Alabama the Beautiful: Gulf State Park earns top tourism honor
Monday night, Gulf Shores’ Gulf State Park was honored as the 2018 Attraction of the Year by the Alabama Tourism Department.
The 6,500 acre park, which includes three miles of stunning white sand beaches, also features a 1,540-foot-long fishing and education pier, 500 improved campsites, 33 cottages and cabins, a Nature Center, 18-hole golf course, several coastal lakes, more than 28 miles of hiking and biking trails, a dog park, 9 ecosystems and multiple beach access sites.
Per a press release from Alabama State Parks, “Gulf State Park act[s] as a siren call to vacationers from around the world, but it is because park staff and volunteers provide so much more through their hospitality, educational opportunities and recreational offerings that the park earned this award.”
Chris Blankenship, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ commissioner, praised Gulf State Park’s staff and their many volunteers for being the reason for the lofty honor.
“Our employees and dedicated volunteers work incredibly hard to make Gulf State Park the best it can be,” he said. “This park is one of the jewels of our entire system and we’re honored to receive the award from the Alabama Tourism Department for 2018 and we expect the next year to be even better with the opening of the new Lodge and Conference Center this November.”
Alabama State Parks Director Greg Lein, when accepting the award, outlined additional recognitions Gulf State Park has received.
“In recent years, Gulf State Park has been recognized by its customers for its excellent service through certificates awarded by TripAdvisor.com,” he said. “This year Gulf State Park received three of these awards and was inducted into TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame for receiving such awards over five consecutive years.
TripAdvisor recognized the park in three categories of excellence, based on visitor reviews and rankings on the travel website.
Lein also affirmed the excellence of the park’s staff and volunteers, along with highlighting the public-private partnerships that it makes possible.
“Achievements by staff and volunteers, coupled with the investments in new amenities such as trails, education facilities and the rebuilding of our Lodge at Gulf State Park, have made the park an attractive setting for the recruitment of new business partners like Valor Hospitality and Hilton Hotels and Resorts,” he continued.
The Alabama Tourism Department praised Gulf State Park, stating in a release, “The park sets a benchmark of economic and environmental sustainability by demonstrating best practices for outdoor recreation, education and accommodations.”
Recent upgrades at the park include restored and expanded sand dunes, the new Interpretive Center and a Learning Campus that will be enjoyed by thousands of visitors annually.
Per a press release, The Lodge at Gulf State Park, scheduled to open this November, “is a model of resilient, environmentally friendly coastal development where connectivity to the outdoors is a central focus.”
Designed to meet LEED Gold and SITES Platinum Certifications, this soon-to-open lodge will have 350 rooms and a whopping 40,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.
Gulf State Park’s lodge will also feature the largest beach view ballroom on the Gulf Coast, accommodating groups of up to 1,000, a Gulf-front pool and Gulf-front restaurant with house-prepared and locally sourced regional specialties.
Naturalists based at both the Lodge and the park’s campground will be available to share information with guests about coastal environments, helping to fulfill the Alabama State Parks System’s educational goals.
For more information about Alabama State Parks, click here.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn