15 of the Best Beaches You and Your Pup Can Enjoy in Gulf Shores AL

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On the southern coast of Alabama, Gulf Shores is a popular tourist seaside escape that draws in millions of people from all over all year long. The pleasantly warm climate makes outdoor activities popular, too, especially the beaches. During the summer, the temperatures are typically in the upper 80s, with winter months being in the lower 60s. You will not need your heavy coat or snow boots in Gulf Shores! And your fur baby will need a place to cool off while you are there, so we did some research to find the 15 best beaches in Gulf Shores for dogs and their pup parents. 

The city of Gulf Shores has a law preventing you from bringing your pup on the sandy beaches of their town. However, there are parks with access to the water that are not considered to be swim beaches where dogs are welcome. Also, many communities around Gulf Shores have dog beaches, such as Dauphin Island, Daphne, and Pensacola, Florida. So pack a bag, grab some sunscreen and towels, and head to the beach. 

Gulf State Park

Sandwiched between the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Shelby, there is plenty of beach space for everyone at Gulf State Park, including your fur baby. In fact, there are 3 ½ miles of white sand beaches stretching from the Gulf State Park Pier past Orange Beach to the Shell Lot. And your pup is welcome at any of these beaches as long as you keep him on a leash at all times and pick up after him. 

Besides the beaches on the gulf, you can also peruse Lake Shelby with your pooch, where you can rent kayaks and canoes for fishing or just exploring the water. The park features all the amenities like restrooms, water, and showers, as well as concession stands and other eateries along the beach. 

You can also explore 27 trails with over 28 miles from the short Middle Lake Overlook boardwalk trail to the 3-mile Gulf Oak Ridge Trail. Be sure to bring extra water, snacks, and doggie cleanup baggies. 

The Dog Pond

Speaking of Lake Shelby, The Dog Pond is also part of Gulf State Park and features a whole lake of fun with your canine companion on and off-leash. The lake is 900 acres, so there is plenty of space for hundreds of dogs and their pup parents. However, you need to know that there are a lot of wild critters living here, including alligators. While they typically do not bother people or dogs, it is best to be safe and aware.

Part of the lake is included in the fenced dog park, giving pooch parents a chance to let their canine companions off the leash to play in the water without worry. But since there are gators around, always stay close by. Another fun feature of The Dog Pond is that there is agility equipment for your pup to play on, including jumps, hoops, and ramps. Be sure to pick up after your pup with the provided Mutt Mitts, or bring your own baggies. 

Wade Ward Nature Park

Just to the west of Lake Shelby, which includes part of the oceanfront as well as the Little Lagoon and part of Lake Shelby. This 12-acre oasis is pup-friendly as long as you keep your fur buddy on a leash while you are there. You can walk along the nature trail on the boardwalk for views of the salt marshes and canals that are typically filled with all sorts of shore birds like pelicans and cranes as well as otters and maybe even an alligator. 

If your pup wants to swim, it is best to let him do that at Shelby Lake or the Gulf Shores State Beach. The water at Wade Ward is not as clean and has too much mud and muck. You and Fido can enjoy a picnic at one of the tables or get some awesome selfies in the pavilion or on the deck. There are also several walking trails around the lagoon to explore. 

Fort Morgan Historic Site 

At the end of the Fort Morgan Peninsula, surrounded by the gulf, Fort Morgan Historic Site is full of history and intrigue. And you and your pup can explore the area as long as you keep him on a leash while you are there. The site was constructed in 1834 and was an important factor in the Civil War as well as WWI. The site was the largest military base in Alabama until 1923 and was occupied until 1944. 

To play in the water or on the sand, you will have to be in between the Old Fisherman’s Wharf and the Fort Morgan PIer. Going beyond the wharf is not allowed because it is a federal wildlife area. On the other side of the peninsula, where the Fort Morgan Fishing Beach is, you can also visit the beach but do not let your dog swim near the anglers. The marina is also dog friendly in some areas but ask first. 

Perdido River Road Park Dog Beach

Over in Pensacola, Florida, River Road Park Beach is happy to have your canine companion visiting. On most of the beach along this stretch of sand, you have to keep your pup on a leash. But there is one section at this beach where the leash comes off! It is fenced, so your pooch will not get distracted and run off chasing seagulls. The sand is golden and clean, with clear blue water that is warm all year long. 

