15 Best Beaches Near Birmingham AL (Lake & Ocean)

Beaches Near Birmingham AL Graphic

About four hours from the Gulf of Mexico, Birmingham is a day trip away from some of the best public beaches in the United States! Whether you want to visit bustling Orange Beach or have a small town lake getaway, there is a perfect place for all the family members. Here are the best beaches near Birmingham, AL (all within a 5-hour drive)!

Key Takeaway: There are 12 ocean beaches in AL, FL, and MS that average a 4.5-hour drive from Birmingham. Biloxi Beach, MS is the closest ocean beach. Oak Mountain State Park has the closest freshwater beaches in the Birmingham area at a 30-minute drive.

Lake Beaches in the Birmingham Area

BeachDistance (miles)Driving TimeKey FeaturesVisitors Site Link
Oak Mountain State Park 2030 minutes– 2 Lakes with beach access
– Inflatable water park course
– Wakeboarding
– Archery & Horseback riding
Oak Mountain State Park
Smith Lake Park 501 hour– Lewis Smith Lake beach area
– Swimming Pool
– Ziplining nearby
Smith Lake Park
Lake Guntersville State Park 791 hour 30 minutes– Zipline course
– 36 miles of hiking and biking trails
Lake Guntersville State Park

If you’re in Birmingham, the quickest way to enjoy those cool waters, sandy shores, and warm weather is by visiting a nearby lake. Relax and experience nature at these lake beaches near Birmingham!

1. Oak Mountain State Park Beach (Pelham, AL)

Oak Mountain State Park has the two closest lake beaches to Birmingham that are only a half-hour drive! You’ll find public beaches at two man-made lakes. Both of these are accessible at Oak Mountain State Park, which is Alabama’s largest state park!

  • Double Oak Lake (beach access off Terrace Drive)
  • Beaver Lake (beach access near Flipside Watersports).

Enjoy the beaches for the soaking in the sun and swimming. Flipside Watersports also has an inflatable waterpark course and wakeboarding.

Visitors will also find a 9,940-acre park that has a more activities than most state parks I’ve ever visited!

  • Test your archery skills at the Community Archery Park
  • Horseback trail rides
  • Oak Mountain Golf Course – an 18-hole championship course
  • Venture forth with Geocaching
  • Visit the Alabama Wildlife Center
  • See pigs, goats, and chickens at Demonstration Farm at Oak Mountain State Park
  • Falconry
  • Fishing
  • Go hiking or explore the boardwalk
  • View the 65 foot tall waterfalls of Peavine Falls

Distance from Birmingham: 20 miles

Driving time from Birmingham: 30 minutes

2. Smith Lake Park Beach (Cullman, AL)

Smith Lake Park is only an hour drive from Birmingham and is a popular destination for families looking to enjoy the lake! Drive down to the swimming pool and you’ll also find a main public beach that’s the perfect place to enjoy sunny Lewis Smith Lake!

Additionally, the park has picnic pavilions with grills, picnic tables, and a stage area. When you’re not enjoying the water activities, the whole family can try:

Distance from Birmingham: 50 miles

Driving time: 1 hour

3. Lake Guntersville State Park Beach (Guntersville, AL)

And finally, Lake Guntersville has a nice beach complex that is about a 1.5-hour drive from Birmingham! Spend the day swimming and then reading a good book in the sun at Alabama’s second largest lake!

Other awesome things to check out at Lake Gunterville State Park include:

  • the Screaming Eagle Zipline
  • an 18-hole championship golf course
  • outdoor nature center and weekly guided hikes
  • 36 miles of hiking, biking, and walking trails

Distance: 79 miles

Driving time: 1 hour 30 minutes

The Closest Alabama Ocean Beaches to Birmingham Are…

If you’d rather experience the clear turquoise waters along the Gulf of Mexico, get ready for a road trip with your family and friends! With 32 miles of beach shoreline, Alabama’s coast is small but mighty.

There are three Alabama beaches that average a 4-hour and 24-minute drive from Birmingham: Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Dauphin Island.

