10 Alabama Beaches That We Kinda Don’t Want Anyone Else to Know About

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Empty beach at sunset with teak beach chairs lined up.
Sweet Home Alabama/Raphael Tenschert

Alabama is home to dozens of beaches, many situated within unique access of both tumbling saltwater and glistening freshwater. The beaches along Alabama’s 32 miles of Gulf Coast are characterized by sand that is not just soft and white, but as the locals will tell you, the most sugary, white sand you can imagine that “makes your feet chirp when you walk on it.” Whether you’re looking for live music, seafood, boating, paddle sports, dolphin watching, sandcastle building or seemingly endless stretches of soft white sand, all can be found along this hidden gem of a coastline in the deep south. Especially for the gulf-facing beaches, be sure to check the daily beach report for conditions before you venture into the waves.

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best alabama beaches: shell beach
Sweet Home Alabama/Chris Granger

Orange Beach has numerous entry points, of which Shell Beach is among the most alluring. If not just for its quintessential sugary white sand and (normally) gently tumbling waves, but also because of its bounty of colorful shells found on the waterline. All the tools you could possibly need for epic sandcastle-building are at your fingertips. If you need guidance, SandCastle University, launched by professional sand sculptor Janel Hawkins, will come directly to wherever you are staying on the Gulf Coast. Shell Beach has multiple lodging and condo options and plenty of space to call your own. It’s not uncommon to see dolphins leaping in and out of the water from the nearby Alabama Point. For possibly the tastiest and most fiery firecracker shrimp around, hit Cobalt, which has an amazing daily happy hour and is situated at the marina behind Alabama Point. 

best alabama beaches: cotton bayou
Sweet Home Alabama/Chris Granger

Situated within easy access to both the gulf-side beach and the peaceful, calm waters of the bayou with all the boating, paddling and fishing opportunities it offers, this beach is a great pick for adventure. For a more structured variety of family fun, mini golf and an adventure park are also a short drive away. A local institution with a patio on the water, Tacky Jacks is a must for a Bloody Mary and/or Garbage Nachos with watersports rentals and parasailing available on-site. The all-around favorite for seafood, Doc’s, has a location on both the gulf side and bayou. On the higher end, Voyagers has an impressive wine list and tasty seared Gulf tuna. The public beach itself offers restrooms, outdoor showers, an ADA mat for sand access.

best alabama beaches: bear point
Sweet Home Alabama
  • Ideal For: Families, music lovers, dog owners, couples, fishers, boaters, friend groups, girls’ trips
  • Where to Stay: Waterfront Hideaway (sleeps 6, from $132/night), Home with Dock (sleeps 10, from $382/night), Cozy Houseboat (sleeps 2, from $120/night)

To be fair, Bear Point is a harbor and not a beach, but Orange Beach Waterfront Park, a delightful waterside park on Wolf Bay, counts in our book, and it’s just a short golf cart drive (golf carts are everywhere and many rentals include them) or bike ride away. It’s one of the only waterfront areas in all coastal Alabama that allows dogs and is also a great spot for family splashing, grilling and picnicking. Bear Point itself offers just about everything you’d want to do via boat, including deep sea fishing and traveling across the water to the small town of Josephine, which is a charming relic and home to the legendary Pirates Cove bar, where local musicians cut their teeth. At Bear Point, Oso is a go-to for fresh seafood, but Cosmo’s is known for the best sea bass. A few miles down the bay from Bear Point, The Wharf is the epicenter of all things social, hosting internationally renowned musical acts and home to several restaurants and a Ferris wheel.

best alabama beaches: florabama
Sweet Home Alabama/Raphael Tenschert

It’s perfectly logical that the border between Alabama and Florida is called Flora-Bama, but this is also a world-famous roadhouse on the beach between the state lines that offers a lot more than the opportunity to stand with one foot in each state. An institution since 1964, the place is home to six separate stages with daily and nightly live music booked 365 days a year. The adjoining white sand beach also hosts a multitude of popular year-round events, including mullet-themed races and competitions, bikini and fishing contests, holiday festivities and even a Polar Bear Dip on Jan. 1. Pretty much claiming the entire swath of land that stretches between the Gulf Coast and Old River, Flora-Bama is also famous for its massive food and drink menu (Greek Shrimp nachos, anyone?). It even has its own Marina with jet-ski and boat rentals.

best alabama beaches: gulf state park
Sweet Home Alabama/Tad Danson

An oasis of lush plants, birds and wildlife, this 6,150 acre-park is home to nine eco systems and is the only area in coastal Alabama where you can find primitive camping (and glamping!) on the shores of Lake Shelby and adjacent to the park’s two miles of white sand beaches. Nearly 30 miles of ADA accessible trails meander through the park and the Bloom app allows access to a free bike share program. The onsite Nature Center offers educational programs, beach and nature walks. Lit at night, the lengthy pier is perfect for a romantic stroll, also for watching the bounty local fishers reel in. Recently (and sustainably) rebuilt following a hurricane, The Lodge is adjacent to the pier and home to three tasty restaurants and a coffee shop. Daily or hourly bike, kayak, paddleboard and Segway rentals are available at the park entrance.

best alabama beaches: gulf place
Sweet Home Alabama/Chris Granger
  • Ideal For: Beach games, friend groups, Southern cuisine sampling, volleyball, music lovers, families, nightlife
  • Where to Stay: Ocean View Townhouse (sleeps 6, from $171/night), Beachside Condo (sleeps 8, from $286/night), The Hangout Condo (sleeps 6, from  $215/night)

The high energy epicenter of the Alabama beach scene, if there were one beach to hit for a true taste of the deep south experience, this is it. Equipped with ADA access mats, the main public beach sprawls toward the turquoise water and small rolling waves. In May, the beach plays host to the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships as well as the Hangout Music Festival, a multi-day extravaganza that brings in swarms music fans. The party vibe is poppin’ year-round at The Hangout restaurant, but Southern cuisine and culture seekers won’t want to miss a stop at Jimmy Buffet’s sister’s place, Lulu’s, for home-cooked favorites like fried green tomatoes. The best crab claw basket around can be found at The Pink Pony while The Original Oyster House has baskets of everything and also its own boardwalk.

best alabama beaches: west beach
Sweet Home Alabama/Tad Danson

Venture a couple of miles west of the thumping scene that is Gulf Place and find this serene slice of dunes and empty sand. Lagoon Pass Park is the best beach access point for families with small children, as there are public restrooms, outdoor showers and still, shallow water that serves as a natural splash pool. As for amazing seafood and drinks, The Beach House Kitchen and Cocktails is the neighborhood fave.  

best alabama beaches: ft morgan
Sweet Home Alabama/Art Meripol

Situated 20 miles to the west of Alabama’s gulf shore, Fort Morgan is the only corner of Alabama’s Gulf-facing beaches where canines are allowed. A National Historic Landmark, this peninsula is characterized by an actual, star-shaped fort completed in 1834 to protect Mobile Bay from potential invaders and was active through World War II. Visitors (including Fido) can take a self-guided tour of the Fort and museum for a small fee. Nature lovers wanting to explore the dunes and pristine shores (rumored to have the clearest water in Alabama) as well as potentially catch a glimpse of a sea turtle or rare bird, will love the expansive trails within the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. For delicious eats and great gulf views, there’s Sassy Bass nearby as well as the option to explore farther afield via the ferry to Dauphin Island.

Heron standing on a serene beach.
Sweet Home Alabama/Chris Granger

The least inhabited beach on the list, this barrier island three miles south of Mobile Bay is only accessible by the ferry from Gulf Shores or by driving down from Alabama Port. Known for its myriad of feathered species that largely outnumber the humans, Dauphin Island is an oasis for anyone seeking a sandy variety of solitude. Bird-watching is one of the key draws via the Audubon Bird Sanctuary and Dauphin Island Sea Lab and Estuarium. There’s also vast human history dating back more than a thousand years at Shell Mound Park to more recent times (1821) at Fort Gaines. Although you can practically throw a ball from one side of the island to another from its narrowest points, the place is home to a handful of eateries , including the locally beloved Lighthouse Bakery and live music paired with southern comfort dishes at Pirate’s Bar and Grill

best alabama beaches: fairhope
Sweet Home Alabama/Art Meripol

Lying on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, Fairhope offers a far different scene than the beaches along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Its historic downtown is lined with ancient oak trees, cafes, art galleries, bookstores, antique shops and polished southern charm. The beach north of the pier is the best for picnicking and playing in the gentle water, but The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa has its own beach, which is fun to at least glimpse while listening to the hotel’s daily canon salute. Anyone in the mood for a stroll or pedal can find gorgeous views from the promenade that runs south along Point Clear. Those craving craft suds should make their way to Fairhope Brewing Company, while Fish River Grill is a local favorite for seafood. To savor the royal red shrimp unique to this corner of the world, Tamara’s is the spot for an upscale dinner.  

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Freelance PureWow Editor