Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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Alabama might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think about a beach vacation, but that’s a mistake. This southern state is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S. However, it can be hard to figure out where on the Alabama coast you should plan to visit since there are so many options.
To help make your planning process easier, we evaluated Alabama’s most popular beach destinations to find the best beaches in Alabama you should visit, no matter what sort of beach lover you are.
The Bon Secour refuge is a hidden gem on Alabama’s coast. With winding trails that lead down to the coast, you can get immersed in the local wildlife. There are multiple hikes you can take at any time of year. However, if you get a chance to visit during the summer, make sure to bring a bathing suit.
The refuge’s beaches feature multiple swimming areas where you can get up close with the sea life that calls this area home. The trail to get to the beach is open even when the visitor’s center isn’t, so you can head to the sand virtually any time you want.
Cotton Bayou Beach is a favorite among locals because it has a homey ambiance with fewer strict regulations than other beaches on the Gulf.
Visitors are even allowed to set up tents during the day to get out of the sun since there isn’t much natural shade on the shore. The beach is mostly a local hot spot, so you won’t find many tourists, which makes parking and scoping out a spot a breeze.
The beach’s sand is soft and fluffy, making it comfortable to walk on. Though the sand gets kicked up easily, the beach has publicly available showers you can use to get cleaned up afterward.
The beach is maintained by the city, so colored flags are diligently posted to let beach-goers know if there are jellyfish, choppy waters, or other conditions to be concerned about.
Dauphin Island is another hidden gem in Alabama. While the entire town is known for its coast, the East End Public Beach is one of the best ways to see it for yourself. The beach is lined with soft, white sand that contrasts starkly with its bright blue water.
This beach is well-equipped for families and small gatherings. There are covered picnic tables you can use to stay in the shade or wait out the short rain showers that can pop up. In recent years, the beach has become a popular spot for photoshoots for local weddings or senior pictures.
If you’re looking for a beach location to take one-of-a-kind vacation pictures, this is the place to do it. The dunes, sand, and water really pop in photos no matter what time of day you take them.
The West End Public Beach is located on the western side of Dauphin Island, not far from its sister beach, the East End Public Beach. With numerous public amenities, including showers, a picnic area, and even beach chair rentals, you don’t have to worry about anything but remembering your sunscreen while you’re here.
The beach and its water are incredibly clean and regularly maintained for visitors. It opens officially during the summer, but you can access the shore year-round. Just don’t expect to have access to the beach’s normal services during the off-season, which usually lasts from October until April.
The beach is open until 6 p.m. However, you can still stay on the sand after that time. Swimming isn’t recommended, though, as there are no lifeguards on duty.
Don’t let the name fool you into thinking you can only fish while you’re at Ft. Morgan Beach. You can do a lot more than that.
This beach is rarely ever crowded because many tourists assume you need fishing gear to have a good time here. That means you’ll have the entire expanse of sand virtually to yourself. You can bring beach chairs and umbrellas to relax all day without any worries.
The beach is popular for fishing because a lot of sea creatures venture near the shore here. You can see tiny crabs on the sand, typically near the water. You can even see dolphins in the distance if you’re patient enough. This beach is also a great place for shell hunters of all ages.
Gulf Shores has its fair share of beaches, but its main public beach is considered one of the city’s best. This part of the coast is within walking distance of Gulf Shores’ amenities, so if you forget something for your beach day, you’re never too far away from getting a replacement.
The beach’s parking area is also close to the sand, and it even has wheelchair accessibility for people with mobility concerns. The sand is pristine. No matter how much foot traffic there is, the sand doesn’t get disturbed too much, thanks to the meticulous effort the city puts into keeping it clean.
The beach also has showers visitors can use, so you don’t have to worry about tracking sand with you wherever you go. On summer weekends, you might want to get to the beach early to ensure you get a spot.
Gulf State Park has over 2 miles of coast for visitors to lounge on. Depending on when you go, you might encounter gentle, still water that’s perfect for wading in, or you might encounter more waves if you want to go surfing.
The campground is only 1.5 miles away from the beach, so you can easily walk back and forth if you reserve a site. Since the beach is part of a state park, there are plenty of educational activities during the summer for young kids.
The water usually doesn’t start getting warm enough to swim in comfortably until June, but it can stay at a comfortable temperature until well into November. Even when it’s too chilly to swim, you can still take a leisurely walk on the sand.
With its trees and wide stretches of sand, North Beach Park in Fairhope is a quaint beach that’s perfect for relaxation.
If you have a hammock, locals recommend you bring it since you’ll be able to fasten it between a few of the trees lining the sand. However, even without one, you’re still able to enjoy some much-needed shade on a hot and sunny summer day.
You can even walk to a local pond to watch the ducks if you need a break from the sea for a while. The beach is clean and well-maintained every morning for beach-goers. That fact is even more impressive, considering many people love to come to the beach at night to watch the stars.
Hot Tip: There are nearby restaurants you can head to, or you can have a picnic on the sand if you’d prefer.
If you like impromptu trips to the coast, Romar Beach is the perfect place in Alabama for you.
There aren’t many amenities near the beach, but it’s known for being a hot spot for beach getaways since there are numerous condos and hotels you can book for a short stay. If you have a car with you, you’re a short drive away from anything you might need.
The beach itself is natural and pristine. Not much development has reached the sand, so the area’s wildlife is able to thrive. You can go on peaceful walks on the sand and wade in the water. However, make sure you’re careful when you swim since there aren’t any lifeguards on duty here.
The sand is naturally maintained, too, since there isn’t much foot traffic other than the people who are staying in the area.
Lake Martin is a freshwater lake that’s slowly gaining the recognition it deserves as a top beach destination in Alabama. The water at Wind Creek State Park is clean and safe to swim in, and since it’s a lake, there aren’t any strong currents to worry about.
With 1,444 beautiful acres to enjoy, there is no shortage of things to do in the area. Anglers love coming for fishing tournaments each year. Also, if the beach isn’t enough of a draw, there is bird watching and numerous hiking trails to keep you entertained. There’s a campground that includes campsites and camping cabins with excellent amenities for those who want to stay the weekend.
The beach usually isn’t that busy, but the weekends of Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the 4th of July can bring more people to the lake. Keep that in mind and either avoid those weekends or be prepared to get there early to make sure you get a spot.
Alabama has many beaches just waiting for you to visit. While we highly recommend all the options we gave, we’re hoping a few stood out enough to make it to the top of your travel to-do list.
Whether you love the water or you prefer to spend your time on the sand, there’s a place on Alabama’s coast for you. Now, all that’s left for you to do is start your travel planning.
Alabama’s coast is on the Gulf of Mexico. Technically, the Gulf of Mexico is part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Alabama has many swimmable beaches, and it’s a popular vacation spot for residents in the south. However, not every stretch of coastline is considered safe. If swimming is banned in an area, you’ll see signs. Otherwise, you can ask locals if swimming is safe.
Many of Alabama’s beaches are incredibly clean and safe to swim in. However, if you notice a lot of boats or docks near a stretch of beach, the water there might not be quite as clean. Popular beaches are also prone to murky water.
Alabama is known for having white-sand beaches, which sets the state apart from the golden sand you find in other places. The sand here is made from quartz sediment buildup that’s washed down from the Appalachian Mountains, which gives the area its unique color.
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