4. Gulf Shores Public Beach (Gulf Shores, AL)

Drone view of Gulf Shores Beach Alabama

Gulf Shores Public Beach is the closest Alabama ocean beach to Birmingham at a little over a 4-hour drive.

Here you’ll find warm, emerald waters and white, sandy beaches with plenty of ocean water recreation. Gulf Shores is the most popular Alabama beach and resort town, so expect crowds during the summer months and Spring Break.

If you enjoy the great outdoors and nature, visit places like:

For those who want to enjoy the indoors, check out:

  • Gulf Coast Arts Alliance
  • making pottery at Sea Oat Studio
  • Gulf Shores Museum

There’s also a lot of amazing other spots to explore with your kids in Alabama!

Distance: 240 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 15 minutes

5. Orange Beach (Orange Beach, AL)

Drive about 15 minutes down the road from Gulf Shores and you’ll arrive at another one of Alabama’s top beach destinations – Orange Beach. Cotton Bayou Beach is one of the most popular beach areas with public beach access here.

In addition to all the beach activities, try paddle boarding or grabbing some cool treats at Del’s Ice Cream shop!

Some of other most fun things to check out at Orange Beach, AL are:

  • The Ferris Wheel at the Orange Beach Wharf
  • Adventure Island Theme Park
  • Hiking the High S. Branyon Backcountry Trail

Distance: 245 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 30 minutes

6. Dauphin Island (Mobile County, AL)

Dauphin Island is an Alabama barrier island that is connected to the mainland by the Gordon Persons Bridge! There is plenty of space on Dauphin Island, which is 14 miles long.

The primary beach areas are:

  • West End Public Beach
  • Dauphin Island East Beach

In addition to the quiet beach vibes and fishing, Dauphin Island offers some unique spots like:

  • Bellingrath Gardens and Home: a 65-acre historic estate with a home museum and year-round flowers in bloom
  • Fort Gaines
  • Dauphin Island Sea Lab and the Alabama Aquarium

Distance: 250 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Mississippi Beaches Near Birmingham, Alabama

There are three great spots in Mississippi worth exploring also – Biloxi, Gulfport, and Long Beach. These beaches average about a four-hour drive from Birmingham and offer some amazing beach vacation spots. With 26 miles of beaches, there are also some exciting coastal towns to explore as well!

First on the list…

7. Biloxi Beach (Biloxi, MS)

Biloxi Beach, MS is the closest ocean beach to Birmingham at 250 miles, which is about a four-hour drive. This beach is known for the casinos, but also has plenty of family-friendly things to do.

Popular beach access points include: beach area near the Biloxi Beach Pavilion and the Biloxi Lighthouse Beach. After a day at the beach, check out the amazing seafood and stunning views of the Gulf Coast at local restaurants like The Reef.

Historic Sites & Educational Sites in Biloxi to Check Out

  1. Beauvoir Museum and Library – lots of information about the Civil War
  2. Biloxi Lighthouse – 1800s lighthouse with amazing views of the Gulf
  3. Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art
  4. Fort Massachusetts – take a ferry ride to this island fort and get a guided tour
  5. Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum
  6. Biloxi Visitors Center

Casinos in Biloxi

  1. Beau Rivage Casino
  2. New Palace Casino Point Cadet
  3. Treasure Bay Casino
  4. Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Distance: 250 miles

Driving time: 4 hours

8. Gulfport Beach (Gulfport, MS)

Gulfport Beach is a family-friendly town with some incredible beaches!

After enjoying the white sand beaches, swimming, and sand castles, don’t miss out on these local adventures!

  1. Children’s Museum – Lynn Meadows Discovery Center
  2. MS Coast Model Railroad Museum
  3. Jones Park
  4. the ever-popular Gulf Islands Water Park
  5. the Mississippi Aquarium!
  6. and the World’s “Largest Rocker”

And for dining options, three of the most popular restaurants are:

  1. Half Shell Oyster House: Southern and seafood
  2. The Rack House Steak & Spirits
  3. Tony’s Brick Oven Pizzeria: Authentic Italian cuisine like its famous for wood-fired pizzas.

Distance: 255 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 10 minutes

9. Long Beach (Long Beach, MS)

And last of the Mississippi beaches is Long Beach, which is 260 miles from Birmingham. Long Beach is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and beautiful beaches!

Go sunbathing, swimming, or strolling along the picturesque Gulf Coast. Afterwards, here are some great places for adventure:

  • Long Beach Harbor and Recreation Area – go fishing or for a picnic
  • visit Friendship Oak
  • play miniature golf at Plantation Pines
  • go on a fishing expedition with 9-Ball Fishing Charters

Distance: 260 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Closest Florida Beaches to Birmingham, AL

There are five Florida beaches that average a 271 mile drive from Birmingham, which is about a 4 hour and 40-minute road trip. These Florida beaches are some of the best in the country and are some of my favorite for family trips!

10. Pensacola Beach (Pensacola, FL)

Pensacola Beach is the closest Florida beach to Birmingham at 260 miles, which is about a 4-hour drive. On the westernmost spot in the Florida panhandle, this beach is right along the Alabama border.

Nicknamed the “World’s Whitest Beaches,” Pensacola is one of my favorite spots to enjoy the warmth and relaxation of the Gulf Coast. The city of Pensacola is on the barrier island of Santa Rosa, which stretches for 40 mile and also contains contains Okaloosa Island and Navarre Beach.

Public Beach Access Points: You’ll find 10 access points in the Pensacola Beach area. A map of these points can be found here.

  1. Pensacola Beach Access #1
  2. Pensacola Beach Access #2
  3. Pensacola Beach Access (Park East)
  4. Pensacola Beach Dog Parks — Lot B
  5. Langdon Beach (located in Fort Pickens National Park)
  6. Park West Sound Side
  7. Park West Gulf Side
  8. Quietwater Beach
  9. Gulf Islands National Seashore: Opal Beach
  10. Casino Beach

History and Museums. Pensacola is perfect for history buffs and fans of museums too. The Fort Pickens National Park and the National Aviation Museum are two of the most popular historical spots to checkout.

Other fun Pensacola sites and activities to explore are:

  • Dolphin boat tours
  • parasailing
  • Blue Angels Air Shows
  • exploring local lakes in a kayak, paddleboard, or canoe
  • booking a charter to go deep sea fishing
  • exploring historic Pensacola Village
  • golfing at championship 18-hole courses

Distance: 260 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Visitors’ Website for Pensacola

11. Panama City Beach (Panama City, FL)

While it’s known as a Spring Break spot, Panama City Beach is much more relaxing during the rest of the season. With 27 miles of white, sandy beaches and clear turquoise water, Panama City Beach is among the most visited beaches in the US.

In addition to relaxing on the white, sandy beaches (Map of beach access points here), check out the water activities like:

  • Nearby state parks
  • Paddleboarding
  • Jet ski rentals
  • A Dog Beach
  • Luxury Spas

Distance: 280 miles

Drive Time: 4.5 hours

Visitors Website for Panama City Beach

12. Navarre Beach (Navarre, FL)

Navarre is a beach community that is a 4.5 hour drive from Birmingham. It has 12 miles of pristine public beaches along the Gulf’s emerald green water.

Main Draw to Visit: Navarre Beach is the place to go for peace and quiet, along with the natural beauty. The best ways to spend your time here is soaking up the sun on secluded beach, having a picnic in the park, or pedaling your bikes along a scenic path.

Don’t forget to bring a waterproof beach blanket like this one for ultimate relaxation on the beach!

Distance: 270 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Navarre Beach Visitors’ Website

13. Henderson Beach State Park (Destin, FL)

Paddle Boarding in Destin FL

Destin is one of Florida’s most popular, family-friendly beach towns and is a 4.5-hour drive from Birmingham. Known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Pier,” Destin has numerous beaches with white sand and clear water.

Henderson Beach State Park is just over a 4-hour drive from Birmingham and has both campsites and and an RV park for those wanting an outdoor beach adventure!

