If you’re looking for exciting day trips from Gulf Shores, Alabama, look no further! We’ve got a list of fun day trips perfect for mature travelers. There is something for everyone on this list, from charming little towns to natural wonders, active adventures to relaxing scenic views. Whatever your interests, there is sure to be something perfect for you on this list of fantastic day trips from Gulf Shores, Alabama!
We’ve selected day trips that you could drive for a minimum amount of time, enjoy the activity or event, and then return the same day to your base Gulf Shores destination. We also note some great places to stay if you decide to make this an overnight trip.
I have visited the area on several press trips and some events and activities have been organized by local destinations, OGDs and CVBs. All opinions are mine.
1. Fort Morgan
Located 22 miles west of Gulf Shores in Mobile Point, Alabama, a star-shaped fortification, Fort Morgan sits at the end of the scenic Fort Morgan peninsula. Fort Morgan was designed by French engineer Simon Bernard and built by Confederate troops during the Civil War era. It features cannons used in battles against Union forces.
In August 1864, during the Battle of Mobile Bay, the fort played an important role.
The fort was used intermittently throughout the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II. Fort Morgan presents the evolution of coastal fortifications and adaptations made by the US military for the defense of the United States.
The site was handed over to Alabama as a historic site in 1946. The land offers more than just a history lesson; the site also includes natural areas, picnic areas, a boat launch and numerous beaches that visitors can enjoy.
This is a spectacular scenic drive along State Highway 180 west from Gulf Shores. The views from the top of the fort are equally stunning, but to get there you have to climb some steps.
Pro tip: If you are visiting from May to September, plan to hike in the early morning or evening and enjoy the beach in the afternoon. Remember to take bug spray and sunscreen.
2. Dauphin Island, Alabama
Head toward Dauphin Island for a day spent at the historic fort and discovering the magnificent beaches of the island. Located on the Gulf Coast, it is known for its stretches of crystal-white sand.
The best / shortest way to get to this barrier island is to drive to Fort Morgan and take the ferry (you can also take your car on the ferry or park at Fort Morgan and collect it on your return) . The ferry offers quick access to Mobile Bay, and during the 40-minute journey you will admire beautiful scenery. You can consult the program online.
Once on the island, there is a lot to see and do. Near the entrance to Mobile Bay, Fort Gaines features original 19th century cannons.
Bird watchers will enjoy visiting the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on the island. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab estuary offers aquariums and a lively marsh walk.
A day at Dauphin Island will be unforgettable for years to come.
Pro tip: This is a trip you’ll want to plan ahead and check ferry timetables.
3. Gulf State Park
Sitting between Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is the beautiful Gulf State Park. Just a 10-minute drive to the beach, you are there, with an abundance of things to see and do in the 6,500-acre state park.
If you enjoy angling, you can enjoy world class fishing from the pier or try your hand at casting on the beach.
If you prefer sunbathing and the beach, you will find 2 miles of expansive white sand public beaches.
Discover the 29 miles of boardwalk and paved paths for your hiking and walking pleasures. All are wide enough for wheelchairs.
See more of the park by bike. Bikes are available for free in the park for 3 hours at a time.
If you are feeling adventurous and have a decent balance, you also have the option of taking a Segway tour. You can rent Segways at Coastal Segway Adventures within the park.
Learn more at the great nature center in the park. They host interesting programs for all ages.
Pro tip: Watch the animals. We saw several alligators along the swampy areas while we were there. Just be alert and stay on the boardwalk and paved areas.
4. Pensacola, Florida
The beautiful Pensacola area is less than an hour’s drive (48 minutes) from Gulf Shores. A lot of people only think of the beach when they hear Pensacola, but there is a lot more to it.
You can easily spend a day sightseeing Historic Pensacola which includes 14 interpreted properties. Some of the buildings available are the Pensacola Art Museum, Old Church of Christ, the Pensacola History Museum, and more.
