Gulf State Park
Guide

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Introduction

Situated on the sunny Gulf Coast of Alabama, Gulf State Park is a perfect stop for an RV getaway that seems to have it all. This 6,500-acre park is a nature lover's dream with over three miles of white sand beaches, marshland, pine forests, and three freshwater lakes all there to enjoy. The park campground, Nature Center, Activity Building, and camp store are located centrally, close to Middle Lake. The larger Lake Shelby is your best bet for lakeside relaxation, freshwater swimming and paddleboarding. Head to the Beach Pavilion for pristine ocean views while getting sun in the sand and surf.

Gulf State Park has a rich history dating back to the 1930s, when the land was used as a public works project after the Great Depression to build it into the great public resource that it is today. As early as the mid-1940s, the park was so popular that cabin reservations were hard to come by and park leaders knew they needed to expand. Over the years, the park has gone through extensive growth, natural hurricane disasters, and grand renovations. Improvements continue, with to build more attractions and restaurants near the beach areas of the park.

The peak season to take your RV adventure to Gulf State Park is March through October. Outdoor activities abound from the 25-mile long Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, saltwater and freshwater fishing, aquatic sports, and miles of beaches to enjoy on hot summer days. During the offseason, the weather is mild and it is a great time to take your RV to see coastal views or participate in the weekly programs available at the Nature and Education Centers.

RV Rentals in Gulf State Park

Transportation in Gulf State Park

Driving

Gulf State Park is located in the city of Gulf Shores in southern Baldwin County. Entrances to Gulf State Park are located off of Routes 59, 180, and 182. There are no limitations for driving motorhomes or large vehicles within the park.

Parking

Ample parking for your RV is available at numerous clearly marked locations on the park map. The largest parking areas are near attractions such as the Beach Pavilion, Lake Shelby, Nature Center, and Fishing Pier.

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Gulf State Park

Campsites in Gulf State Park

Reservations camping

Gulf State Park Campground

There are 496 full-hookup campsites with paved pads to park your RV, all of which are large enough for RVs with pullouts and feature picnic tables and grill tops. There are an additional 11 primitive sites, and tents are welcome on all sites. The campground has 11 modern and air-conditioned bathhouses, a laundry facility and camp store. On-site entertainment includes a swimming pool with a splash pad, tennis, volleyball and pickleball courts, horseshoes and a Nature Center. The campsites surround the north side of Middle Lake, with a number of waterfront RV pads.

First-come first-served

First-Come, First Served Camping

There are currently no specific First-Come, First-Served campsites at Gulf State Park.

Alternate camping

Outpost Campsites

For those looking for a more rustic experience, there are 3 outpost tents with 4 cots in each already set up and available to reserve. The outpost tents are primitive camping areas located 1.5 miles on the trail, requiring you to walk in. There is no indoor bathroom plumbing but outhouses are nearby and a sink is onsite to provide washing water.

Cabins & Cottages

There are 20 modern cabins and 11 lakeside cottages available at Gulf State Park. The cottages are furnished more comfortably than the cabins, but all have working kitchens and bathrooms. Four of the cabins are “woods cabins” surrounded by pine tree forests, and the remaining cabins are located near the cottages surrounding Lake Shelby. All are within walking distance of the Refuge Golf Course. Pet-friendly cabins can be requested for a small fee.

Private Campgrounds

If you’d rather set up your RV or trailer outside of the park there are plenty of private campgrounds to choose from to enjoy the coastal scenery. These campgrounds can offer a range of family activities and amenities such as laundry facilities and swimming pools. You can enjoy access to the Gulf Coast from a slightly more inland location.

Seasonal activities in Gulf State Park

In-Season

Kayaking & Paddleboarding

Lake Shelby will lure you into its 900 acres of calm, freshwater and has two launch sites for kayaks and paddleboards. The lake feeds into canals that flow through the park, and the coastal breeze creates drift currents that make for a relaxing water experience. Kayak and paddleboard rentals are available on the grounds, and are a great way to explore the park.

Fishing

For sensational saltwater fishing, look no further than the newly constructed Fishing and Education Pier, with 2,448 feet of fishing space available along the rails. The Pier also features indoor seating, concession and retail areas, comfort stations and is wheelchair accessible. Bring your fishing gear and live bait to catch Flounder and Mackerel at the Pier. Freshwater fishermen can enjoy the scenic views of three freshwater lakes at of the park: Lake Shelby, Middle Lake and Little Lake. Lake Shelby is home to redfish, bass, bream, speckled trout, and catfish.

Hiking & Biking

Leave the RV behind and travel through six distinct ecosystems of the 25 miles on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail. Take in the beauty and adventure of Coastal Hardwood Swamps, Freshwater Marshes, and Butterfly Gardens while keeping an eye out for wildlife such as white-tailed deer, bobcats or basking alligators. Bikes are available for rent from the Campstore.

Swimming

Take a dive in the Gulf of Mexico directly off the three miles of sugar white sand beaches. Freshwater lake swimming is another great option for boating and lakeside days. Be sure to check out the newly renovated swimming pool and splash pad, surrounded by lounge chairs and wooden pergolas.

Beach

Pull up your trailer to the beautiful white sand and family-friendly beaches for days of fun and sun. Beach access is available from the main park area in Gulf Shores at the Beach Pavilion and also from access points in Orange Beach, Alabama. The palm tree studded Beach Pavilion features a large concession stand, air-conditioned bathrooms, showers, and shaded picnic tables, all with ocean views. Beach equipment rentals of lounge chairs, banana boats, kayaks, and parasailing will ensure there is something for everyone to do at these gorgeous beaches.

Off-Season

Golfing

Situated inside the stunning natural scenery of the Alabama Gulf Coast is an 18-hole championship golf course that will be a relaxing and rewarding experience to play. The Refuge Golf Club also features a driving range, putting green and indoor Grill and Pro Shop.

Once you’re done your round of golf you can stop your rig by the grill for delicious breakfast, sandwiches and draft beers. The Pro Shop serves the 18-hole championship golf course and will fit all your golf gear needs.

Education Building

Daily activities and educational programs are organized throughout the offseason with a schedule readily available online. Learn about natural resources and wildlife of the Gulf ecosystem as well as interesting survival topics such as navigating using the stars.

Nature Center

An interesting and educational visit to the Gulf State Park Nature Center is the perfect plan for an RV trip when the weather is less than ideal. The indoor Nature Center is a living museum featuring the ecology of the Gulf Coast with free public weekly programs for both adults and children. The Nature Center is open Monday through Saturday, and the vehicle entrance fee is waived for lodging and campground guests.

Lakeside Dog Park

Give your pooch a special day outside the motorhome by visiting the lakeside dog park on Lake Shelby. There is agility equipment and lake swimming with separate areas for large and small dogs, with picturesque lake views for humans and dogs alike.

Geocaching

Have your own treasure hunt by finding geocaches in the park while learning about the environment and natural resources of this historic pack. Geocaches in the park are regulated by park managers and groups hunts are regularly organized with the Education Center and are free to the public.

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