The Best Beaches in Alabama
Gulf Shores Main Public Beach
Also called Gulf Place, this is a fun-filled strand of pale sands where Highway 59 literally dead-ends at the Gulf of Mexico. With three sail-shaded areas and volleyball courts, this beach is a family magnet, and classic seafood joints and beach bars add to the fun. More to love: The city of Gulf Shores just completed a multi-million-dollar project to enhance this beach for public use, including ADA mats near disabled parking areas that allow wheelchair and walker users access to the beach. Parking is $5 for up to four hours or $10 for all day from March 1 - November 30; get there early before things fill up, and check the city’s rules regarding beach umbrellas and tents.
Gulf State Park
At the eastern end of Gulf Shores, this gem of a state park holds 3.5 miles of beautiful and undeveloped white-sand beaches. A fishing and education pier right on the beach, plus access to the state park’s 28 miles of paved trails for hiking and biking, a nature center and outdoor classroom, a 900-acre fishing lake, guided nature walks, paddle boarding , and kayaking add to the spoils. Finally, the stunning new, eco-forward Lodge at Gulf State Park, a Hilton Hotel, makes Gulf State Park a true destination.
Cotton Bayou Beach
Tucked amid several popular condo towers that line Orange Beach, this sweet stretch of powder-white sand is officially part of (but not contiguous to) Gulf State Park. With easy access, lifeguards, restrooms and free parking, it’s a visitor favorite.
Dauphin Island Public Beach
This fishhook shaped barrier island at the entrance to Mobile Bay is a low-key gem with 17 miles of white-sand beaches, and its main public beach is a wonderful, pet-friendly strand that faces the Gulf. The gentle drop-off makes this a great choice for families. Walk-in fee is $2; automobile parking is $6 ($20 for RVs, busses, and trailers).
West End Beach
Encompassing Dauphin Island’s western tip, this unspoiled beauty has perhaps the island’s best sunset view (and they’re all splendid here) and keeps its pristine quality closely held, with select amenities—restrooms, a food vendor, and chair rental vendor—but no pets, no glass, no grills, no fires, and no overnight camping allowed. Entrance is $3 per person (plus $3 parking) during the summer season (June through Labor Day). Check the online calendar for the monthly Sunset Concerts here, which are sponsored by the town.
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
It doesn’t get more pristine in Alabama than the Gulf-facing shoreline of this 7,000-acre protected stretch on the Fort Morgan Peninsula. A habitat for migrating songbirds and nesting sea turtles among other precious denizens, Bon Secour is a place for true natural enjoyment: walking the beach, playing in the surf, birdwatching, kayaking, and hiking its scenic trails.
With broad, pale sands and lots of great surf, this Gulf State Park beach area in Orange Beach also has free parking (albeit a limited amount). Be mindful, though: This beach does not have outdoor showers or permanent restroom facilities (although it does have Port-o-let restrooms).
Alabama Point East
This Gulf State Park beach area in Orange Beach encompasses the east side of Perdido Pass, giving it terrific views of the pleasure boats of all shapes and sizes that ply this channel between Perdido Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The parking here is ample (and free), and four boardwalks lead over dunes and sea oats to 6,000 feet of wide, powdery sands.
Fairhope Municipal Pier and Park
A large, sandy beach is just one of the things to love about this park that anchors the quaint town on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. Considered Fairhope’s “town square,” the park features a ¼-mile fishing pier, a marina, walking trails, a landscaped rose garden, and even a duck pond. Meanwhile, the waves on the beach itself tend to be gentle, and a steady breeze off the bay makes for good kite surfing.
Stretching like a six-mile ribbon of sugar-white sand west from the hubbub of Gulf Shores’s central shopping and dining district, the small beach town vibe gets quieter the further west you go. The result is a big, beautiful beach with public access at numerous junctures, and lots of room for everyone.