You will see that there are signs that clearly show which parts of the beach are for the dogs, so to speak. It is on River Road by Semmes Street in what is called River Road Park in Perdido Gardens. Besides the beautiful beach, there are other amenities like restrooms, picnic tables, a pavilion, and a playground for the kids. There is even a kayak launch in case you have a kayak with you. 

Perdido Key State Park 

Located about a mile down the beach from Orange Beach to the east, Perdido Key State Park has almost 300 acres of spectacular sandy beaches and green spaces to enjoy with your pup. The barrier island is the perfect spot for a swim or to play in the sand with rolling sand dunes covered in sea oats. Another popular sport here is surf fishing, where you can catch all sorts of saltwater fish like flounder, whiting, and redfish. However, you should keep your dog away from other anglers. 

Because the park is home to several endangered species, your dog should always be on a short leash. One of the rare animals here is the Perdido Key beach mouse, which is one of the rarest mammals in the country. Loggerhead sea turtles are also protected here. The park also has 1.4 miles of beach with boardwalks, outdoor showers, several pavilions, and modern restrooms. You will also see a lot of surfing here as well as sunbathing and shelling. 

Big Lagoon State Park

Across the water from Perdido Key State Park, you can find Big Lagoon State Park right on the banks of the Big Lagoon. There are several water features to choose from, including the Big Lagoon, Grand Lagoon, and Long Pond. But you may want to avoid Long Pond because of the alligators that live there. The best place for swimming is West Beach on the Big Lagoon. This dog-friendly park has just over 700 acres about 15 minutes from Gulf Shores, and your furry family member is welcome as long as he is on a leash. 

Not only can you and your pup swim, but you will also be able to hike on five miles of nature trails, go boating or kayaking, toss a line in the water to catch a whopper, or have a picnic at one of the many picnic tables. There are 75 campsites if you want to stay overnight that include water, electricity, fire rings, and picnic tables. You will also have access to restrooms with showers, a camp store, and concessions. 

May Day Park Beach

To the north of Gulf Shores in Daphne, May Day Park is a small park of about five acres. It is mostly a grassy space with playgrounds, picnic areas, trails, and a playground. But it also has a nice beach where you and your fur baby can play in the water or dig in the sand. It is best to keep him on a leash while you are here due to the alligators and snakes living here. The pier is also a fantastic place to get a good look at the surroundings. 

The park has been here since 1887 and is home to the annual festival as well as other events all year long due to the mild winters. The boardwalk is a great place to stroll with your fur baby and enjoy the sunshine. You can also go fishing from here or the pier. The beach itself is nice sized and has a wide open space for relaxing or playing fetch. 

Pensacola Beach Dog Park West

Pensacola Beach Dog Park West is just past the Gulf Islands National Seashore to the east on Fort Pickens Road. You will see the signs after the last condo parking lot on the gulf. You can cross the walkover number 21E here which takes you over the sand dunes. Even though it is a dog park, your pup needs to be on a leash, and there are no fences to keep your canine companion inside. 

The park supplies doggie poo bags and handy wipes, but it is best to bring your own just in case. It is important to pick up after your pup right away and stay out of spaces where dogs are not allowed. Your pooch will love playing in the sand, digging holes, and catching a frisbee or ball. You can also play in the water together. The surf here is fairly calm and shallow. However, do not let your dog go out too far. 

Pensacola Beach East Dog Park

On the eastern end of the park, Pensacola Beach East Dog Park is located at parking lot 28.5, which is just past the Portofino Island Resort. This is a larger space with soft white sand and has beaches on both sides of the island. The Pensacola Beach Trail Dog Park Trailhead is located here too, so you and your fur baby can explore it all the way to Pensacola Beach Boulevard. 

All fur babies are required to be leashed at all times, and signs are posted to show you where the dog-friendly areas are. The park provides doggie bags, trash bins, and handy wipes like the western dog beach but bring your own just in case. The dog park hours for both East and West Dog Beaches are sunrise to sunset. However, during turtle season, which is May through November, you are only allowed from 7 AM until sunset.

