Travel Writer: My Favorite Eco-Experiences in Gulf Shores
Over the past several years, I’ve become far more aware of the impact of human beings on the world. The more we develop an area, the greater our impact on nature’s ecosystems. Much of what I learned about people’s impact on the environment came from visits to Gulf Shores, Alabama.
While Alabama might not be the first place you think of when discussing eco-tourism and LEED friendly development, Gulf Shores is quite active in both. It begins with an underlying policy adopted in both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach to “Leave Only Footprints,” a mission to preserve and protect endangered sea turtle nesting areas at the beach.
Best eco-experiences in Gulf Shores
WildNative Tours. On the Dolphins & Wildlife Kayak Tour, lose yourself in the home of the bottlenose dolphins. Learn about their natural environment as you paddle through the water in two-person kayaks. You’ll also see migratory birds that make this place home throughout the year and make a stop at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, at a beach only accessible by boat. This memorable tour gets you close to the dolphins without doing any harm to their home. Suitable for beginners and advanced kayakers.
Coastal Kayak Excursions. This tour begins with a pontoon ride to the kayak launch point, where you’ll then tour the coastal waters by kayak to see dolphins playing in their natural habitat as you learn about them and other plants and animals native to Coastal Alabama. This tour is both fun and informative. You won’t even know you’re learning!
Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. One of my favorite places in Gulf Shores, the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail includes trails that cross through six ecosystems. As you explore the trails, take a break at one of the many benches along the trail to observe the birds, bugs and plants that live here. Keep an eye out for alligators who make this park their home. The butterfly garden is another great spot to visit. The trail system has several different entrance points and is also bike friendly.
The Nature Center at Gulf State Park. The Gulf State Park Nature Center introduces park guests to animals and plants native to Alabama’s coastal region. Beyond the displays at the nature center, the center offers planned activities — most of which are free of charge. These hands-on activities — like GeoCaching 101, Exploring Coastal Creatures and Eco Art — inspire learning using all the senses, very family-friendly.
The Interpretive Center at Gulf State Park. A gorgeous and exciting addition to the Gulf Shores area is the brand new, LEED certified, interpretive center at Gulf State Park. This center introduces the public to the beauty of Gulf Shores while also explaining the ecology of this region. The Interpretive Center is entirely self-sustaining, relying on solar power, composting toilets and recycled rainwater to provide the essentials. Indoor and outdoor exhibits introduce state park visitors to the plants and wildlife they’ll see in the area. Many hands-on exhibits bring the information to life for young kids — they can even “burrow” through tunnels to learn about the critters who live underground.