10 Fun Things To Do in Gulf Shores in Winter

White Sand Beaches at Midday in Gulf Shores, Alabama

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Looking to escape the winter blues and enjoy somewhere warmer? While I love the beach in the summer, I love it in the winter too! And there are so many great things to do in Gulf Shores in winter. This Alabama beach destination offers an amazing state park and outdoor activities, family-friendly indoor activities, and all kinds of shopping and dining.

So while your beach packing list may look a little different on a winter trip vs. a summer trip, I still think you can enjoy the beach just as much in the winter!

Sunset over the beach
Winter Sunset in Gulf Shores

Is Winter a Good Time to Go to Gulf Shores?

While you may think of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama as a summer or Spring Break destination, winter is actually a great time to visit!

It will likely be too cold to swim and enjoy the water, but there are still lots of fun family activities you can enjoy during the winter months. (It is by no means super cold though. The average high temperature for January in Gulf Shores is 63.)

Plus, you’ll have lower crowds and less traffic!

It’s a totally different experience to visit Gulf Shores in the winter. So while you won’t get to soak in the warm sun and splash in the ocean, there are lots of unique things to do in Gulf Shores during the cooler months (we won’t call it cold!).

Things To Do in Gulf Shores in Winter

Explore Gulf State Park

Group on Bicycles on Boardwalk with pine trees to the side
Our group biking in Gulf State Park

Gulf State Park is really one of my favorite areas of Gulf Shores. While most of the rest of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is full of rental properties and shops and restaurants along the beaches, Gulf State Park is a peaceful oasis right in the center of it all.

Gulf State Park reaches from the beach inland, covering over 6,500 acres. There is camping, hiking and biking trails, a nature center, and beaches.

During my stay I got to ride a bike through Gulf State Park and it was such a lovely experience. There are miles of interconnected trails and boardwalks you can explore, and I highly recommend it! You can also take a segway tour if that’s more your jam, or just enjoy a stroll through the park.

You can even stay ON the beach at The Lodge at Gulf State Park. We stayed here and adored it. It’s a beautiful hotel that’s also super sustainable. In fact, because the funding for this hotel came from disaster funding after the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill, they decided they needed to make it as eco-friendly as possible.

It’s a beautiful hotel that offers beach access, a pool, dining, and of course easy access to Gulf State Park.

Visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Entrance Building Exterior with Sign for Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Winter is a fantastic time to visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. In fact, it may be the best time because animals tend to be more active in cooler weather.

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo has 25 acres and over 199 species. So while it’s a relatively small zoo compared to some other zoos, it’s a great way to spend a morning or an afternoon.

Some animals there include tigers, lynxs, a black leopard, wolves, kangaroos, and more. They also have up close animal encounters with lemurs and sloths for an additional cost and you can do a giraffe feeding too!

Go Shopping at The Wharf

Palm Tree lined street with angled street parking outside shops at The Wharf
Shopping in the Wharf

The Wharf is the go-to destination for shopping and entertainment in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. There’s tons to do here including watching the SPECTRA Laser Light Experience in the evening, playing games at Area the Next Level Arcade, going axe throwing at The Axe Hole, or taking pictures at the Cool Shots Selfie Museum.

And The Wharf is especially known for The Wharf Amphitheater, where big musical acts come to perform throughout the year.

You can also just stroll the shops! Besides clothing and outdoor gear shops, there are some fun specialty shops too:

Take a Class at the Coastal Arts Center

Rainbow colored glass starfish sitting on flat surface with pool water in background
Glass Starfish from The Hot Shop

The Coastal Arts Center is located in Orange Beach on Wolf Bay. It’s a beautiful building right on the water, and there’s lots you can do here.

First, you can visit the art gallery. It has free admission and you can admire art from local artists (and even by it!). Then, stop by the gift shop to take home your own treasure.

But by far one of the coolest things to do here is to take a class! They offer glass blowing classes at The Hot Shop or clay classes at the Clay Studio. Classes for both start at $95, but you can paint your own pottery at the Clay Studio starting at $35.

(Just a note: I didn’t make the glass starfish pictured above, but it did come from the The Hot Shop at Coastal Arts Center!)

Play Glow-in-the-Dark Mini Golf at Jurassic Golf

Mini golf is one of the great indoor things to do in Gulf Shores on cold and/or rainy days. And Jurassic Golf is super fun because it is both glow-in-the-dark and dinosaur themed! I mean, do I need to say anything else?

There are 18 holes at Jurassic Golf and they are open every day from noon to 8:00 p.m.

Hike at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Medium sized lake with blue skies and marsh in the foreground
View from Observation Tower in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge may be my favorite place in Gulf Shores. And I think winter is the best time to visit because a) the cooler temperatures make for more pleasant hiking and b) you might get to see some migratory birds and other wildlife.

Bon Secour National Wildelife Refuge actually has several locations in the Gulf Shores area and even a location on Dauphin Island. But the main spot is at 12295 State Highway 180.

We walked the Pine Beach Trail to Gator Lake (there is a map at the trailhead and it’s easy to follow). It was a peaceful and easy, flat hike through the forest. And at Gator Lake there is an observation tower you can climb for better views of Gator Lake and Little Lagoon.

But there are several other easy trails you can hike here and look for birds and other wildlife (we saw lots of hermit crabs which was more entertaining than we expected!).

I just can’t even tell you how lovely this little place is, especially if you need to escape the bustle of the busier beach areas.

Tour Fort Morgan

Entrance to Fort Morgan with brick and stone work on tall walls and domed open doorway
Entrance to Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan is a historic site located at the end of Gulf Shores. It’s a fortress from the Civil War that played a key role in the Battle of Mobile Bay.

And while of course history fans will love this, you don’t have to be a Civil War nut to appreciate it. The architecture here is incredible, with intricate brickwork sand large domed hallways. And of course it comes with solemnity when you consider how many enslaved people were made to build it.

It’s really a beautiful place, and we had a great time exploring here. And it has great views of the Gulf!

Ride the Ferry to Dauphin Island

Open water with blurry ship in the background on a cloudy day
Mobile Bay from the Ferry

Right down the road from Fort Morgan, you can take the Mobile Bay Ferry over to Dauphin Island. And while this is of course a mode of transportation between the two beach towns (because driving around takes hours!), it’s also it’s own fun activity!

You can ride the ferry either with your car or as a pedestrian. Check the Mobile Bay Ferry Facebook page for regular updates about their schedule.

When we visited Dauphin Island, this was one of our kiddo’s favorite activities. There is just something about being on a boat that can feel magical. And if you keep your eyes peeled, you may spot some wildlife as well.

And once you are one Dauphin Island you can check out Fort Gaines, visit the Alabama Aquarium, or explore the Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

Take a Sand Castle University Class

Sand Castle University is such a cool activity offered in Gulf Shores! And while the water may be too cold in the winter, the days are often mild enough that you can enjoy learning how to sculpt sand.

Our group had a great time learning how to build basic sandcastles using five-gallon buckets. But you can also take classes where you learn how to make animals like sharks or turtles.

They also offer custom sculptures. So if you’re planning something romantic (like a proposal?) using a sand sculpture might be a fun thing to consider!

Enjoy the Local Dining Scene

Outdoor Seating Area at night with patio lights strung above tables

There are SO many great restaurants in Gulf Shores Orange Beach! And since so many snowbirds come to Gulf Shores during the winter, most of them stay open year round. And many of them will often have live local music.

Here are some of the restaurants we’ve really enjoyed in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL:

But there are so many other great dining options too!

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