The Alabama state park makes up the 6500 acres of land behind the Gulf Shores beach community and contains many diverse habitats including a forest, streams, trails, beach and 3 lakes.
Sand, surf, seagulls and springfed freshwater lakes provide plenty of opportunity for swimming, boating, fishing and playing.
Gulf State Park dates back to the 1930s when cabins and a casino were built here by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today many visit the park to swim, camp, hike, fish and learn about the wildlife habitats of Southern Alabama.
Gulf State Park provides ample opportunities to its visitors: beach fun, lake entertainment, trails for hiking and biking, picnic areas, learning centers, camping and wildlife viewing. And there are many modern amenities to make your stay more pleasant.
Here’s a closer look at each of the activities that you can do during your visit to Gulf State Park:
Swimming at Gulf State Park
Two miles of soft sandy beach, a swim area on Lake Shelby and a swimming pool makes swimming a popular activity at Gulf State Park.
The Beach Pavilion on the Gulf has restrooms, showers, picnic tables and a seasonal concession stand. And the Lake Shelby swim area has a picnic area with tables, grills, restrooms and a playground. Pets are allowed in this swim area and there is a separate area here for dogs to run and play.
Fishing at Gulf State Park
Freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities can be found at Gulf State Park as well as the largest fishing pier on the Gulf of Mexico. This is an ideal spot for anglers and popular catches include redfish, pompano, sheepshead, Spanish mackerel, speckled trout, catfish, whiting, croaker or King mackerel.
If you’re interested in learning about saltwater fishing you should sign up for The Angler Academy’s Beginners Guide to Becoming a Saltwater Fisherman. Equipment and bait are available.
If you’d rather fish in Lake Shelby you’ll be sure to catch a bass, bream, catfish, speckled trout, redfish or a blue crab. No fishing is allowed from any of the trail bridges and you will need to have a valid fishing license. You can purchase one online here. Make sure to specify which type of fishing you’ll be doing: salt or freshwater.
Boating at Gulf State Park
You can kayak, canoe and paddleboard on Lake Shelby as well as the Gulf. Ike’s Beach Service has boat rentals available on the spot and other needed items to make your beach day more fun.
There’s a boat launch on Lake Shelby. Be advised that there is a $5 fee for larger boats and no wave runners or jet skis are allowed on the lake.
Hiking & Biking at Gulf State Park
There are 28 miles of trails at Gulf State Park. Most are suitable for walking, hiking and biking. These beautiful trails wind through flowers, plants, a butterfly garden and a couple of scenic overlooks.
Discover the geocaching sites hidden here as you walk through the park.
Here are a closer look at a few of the trails here:
- Gopher Tortoise Trail – A 1.5 mile walking trail that follows the edge of Lake Shelby. Keep an eye open for alligators!
- Rosemary Dunes Trail – 2.1 miles of paved trail perfect for bicycles. You can get one to ride for free for up to 3 hours from Bikeshare.
- Back Country Trail Complex – 7 paved trails of varying lengths that are ideal for bike riding.
Wildlife at Gulf State Park
If you’re paying attention you’ll likely spot many native and migrating birds during your stay. Some common species that you may see are osprey, herons, rails, owls and woodpeckers.
Don’t be too surprised if you see alligators during your stay! Be aware of them and don’t get too close! Other wildlife you may come across are deer, foxes, squirrels, rabbits, bobcats and snakes.
The park is also home to endangered sea turtles. If you’re lucky you may get a glimpse of them nesting and hatching along the beach.
Camping at Gulf State Park
Campsites, cabins, cottages and a beautiful lodge await you at Gulf State Park. You only need to decide which option you like best and then make a reservation.
There are 496 campsites with full hookups (water, electric and sewer) and 11 primitive campsites. Many of these sites have views of the trails and the water. There are modern bathhouses, picnic tables and grills for your comfort during your stay.
The camp store has food, ice cream, supplies, souvenirs, bike rentals and much more. You’ll also find laundry facilities, a volleyball court, tennis court and horseshoe pits. All provided to make your stay more enjoyable.
The Lodge faces the Gulf and has spacious guest rooms, a swimming pool and 4 restaurants.
Dining at Gulf State Park
Whether you’re staying overnight or visiting for the day you’ll be delighted to discover the many dining options available in the park. These range from concession stands (snacks, ice cream, coffee) to fine dining.
Check out the restaurants located inside of the new Lodge.
Learning at Gulf State Park
The Nature Center, Learning Campus and Interpretive Center provide a hands-on approach to learning about the natural habitats in this area. Explore the 9 distinct ecosystems through guided tours, nature walks, educational programs, exhibits and observing plants and animals in their natural environments.
Outdoor Adventures & Events at Gulf State Park
There are so many things to do at Gulf State Park, you’ll never get bored or manage to do them all. Here’s a look at some of the special activities that you can participate in:
Angler’s Academy – Fishing lessons Coastal Segway Adventures – Tour the park
Pure Aloha Adventure – Paddleboard rentals & lessons
Ballyhoo – A fine arts festival held annually in March
Alligator Adventures – See the baby alligators and other tours from the Nature Center.
Shark Week – A week of games, arts & crafts and educational programs (July).
Check the Park’s Event Page to see what interesting things are happening when you visit.
Weddings & Special Events at Gulf State Park
Weddings and other large gatherings are taken seriously at Gulf State Park, especially since they have the best scenery for your special day. And they have a few venue options available for a rental fee: 2 large picnic pavilions, an amphitheater and The Activities Building.
Pets at Gulf State Park
Pets are allowed at Gulf State Park as long as they remain leashed. There is a separate area for dogs to run (unleashed) and play in the water at the Dog Pond, in the Lake Shelby picnic area. They must be leashed entering and exiting though and be aware of alligators and other wildlife.
Gulf State Park
20115 State Park Road
Gulf Shores, AL 36542
Park Headquarters Hours
Monday – Friday 8:00am – 4:00pm
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Gulf State Park: