Are you looking for an exciting and unforgettable way to explore the waters surrounding Gulf Shores, AL? Gulf Shores kayaking is a perfect outdoor activity that allows you to experience all of the natural beauty that this Alabama town has to offer.

With miles of coastline, bays, marshes, and creeks filled with diverse wildlife, kayaking in Gulf Shores makes for an amazing opportunity to soak up some sunshine while taking in stunning scenery.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, gliding through these serene waterways can be both thrilling and peaceful – especially if you have friends and family joining!

While I was visiting Gulf Shores, I was able to take a few kayaking tours myself and visit a few other beautiful places where kayaking is popular.

So here are my suggestions on tours, rental companies, some of the best places to kayak in Gulf Shores, and my personal tips to make your kayaking trip a success.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through this link, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for keeping Stuck On The Go going! I was hosted by Visit Alabama Beaches for my time in Gulf Shores. All opinions are my own.

Best Gulf Shores Kayaking Tours

Taking a kayaking tour is one of the best ways to explore an area that you’re unfamiliar with. The guides know exactly where to go and proper safety protocols. You’ll also learn about the area you’re visiting.

Sea View Tours: Night Glow Party Tour

glowing kayaks on the beach at night

This is probably one of the most unique kayaking tours that I’ve ever been on. I lucked out and I was the only one on the tour. This is very popular with groups of friends or families though.

These tours are led at night in clear kayaks that glow different colors. One note on getting there – go past the entrance for Caribe Resort and you’ll see a large gravel parking lot on your right. Sea View Tours is in the back right-hand corner of that lot.

The tour takes you out of the marina and around Bird Island which is right there in the Bayou. It was pretty windy on the night that I went out but typically the paddle around the island is pretty easy.

You get to paddle around the island and then you’ll take a break on one of the beaches where you can see ghost crabs and so many different kinds of birds. I really wasn’t expecting to see so much wildlife so that was a nice surprise!

Sea View Tours really does a great job of letting you make the tour your own. You can bring your own cooler, snacks, drinks, and towels if you want to just hang out on the island or you can walk the island and explore for wildlife the whole time.

Make sure you bring a dry bag or box for your phone, keys, and wallet.

WildNative Tours: The Dolphin & Wildlife Kayak Experience

If you love wildlife and learning about the local ecosystem then this WildNative tour is a must-do for you! It’s one of the best Gulf Shores kayaking tours by far.

There are a couple of different ways that the guides can take you but our group went around Oyster Bay, paddling in the Bon Secour River for a bit.

Of course, every tour is different because nature is unpredictable, but you’re very likely to see lots of bird species.

Dolphins are commonly seen as well though not always. We almost didn’t see any but at the last minute, probably a few hundred feet from where we were supposed to take out, a few of them popped up and we got to watch them.

One thing to note though is you aren’t allowed to get very close to them. This is to keep them safe and not disturb them or make them nervous. But if you’re dreaming of getting that epic photo then I wanted to let you down easy.

It was just as exciting as when I was jellyfish and went through a mangrove tunnel while I was kayaking in Marathon, FL though.

Tour groups are pretty small – I was with two other couples plus the guide. It really makes for a great experience. The kayaks are tandem kayaks but can be set up as singles if you’re solo.

They do provide a dry box if you need one for your phone, keys, or wallet and they also give out bottled waters so you can stay hydrated. I always think that’s a nice touch.

You’ll want to fuel up on a good breakfast in Gulf Shores before you head out on this tour – it’ll tire you out!

Coastal Kayak Excursions: 3 Hour Guided Island Excursion

This is another option for small group tours. The 3 Hour tour starts with a pontoon boat ride out to the area where you’ll kayak and once you arrive, they unload the kayaks.

The total time that you’ll spend kayaking is about 2 hours. This is a great one for beginners who have never paddled before as the guide is a wonderful teacher.

There are plenty of photo opportunities on the tour and you also have a chance to see dolphin and other wildlife here though it isn’t the main focus of the tour. Dry boxes are provided on this tour as well.

