Dig Baton Rouge

A Few Hours to the Beach

By Chase Berenson

We are rapidly approaching the brief window of time in the year where it is no longer too cold but not yet too hot to go to the beach.

Louisiana isn’t known for our beaches, but luckily our neighboring states make up for what we’re lacking. Gulf Shores, Alabama, is one of those nearby spots known for the sea, sand, and, of course, fun.

The easiest way to get to Gulf Shores is to drive east on I-10 for three hours, but if you don’t like doing things the easy way there’s an even better option.

US-90 runs along the beautiful beaches of the Mississippi coast, and the 45-minute Mobile Bay Ferry takes you from Dauphin Island to complete the trip to Gulf Shores. The ferry takes you on a part of the Bay most people don’t get to discover, and if you’re lucky you can spot dolphins swimming along the boat during the crossing.

Once you’ve arrived, Gulf State Park serves as a base camp for the weekend. Though the target demographic of this Alabama State Park is Midwesterners with motor homes larger than my last apartment, they haven’t completely forgotten the root of the word campground.

The park features eleven primitive campsites, all of which back up directly onto a small creek that’s frequented by alligators. The campsites have enough room for two tents each, and are in a more wooded area than the RV campground for a bit more privacy.

Despite the word “primitive”, they all come with picnic tables and fire pits, and are within easy walking distance of a bathhouse with bathrooms and showers.

Gulf Shores State Park is large, and has a wide variety of features, which your camping fee allows you to access. Obviously, the most important part of the park is the long stretch of white sand beach on the Gulf of Mexico. However, if you prefer being active to just sitting on the beach, the park has kayak and paddleboard rentals, and even features a zipline course.

If you head to parks for the nature, Gulf State Park features a diverse trail network through coastal pine forests which allows you to spend your days in relative solitude.

But don’t forget, there’s a reason Gulf Shores is known as a spring break destination.  The tiny town of Fairhope just north of Gulf Shores is home to Fairhope Brewing Company, south Alabama’s only brewery. In the town of Gulf Shores, Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy has a giant bar and restaurant called Lulu’s, which is just across the bridge from the state park. And just east of town is the famous Flora-Bama, a massive three-story beach bar literally split in two by the Alabama/Florida state line.

If the friends that you traveled to Alabama with start to be obnoxious, you can head to Florida and just buy your drinks from the bartender on the other side of the room.


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