Adventure awaits at the Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park has become a mecca for lovers of the great outdoors vacationing on the Alabama Gulf Coast. A destination within the destination, there’s so much to see and do within the park’s 6,150 acres. Scroll down to learn more about the activities and other things to do at Gulf State Park.
 

Activities, Recreation & Things to Do

Boy with Fish Gulf Shores AL
Fishing and Education Pier

With 2,448 ft. of fishing space, the Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier is the largest pier in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also Alabama’s only public pier in the Gulf. On the pier you will find an indoor retail store, concession area and plenty of shaded seating. You can also purchase a saltwater fishing license as well as bait and tackle. If you’re a pier fishing novice, consider attending Angler Academy. This two-hour signature experience provides you with all of the tools and rules needed for this introduction to saltwater fishing.

Note: In September, the pier sustained significant damage from Hurricane Sally. At this time, the northern portion of the pier (approximately 725 feet) has been repaired and is now open for fishing. The southern portion of the pier remains closed. Angler Academy will resume when final renovations are complete.

State Park Beach
Gulf State Park Pavillion

If you’re wanting to enjoy the park’s public beach access, then the Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion is the spot for you. Located just six miles east of Hwy. 59, this access point provides visitors with three miles of spacious beaches, allowing guests room to spread out safely. The pavilion was recently renovated and now features air-conditioned restrooms. Additional improvements are currently underway to better accommodate events. All-day parking at the pavilion is $10 and $5 for four hours for most vehicles. There is also plenty of room for RV parking.

Hugh S. Branyon Backcounty Trail

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is a 28+ mile paved trail system that takes visitors throughout the 6,150 acres of Gulf State Park which is home to nine unique ecosystems. The trails are multi-use, meaning they are suitable for hikers, cyclists and are ADA accessible. There are trailheads surrounding the perimeter of the park, making it easy to find and access while vacationing on our shores. While many enjoy walking and hiking on the trails while taking in the views, if you want to cover more ground, we suggest biking or booking a Segway tour. Check out the trail map and begin exploring! 

The park has made biking easier for its guests by implementing a free bike share program. There are 50 bikes available to rent at stations scattered throughout the park. To ride, simply download the Bloom Bike Share App and scan the code at the station. The first three hours are free of charge. And, when you’re done, return the bike to your nearest station.

If you’d like to travel the trails by Segway, contact Coastal Segway Adventures, located at the main park office near Lake Shelby. They offer two-hour guided tours throughout the park. Their knowledgeable staff will first run through some safety drills and information. Then, they’ll guide you along the trails sharing information about the park and the wildlife that inhabit it. Most tours also include a stop to say “hi” to the park’s resident alligator, Lefty.

The park recently welcomed a new addition to the Backcountry Trail – Hammock Park. Located at Hidden Lakes Trails, you can bring your hammock and hang out at one of the seven hammock spaces. This is a fantastic spot to lie back and relax after a morning or afternoon of biking, hiking or kayaking at Gulf State Park.

GSP Biking Gulf Shores AL
Backcountry Trail Gulf Shores AL

Lake Shelby

Gulf State Park Lake Shelby

Lake Shelby lies at the center of Gulf State Park making it a beloved landmark on our island. The large freshwater lake is ideal for a day of swimming, fishing, boating and kayaking. Kayak rentals and fishing licenses are available at the park’s main office, located right next to Lake Shelby. Surrounding the lake, you will find plenty of picnic tables as well as pavilions that are available to rent for events and other gatherings. You can also access the lake on the Backcountry Trail via several piers and lookout stations. And, fun fact, Lake Shelby is one of the closest freshwater lakes near saltwater on the Gulf of Mexico.

Note: Lake Shelby is currently closed due to renovations and will reopen in Spring 2021. Enhancements to the Lake Shelby area include a playground, covered seating, water fountains, new restrooms, improved parking, a new tram stop, and a bike-share station for public use within the park. In addition, the dog park will include separate areas for small and large dogs.

Educational Experiences

Interpretive Center Gulf State Park

Interpretive Center

Located right next to the Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion is the park’s Interpretive Center. The center is pursuing both LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge certifications, making it the most environmentally friendly building in the state. Visitors to the beachfront facility learn more about why and how the park plans to meet these certifications while also becoming educated on the park’s sustainability initiatives. 

Learning Campus

Learning Campus

One of the newest additions to Gulf State Park, the Learning Campus is a robust facility built for educational day and overnight programs. Their trained field naturalists ensure that the activities are fun, safe and informative for groups of all ages. Some of their programs include nature walks, arts and crafts, solar cooking lessons and more. The Learning Campus is also the current location of the Gulf Coast Center for Ecotourism and Sustainability which provides the area with workshops and other activities in partnership with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. 