Pure Aloha Adventures: Guided Kayaking Tour

Pure Aloha Adventures is probably most popular for their Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) tours and rentals but they also offer kayaking tours.

They lead tours at a few different places – Little Lagoon in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Shelby in Gulf State Park, or Lakeside at the Gulf State Park Campground.

Little Lagoon is highly recommended by them since it’s a beautiful area teaming with marine life. Pure Aloha will provide dry bags for you on the tour.

If part of your group wants to paddleboard and part wants to kayak then they can actually accommodate that which is nice.

Kayak Rentals in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

old pylons sticking out of the water

If you prefer to make your own adventure and don’t want a guide for your Gulf Shores kayaking experience, then check out these rental companies in the area.

Go Go Kayaks

Go Go Kayaks is a popular option for kayak rentals in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. With locations in both Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan, they make it easy to plan your perfect coastal adventure.

They offer single and tandem kayaks so you can go out solo or with a partner, and paddleboard options are also available for a longer-term experience. Kayaks can be rented by the day but paddleboards must be rented for the week.

To make it even better, reservation includes free delivery – just sit back and let them come to you! All of this makes them the ideal source for getting the most out of your time by the ocean.

Gulf Shores Boat and Paddlesports Rental

With free delivery to Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan, and Perdido Gulf Shores Boat & Paddlesports Rentals is another great option for kayak and paddleboard rentals in the area.

Note that if you’re in the westernmost part of Fort Morgan then a fuel surcharge may be added.

They also offer single and tandem kayaks plus paddleboards. You can rent in 1, 3, or 5 day increments but they will customize rental terms as well if you call.

For anyone in the western part of Fort Morgan you may also have to pay with cash because cell service is too spotty to run credit cards sometimes. Confirm this when you call.

Paddled By You

If you aren’t staying at a beach house or somewhere that you can store kayaks for multiple days, then check out Paddled By You. They do close seasonally in the winter months though so double check that they are open if you’re visiting during the off-season.

They are located on Cotton Bayou and you can rent kayaks for 2, 4, or 8 hours at a time. This would be so fun because they are within paddling distance of multiple restaurants like Tacky Jack’s, Avenue Pub, and Pleasure Island Tiki Bar.

You can also paddle to the islands within Cotton Bayou. You may want to take a look at the Orange Beach Canoe Trail as well because they are located at one of the ten stops along the trail.

Pro tip: They are cash or personal check only and do not accept credit or debit cards.

Coastal Kayak Excursions

Coastal Kayak Excursions is another option for anyone renting a condo or house for the week and you need kayaks for multiple days.

You can rent single or tandem kayaks for half or full days depending on what you need. If you don’t plan on kayaking for multiple days, then I recommend just doing their 3 Hour Guided Trip mentioned above instead.

Coastal Segway Adventures

The same company that leads segway tours in Gulf State Park also rents out the kayaks and paddleboards on Lake Shelby.

This is the quickest and easiest way to get out on the lakes in Gulf State Park and they offer single and tandem kayaks, SUPs, and canoes.

You can rent by the hour or by the day and you can take the kayak wherever you would like in the three connecting lakes inside the park but you must have your rental back by 4pm.

Bring your own dry bag or box and this would be a fantastic place to bring a sandwich for lunch so you could paddle to a secluded part of the lake and have a picnic lunch.

Best Places to Kayak in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

If you decide to rent kayaks for a few days and need some ideas of where to go, here are a few of the most popular places to kayak near Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.

Want more ideas? Check out the Back Bay Blueway which has 21 different locations to launch your kayak in the area.

Lake Shelby in Gulf State Park

kayaks stacked up against a tree in front of a lake

There are three different lakes in Gulf State Park – Lake Shelby, Middle Lake, and Little Lake. They’re all connected by a man-made canal so you can easily access all three.

Lake Shelby is the largest lake in the system. The Gulf State Park Campground is located on Middle Lake and the most secluded is Little Lake. If you stop at the northern shore of Little Lake you can take a short trail to the Butterfly Garden.

