All-natural adventure is on the horizon when you vacation in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Experience the area’s natural beauty and spend a day or two eco-sploring the beaches, trails and hideaways of the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Explore by Foot
If you haven’t visited the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, include a stop during your next beach vacation. Visit the refuge office and talk with staff to get the lay of the land, hear about the extensive trail system, and learn about the different flora and fauna that call the refuge home. Refuge staff and volunteers routinely offer guided bird walks, dune hikes and night prowls throughout the year. The refuge provides four nature trails, some on easy terrain and others on moderate to strenuous terrain. Trails range from one mile to four miles in length and are a great way to while away the day and explore a whole different side of Alabama’s beaches. The trails give visitors the chance to discover numerous habitats, including dunes, swales, wetlands, maritime forests and scrub habitats. The refuge is open year round, from sunrise to sunset. Be sure to bring along a bottle of water, and wear a hat and bug repellant.
Explore by Bike
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails are one of the most popular spots at the beach for eco-sploring. Download the GeoCache app, bring a bottle of water and start peddling! The trail complex features 15 trails winding through six different ecosystems. A 2017 expansion extended the trails to more than 25 paved miles through the Gulf State Park. Visitors can now bike from Gulf Shores to Orange Beach along the trail system. Keep an eye out for Lefty the alligator, freshwater marshes and hardwood swamps. You may even see a white-tailed deer on Gulf Oak Ridge. For those who really want an all-natural adventure, camp in a primitive outpost campsite. Canvas tents supported on rustic hardwood floors and framed with recycled fallen trees become your home away from home for the night. Spend the evening roasting marshmallows over a campfire and listening to the sounds of nature. Campsites offer nylon cots and accommodate four people per site or six guests with an additional tent.
Explore by Boat
Have kayak, will travel? Then the beach is calling! Even if you don’t own a kayak, it’s easy to explore the back bays and water systems of the Alabama Gulf Coast. Kayak rentals are available throughout the beach, or you can book a guided eco-tour with one of several companies in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Wild Native offers a kayak tour through the waters in and around the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge – a nice complement to a day spent exploring the refuge by foot. Coastal Kayak Excursions offers a guided tour of the back bays in Orange Beach, where Captain Glenn will share about the flora and fauna of the area. In addition, if your visit coincides with a full moon, check with the Wind & Water Learning Center for their Full Moon Paddle excursion.
No matter how you choose to eco-splore the beaches, trails and waterways of the Alabama Gulf Coast, there’s always room for more experiences and memories. We’d love to hear from you! Share your favorite eco-activity with us in the comment section below.