Families will be able to access the beach, go fishing, walk along nature trails, and more! Here are some ways you can enjoy the park:

  • Hike the three-quarter mile, pet-friendly trail
  • Set up camp in one of 60 spots at the park
  • Take a swim in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico

Distance: 270 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Henderson Beach State Park Visitors’ Website

14. Miramar Beach (Miramar Beach, FL)

Miramar Beach is located just outside of Destin, Florida and is known both for its pristine, white sand beaches and recreational activities. In addition to the water sport activities of paddleboarding, kayaking, jet skiing, or parasailing, don’t miss:

  • Book a dolphin watching cruise (Miramar Beach Dolphin Tours)
  • Rent a bike and explore Miramar Beach’s many trails and paths
  • Topsail Hill Preserve State Park
  • Silver Sands Premium Outlets for shopping
  • The Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort

Distance: 262 miles

Driving time: 4 hours 15 minutes

15. Grayton Beach (Grayton Beach, FL)

Grayton Beach State Park is 300 miles from Birmingham, AL, which takes about 5-hours to drive. This 2,000-acre park is in the Destin area and is a consistently ranked one of the top beaches in the United States.

After spending the day at the beach, soaking in the sun, check out some of the outdoor adventures at Grayton Beach State Park.

  • explore over 4 miles of nature trails
  • paddle boarding and fishing
  • RV site hookups, campsites, and cabin rentals

Distance: 300 miles

Driving time: 5 hours 15 minutes

Table: Closest Ocean Beaches to Birmingham, AL

eachDistance (miles)Driving TimeStateKey FeaturesAvg. Google Rating & Reviews
Gulf Shores Public Beach2404 hours 15 minutesAL– Closest AL Beach
– Family-friendly
– Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
– Gulf Shores Fishing Pier
4.5 of 5 stars (5,000+)
Orange Beach2454 hours 30 minutesAL– The Ferris Wheel at the Orange Beach Wharf
– Adventure Island Theme Park
4.5 of 5 stars (3,000+)
Dauphin Island2504 hours 30 minutesAL– More quiet barrier island
– Bellingrath Gardens & Home
– Fort Gaines
– Alabama Aquarium
4.5 of 5 stars (2,000+)
Biloxi Beach2504 hoursMS*Closest ocean beach
– Biloxi Beach Pavilion
– Biloxi Lighthouse Beach
– Lots of casinos
4.5 of 5 stars(2,500+)
Gulfport Beach2554 hours 10 minutesMS– Family-friendly spot
– Gulf Islands Water Park
– Mississippi Aquarium!
4.5 of 5 stars (1,500+)
Long Beach2604 hours 15 minutesMS– Peaceful beaches
– Long Beach Harbor and Recreation Area
4.5 of 5 stars (800+)
Pensacola Beach2604 hours 15 minutesFL– Closest FL Beach
– Beautiful shorelines with 10 access points
– Fort Pickens National Park
– National Aviation Museum
4.5 of 5 stars (10,000+)
Panama City Beach2804 hours 30 minutesFL– Bustling Beach Town that’s incredibly popular4.5 of 5 stars(15,000+)
Navarre Beach2704 hours 30 minutesFL– More secluded and quiet
– Great bike trails and relaxation
5 of 5 stars
Henderson State Park Beach2704 hours 15 minutesFL– Destin, FL area
– Excellent beach
– Pet friendly hiking trail
– Campsites & RV sites
4.5 of 5 stars (3,000+)
Miramar Beach2624 hours 15 minutesFL– Pristine beaches and near Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort4.5 of 5 stars (2,000+)
Grayton Beach3005 hours 15 minutesFL– Great nature trails
– Cabin rentals
4.5 of 5 stars (1,500+)

Conclusion to Best Beaches Near Birmingham, Alabama

As you can tell, Birmingham is a 30-minute drive from a lake beach and 4 – 5 hour drive from twelve of the most popular Gulf Coast beaches! Whether you want to stay in Alabama, or head to Mississippi and Florida, there is something for everyone!


My Favorite Tools for Planning a Trip


Booking.com. They have great deals and free cancellation usually.

Vacation Rentals

VRBO. I have been both a guest and renter for VRBO. 20+ experiences over the years. All great.


Viator. I’m newer to this, but it’s a great spot to get ideas or discounted tickets.

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