A Full Guide to Get Out in Nature in Gulf Shores

baby loggerhead turtle goes to sea

If you’re planning a beach getaway this summer, the Alabama Gulf Coast is an idyllic destination for pristine beaches and abundant nature. This region is home to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Gulf State Park, Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, and more. The coastal habitat of Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Fort Morgan is home to a variety of wildlife, including hundreds of native and migratory birds. There are plenty of things to see and ways to explore the great outdoors along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

Here are some of our favorite places to visit and some local advice for traveling in nature and near wildlife in Gulf Shores Alabama.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is located right next to Martinique on the Gulf, and you don’t even have to get into the car to visit it. Featuring 7,000 acres of preserved land, Bon Secour has hiking trails, kayak and boat launches, fishing piers, and more. You’ll find freshwater swamps, uplands, fresh and saltwater marshes, scrub forest, and more. One of the most popular activities in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is birdwatching.

Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park is another popular destination for nature, wildlife viewing, and beach activities. Featuring 6,500 total acres, 2.5 miles of beaches, and a 27-mile paved trail system, Gulf State Park is a must-visit for travelers looking to explore the region’s landscape. There are plenty of amenities at Gulf State Park as well, including a beach pavilion, fishing pier, picnic area, and a nature center here. Lake Shelby is an ideal spot for paddleboarding and kayaking as well as fishing and bird watching.

Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail

The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail is made of seven trails that take you through Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. Spanning more than 15 miles, this trail system is ideal for biking and takes you through six distinct ecosystems where you can see alligators, otters, foxes, deer, and more. It’s also easily accessible for all ages.

Gulf Shores Beaches

Martinique on the Gulf features a private stretch of beach for guests, just a short walk from our vacation homes and condos. You’ll find plenty of space to unwind and relax on the white sand beaches here. Plus if you want to be more active you’ll have opportunities for swimming, boarding, walking, biking, and more. Pack a bag with a beach towel, a book, sunscreen, snacks, and plenty of water. Always look behind you when you leave to be sure that you’ve grabbed all your belongings and disposed of all your trash.

What do the flags mean at the beach?

You’ll notice that public beaches in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have flag warning signs posted to indicate conditions, which are known to change throughout the day. These flags are an important warning system to abide by for your safety and the safety of others. Here is what the flags mean:

  • Double Red: water closed to the public (note that the beaches remain open)
  • Red: high hazard (high surf and/or strong currents)
  • Yellow: medium hazard (moderate surf and/or currents)
  • Green: low hazard (calm conditions, exercise caution)
  • Purple: dangerous marine life

For more information, visit the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism website.

Wildlife in Gulf Shores

Gulf Shores is a top bird watching destination, especially during the migration seasons. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge alone is home to more than 370 species of migratory birds. The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail is another popular destination for birdwatchers. Other animals native to the region include fox, coyotes, armadillos, alligators, dolphins, and more.

Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, and the entire coast of Alabama is also home to nesting sea turtles from late spring to early fall each year. Loggerhead, Kemps Ridley, and the Green Sea Turtle are the most common species of sea turtles out here. Keep in mind, sea turtles are protected and there are several things you need to know to keep them safe.

  • Don’t use a flashlight on the beach at night and keep any other lights off near the water
  • Never disturb a nest, always keep your distance
  • If you see sea turtle tracks, leave them undisturbed to help volunteers know where a nest is located

A quick tip: If you want to learn more about the flora and fauna of the Alabama Gulf Coast, look into guided nature tours and eco-tours. If you are exploring on your own, keep your distance from all wild animals and be extra mindful when in a wildlife preserve.

Plan Your Family Vacation to Gulf Shores AL

Martinique on the Gulf is a large resort with 55 acres to explore and escape the daily hustle. Neighboring the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Martinique is the perfect resort destination for nature lovers. Plan your vacation to Gulf Shores AL and book one of our large homes or Gulf front condos. Browse all of our vacation rentals to find your ideal accommodations.