Nature Center Gulf Shores AL

Nature Center

Learn everything you need to know about the flora and fauna in Gulf State Park at the Nature Center. This is a living museum that showcases plants and animals that are native to the Gulf Coast region. The center’s knowledgeable staff are available to answer all of your questions. Throughout the year, they host educational events and activities to give visitors hands-on experience with the natural wonders found along Alabama’s beaches.

Gulf State Park Locations with 360 Video Tours

Dining at Gulf State Park

Woodside Restaurant Gulf State Park

Nestled within Gulf State Park is Woodside Restaurant, a relaxing eatery with a variety of creative Southern-style dishes. Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, you’ll find plenty of menu options including veggie omelets, biscuits and gravy, smoked BBQ, burgers, crab cakes and more. Guests can choose to enjoy their meal in the main indoor dining room, on the screened-in porch or outside on their shaded deck. And Woodside is the ideal spot to kick-off or end a day of biking at the Gulf State Park because it’s one of the locations for the park’s bike rental program. The restaurant also hosts live music weekly as well as other seasonal events. 

Foodcraft Restaurant Gulf Shores AL

Foodcraft

Come for the food and stay for the views at Foodcraft, located at The Lodge at Gulf State Park. This casual beachfront restaurant serves coastal classics while utilizing seasonal and locally-sourced ingredients. With everything from Insta-worthy avocado toast to Gulf oysters prepared five different ways, you can’t go wrong when dining at Foodcraft. They also offer an extensive drink menu complete with handmade cocktails, regional craft beer and wine.

Perch Gulf Shores AL

Perch

Also at The Lodge is Perch, the hotel’s fine-dining experience. Overlooking the sugar-white sand beaches and pristine Gulf waters, this eatery is one you’ll be craving to return to year after year. Like Foodcraft, Perch prides itself on sourcing products from local fishermen and regional farmers. Open for dinner only, their menu includes items such as house-smoked pork belly, filet mignon, fresh catch, yellowfin tuna and more. After dinner, cozy up with a cocktail and dessert on the patio which features two fire pits and plenty of spacious outdoor seating.
 

Lodging & Accommodations at Gulf State Park

Eagle Cottages at the Gulf State Park

Eagle Cottages

For lodging within the park, look no further than the Eagle Cottages. These newly renovated houses lining Lake Shelby provide roomy accommodations and an array of amenities. Each cottage has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, large living and kitchen spaces, two screened porches and an outdoor dining area. They also include amenities such as Adirondack chairs around a fire pit, a grill, porch swing, free park tours with on-site naturalists, bicycles and complimentary beverages. Note: Eagle Cottages are currently closed due to renovations and will reopen June 2021.

The Cabins at the Gulf State Park

The Cabins

The Cabins at Gulf State Park (19 total cabins) offer guests the opportunity to disconnect and reconnect with a variety of rustic accommodations.  Featuring studio, two, or three-bedroom options, guests can choose to be either among the long leaf pine in the woods or along the shore of beautiful Lake Shelby.  Each cabin is complete with bed linens, towels, microwave, coffee maker, toaster, pots, pans, utensils, flatware, and glasses.  The lakeside cabins also have fire pits, BBQ grills, porch swing, fishing piers, and fish cleaning stations. Note: The Cabins are currently closed due to renovations and will reopen in late 2021.

RV Park at The Gulf State Park

Campground

The Gulf State Park Campground offers 496 full hook-up campsites, accessible for both RVs and tents.The campground’s amenities include air-conditioned bathhouses, a small camp store, laundry facilities, a swimming pool, volleyball and tennis courts.

Lodge Gulf State Park

The Lodge

Located along the park’s public beach access, The Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel, stands as an elite model of environmentally friendly lodging. Built to do more good for our coastal environment than bad, The Lodge has implemented several sustainable practices such as allowing no plastic to be served on-site, water refill stations, safe outdoor lighting for sea turtles and more. The 350-room hotel features retro décor that is reminiscent of the previous Lodge that was destroyed in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan. It also houses four restaurants, 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, and direct access to both the beach and the park.

 

The Outpost at the Gulf State Park

The Outpost

The Outpost, a hike-in camp, provides campsites with raised, canvas-covered shelters with front porches and cots. These primitive sites also have running water, fire pits, outdoor showers and rustic bathrooms are located nearby. 

Contact Information For The Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park  RV & Campground The Lodge The Cabins
20115 State Park Rd.  22050 Campground Rd.  21196 E. Beach Blvd.  1 Bald Eagle Lane 
Gulf Shores, AL 36542 Gulf Shores, AL 36542 Gulf Shores, AL 36542 Gulf Shores, AL 36542
251-948-7275 251-948-7275 251-923-3900 251-923-3900
       
Nature Center Interpretive Center The Beach Pavilion  
20050 Campground Rd.  22250-A Beach Blvd.  22250-A Beach Blvd.   
Gulf Shores, AL 36542 Gulf Shores, AL 36542 Gulf Shores, AL 36542  
251-948-7275 251-540-4000 251-948-7275 ext. 2128