisted that I try it several years ago, and to this day, I am grateful that she did!
If you love a decadent dessert, don’t miss Lulu’s bread pudding. You’ll leave the restaurant wanting more!
Consider heading to Lulu’s for an early or late meal, since the restaurant is packed all year long. Ask to be seated along the coastal waterway for a meal with a gorgeous view.
How To Make The Most Of Your Byway Experience
Gulf Shores is home to one of the finest scenic byways in the country. Alabama’s Coastal Connection offers something for everyone in your party, from the birders to the foodies to the grandkids. I have driven this scenic byway several times, and I’ve experienced new things on every single visit.
That said, there are a few measures you can take to make the most of your experience. Be flexible, since volatile weather can force you to change your plans. When traveling along Alabama’s Coastal Connection, have your rain gear and jackets handy in case you need them. Memories can just as easily be made in rain boots and under an umbrella!
Alabama’s Gulf Coast is home to miles of beauty that you can only find along Alabama’s Coastal Connection. Don’t be afraid to slow down when you see something that piques your curiosity. After all, this is why you’re taking a scenic byway instead of flying down the interstate at 75 miles per hour.