People love swimming, fishing, or just paddling around the lakes in this serene setting. Alligators are found in the lake so just be vigilant of that.

If you have binoculars, those might be helpful to bring because birding is very popular here.

Little Lagoon in Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Little Lagoon is another popular Gulf Shores kayaking destination. You’ll find all kinds of wildlife here as well from birds to marine life to amphibians.

You can launch kayaks from the Jeff Friend Trail kayak launch which is located on the northern edge of the lake, toward the western side.

It’s a very nice launch area with a shallow beach that makes it very easy to get in and out of your boat.

If you’re a seasoned kayaker then pack some beach chairs, a cooler, picnic, and head out to find a secluded beach along the lagoon.

It’s one of the best places to kayak in Gulf Shores because of the calm waters and you’ll typically see fewer people out here.

Cotton Bayou

The main Cotton Bayou Boat Launch is actually also part of Gulf State Park. The ramps and launch area is very nice but there is limited parking and you will get towed if you aren’t in a proper spot.

Truthfully, each of the launches along Cotton Bayou has limited parking so you may want to have back-up plans in case one or all locations are crowded.

Cotton Bayou Launch, Jubilee Point, and Boggy Point Boat Launch are the three main launches for this area. Look Rook Road is another option where you can get to Cotton Bayou or Terry Cove.

kayak sitting on a beach on a Gulf Shores kayaking trip

Tips for Kayaking in Gulf Shores

Here are a few tips for kayaking in Gulf Shores whether you’re going on a tour or setting out by yourself.

Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen

When you’re out on the water, there is little to no shade so wearing sunscreen is the simplest way to ensure your skin stays healthy when visiting Gulf Shores.

It’s essential to always apply sunscreen even if you don’t feel as though it’s super hot outside – the sun can still be intensely punishing your skin from behind those clouds! You can get burned even in spring or fall too – summer isn’t the only season where sunscreen is important.

Apply at least 15 minutes before you go out into the sun, and reapply regularly throughout the day for the best protection.

I’m not always smart about this and I burn very easily. A bad sunburn can make the rest of your trip VERY uncomfortable.

Bring the Proper Gear

No matter if the outfitter says they will provide one or not, I always bring my own dry bag just in case. I put my sunscreen, phone, and keys in the bag and typically leave my wallet in my locked car. Some people prefer to take their wallet with them.

In addition to a dry bag, I bring sunglasses and sometimes a hat to keep the sun off my shoulders. You’ll also want to wear the proper kayaking shoes.

Leave No Trace

Leave No Trace is typically talked about when hiking or camping but it’s also an essential part of kayaking responsibly, whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned veteran.

Taking the time to be mindful of your impact on the environment during your journey will ensure that future paddlers can enjoy healthy rivers and streams.

This means not leaving garbage, respecting wildlife and their habitats, and leaving what we find in its proper environment. Following these guidelines will lead to a better experience for ourselves and others.

Pack Plenty of Water and Snacks

Water is the most important part here but you don’t want to be caught out on the water while you’re hangry. My go-to hiking snacks also make great snacks for my kayaking trips.

Pack double the water that you think you’ll need – especially during warmer weather. A reusable water bottle is great for this but if you use plastic water bottles then please just make sure to pack out your trash and try to recycle.

Early Morning or Early Evening is Best

It gets incredibly hot during the summer months so you’ll want to be out on the water either early in the morning or in the early evening. Avoid the middle of the day when the sun is harshest.

If you do have to be out in the middle of the day then wear a wide-brim hat, use lots of sunscreen, and again, pack LOTS of water.

Wrap Up: Gulf Shores Kayaking

Gulf Shores offers beautiful kayaking tours that are perfect for a day out with friends or family. With plenty of rental companies and locations to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to paddle and explore.

Make sure to apply sunscreen, bring water and snacks, and head out in the cooler parts of the day for the best experience.

Leave No Trace by picking up your trash and keeping our waterways clean – keep Alabama beautiful for everyone! Hope you have an amazing Gulf Shores kayaking adventure.

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