Known for its white-sand beaches, beautiful nature reserves, and family-friendly attractions, Gulf Shores is an Alabama vacation destination with something for everyone. Cast a line from the pier after a day of kayaking and hiking the nature trails, or build some fun memories with the kids at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Once you’ve booked your Gulf Shores vacation rental, start planning your family trip with a few activities that kids are sure to love.

1. Pet Kangaroos at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Little ones can never get enough of the lions, bears, sloths, and tortoises at this small but charming zoo just a short walk or drive from your vacation rental. Here, kids have the chance to pet and interact with kangaroos, sloths, lemurs, and more alongside educational programs from zoo staff. There is also a small petting zoo area, where kids can feed goats and donkeys before you head out for your next Gulf Shores adventure.

2. Enjoy a Hike or Biking Excursion at Gulf State Park

The paved trails at this unspoiled wetlands park are perfect for an afternoon stroll with the family. You can also rent a few bikes to cruise along the shoreline before stowing them in your vacation home. Kids of all ages love spotting eagles, herons, and snakes along the trails, and the sandy beaches are ideal for combing for seashells. On hot summer days, be sure to stop by the splash pad so your little ones can cool down while they play.

3. Embark on a Dolphin-Viewing Cruise

While the Gulf Shores area is known for its deep-sea fishing opportunities, kids young and old may prefer to spot pods of dolphins leaping out of the water from an eco boat tour. You might also catch sight of heron, osprey, pelicans, and other waterfowl as you cruise the open gulf and the more remote waterways such as the Bon Secour River. Be sure to bring a few pairs of binoculars to give your kids the best chance of spotting dolphins riding the surf.

4. Play in the Sand at Gulf Shores Public Beach

This expansive white-sand beach provides the perfect place for parents to set up their recliners and beach umbrellas while kids build sandcastles or ride boogie boards in the wake. Step down from your beachfront vacation rental to enjoy this popular beach before grabbing a bite to eat at one of the shore-side restaurants. You can also rent jet skis, surf boards, and other equipment for water sports if you’re hitting the beach with older kids.

5. Kayak or Stand-Up Paddle Board Along the Coast

If you’re visiting beautiful Gulf Shores with older kids or teens, an afternoon of paddling on the open water is sure to create fond memories. Pick up your stand-up paddle boards, kayaks, or canoes at one of many beach-front sports rental points, and embark on a shoreline adventure. Be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins and bald eagles during your excursion.

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6. Enjoy Some Mini Golf

Gather the family for a game of mini golf at one of the several courses conveniently located in the central area of Gulf Shores. Whether you want to set off on a swashbuckling adventure of putt-putt at Pirate’s Island Adventure Golf, walk from the beach for a casual round at Shrimpy’s Mini Golf, or enjoy a jungle-themed game at Tiki’s Mini Golf, kids of all ages are sure to have a blast practicing their putting skills for a break from the sand and sun.

7. Swim and Play at Waterville USA

If you’re planning your family trip to Gulf Shores during the summer months, take an afternoon to cool off at Waterville USA, a small water park with rides and attractions for older kids and little ones alike. Kick back on the lazy river, get your adrenaline fix on the near-vertical Screamin’ Demon water slide, or slide down the Great White tube slide before catching the surf in the wave pool. Younger kids love playing with the waterworks of Shrimp Boat Village or sliding down the kiddie slides at WaWa World.

8. Spot Alligators and Dolphins at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

If you can’t get enough of exploring the natural wonders of Gulf Shores, head over to this refuge to hike secluded trails through woods and over sand dunes while searching for gators, pelicans, and more. You can also kayak through the marsh waterways to enjoy some fishing while watching heron feed along the shore. Due to this park’s remote locale and unrestrained wildlife encounters, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a better choice for families with older kids.

9. Try Your Luck at the Fishing Pier

Nothing feels more like an old-fashioned coastal vacation than casting a line off the pier. So, head to Gulf Shores Park for an entertaining afternoon with older kids. Rent a few poles and grab some bait from the tackle shop, and keep an eye out for dolphins and pelicans while you wait to hook the big one. When you’ve had your fill of fishing, grab a burger at the pier’s ocean-view restaurant.

10. Walk the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail

Snaking along the sandy coast, this Gulf Shores wild life trail features paths, boardwalks, and platforms where kids can look for royal terns and great blue herons. If your kids are amateur photographers, this birding trail is a great opportunity for a safari-like adventure.

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