In many destinations, when you think “sports tourism,” you may think of traditional sports complexes and fields. While Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have fantastic traditional sports facilities, the Alabama Gulf Coast lauds its natural venues from the beach to the back bays and an expansive state park in between.
COASTAL Orange Beach, which opened in 2022 as a public-private partnership between the city of Orange Beach and Flora-Bama, offers a large retail space, two full-service dining options, parking for patrons and residents, as well as public beach access. This spot is ideal for beach volleyball and shore fishing, to name a couple of options.
Speaking of Flora-Bama, the legendary roadhouse that straddles the Florida-Alabama line (hence the name) is known for its iconic chocolate frozen adult beverage – the Bushwacker – and live music 365 days a year. Aside from great music, fresh oysters on the half-shell and libations, Flora-Bama is also a great venue for sporting and athletic events. The beachside bar holds its annual Mullet Man Triathlon each April ahead of the infamous Mullet Toss event along with headquartering several other races, like I Pink I Can in March and the Make It to the Line Run/Walk in December. Across the street at the Flora-Bama Marina and Flora-Bama Yacht Club, collegiate wakeboarding has taken place in the past while events like the Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo take place annually.
GULF STATE PARK
Often referred to as the “crown jewel of Alabama State Parks,” Gulf State Park boasts 6,150 acres, including a 28-mile accessible trail system, three small freshwater lakes, one of the largest fishing piers on the Gulf of Mexico and educational facilities, such as the Nature Center, Learning Campus and Interpretive Center. Did you know the park highlights nine distinct ecosystems?!
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail system is an ideal location for races, runs and biking events of various lengths. The Coastal Half-Marathon, 5K & 1-Mile Fun Run presented by This Is Alabama is owned and operated by GSOB Sports & Events and managed by Team Magic that winds through this majestic park with views of fall flora and fauna the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Other sporting events, such as the Good Life Ride by the Alabama Coastal Foundation, which promotes bicycle safety and environmental awareness, choose the park’s flat and fast course for its annual gathering.