Planning a family beach vacation on Alabama's Gulf Coast? With 32 miles of spectacular, sugar-white beaches and a raftload of outdoor activities and family attractions, the neighboring towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are premier family beach vacation destinations located between Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.
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Get Sand Between Your Toes
Called Alabama's best beach by Coastal Living magazine, West Beach stretches six miles from Gulf Shores Parkway to the end of Dolphin Drive. The west side is less congested, with nothing but soft, white, sugary sand. Warm water and gentle waves make this beach safe for even the youngest waders.
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Just after sundown, you’ll find parents and kids chasing little sand crabs along the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. It’s a fun activity the entire family can enjoy and teaching kids to release their catch is always a good lesson in ecological awareness. The second-longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf State Park Pier is a popular place for crabbing. A saltwater fishing license can be purchased at the pier and one crab basket per person is allowed.
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The Gulf Adventure Center in Gulf State Park offers a lot of fun for active families, from zip lining to kayaking and paddleboarding. (21101 State Hwy 135, Gulf Shores; 888/987-1229)
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Along with a beautiful two-mile beach, Gulf State Park features a nature center with weekly programs that include free guided nature walks, beach walks, pier walks, and nature presentations. The park also offers a swimming pool, fishing, geocaching, and more.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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This 20-acre Waterville USA is both a waterpark and an amusement park located just a quarter mile from the beach in Gulf Shores. It offers water slides, raft rides, a wave pool, water play areas, and dry amusements such as mini golf, go-karts, the Gulf Coast’s fastest wooden roller coaster, and a 2,500-square-foot bounce house. (906 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores; 251/948-2106)
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Known as "The Little Zoo that Could" from the Animal Planet television series, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is just blocks from the beach and home to more than 500 animals including lions, tigers, bears, monkeys, macaws, and more. You'll also find a petting zoo, reptile house, aviary, seasonal animal encounters, and daily animal shows in the summer. (1204 Gulf Shores Pkwy., Gulf Shores; 251/968-5732)
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Ride the tiny Mobile Bay Ferry across the mouth of the bay to Dauphin Island ($30 roundtriop for cars; $5 each way for pedestrians, free for kids 12 and under), and watch dolphins frolic in the ferry’s wake. (1606-B Bienville Blvd.; 251/861–3000)
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Learn about Civil War history at Fort Morgan, a masonry star fort about 23 miles west of Gulf Shores that guards Mobile Bay and is regarded as one of the finest examples of military architecture in the New World. It was here during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 that Admiral David Farragut declared, "Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!" (51 Alabama 180, Gulf Shores; 251/540-7127)Continue to 9 of 10 below.
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Looking for a fun day out for younger kids? In Orange Beach, Adventure Island offers go-karts, mini golf, laser tag, bumper boats, paddleboats, a rock wall, rides, plus a five-story volcano that "erupts" regularly. (24559 Perdido Beach Blvd, Orange Beach; 251/974-1500)
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Even little kids can experience the thrill of a fun high-ropes course at Sharky's Family Adventure Park in Orange Beach There are three high-rope courses and zip line. Little ones can challenge themselves on the ‘Sky Tykes’ course, a scaled-down course designed for children ages 2-7. (23299 Wharf La., Orange Beach; 251/454-7283)