Amazing Reasons You’ll Love Camping at Gulf Shores State Park


We’re sharing everything to know about camping at Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama for your next road trip.

If you’re not from the southern U.S., you’ll be happy to be let in on one of the South’s best-kept secrets: the Alabama Gulf Coast is incredible. We mean miles of sugar-white sand beaches, trails, opportunities to watch for wildlife, and 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. It is one of our favorite places to camp in Alabama.

Plan Your Next Road Trip to Gulf Shores

Image Credit:

We can’t stress enough how much there is to see and do along the Alabama Gulf Coast. 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 adventure seekers and campers.

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

Gulf State Park Campground Is 1.5 Miles From the Beach

Orange Beach, Alabama
Image Credit: gtd7/

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 the 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 are what attracted us to this coastal gem in the first place. We loved that we could walk or bike around to see the local attractions.

The Campground Has Over 500 Campsites

Our Aliner at Gulf State Park Campground.

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.

The campground area is clean and well-spaced. You 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.

You Get a Free Parking Pass for Gulf State Park Beaches

Me at Romar Beach.

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

Other Beach Parking Areas to Explore:

  • Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion
  • 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.

Incredible Hiking & Biking Trails

Alligator Marsh Trail.

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

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

Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, such as alligators and threatened and endangered species of birds. Many of these trails can be accessed right from the campground.

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

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

The Campground Has Guest Laundry and a Camp Store

Middle Lake Pier.

Gulf State Park Campground has everything you need to accommodate your personal creature comforts in the hospitality village near Middle Lake.

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

There are also places to rent cabins near Lake Shelby or the palmetto forest. Gulf State Park has four restaurants.

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

Bathhouses With Hot Water and Flushing Toilets

Gulf Shores coastline
Image Credit: Cavan/

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.

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

There is a Swimming Pool

The pool house.

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

Visit the Nature Center

The Nature Center.

Located within the campground area, the Nature Center is an educational venue you can check out.

Inside, they highlight the plants and animals native to the Alabama Coast. They even have live animal ambassadors, such as an owl.

You Can’t Miss the Interpretive Center

The Interpretive Center.

Touted as being Alabama’s most environmentally friendly building, the Interpretive Center teaches you about the nine different ecosystems the park protects and the 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.

Wildlife Viewing

Green Heron on a boardwalk.

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

Close Proximity to the Main Strip and The Wharf

The ferris wheel at The Wharf.

The campground is literally five minutes away from the main strip for Gulf Shores and Orange Beach 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 The Wharf. The Wharf has a shopping area, ferris wheel, restaurants, bars, a movie theater, and a yacht club.

We walked Sunny, our dog, around the yacht club. He got lots of love.

The Campground is Pet-Friendly

Pablo and Sunny at the campground.

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

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 should check out Dauphin Island, Alabama.

Rent Kayaks, Canoes, or SUPs at Lake Shelby

Boardwalk trails at Gulf Shores State Park
Image Credit: CheriAlguire/

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 sports activities.

There is also a swimming beach at Lake Shelby.

Attend Shark Week

Cotton Bayou beach at Gulf Shores State Park
Image Credit: gtd7/

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.

Catch a Sunrise or Sunset

Gulf Shores sunset
Image Credit: zstockphotos/

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

Miles of boardwalk trails.

Be sure to make reservations for the Gulf State Park Campground in advance. This is a popular place so you will need to make reservations months in advance.

You can make reservations online through Alabama State Parks.

Other Things To Consider When Camping at Gulf Shores

Middle Lake Pier.
  • There are no campfire pits.
  • Not all campsite spots have shade.
  • It is really dark at night – bring your headlamp or flashlight.
  • Wild alligators and snakes live in the campground area so just be aware of where you are walking.
  • There is WiFi for campers.
  • There can be rip tide warnings and 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.

The Weather

White sand at Gulf Shores State Park
Image Credit: mfmegevand/

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 early summer 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 from June to November.

Where indicated, some images courtesy of

More Alabama Gulf Coast Guides:

How To Take the Mobile Bay Ferry to and From Dauphin Island

20 Best Things To Do on Dauphin Island

Follow The Happiness Function on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube.

Posted in ,

Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.


  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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 😉

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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 🙂

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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!

  10. 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 🙂