Gulf State Park
On the beach at Gulf State Park
Gulf State Park Beach Pavilion
Gulf State Park is a 6,150-acre property that runs along the Gulf Coast beach adjacent to Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. A good part of the state park also runs inland north of the Gulf Shores beach community and wraps around the town. Included in the park property are 3 freshwater dune lakes, the largest being Lake Shelby at about 750 acres, second largest is Middle Lake at about 150 acres. The lakes are fed by underground springs and their outflow runs to Little Lagoon before making it to the Gulf. Lake Shelby is a favorite spot for swimming, boating and water-skiing while the other two lakes are favorites of alligators, turtles, frogs and hunting creatures of the avian persuasion (like bald eagles).
Because of the location, Gulf State Park regularly sees visits from nasty storms like Hurricane Ivan (in 2004). That means the park is often under construction, rebuilding from the last devastation. However, as much as the man-made amenities might suffer, there's something about several miles of white sandy beach that calls... Usually, Gulf State Park offers picnic areas, nature programs, cottages, modern camping, tennis courts, an 18-hole golf course, group picnic pavilions and more than enough swimming, beachcombing, hiking and surf fishing for everybody. The park also offers miles of established back country trails, many of them paved and universally accessible. The trails run across hardwood hammocks and along swamps, secondary dunes, marshes and over flowing creeks through a wilderness area between the beaches and the City of Orange Beach.
Gulf State Park also now boasts the largest fishing pier on the Gulf of Mexico: 1,540 feet, with a tackle and souvenir shop, concession area with seating, mid-pier comfort stations and handicapped accessible rail fishing.
The Gulf State Park Amphitheatre
The golf course: a championship course open 7 days a week with a pro shop and snack bar.
The new Beach Pavilion: air-conditioned bathrooms with showers open year round. So are the individual picnic tables. The concession stand is only open seasonally. The pavilion is only rentable at night (6 pm to 10 pm) and prices start at $400 for 100 people or less and rise from there. For rentals call 261-948-7275 during business hours.
In the campground
Gulf State Park offers 11 new cottages, all on the northern shore of Lake Shelby. Each has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, two screened porches and a deck overlooking Lake Shelby. The cottages offer tv/dvd/vcr's with satellite hookups, full kitchen utensils, linens, towels and face cloths, and queen size beds. Pets and smoking are not allowed.
Cabins: There are 20 of them, 4 in the woods, 16 on the shore of Lake Shelby. Two of the woods cabins are pet-friendly (for an additional charge per dog per night and a max of two dogs only) but none of the cabins are smoker friendly.Three of the woods cabins are one bed/one bath, the fourth being two bed/one bath. The lake cabins are mostly two bed/one bath although one is three bed/two bath. The lakeside cabins are also mounted on 12' stilts but somehow, two of them are ADA accessible. All the cabins sport picnic tables and barbecue grills. The lakeside cabins also offer access to fishing piers and fish cleaning stations. All the cabins have full kitchen utensils, televisions (satellite) and linens (including towels and face cloths).
The campground: 496 sites, all paved, all with electric, water and sewer hookups, all about 1.5 miles from the Gulf beaches. There are also 11 modern bathhouses scattered around the campground. There is no separate primitive campground so tenters need to rent in the regular campground and pay full rates.