Discover the ultimate backwards beach day in Gulf Shores, Alabama for families

The Ultimate Gulf Shores Backwards Beach Day for Families

Imagine this, you’re on the ultimate Gulf Shores family beach vacation and you’re spending your morning and afternoon out on the sand, enjoying the sun and waves. After a day of family fun on the beach, you take the family out to dinner. The only problem? The kids are tired and irritable from hours in the sun. Cue the backwards beach day! A backwards beach day allows families to enjoy activities and dining in the morning, with a few less tantrums, and still have time for beach fun in the afternoon.

What is a backwards beach day?

It’s common during a beach vacation for families to hit the beach first thing in the morning and then add other activities to their schedule in the afternoon. A backwards beach day simply means instead of going to beach first, families opt to do other activities and hit the beach later in the afternoon.

Gulf Shores shoreline with hotels in the distance, Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

Now that you know what a backwards beach day is let’s discover some of the best backwards beach day options in Gulf Shores for families.

A Gulf Shores Backwards Beach Day: Option One

Start your morning off with a homemade breakfast or head to The Ruby Slipper. Now that everyone has a full belly it’s time for some fun!

A Morning at Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

One of our favorite activities in Gulf Shores is to visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Located approximately 15 minutes from the beach, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo first opened in 1989 and is spread across 25 acres. The zoo is home to over 199 species, 31 sub-species, and 8 endangered species.

If you have little ones, then the giraffe feeding is a MUST! Our daughter could not have loved feeding the giraffes more! The giraffe feeding does cost $5 per person, though. Parents may assist children at no additional fee. The feedings occur twice a day between 11:00 am-12:00 pm and 1:00 pm-2:00 pm, weather permitting.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo also has a sloth or lemur encounter which is an additional fee of $24.95 per person. These are one-on-one encounters with the animal and zoo keeper. Children under 10 must be accompanied by an adult.

Whether you just stroll around the zoo visiting the animals or opt for a more one-on-one experience, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is sure to wow the entire family! It’s the perfect morning activity during your backwards beach day in Gulf Shores!

Brittney Naylor and daughter in stroller in front of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo entrance--gulf shores backwards beach day activities
John Naylor holding daughter as they feed a giraffe at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores, Alabama--week in Gulf Shores, Alabama, backwards beach day activities

Grab Lunch at LuLu’s

On your way back to the coast stop by LuLu’s for lunch! LuLu’s is owned by Lucy Buffet, sister of Jimmy Buffet. LuLu’s is an open air restaurant situated on the creek that features a shop, ropes course, arcade, and more. It’s the perfect restaurant to enjoy food and fun!

After spending time at LuLu’s, it’s time to head back to the beach to enjoy some sunshine and sand!

overhead photo of a variety of foods on teal table at LuLu's restaurant in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Food includes fried green tomatoes, fried shrimp, a sandwich, and more. Photo provided by Visit Alabama Beaches. Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

A Gulf Shores Backwards Beach Day: Option Two

Begin your backwards beach day with a homemade breakfast or check out City Donut for something sweet.

Explore Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan is about 22 miles west of Gulf Shores, but still very much worth the visit. Originally built in 1819, Fort Morgan stood as the guardian of the Mobile Bay. The fort played a significant role during the Civil War and the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Families can explore and tour the fort grounds, learn the history, and more during their visit to Fort Morgan. It’s a great way to add a little bit of education during your vacation, while still enjoying the outdoors.

Fort Morgan Historic Site located in Gulf Shores, Alabama.Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
Canon at Fort Morgan Historic Site in Gulf Shores Alabama Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

Enjoy Lunch at Lambert’s Cafe

Your backwards beach day isn’t complete without a visit to Lambert’s Cafe. Lambert’s is famous for throwing rolls to their guests. It’s the perfect restaurant to enjoy southern cooking at it’s finest!

