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Brilliant beaches without the crowds in Gulf Shores, Alabama

SmarterTravel

If you’re looking for Gulf Coast beaches without Florida prices and crowds, head across the border to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Here you’ll find 32 miles of white sand coastline, including protected shores perfect for nature lovers and public beaches where you can set up your volleyball net and picnic blankets.

The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a protected wilderness of beaches, dunes, and woodlands where you can spot everything from migratory birds to nesting sea turtles and alligators. Gulf State Park has two miles of natural beach perfect for walking. If you just prefer to sunbathe and hang out, there’s plenty of public beach access off Route 182. There’s a fee to park at the popular Gulf Shore public beach, but you can park for free near the other access points.

Besides the beach, Gulf Shores is known for its quality championship golf courses (18-hole greens fees start at $35) and its dolphin-watching cruises (from $20 per person). Of course, indulging in southern-cooked seafood is another popular pastime. Locals like the casual King Neptune’s, where you can get shrimp, oyster, flounder, or soft-shelled po’boys for $10 to $13. Also consider the Original Oyster House, which offers seafood platters with Deep South flare, such as fried fish and cheese grits ($14) or spicy Cajun alligator bites ($9).

For more planning tips, go to the Alabama Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau website.

Read more of the 50 Affordable Stateside Escapes.

Have a recommendation for Gulf Shores, or another great getaway in Alabama? Post your comment below.

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