Gulf Shores, Alabama is a destination that is loved by generations of families. After you experience the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters along the Emerald Coast, you’ll understand why.
During your vacation to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach you’ll want to add these hidden gems and unique things to do during your vacation that are fun for the whole family.
Thanks again to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism for hosting my visit. All opinions are my own.
View Gulf Shores From a Gyroplane with BeachFlight Aviation
Gulf Air Center 3190 Airport Drive., Gulf Shores, AL
This is truly a unique bucket list adventure in Gulf Shores! You can experience a bird’s eye view of the beauty of the Emerald Coast from the inside of a gyroplane.
A gyroplane is an aircraft that uses unpowered rotating airfoils to generate lift.
What makes a gyroplane unique is that they aren’t affected by wind and turbulence, which provides a more stable flight experience.
Two Types of Gyroplane Options at BeachFlight Aviation
Flight passengers have the option of an open tandem gyroplane or a side-by-side gyroplane.
How Long is the Flight Experience in a Gyroplane?
Passengers have the choice of a 20-minute, 40-minute, or 60-minute flight in the gyroplane.
The Gyroplane Flight Experience
Typically, the gyroplane flies along Gulf Shores beaches where you can observe birds, dolphins and sting rays from above.
During your flight you are in constant contact with your pilot through the headset, which will help you feel at ease if you have any reservations flying inside a small aircraft. Your pilot is also in constant contact with the control tower and other aircraft nearby on their two-way aviation radio.
If you are riding in the tandem gyroplane you’ll have a protective helmet and windscreen too.
The takeoff and landing from the airport runway is so gradual and gentle that you don’t notice until you are already in the sky. It was a WAY smoother transition than my best landing in a commercial plane.
As you approach the coastline, you’ll be given the opportunity to fly the aircraft under the supervision of your FAA-Certified flight instructor where you can experience flying straight and gentle turns.
Safety is your FAA-certified flight instructor’s highest priority. They won’t fly if the conditions are unsafe. They also operate in the latest state-of-the art aircraft and always fly at an altitude that could safely glide to make an emergency landing at all times.
My Flight Experience in Two Different Gyroplanes
I was fortunate enough to have two different gyroplane flight experiences in the tandem gyroplane and side-by-side. It’s hard to pick a favorite because they were both so different.
For my for first flight, I rode in the back of an open tandem gyroplane. For my picture I didn’t have my helmet on but I did have to wear one during my flight. The tandem flight experience was similar to the feeling of riding a motorcycle behind the small windshield.
It was such an incredible experience! I never felt scared or unsafe and was more in awe of what I was experiencing. I couldn’t help smiling the whole time!
Typically the gyroplane route is along the beach but due to thick fog along the shore we flew more inland. I was so grateful that we were able to fly at all because it was our only day available to fly. If we had more time in the area we would have come back another day to fly over the beach.
My pilot was in constant communication with me during our flight, checking my comfort level. He also pointed out points of interests along the way.
For my second flight I rode in a side-by-side gyroplane. Passengers have the option of flying with or without the door on. Of course I opted for the door to be off to feel a little more extreme. (You are secured in your seat with a harness.)
The side-by-side gyroplane is a great option if you don’t want to feel the wind and you like the idea of sitting right next to the pilot.
Gyroplane Flight Requirements, Restrictions, and Reservations
To ride in a gyroplane there is weight limitation of 250 lbs. per person max for a flight. Kids who are at least 4’6″ and 9 years old can fly. There isn’t a limit to your max height or age.
This could be a wonderful experience gift for a grandparent too. My dad LOVED it!
What Should You Wear for your Gyroplane Flight?
What you wear depends on the weather. If it’s over 80 degrees, shorts and a t-shirt are fine. If it’s below 80 degrees you’ll want to wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt WITHOUT a hood, or bring a jacket. The air temperature is much cooler once you are in the sky.
Close-toed shoes are also recommended so that your feet don’t get cold.
Relive Your Gyroplane Flight With a Photo Add On
You can purchase a photo/video card with high resolution photos and video on an SD memory card so that you can share your flight experience with family and friends.
I HIGHLY recommend purchasing this option. Trust me, you’ll want the footage.
Can The Intro Lesson Count Toward Flight Training Time in Your Log Book?
After your introductory flight you’ll receive a signed Flight Certificate to credit toward your total flight time if you decide that you want to continue flight training. Your flight time can be entered into your pilot’s log book if you are already a licensed pilot.
Go Bike Riding on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails
You can choose your own biking adventure on more than 28 miles of paved trails on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trails.
The best part about this bike trail is how diverse it is.
There are nine different ecosystems that you can travel through while riding on more than 28 miles of boardwalks and paved trails.
Points of Interest Along the Trail
Be on the lookout for an assortment of wildlife during your bike ride.
One of the highlights was stopping to view this large eagle’s nest in the trees.
We noticed people stopping before we noticed the bald eagle nesting sign along the path. You will definitily want to be on the lookout for bald eagles in their natural habitat during your ride.
There is also a chance that you may see “Lefty the Alligator” (who is missing her
right paw) in the marshy area.
One of the newer areas that we didn’t make it to is Hammock Park located at Hidden Lakes Trail. You can relax in one of seven hammock spaces available if you bring a hammock with you on your ride.
Use the Gulf State Park Bike Share Program OR Beach Bike Rentals
If you don’t have a bike with you during your visit it’s not a problem!
There is a free bike share program or you can rent bikes with Beach Bike Rentals. Beach Bike Rentals is the best option for younger families with kids under age 16. They offer an assortment of bike rental options in addition to kids’ trailers and kids’ pull-behind bikes.
Free Bike Rentals With the Gulf State Park Bike Share Program
My dad and I opted to use the Gulf State Park Bike Share Program.
Rideshare bikes are available to use at the Woodside Restaurant (20249 State Park Rd, Gulf Shores, AL ) and Gulf State Park Pavilion. (22250 E Beach Blvd, Gulf Shores, AL)
How to use the Gulf State Park Bike Share Program
First, you need to download the Bloom Bike Share App, which is available for both iPhone and Android users.
Park guests ages 16 and up who use the bikeshare program can borrow one of 50 complimentary bikes for up to 3 hours for FREE.
Pick ups and returns for the ride share bikes are at one of the many bike stations located throughout the park. If you go beyond 3 hours you can continue to use the bike for a small fee.
The bikes have a bungee strap that can help you secure a purse or backpack to the front of the bike. I’d recommend packing plenty of sunscreen, water, and snacks for your ride.
The trails are relatively flat but you can still work up a sweat on a warm day.
Sunset Sail with Cetacean Cruises
4673 Wharf Pkwy. W., Orange Beach, AL
(Boat is docked near Springhill Suites at The Wharf)
Enjoy a relaxing time on the water on a 52-foot Hawaiian catamaran. Cetacean Cruises offers a variety of dolphin cruises and sunset cruises.
The two-hour sail travels along the waters of Wolf Bay in Orange Beach, Alabama and Perdido Key, Florida.
During the sunset cruise your captain will point out area wildlife and marine life.
The highlight for us was seeing some of the dolphins who reside in the area pod. Have your camera ready because they come out of the water quickly, or just enjoy being in the moment.
Cetacean Cruises is mindful of respecting the local ecosystem and practices Dolphin SMART boating which respects and values the safety of the dolphins first.
There is a full service cocktail bar onboard if you want to purchase drinks during your cruise.
We purchased the frozen pina colada and mango colada. Both were delicious. There are also snacks and non-alcoholic drinks available for purchase.
The laid back attitude and music, ocean breeze, and beautiful scenery during your sail with definitely help you get into vacation mode quickly.
Ride the Ferris Wheel at The Wharf
23101 Canal Rd., Orange Beach, AL
The Wharf is a short drive from the parking lot for Cetacean Cruises (if you want to check it out before or after your cruise).
You’ll find plenty of things to do within this dining and entertainment district.
The ferris wheel at the The Wharf has bragging rights as the tallest one in the southeast. You can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Orange Beach during your ride.
If you visit The Wharf at night make sure you check out the SPECTRA Sound and Light Show. On Main Street, guests will experience a show with fun music for the entire family and special lighting that brings the palm trees to life in a new way.
Kangaroo Encounter at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
20499 Oak Rd E, Gulf Shores, AL
Animal lovers will definitely want to experience a Kangaroo Encounter at Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. During the Kangaroo Encounter guests will learn about red kangaroos during a hands-on experience.
Some of the kangaroos may even be gently held or touched during your encounter in their open-air play enclosure under the supervision of the zoo keeper.
The Kangaroo Encounters are a fee in addition to the regular paid zoo admission for ages 10 and up.
Grab a Beer at Big Beach Brewing Company, the First and Only Brewery in Gulf Shores
300 E 24th Ave, 36542 Gulf Shores, AL
After a long day of adventures, kick back and enjoy a beer at Big Beach Brewing Company.
Big Beach Brewing is the southernmost brewery in Alabama and the first, and only, brewery in Gulf Shores.
This brewery has an interesting beginning; it traces back to a brewing history that started in the garage of a local dentist.
Their 10-barrel brewing system serves up all kinds of ales ranging from IPAs and Stouts to Cream Ales and Belgian style beers with 12 beers on tap at all time.
My dad and I typically prefer lighter/sour beers and were both able to find flavors that we really enjoyed.
The building for the brewery is very open with large garage doors that allow guests to enjoy listening to live music while relaxing inside or out in their large outdoor space.
Check Out the Roadside Attractions Near Gulf Shores
26986 Fish Trap Road, Elberta, AL
If you like quirky, there are a few roadside attractions that you’ll want to check out during your visit to Gulf Shores, including Barber Marina.
During the scenic drive to Barber Marina, you’ll see dinosaurs, “Bamahenge” and the “Lady in the Lake.”
While you are driving along Fish Trap Road you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for the dinosaurs in the
Before you reach Barber Marina you can see a brontosaurus, T-rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops.
You’ll want to travel slowly to make sure you don’t miss any dinosaurs, or you can try looking again on your way back from the marina.
See “Bamahenge,” a full-size replica of Stonehenge
We actually missed this one on the way to the marina, but caught in on the way back.
There is a little parking area and you walk a short path to see the structure. It’s not viewable from the road which is why missed it.
These fun roadside attractions were funded by Billionaire George Barber (of Barber Milk) and commissioned by artist Mark Cline.
See the “Lady in the Lake” at Barber Marina
Unfortunately the original “Lady in the Lake,” which is a 50-foot sculpture of a woman floating in Wolf Bay, was severely destroyed by Hurricane Sally in 2020 so when we went to see her, she was gone! The good news is that she has since been repaired and was returned to Wolf Bay in late 2021.
If the “Lady in the Lake” stood up, she would be 108 feet tall!
Dine on the Border at Flora-Bama Yacht Club
17350 Perdido Key Dr., Perdido Key, FL 32507
Experience two states at once when you dine at Flora-Bama Yacht Club. You can even stand in front of the sign to prove it.
Flora-Bama Yacht Club is one of the many great restaurants in Gulf Shores to try during your visit.
There is nothing better than enjoying amazing food with scenic views of the water and sand between your toes! While there, be sure to try their signature drink, the “Bushwacker,” which is basically an adult version of a Wendy’s frosty.
Flora-Bama Yacht Club is the perfect place to unwind and have a great time.
Enjoy Beach Days on the Emerald Coast
Of course, no visit to Gulf Shores would be complete without spending time at one of the public beaches, enjoying the white sand and turquoise water.
It’s definitely worth getting up early to capture a beautiful sunrise because no sunrise, or sunset, is ever the same.
If you enjoy water sports Gulf Shores has plenty of options to choose from including boat rentals, charter deep sea fishing trips, snorkeling, scuba diving, parasailing, jet skis, pontoon boats, stand-up paddle boarding and kayak rentals.
For those on the quest for a truly unique adventure, check out Orange Beach Cat Boat Tours where guests ride on small craft powerboats resembling two surfboards put together or try flyboarding where you can feel like a superhero hovering up to 30 feet above the water.
Visit Historic Fort Morgan
110 Hwy. 180 W., Gulf Shores, AL 36542
History buffs will enjoy a visit to Historic Fort Morgan, a Third System masonry fort built between 1819 and 1833. The fort is located at the end of Scenic Fort Morgan Peninsula on Mobile Point. This is also the historic site where Fort Bowyer operated during the war of 1812.
In August of 1864, the fort also played an important role in the Battle of Mobile Bay and was used throughout the Spanish American War, World War I and World War II.
Explore the Butterfly Garden at Gulf Shores Museum
244 W 19th Ave, Gulf Shores, AL
Admission to the Gulf Shores Museum and Butterfly Garden are free.
Play a Round of Golf
There are 14 golf courses located in and around Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. If mini golf is more your speed, there are plenty of options for that too.