15 Amazing Reasons You’ll Want to Camp at Gulf Shores State Park

We’re sharing all the fantastic reasons to camp at Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama for your next road trip!

If you’re not from the southern US, then you’ll be happy to be let in on one of the south’s best-kept secrets: the Alabama Gulf Coast is incredible! And by incredible, we mean miles of sugar-white sand beaches, trails, opportunities to watch for wildlife, and so much more nature-infused activities. There is so much to see and do outdoors, making Gulf State Park Campground the perfect place to stay and explore.

Gulf State Park is one of our favorite places to camp in Alabama! We can’t wait to share all the details with you.

Keep reading to get the scoop and plan a fun beachy trip!

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Hiking along Gulf State Park Alabama Point East

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Plan Your Next Epic Road Trip to Gulf Shores State Park

With so much delight, we can’t stress enough how much there is to see and do along the Alabama Gulf Coast! Of course, you might have trouble deciding where to spend your time. But one thing is for sure; if you want to get close to nature, few places can match Gulf Shores State Park.

The state park has an endless number of outdoor activities that are perfect for families, couples, friends, and adventure seekers! We’re going to help you with the things you don’t want to miss!

15 Reasons You’ll Want to Camp at Gulf Shores State Park

Here are some reasons why you’ll want to reserve a campsite at Gulf Shores State Park Campground right away!

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Gulf State Park beach

1. Gulf State Park Campground Is 1.5 Miles From the Beaches

Gulf Shores State Park Campground is a great place to stay. The campground itself is 1.5 miles from the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. A paved trail leads directly to the beach and main beach pavilion. You can walk, bike, or drive to the beach right from the campground!

The park’s proximity to the beach area and lodging amenities attracted us to this coastal Alabama gem in the first place. We loved that we could walk or bike around to see local area attractions.

2. The Campground Has Over 500 Campsites

The campground offers 496 full hookups (W/S/E) campsites with concrete pads and picnic tables. In addition, there are back-in sites and pull-thru sites.

If you’re tent camping, there are 11 primitive sites to camp at.

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Gulf Shores State Park campsite

The campground area is clean and well-spaced. Guests will enjoy the excellent accommodations the campground has to offer (more on accommodations below).

Trip planning tip: We thought the best campsites were along Middle Lake. There was a nice breeze with views of the water.

3. Free Parking Pass to Any Gulf State Park Beaches

If you’re camping at Gulf State Park Campground, a free parking pass comes with your campsite reservations that can be used to drive to the other beaches that are part of Gulf State Park.

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Romar Beach

Other Beach Parking Areas to Explore:

  • Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion (across from stoplight to enter the campground)
  • Romar Beach
  • Cotton Bayou Beach
  • Alabama Point East

Want more beachy details? Check out our guide on the most beautiful beaches in Alabama with information on the four Orange Beach and Gulf Shores beach access points listed above! PLUS, we share another favorite Alabama beach destination.

4. Incredible Hiking & Biking Trails at Gulf State Park

Be sure to pack good hiking shoes and a bike because you don’t want to miss out exploring the 28 miles of trails Gulf State Park has to offer.

Some of the trails are paved, dirt, and even boardwalks that go through nine different ecosystems, trees, and the coastal woods.

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Alligator Marsh Trail near the campground

Keep your eyes peeled for impressive wildlife such as alligators and threatened and endangered species of birds.

Many of these trails you can access right from the campground.

We love when we don’t have to drive anywhere to explore. Just have breakfast and go!

Packing tip: Don’t forget to bring your bicycle! There is a lot to see biking all over the park grounds!

5. The Campground Has Guest Laundry and a Camp Store

The grounds within Gulf State Park Campground have everything you need to accommodate your creature comforts with their hospitality village near Middle Lake.

There is a guest laundry room, camp store, and tennis courts area.

There are also places to rent cabins near Lake Shelby or the palmetto forest.

Gulf State Park has four restaurants.

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Middle Lake boat launch and fishing pier

There is a little fishing and education pier area near Middle Lake.

Keep your eyes peeled for alligators! Some other campers saw alligators on Middle Lake! Are you thinking cool or not cool on the alligators at this point?!

