The Best Beaches In Alabama

George Dodd/Getty Images
George Dodd/Getty Images

Don’t let Florida have all the fun when it comes to seaside stays. While Alabama may not see quite as many days of rays as the Sunshine State, its temperate climate and tiny bit of border along the Gulf of Mexico make it an ideal location for your next beach vacation. The beaches tend to be quieter here, but the beauty certainly isn't muted. White sand beaches, crystal-clear blue-green water, and friendly dolphins frolicking in the surf are part of the landscape. Wild dunes, a cornucopia of shells, and a healthy population of gulls and pelicans are also part of the natural splendor that await year-round.

Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly beach destination (with ice cream shops and go-kart tracks galore!) or a tranquil escape where you’ll have miles of uninterrupted shoreline all to yourself, Alabama has an answer to your saltwater craving. Here are the best beaches in Alabama.

Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

When most folks think of Alabama beaches, Gulf Shores (and its sister town Orange Beach) are first to come to mind. Together the communities claim 32 miles of sandy coastline, much of which is dotted with condos, houses, restaurants, and attractions. With the motto “Small Town, Big Beach,” there’s plenty of room to roam once you hit the sand and evermore to explore in the way of restaurants, bars, shops, and activities, but you’ll never feel far from the slowed-down pace of a tiny beach town. If it’s your first time visiting, be sure to spend time traversing the 25 miles of paved trails at Gulf State Park, and grab lunch or dinner at The Hangout, the famed restaurant and music venue known for hosting the annual Hangout music festival. If you can’t bear the thought of leaving once vacation comes to an end, you may consider checking local listings for a beach house. After all, the town was named the number one place to buy a beach home in the Unites States by Vacasa in 2022.

Orange Beach

Photo: Robbie Caponetto
Photo: Robbie Caponetto

Often referred to as the little sibling of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach tends to be quieter and a bit more laidback. The beaches are equally beautiful and the same opportunities for boating, parasailing, and other watersports exist, but there may be a couple fewer go-kart tracks, arcades, and ice cream shops to choose from when you’re seeking offshore fun. Despite its slower pace, there’s still plenty to see and do here. The Wharf offers a fun mix of restaurants, shopping, and entertainment year-round, including weekly live music and special events. For a date-night-friendly night out, make a reservation at Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina, where your gorgeous view of the water will be rivaled only by the edible art on your plate. Or head to casual beachfront hangout and restaurant The Gulf for fresh seafood in a convivial, barefoot-friendly atmosphere.

Dauphin Island

Robbie Caponetto
Robbie Caponetto

This barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico is known for its unique blend of historical and natural attractions. Located just three miles south of Mobile Bay, the island is connected to the rest of the state by a bridge, but ferry rides are the more popular mode of transportation to and from the destination. With 14 miles of sugar-soft sand and only 2,000 residents who call the island home, Dauphin Island is as serene a sanctuary as any introvert could hope for. Wildlife is the primary populant of Dauphin Island, and you can learn all about the species who call the island home at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary and Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Estuarium. For a glimpse into the long history of this remote spot, visit Shell Mound Park, a well-preserved archaeological site with shell mounds dating to 1100 AD, or Historic Fort Gaines, which dates to 1821.

Fairhope

ROBBIE CAPONETTO; PROP STYLING: RACHAEL BURROW; HAIR AND MAKEUP: CELINE RUSSELL/ZENOBIA
ROBBIE CAPONETTO; PROP STYLING: RACHAEL BURROW; HAIR AND MAKEUP: CELINE RUSSELL/ZENOBIA

The charm of this Alabama coastal town isn’t replicated anywhere else on Earth. While waterfront views are abundant all over town thanks to the surrounding saltwater estuary and sparkling Mobile Bay, the beach isn’t necessarily the main draw here. Though, the shallow water and gentle waves do make it a great place to introduce toddlers and little ones to the open water. First-timers need to experience the Southern elegance and tradition at The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa; their famous breakfast buffet is decidedly worth the splurge in calories. Spend an afternoon popping in and out of antique stores, book shops, and boutiques in quaint downtown Fairhope, then finish a perfect day by taking in the sunset at the appropriately named waterfront eatery Sunset Pointe.

Fort Morgan

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, this peninsula located 20 miles from Gulf Shores at the inlet of Mobile Bay is another marvelous mecca for history buffs and nature lovers. The fort at Fort Morgan was initially built to protect Mobile Bay in 1834 and has been active during four wars. Today, you can learn all about the area’s impactful history at the official historic site. Fort Morgan is also a glittering gem for wildlife enthusiasts hoping to spot coastal creatures in their natural habitat. It’s known as a major stopover for migratory birds, and it's also home to three species of sea turtles. You can enjoy both, plus vast swathes of pristine, untouched beaches and coastal barrier habitat at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.

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