Two other places to be sure and visit are the Pensacola Lighthouse and the National Museum of Naval Aviation. Just check their website for the current rules for visitors as it is located on a military base.
If you want to make it an overnight trip, stay at Oyster Bay Boutique Hotel. It’s beautiful inside and out.
Pro tip: If you only eat one meal in the area, head to the Great Marlin and enjoy two things, a starter and a dessert: the Crispy Lobster Fingers aperitif and the TGM Signature Praline Basket for dessert. (This is a crispy pecan praline basket filled with vanilla bean ice cream topped with caramel and chocolate sauces and seasonal berries!) The starter and dessert are to die for!
5. Foley, Alabama
Foley is only 10 miles from Gulf Shores. It is a quaint town with a lot to offer the mature traveler. There is a lovely heritage park in the city center that features fountains and it’s just a delightful place to walk around and stretch your legs.
Next to it is the Foley Depot Museum, which shows Foley’s story and the essential role of the railroad through memorabilia, photos and tools.
Housed in the same building is an exhibition of model trains. The display is quite impressive with many moving parts, not just trains, but a working car wash, farm equipment, a moving Ferris wheel, and much more.
Foley is also home to the Holmes Medical Museum, a unique and fun place to visit. Be sure to check out medical devices for “quackery”.
Nature lovers will love a visit to Graham Creek Nature Reserve. It’s a nice place for a hike with five different hiking trails. But there are also three 18-basket disc golf courses, an archery park, a nature interpretation center, and more.
There are over 110 restaurants to visit in Foley, so you will have no trouble finding the perfect spot to enjoy a delicious meal. We enjoyed dinner at Fish River Grill. Make sure to try their “Swamp Soup!”
Top professional: If you want to spend the night, stay in the historic Magnolia Hotel. Not only is it absolutely gorgeous, and the owners treat you like family, but wow… so much history and classic Southern charm. It is the ideal place to visit Foley. Everything mentioned above (except some restaurants) is within walking distance.
6. OWA, Alabama
If you like amusement parks, shows and great food, OWA is a great day trip. The amusement park has 23 rides. An indoor water park is coming in spring 2022. I enjoyed seeing all the fountains in the park. Located near Foley, it is a 20-minute drive from Gulf Shores.
Downtown OWA is a short walk from the park and offers plenty of entertainment for the mature traveler. They have dazzling fountain shows choreographed to music that you can watch for free in downtown OWA. We enjoyed the Brandon Styles Show and Legends in Concert during our visit.
Dining at OWA is a delight for your taste buds as they have a wide variety of experiences. Our favorite was Lucy’s retired surfers bar. It was a casual restaurant full of beach vibe with great food and exceptional drinks.
Paula Deen’s family kitchen would be a great choice for a family style meal if you are in a group.
Pro tip: A visit to OWA could be combined with a visit to downtown Foley. Or make it a 2 day event and spend the night at Towneplace Suites by Marriott. All OWA activities are within walking distance from the Towneplace Suites, and it’s a flat walk.
Flora-Bama is a destination in itself. This world-famous beach bar sits on the border between Orange Beach, Alabama, and Perdido Key, Florida, and is about 20 minutes from Gulf Shores. Flora-Bama is a hip place with live music venues that take place 365 days a year, and they host famous beach concerts throughout the year.
Sip one of their famous Bushwacker drinks at one of the beachfront bars while enjoying a beautiful sunset at Flora-Bama over the ocean.
There are several possibilities for catering and snacks. We enjoyed a delicious meal at Flora-Bama Yacht Club during our visit.
Pro tip: They also have a gift shop stocked with t-shirts, sweatshirts, and everything you need for the beach.
If you are looking for exceptional sites and experiences, the Gulf Shores area has what you need. From historic sites to beautiful nature trails, we hope this article has given you some ideas for some fantastic day trips from Gulf Shores, Alabama, perfect for the mature traveler.