6. Bathhouses With Hot Water & Flushing Toilets

When we visited in May 2020, many of the bathhouses were being remodeled. So, the bathhouses should be even nicer than when we saw them. The bathhouses that were not remodeled got the job done – there was running water, safe showering areas, and hot water.

It was great to have a place to shower after exploring the trails and beaches all day.

7. There is a Swimming Pool

Gulf State Park has a pool if you’re not up for being in the ocean!

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Gulf State Park pool house

8. Visit the Nature Center

Located within the campground area, the Nature Center is an educational venue to explore.

The Nature Center highlights the plants and animals native to the Alabama Gulf Coast. They even have live animal “ambassadors” such as a real-life owl.

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Gulf State Park Nature Center

9. You Can’t Miss the Interpretive Center

Touted as being Alabama’s most environmentally friendly building, the Interpretive Center teaches visitors about the nine different ecosystems the park protects and natural resources in the area.

Explore the open-air Interpretive Center on your way to the beach! It is located at the Beach Pavilion.

You can’t miss the buildings. They are right off Perdido Beach Blvd. and next to the beach.

10. Wildlife Viewing

Bring a small pair of binoculars because there is so much wildlife to see from all the trails.

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Bird watching from the trails

There were a lot of avid bird watchers walking the trails with binoculars. Unfortunately, we missed out on having ours; we would have been able to see more alligators!

11. Close Proximity To the Main Strip & The Wharf

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The Wharf Ferris Wheel

The campground is literally five minutes away from the main Gulf Shores and Orange Beach strip if you’d like to go out to eat, shop local, or beach hop along the coast.

We brought all of our food and had picnics at our campsite.

The campground is also close to Gulf Shore’s famous “The Wharf.” The Wharf has a shopping area, ferris wheel, restaurants, bars, movie theater, and a yacht club.

12. The Campground is Pet Friendly

The campground and trails at Gulf State Park Campground are pet-friendly. So, go ahead and bring your pet.

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Hospitality building at Gulf State Park Campground

The beaches at Gulf State Park are not dog-friendly.

If you’re road tripping with your furry family member(s) and are looking for pet-friendly beaches in Alabama, then you HAVE to check out Dauphin Island, Alabama!

13. Rent Kayaks, Canoes, or SUPs at Lake Shelby

At the Lake Shelby Picnic Area, there is a place to rent kayaks, canoes, or stand-up paddleboards if you’d like to do some fun water sport activities. There is also a swim beach at Lake Shelby.

14. Attend Shark Week

Gulf Shores State Park hosts an annual Shark week during July! If you’d like to learn more about sharks in person, check out the annual shark week calendar to plan your trip around this fun and educational event.

15. Catch a Sunrise or Sunset

There are so many opportunities to catch an incredible sunrise and sunset along the Gulf Coast.

We had fun catching sunsets from the boardwalk trails in the evening!

Make Reservations Ahead of Time

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Miles of boardwalk trails

Be sure to make reservations for the Gulf State Park Campground ahead of time!

You can make reservations online through Alabama State Parks.

Other Things to Consider When Camping at Gulf Shores AL

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Do not feed the alligators sign – yikes!
  • There are no campfire pits. Campers must bring their own fire pits.
  • Not all campsite spots have shade.
  • It is really dark at night – bring your headlamp!
  • Wild alligators and snakes live in the campground area – so just be aware where you are walking.
  • There is Wifi for campers (Whooo-hooo)!
  • Surging Surf – keep an eye on the beach flag warnings while swimming in the Gulf. The water can get turbulent!
  • Consider the weather and hurricane season when making plans along the Gulf. We purchased traveler insurance to cover our road trip ahead of time from Travel Insurance Master.

Protect your road trip with traveler insurance! Whenever we book trips in advance, we always purchase traveler insurance. With Travel Insurance Master, you can select the exact coverage you need.

Final Thoughts On Camping at Gulf Shores State Park

Everyone we met here, from the employees to other campers were so friendly and joyful. We had a great time visiting with other folks camping and road tripping in the area.

We visited during May, and the area was not too crowded. The weather was warm enough to wear shorts without being too hot and humid, making it a perfect spring road trip destination.

Summer can be hot and humid along the Gulf, so be sure to keep that in mind when planning your trip as well as hurricane season. Hurricane season is officially June to November.

