While Alabama only has a small footprint along the U.S. Gulf Coast, along those 60 miles, you will find some of the finest beaches anywhere along the Gulf of Mexico. The snowy white beaches and turquoise waters of the Alabama Gulf Coast are a must-see vacation destination.
Here is a look at the six best beaches in Alabama.
Pro Tip: Remember, when visiting any beach, pay attention to those warning flags and beach alerts that will notify you of dangerous surf conditions and rip currents. Before hitting the beach, sign up for beach text alerts by texting ALBEACHES to 888777. You can text STOP to stop receiving the messages.
1. Gulf Shores
The ultimate beach experience awaits you in beautiful Gulf Shores. The town is world-famous for its pristine snowy white beaches where the surf of the turquoise waters in the Gulf of Mexico lap against the shoreline.
In all, there are 15 public beaches near the bustling downtown area. Many are equipped with volleyball nets, picnic pavilions, and restrooms. The city has also installed beach access mats so that people using wheelchairs may also enjoy the sand and sun.
One of the most popular of those beaches is at the Gulf State Park Pavilion, located 6 miles east of U.S. Highway 59. The pavilion has a snack bar, private showers, plenty of shade, and air-conditioned restrooms to provide a respite from the summer heat. And your beach visit isn’t only relegated to the summertime. The pavilion also has a large central fireplace to cozy up to during the chillier winter months while still catching spectacular sunsets over the gulf.
What makes Gulf Shores a major destination for beachgoers are the many dining and entertainment venues located only a short distance from the beach. Enjoy food, fun, and entertainment at The Hangout (home of the famous concert event of the same name). Grab your souvenirs and beach gear at Souvenir City, then play arcade games or a round of mini-golf and visit the largest shrimp in the Southeast at Shrimpy’s Grill and Golf.
Pro Tip: Parking is available at each public beach. Visit the Gulf Shores website for the latest pricing.
2. Orange Beach
Next to Gulf Shores, the beaches of Orange Beach are some of the best the state has to offer along the Gulf Coast. The city has three main beaches — Shell Beach, Alabama Point East, and Cotton Bayou — all of which are part of Gulf State Park.
Of these, Cotton Bayou is arguably the most popular as it is conveniently located off Perdido Beach Boulevard between a row of high-rise condominiums. There is ample — and free — parking located only a short walk away. Restrooms, showers, and ADA-accessible beach mats are available.
While Alabama Point can be a bit more crowded, there is plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the sun and surf with over a mile of snowy white beach, picnic areas, and restrooms. It is also the ideal location to do a little skimboarding.
3. Dauphin Island
It’s called the “Sunset Capital of Alabama” and you will understand why when you spend a day on the beaches of Dauphin Island. The 14-mile-long barrier island tends to get less publicity than the more popular cross-bay beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, but that’s good for you. It makes these barrier-island beaches much less crowded.
Dauphin Island has three public beaches all located off Bienville Boulevard. Each offers plenty of fun in the sun and surf, beautiful gulf views, and those incredible sunrises and sunsets.
The main public beach is located next to the island’s middle school. The East End Beach is one of the few dog-friendly beaches along Alabama’s coast (just be sure to pick up after them and keep them on a leash). It is also in close proximity to Historic Fort Gaines, which saw one of the most famous U.S. naval battles take place, the Battle of Mobile Bay, during the Civil War. It is also near the Alabama Aquarium (formerly the Estuarium).
And here’s a little secret. Both the Public and East End Beaches are near the ferry landing and the Dauphin Island Bridge, so they are where most people park their cars and hit the surf. For something more secluded, leave the crowds behind and head to the West End Beach.
There is a $10 parking fee at each beach but it is a one-time fee, so you can beach hop during the day.
4. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
One of the most secluded Gulf Coast beaches in Alabama is located within the 7,000-acre Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge located along the Fort Morgan Peninsula. The refuge is home to over 350 species of birds and an impressive lineup of wildlife including alligators, sea turtles, deer, and more.
There are two access points to the beach. One involves a hike of almost 2 miles down the refuge’s Pine Beach Trail on Alabama Highway 180 through a maritime wetland and forest. It’s a beautiful hike, but you will have to carry your beach gear. Cars are not permitted on the trail.
The easiest access, however, is at the end of the long and winding Mobile Street off Alabama Highway 180. The road dead ends at a small sand parking lot. From here, the beach stretches east for almost 2 miles along the Gulf of Mexico and you will be hard-pressed to find crowds here. Parking is free.
With that in mind, remember that there are no lifeguards on duty at this beach. Swimming is at your own risk. Pay attention to those flags and beach warnings mentioned earlier.
5. Pirate’s Cove
Two bay-centric beaches made the list. The first is actually located on the north side of a bayou along a small strip of sandy beach just north of Orange Beach. It is located at a good old fashioned hole-in-the-wall bar and grill, one that has a special affection for dogs and their owners, at Pirate’s Cove.
For over 80 years, Pirate’s Cove has been serving up some of the best burgers around, including the famous Cove Burger, a 1/3-pound burger with the usual toppings of lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, but what makes it special is the mustard-based sauce. And the Cove also mixes up a killer Bushwhacker. There is always live entertainment as well as many special events including the annual Autism Fundraiser and the Dog Olympics. Dine inside or sit and people watch from an outside table.
As I said, the beach at Pirate’s Cove is very dog-friendly. Your pup will love frolicking in the bayou; just make sure they are well-behaved. Parking can be a challenge at Pirate’s Cove. It is often packed but well worth the visit. If you have a boat, you can also drive up and park at the Cove’s marina.
6. North Beach Park
The second of the bay beaches is in the town of Fairhope in the city’s North Beach Park. The park is situated along the banks of Mobile Bay and begins at the popular rose garden fountain and the Fairhope Municipal Pier, which stretches out into the bay where you can fish and crab. A saltwater fishing license is required.
The park offers plenty to do including a 1-mile paved walking trail through a wooded area with almost 500 species of trees, including magnificent wide oaks that provide welcoming shade in the summer, a large duck pond with aerating water fountains, picnic tables with barbecue grills, playgrounds for the kids, and recently renovated restrooms.
But of course, we are here for the beach, a half-mile stretch of sand with gorgeous views of the relatively calm waters of the bay and the Mobile skyline on the opposite side. Besides sunbathing and swimming, rent a paddleboard or kayak to explore the bay.
Dogs are not permitted on the beach. There is a fee for non-residents to use the beach between Memorial Day and Labor Day.