Shoreline Park South

Across the cove from Pensacola Beach is a peaceful and tranquil park that many travelers overlook on their way to Pensacola’s more popular beaches. Shoreline Park South is only a short drive from Gulf Shores and features a whole slew of amenities and activities for both you and your canine compadre. There is a huge swimming pier as well as a beach for swimming, lots of picnic tables and gazebos, volleyball, horseshoes, and restrooms with showers. 

The park also has a nature trail where you and Fido can get some exercise and see some wildlife. The best part, though, is the Bark Park. Your pooch can run and play off the leash with other fur buddies while you mingle with the other pet parents. Or you can just sit back in the shade and read a book. The park provides doggie waste bags, but it is better if you bring your own from home, just in case. 

Unleashed Dog Park Beach

At the corner of Walker Avenue and Canal Road in Orange Beach, just past Sportsman Marina, you will find a shaded beach for dogs and their humans. It is almost one acre and has a double-gated entrance for safety and sections for both small and large pooches. Your canine companion will love the open space to play without a leash and access to the ocean on both sides of the island. 

Unleashed Dog Park Beach provides Mutt Mitt dispensers, but this is a popular place so bring your own to clean up whatever your pup drops. There are numerous benches in the shade for pooch parents and a water fountain for pups. Your dog must be up to date on all vaccinations and have a rabies tag visible on his collar. No more than two fur babies are allowed per human, and you must have them under voice control at all times. 

Orange Beach Waterfront Park

North of Orange Beach Marina on Wolf Bay, the dog-friendly Orange Beach Waterfront Park is open all year and is popular with local families and travelers from all over. On weekends, you will often see the park full of families barbecuing and playing on the playground. Next to the pier is a sandy beach with shallow water that is the perfect spot for playing fetch with your fur buddy and for younger kids to enjoy. 

Speaking of the pier, this one is 400 feet long and has ample space for fishing, sightseeing, or just relaxing. The white sand here is gorgeous and makes for a special spot for shelling. You can find some amazing shells along the waterfront. There are also seven picnic shelters with barbecue grills spread out over the park, several paved walking trails, and lots of grass for your canine companion to romp around in. If you get hungry, there are several eateries, including McDonald’s, Doc’s Seafood, and Big Mike’s Steakhouse. 

Dauphin Island Beach

Dauphin Island is one of the most stunning beaches in Alabama and is known for being an inexpensive family vacation spot on the Gulf Coast. The island actually has several beaches, and they are all dog-friendly as long as your pooch is on a leash, except for the West End Beach, which does not allow dogs. The main beach is in the middle of the island, right next to the elementary school. It has a boardwalk with covered pavilions right on the waterfront. 

You can choose between Dauphin Island Bay, Pelican Cove, or the Bayou Aloe for your swimming pleasure. Pelican Cove is the best water for kids and dogs because it is so calm and relatively shallow in most areas. The East-End Beach is next to Fort Gaines and has a rocky beach with fewer amenities and fewer crowds. It is home to all sorts of wildlife, including dolphins, seals, and pelicans. 

Lexington Terrace Bark Park 

On the mainland in Pensacola, just down the beach from Gulf Shores, Lexington Terrace Park has a special spot in their hearts (and in their park) for pups. The 38-acre Lexington Terrace Public Park is popular with the locals but mostly unknown by the visitors so you will often find the place deserted on weekdays. There are picnic shelters, a playground, a few walking trails, and lots of open grassy spaces to play. Your pup is welcome as long as he is on a leash. 

The bark park is rather large, with a lot of room to roam and grass that stays lush and green year-round. There is also a doggie watering station, lots of trees for shade, and plenty of park benches for pet parents to relax on. The park has separate sections for small and large pups, and the fence is high enough to even keep high jumpers inside where they belong. 

The Final Woof

As nice as they are, there is much more to do in Gulf Shores besides beaches. You and your fur buddy can take a walk through the trees and see some amazing sights at Dinosaurs in the Woods

Located on Wolf Bay across the water from Gulf Shores, you can visit several awesome spots in Elberta. There is a forest full of Dinosaurs, a giant sculpture called Lady in the Lake, and a replica of Stonehenge called Bamahenge. 

Another cool place to bring your fur buddy is the Cool Shots Selfie Museum on Main Street in Orange Beach. Leashed dogs are always welcome, and you can get some amazing selfies together!

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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