We had so many memorable experiences at the campsite, on the beach, and exploring the area.

We had a great time visiting Gulf State Park, and we hope you will too.

Thanks for reading!

Ashlee + Pablo


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We’d Love to Hear From You!

We’d love to answer any questions you have about road tripping along the Gulf of Mexico, camping in our Aliner, or visiting Gulf Shores in Alabama!

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation writer and founder of The Happiness Function based in Oklahoma. Her goal is to help inspire people to build a life they love by sharing how simple and fun it is to travel locally, connect with nature, and explore off-the-beaten-path. You don't have to spend a lot of money or use a ton of vacation time to explore close to home. Ashlee holds a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability and has a passion for the outdoors. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo! They camp in their Aliner often and love road trips and hiking.

20 Comments

  1. Donna Arvidson on January 20, 2022 at 12:29 pm

    Please add the Alabama Gulf State Park Pier as a must see in your blog. You see sea turtles, sharks, large fish at the far end. Lots of blue herons, too. Thanks for great information!



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 20, 2022 at 4:38 pm

      Hi Donna! Thanks for reading our article. That is a great idea! We can’t wait to go back this spring 🙂



  2. Burt Randall on January 20, 2022 at 4:25 pm

    Have fun guys the next time you go !!



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 20, 2022 at 4:39 pm

      Hi Uncle Burt! We can’t wait to visit again. Thanks for reading. Stay warm up north!



  3. Krista on January 22, 2022 at 11:58 am

    It does look like the perfect place to spend a few days camping. I’d definitely take advantage of the kayak rentals there.



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 22, 2022 at 2:38 pm

      Hi Krista – you’d love the Alabama Gulf Coast and Gulf State Park!



  4. Hannah on January 22, 2022 at 2:50 pm

    Gulf Shores State Park looks like a wonderful place to camp! I’d love to enjoy a picturesque stroll along the beach and discover the incredible wildlife! Thanks for the great guide!



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 22, 2022 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks for reading, Hannah. We hope your trip to the Alabama Coast is fun and memorable!



  5. kmf on January 22, 2022 at 3:02 pm

    The timing of this post is perfect! I’ve been considering taking an SUV camping road trip to Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama. Thanks for all the tips!



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 22, 2022 at 3:25 pm

      So fun to read your comment! Just go! Have fun 🙂



  6. Lenore on January 22, 2022 at 3:31 pm

    I’ve always wanted to go camping and this looks like the perfect destination! It’s great that a free parking pass also comes with the reservation.



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 22, 2022 at 3:56 pm

      Hi Lenore! We loved the free parking pass to the beaches too! It was super convenient. Hope you can make it camping soon. So many fun adventures to be had.



  7. Travel A-Broads on January 22, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    We road tripped from Houston (stopping in Baton Rouge to pick up our friends) to Gulf Shores in 2020, since we couldn’t really do much else, and we were truly SO impressed with the area and had such a blast! We stayed in an Airbnb during our visit, but I grew up camping and wouldn’t mind doing that next time. I’d also love to try some hiking at Gulf State Park. There really is so much to do here! Xx Sara



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 22, 2022 at 3:57 pm

      Hi Sara! Thanks for sharing. Yes, 2020 was the year of epic road trips and beyond!



  8. Kelly on January 22, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    Gulf Shores sounds like a fantastic campground with everything that you need and then some! I’m not too sure I love the idea of alligators and snakes though lol.



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 23, 2022 at 2:55 pm

      Kelly – we actually didn’t even see any alligators or snakes. We were so disappointed! We were hoping to take photos. Don’t worry about them – just be mindful where you are walking 😉



  9. Linnea on January 22, 2022 at 9:05 pm

    This looks so fun! I’ve never been and I’d love to go!



    • Ashlee Fechino on January 23, 2022 at 2:54 pm

      You will have to add Gulf Shores to your Alabama bucket list!



  10. Ron Clifton on April 11, 2022 at 1:03 pm

    Only problem is you have to book a year in advance.



    • Ashlee Fechino on April 12, 2022 at 3:37 pm

      Hi Ron! That is a great point. We tend to book our camping trips 3-6 months in advance along the Gulf Coast. We have had luck getting camp spots for 2-3 days at a time. If you want to stay longer – definitely book far in advance.