After enjoying your meal, head back to your vacation home and enjoy the ocean waves!

Other Gulf Shores Backwards Beach Day Suggestions

Of course there are so many other great things to explore in Gulf Shores on your backwards beach day.

  • Shopping at Foley Outlets: Enjoy a slow morning shopping the Tanger Outlets which features over 100 stores and restaurants.
  • Mini Golf: There are several mini golf courses throughout Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. Play a round or two of mini golf for some friendly family competition.
  • The Wharf: Enjoy a ride on the ferris wheel or train, explore shopping, dining, and so much more at The Wharf in Orange Beach.
The Wharf in Orange Beach featuring tall palm trees, a ferris wheel, shopping, and dining. Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
gulf shores alabama beach, little girl playing in the sand with beach toys, backwards beach day ideas


Whether you’re just learning about a backwards beach day or have tried it in the past, these Gulf Shores backwards beach day ideas are sure to bring fun for the whole family! By exploring the area in the morning and enjoying the beach in the afternoon, families can expect kids to be less burnt out and hopefully experience less tantrums.

For us, it’s been so much easier to enjoy the beach in the afternoon. Once we’re done at the beach, everyone has their shower, we plan a meal at home, and the kids go strait to bed!

I would love to know if you’ve ever had a backwards beach day or want to try it in the future! Tell me all about it in the comments!

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The Comments

  • Beth
    March 26, 2024

    Gulf Shores is one of our most favorite spots. We go there quite often for vacation, and it’s always a good time.

  • Ben
    March 26, 2024

    I love Gulf Shores so much! We’ve been there a few times, and there’s always something to do.

  • Catherine Kay
    March 27, 2024

    Exploring Gulf Shores in reverse with a Backwards Beach Day is a genius way to add a twist to your family vacation. This unique adventure promises unforgettable memories and endless fun for kids and adults alike!

  • Kimberley Asante
    March 27, 2024

    Your “backwards beach day” idea is brilliant! It adds an exciting twist to the usual beach outing and ensures a day filled with fun and memorable moments for families. Starting with dessert and ending with sunrise sounds like a fantastic way to create lasting memories by the shore.

    • Brittney
      → Kimberley Asante
      March 27, 2024

      That’s such a fun way to look at it!

  • Meghan
    March 27, 2024

    I love the idea of a backwards beach day! Skip the crowds at the beach in the morning and do something different. Alabama shores also looks really pretty!

    • Brittney
      → Meghan
      March 27, 2024

      Yes, we love Gulf Shores! Backwards beach days have been so good for our family.

  • kmf
    March 27, 2024

    A backwards beach day! A fabulous idea for an ultimate Gulf Shores family beach vacation with so many fun activities.

  • Fransic verso
    March 27, 2024

    Great guide, this would help people going there and seems it has great and fun things to do. Thank you for sharing!

  • Nikki Wayne
    March 28, 2024

    This is very nice itinerary for Gulf Shores. I can see that this is worth it and will really make memories.

  • Carol Colborn
    March 28, 2024

    That’s cool. We have not done a backwards beach day. You just opened our eyes.

  • Josy A
    March 28, 2024

    I have never heard of the concept of a backwards beach day – but we totally did something similar as a family when I was growing up! We’d hike, or go on an adventure, then finish the day with the treat of fun on a beach. 🙂

    Fort Morgan and Alabama Golf Coat zoo both look great for the morning adventures and yeees to those lunch options!

  • Michelle
    March 28, 2024

    I love the idea of a backwards beach day! You might even get to enjoy a beautiful sunset over the water.

  • Jaqueline
    March 29, 2024

    Beautiful suggestions and great pictures! I loved the unique approach.

  • Clarice
    April 1, 2024

    We haven’t really done a backwards beach day but I think it’s definitely worth the try and it actually makes sense since going to the beach first thing hinders one to do the other thing. Also, I agree with you that it would probably result to lesser tantrums.