Whether a practiced nature lover or a newbie, you won’t have far to go when you visit an area earning top marks for its efforts to protect and encourage nature tourism and understanding of the environment. The Alabama Gulf Coast calls visitors to explore its abundant natural attractions with 607 miles of shoreline along its gulf, bays and inlets with 400,000 acres of estuaries. The State of Alabama is consistently ranked in the top five states for its overall biodiversity of plants and animals. The area also offers the nation’s first and largest organized artificial reef program, designed to bring visitors closer access to fishing, snorkeling and diving expeditions. Most visitors come for the white-sand beaches and turquoise Gulf waters, but many return for the myriad ways to explore nature.

Discovery And Delight Not Far Away
Honored with a state designation in 2004 and recognized as a National Scenic Byway in 2009, Alabama’s Coastal Connection offers a chance to connect with beauty, nature, wildlife and the culture of the Gulf Coast. There is much to explore along this one-of-a-kind 130-mile drive, from museums to forts, fishing villages, gardens, beaches and a host of trails showcasing the area’s unspoiled beauty. This scenic route travels throughout Mobile and Baldwin counties and is especially active outside the summer months.

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism offers a Coastal Connections brochure and the “Coastal Byway” mobile app for iPhones and Androids via free download with an interactive map, attractions listings, and videos to ensure visitors have the information they need while they are out enjoying the byway. Please visit www.alabamacoastalconnection.com to learn more or to download the app.

Enjoy New Encounters
Hop in a kayak to tour the back bays with their serpentine access to in-shore wildlife – birds, fish, even dolphin pods that inhabit these waters year-round. Relax on an afternoon dolphin cruise led by a certified captain – complete with magnificent views and new knowledge about the thriving ecosystem. Visit the Gulf State Pier, the Gulf of Mexico’s second longest pier, to learn about fish and birds while observing recreational pier fishing at its best. Visitors can join in the fun – simply buy a fishing license and rent gear. The pier is also accessible for wheelchair rail fishing.

Join as a volunteer during the twice-a-year bird banding on Fort Morgan in April and October sponsored by the Hummer/Bird Study Group. Help delicately capture, document and release migrating neo-tropical birds as they make a Gulf Coast layover – the last stop for migratory birds heading across the Gulf of Mexico and also the first stop on their return trip home.

Visit www.gulfshores.com for more information about Alabama’s natural coastal beauty.