Best Alabama Beaches

Characterized by the warm waters of the Gulf and soft, ivory sands, Alabama's beaches and adjacent small towns are a treat for vacationers on the hunt for a laid-back, family-friendly getaway. To help you determine which stretches of shoreline are worth visiting, U.S. News considered scenic beauty, available amenities and the opinions of experts and travelers to decide the best Alabama beaches. Have a favorite? Vote below to have a say in next year's list. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)

SUMMARY

Best Alabama Beaches

  • Gulf Shores
  • Orange Beach
  • Gulf State Park
  • Dauphin Island
  • Fort Morgan
  • West Beach
  • Fairhope
  • Robinson Island
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    Gulf Shores

    #1 in Best Alabama Beaches

    Home to 32 miles of white sand beaches, Gulf Shores is one of Alabama's most popular coastal getaways thanks to the Gulf of Mexico's balmy waters. There are a variety of beach access points, but the one at Gulf Place is particularly popular thanks to its ample facilities. Off of the sand, there are plenty of activities to entertain the whole family, including the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, the USS Alabama and Waterville USA – a 20-acre water park. While in town, indulge in plenty of fresh seafood, especially oysters – the area's specialty.

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    Orange Beach

    #2 in Best Alabama Beaches

    Along with its alabaster sands, Orange Beach is popular for its outdoor pursuits. If you start to get restless lounging on the beach, arrange a tee time at one of the area's golf courses, rent a bike or kayak, or stretch your legs on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. There are six ecosystems that comprise the more than 15-mile-long trail, which is home to birds and other wild animals, including otters, wild boar and alligators.

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    Gulf State Park

    #3 in Best Alabama Beaches

    Ideal for adventurers who want to mix in a little relaxation, Gulf State Park boasts 28 miles of trails, 2 miles of beaches and plenty of paddling and swimming opportunities in 900-acre Lake Shelby. There are cabins, cottages and campsites for budget-minded travelers, but those who don't want to rough it should book a room at the Hilton-affiliated Lodge at Gulf State Park. The Alabama Point East Access Point and the Beach Pavilion are great spots to set up camp for the day, as both offer concession stands, picnic tables and restrooms.

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    Dauphin Island

    #4 in Best Alabama Beaches

    Dubbed the "Sunset Capital of Alabama," 14-mile-long Dauphin Island sits at the southernmost point of the state. For some of the best views of the Gulf, head to East End Beach. Or, spend the day shelling at West End Beach. Along with its pristine beaches, Dauphin Island is home to a variety of family-friendly attractions, including historic Fort Gaines, the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. You'll fall in love with the small-town feel here while browsing the boutique shops or chowing down on locally caught seafood at the island's laid-back restaurants.

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    Fort Morgan

    #5 in Best Alabama Beaches

    Sitting a little more than 20 miles west of Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan is a National Historic Landmark that dates back to 1834, when it was built to protect Mobile Bay. Though the site may initially only appeal to history buffs, Fort Morgan should also be on the to-do list for beach bums and bird-watchers. Designated a Globally Important Bird Area by the American Bird Conservancy, the fort and its less-crowded beaches are an important stopover for spring and fall neotropical migrating birds.

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    West Beach

    #6 in Best Alabama Beaches

    A quieter alternative to Gulf Shores, West Beach is perfect for travelers in need of a peaceful escape. Sitting pretty on the Fort Morgan peninsula, the beach is backed by restaurants, private homes, condominiums and multistory hotels. Though it fosters a tranquil atmosphere, West Beach is still within easy reach of area attractions, including family-friendly Adventure Island and Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to more than 360 different species of birds.

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    Fairhope

    #7 in Best Alabama Beaches

    Better known for its shops, cafes, art galleries, gift shops and seafood restaurants than its beach, Fairhope draws vacationers who are on the hunt for a heavy dose of Southern charm. When you're not admiring Mobile Bay from the 1,448-foot-long pier –  which is located next to the beach – immerse yourself in the town's art scene by paying a visit to the Eastern Shore Art Center. Or, time your visit for March when the free Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival takes over the town.

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    Robinson Island

    #8 in Best Alabama Beaches

    A popular daytrip option for boaters in the Orange Beach area, Robinson Island is a bird sanctuary and an important nesting area for wading herons and terns. You can only reach the island by kayak, stand-up paddleboard or boat, and once you've arrived there isn't much to do beyond lounging on the beach and enjoying the undeveloped land – but that serenity is exactly what makes it so popular with visitors. Since there are no facilities or amenities on the island, you'll have to bring everything you need and take it with you when you leave.

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