Hanging out at the beach is likely the primary activity for you when vacationing on the Alabama Gulf Coast. But there’s much more to this vacationers’ paradise than sand and surf.

In fact, entertain the kids with a little outdoor animal adventure during your next beach trip.

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is open in its brand new home just north of the Lee Callaway Bridge in Gulf Shores.

The non-profit zoological park is home to more than 199 species, 31 sub-species and eight endangered species. The zoo is tucked into a protected nature reserve just off Ala. Hwy. 59, the main road leading into Gulf Shores.

When you enter, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a tropical urban oasis filled with intriguing sounds from the rich diversity of exotic animals. You’ll see peacocks roaming the grounds, hear monkeys chattering, birds chirping, and maybe even lions roaring.

The grounds comprise 25 acres with wide pathways that still provide close-up views of the exhibits. The zoo also features shaded picnic areas, rest stops and benches, a seasonal concession stand, and a gift shop filled with animal-themed merchandise.

The zoo is a perfect spot to let the kids run off some energy while interacting with a variety of animals. They can even feed a giraffe or enjoy an up-close encounter with a kangaroo or sloth, for example.

Come during lunch or dinner and enjoy a meal at the Safari Club Restaurant. Alabama’s first certified “Green Restaurant,” the Safari Club offers a full line of vegetarian and vegan options as well as an internationally inspired menu featuring seafood, poultry, salads, pizza, sandwiches, steaks and more.

You’ll see alligators at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo for sure. But, if you want a truly unique experience with alligators (including feeding or holding a baby alligator), visit Alligator Alley, a wildlife sanctuary.

Just north of Gulf Shores beaches in Summerdale, Alligator Alley invites visitors to start a guided adventure by walking to the elevated viewing platform where you’ll see 450 alligators ranging from hatchlings to mature adults. They’ll be relaxing, sunbathing, courting and nesting.

The adventure continues with a nature walk on the elevated boardwalk, where you’ll also see turtles, ospreys, owls and bull frogs.

The alligators at the park have been rescued from situations that made them unsafe. Those who reside at the park are considered “nuisance animals” that have lost their natural fear of humans, and at Alligator Alley they are fully protected and cared for.

A popular sight for visitors, feeding times are 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m., daily. You can even feed them yourself, supervised by a team member, of course.

Alligator Alley is kid-friendly and safe, offers shaded picnic areas, and is accessible for those with mobility challenges.

Enjoy an outdoor adventure with animals at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and Alligator Alley during your next Gulf Shores beach vacation. Or, take a walk through the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge near historic Fort Morgan. There is no shortage of fun activities that allow everyone to explore nature’s bounty along the Alabama Gulf Coast.

If your family prefers a quiet and private beach experience, with fun amenities right there, choose a beach house with its own pool.