Go Wild with an Animal Encounter Vacation on the Alabama Gulf Coast

Natural encounters along the Alabama Gulf Coast are one of the key reasons visitors and residents alike are drawn to the area.

From the sun, sand and surf to Gulf State Park, there’s no shortage of the great outdoors. And getting to know the natural inhabitants of this area is just as enjoyable as playing on their home turf. In fact, options for animal encounters along the Alabama Gulf Coast are numerous, from observing them as they go about their daily routine to getting up close and personal with individual species.

Explore the Coast

Orange Beach Sailing Adventures
Take A Cruise

Dolphin-watching Tours

Just as we love splashing and swimming in the waters along the Alabama Gulf Coast, so, too, do the bottlenose dolphins that live in these same waters. Sometimes you’ll see them swimming along the shoreline as you walk along the beach. But for a closer look, consider booking a Gulf Shores or Orange Beach dolphin cruise. I’ve been fortunate enough to sail with two different companies – Sail Wild Hearts and Orange Beach Sailing Adventures – both of which provided ample opportunities to view these graceful creatures. When cruising with Orange Beach Sailing Adventures, to my surprise, I actually saw dolphins not long after we left the pier, long before we made it out into the Gulf. I (naively) didn’t realize the dolphins would come back into the bay, but why wouldn’t they? Regardless, it was fun watching them frolic and play with one another as they made their way through the waters.

Of course, while a number of dolphins call the area home, they can be just as finicky as us humans, meaning they may decide to keep to themselves sometimes. But that’s okay. If that happens, just take advantage of a glorious day spent sailing on the Gulf waters. With the sun on your face and the breeze in your hair, how could it be anything less than a perfect day?

Backcountry Trial bike rideSpot the Wildlife

Hitting the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail in the Gulf State Park is a lovely way to get outside and spend some quiet time with the local wildlife. For instance, along two of the trails – Rosemary Dunes and Gulf Oak Ridge – there are gator swamps where you can take a break and see if you can spot these reticent residents. Along the Catman Road trail, try to keep up with the beautifully winged insects as they flit about the butterfly garden. And along every trail throughout the park you can catch sight of numerous birds and possibly even a white-tailed deer or bobcat. On a recent visit, my kids and I biked along the trail. We didn’t spot any gators or bobcats, but we did see many varieties of birds among the trees. It was especially fun to take a break in the shade and quietly observe these animals as they went about their business. Surprisingly, they can get quite loud! Just remember to respect these animals’ personal space, and only take a photo for your scrapbook.

Gulf State Park Nature Center

If you head to the  Gulf State Park, make plans to visit the Nature Center in Gulf Shores. The Nature Center offers a variety of tours and programs geared to educate visitors on the wildlife prevalent in the region. From encounters with snakes and turtles to guided nature walks along the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, there are plenty of opportunities to see and learn more about the animals along the Alabama Gulf Coast. For a schedule of activities at the Nature Center during your visit, check out the Gulf State Park website.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Of course, everyone knows you will see animals at a zoo, and this, obviously, was no exception at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. But one of the things you can do at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is hold a baby animal – in my case, it was a baby kangaroo. For a nominal fee in addition to zoo admission, visitors can choose from a number of animal encounters that include red kangaroos, lemurs, reptiles and tiger cubs. I never imagined I would have the opportunity to hold a baby kangaroo, but it was a great experience. It definitely elevates the regular zoo experience to a whole new level! To find out which animal encounters are available during your visit, check out the website for a full schedule. It’s a unique experience you don’t want to miss!


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