With 60 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Mexico as well as 600 miles of tidal of bayou shoreline, Alabama offers several options for a beach getaway within driving distance of major Southeastern cities like Atlanta, Birmingham, and New Orleans. Known for their gentle surf, pale-colored sand, and family-friendly vibe, the state's beaches attract over six million local and out-of-state visitors annually. From adventures like hiking backcountry trails and water-based sports in vibrant Orange Beach to birdwatching at the laid back and pet-friendly Dauphin Island and parasailing and paddle-boarding at Gulf State Park, here's a guide to the 11 best beaches in Alabama.
This 8-mile stretch of pristine white beach is located just across the state line on the Gulf coast in Baldwin County. A popular destination for families, this is the spot for an active beach stay: think flyboarding, fishing, scuba diving, and other water sports. Head to Adventure Island Amusement Park and Arcade for go-karts, laser tag, bumper cars, and other games, or hike or cycle along the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail for glimpses of bold wildflowers, towering pine trees, local creatures like birds and alligators, and an onsite butterfly garden. During the summer months, enjoy outdoor concerts at the amphitheater at the Wharf, which also has zip lines, an arcade, a mini-golf course, and several local shops and restaurants.
Dauphin Island Park & Beach Board
Located on a barrier island at the entrance of Mobile Bay, the Dauphin Island Park and Beach is a laid-back strand with 17 miles of white sandy beaches. The primary public beach is the only pet-friendly one in the area and faces the Gulf, offering gentle waves, sandy dunes, and a peaceful getaway for birdwatching, fishing, or just soaking up the sun. The park does charge a nominal entrance fee in spring and summer: $2 for walk-ins, $6 for cars, and $20 for RVs, busses, and trailers. Another of the island's must-visit attractions: the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, whose 137 acres including 3 miles of trails and terrain ranging from swamp to forest teeming with birds, butterflies, and other wildlife.
Fairhope Municipal Pier & Park
This town on Mobile Bay's eastern shore is an artists' enclave, home to several writers, artists, and notable galleries. While small, the Municipal Pier & Park offers a quieter, calmer alternative to the state's other beaches, with picnic tables, walking trails, a duck pond, a rose garden, and amenities like changing facilities and restrooms. The pier is ideal for fishing or bird watching, while the breeze from the bay makes it ideal for kite surfing. Other area attractions include Fairhope Avenue, which is dotted with art galleries, restaurants, and local shops, the 9,317 acres Weeks Bay Reserve, and the Fairhope Art Museum, which includes an extensive collection of clay pottery. Note there is a small entry fee for the beach, but not the pier.
Gulf Shores Main Public Beach
Located after Highway 59 ends at the Gulf of Mexico, this beach is quintessential Gulf Shores: long stretches of pale-colored strands, seafood shacks, lively nightclubs, and ample outdoor activities. Come early during peak season to grab a prime spot or take advantage of the volleyball courts and shaded picnic areas. Between March 1 and Nov. 30, parking is $5 for up to four hours and $10 all day, and there are ADA accessible parking areas as well as beach access points.
Gulf State Park
Located on 6,500 acres along the Gulf of Mexico, this public recreation area includes two miles of beachfront as well as three freshwater lakes. From hiking and cycling along 25 miles of back-country trails, kayaking and zip-lining at the Gulf Adventure Centre, swimming and paddle-board at Lake Shelby, and parasailing along the beach, this is a great spot for those seeking an active vacation. The area also offers Segway Tours and has several restaurants and shops for pit stops between adventures or purchasing a souvenir.
The picturesque Robinson Island is one of several protected islands in the bays off Orange Beach. It serves as wildlife and bird sanctuary as well as a public park and recreation area popular with local swimmers and boaters for its calm waters. As there is no vehicle access, the island is best reached via kayak, boat, paddleboard, or jet ski from nearby Terry Cove. Note the island's interiors are off-limits to visitors, the island's east side has a no motor zone, and there are no trash cans, restrooms, or other amenities available to visitors.
Fort Morgan Public Beach
For the perfect combination of beach, nature, and history, head to this quiet peninsula in the western part of the state. Pay a small fee to access the historic fort that gives the area its name, or head to one of two public beaches. The area's main attraction is the 7,157-acre Bon Secour Refuge. There is no entry fee to explore one of the state's only undisturbed coastal barrier habitats, which includes varied landscape ranging from sandy beach dunes to rolling woodlands and is home to sea turtles, 370 species of birds, bobcats, and other wildlife. Hike through over 6 miles of trails, enjoy the observation tower at Pine Beach Trails, or kayak or canoe in Gator Lake.
West End Public Beach
Located on Dauphin Island's western tip, this laid back beach is open only in the summer season, from June 1 through Labor Day. While there is an entrance fee ($3 for parking and $3 per person 13 and over), the cost is worth it for the quiet sandy beaches, oak-lined parks and streets, and ample amenities, like showers, restrooms, lifeguards, chair rentals, and food vendors. There's even a water slide for the little ones. Note that no pets are allowed, and the park opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 6 p.m.
Cotton Bayou Beach
Part of the larger Orange Beach area, the Cotton Bayou Beach is located at the intersection of Highways 182 and 161. The tiny stretch of beach is a hidden gem: public access, free parking, on-site showers, sugary sand, colorful cottages, gentle waves, and none of the crowds. These amenities plus easy access to local restaurants and shops as well as nearby attractions like Adventure Island Amusement Park and Arcade and the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry make it a great day trip destination.
Alabama Point Beach
The Alabama portion of this beach is separated from neighboring Florida by the Perdido Pass. Less crowded than other area beaches, Alabama Point is a low-key destination perfect for families. Amenities along the mile-long stretch of the sandy beach include free parking, restrooms and showers, picnic areas, and boardwalks. The western side of the Pass is popular with local surfers, while the Pass itself offers excellent views of boat traffic and the occasional school of passing dolphins.
For all the Gulf Shore amenities without the crowds, head to West Beach, which stretches from the Fort Morgan peninsula to Mobile Bay. The area includes several private rentals as well as public beach access, plus proximity to attractions like the Waterville USA waterpark, Gulf State Park, and the Bon Secour Refuge, and local shops and restaurants.