Go Wild at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in Gulf Shores

When vacationing in Gulf Shores, there are a plethora of activities that will excite the whole family and make your trip absolutely worth it. Out of all the things to do with kids in Gulf Shores, visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo might be the best of them all! With something for everyone, this destination has become renowned as the best zoo around!



Nestled near the white-sand beaches in Gulf Shores, Alabama, Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo stands out as a premier family destination in the area having been voted the #1 zoo in Alabama for consecutive years. Since starring in the Animal Planet documentary “The Little Zoo That Could,” this non-profit park has been home to over 100 species and subspecies of animals including eight endangered species.

Spanning over 25 acres, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped into another world upon entering the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo! From the roar of lions to the playful sounds of monkeys, visitors become immersed in this new kingdom! Despite its vast size, the zoo is still friendly to all age groups. Offering wide pathways and disabled access, everyone from the youngest to the oldest can have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the animals on exhibit.

Above all else, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo puts the safety of its patrons, staff, and animals as its #1 priority. They are 100% compliant with facility checks by the United States Department of Agriculture, offer continuous safety training to their staff, and stay vigilant to any areas where the safety of the zoo could be compromised.



Stretching its roots back to 1989 when it was known as Zooland Animal Park, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo has an amazing past and an even better future. Founded by Joey Ward in 1989, Zooland Animal Park was a small collection of animals managed by an even smaller staff. Despite the zoo being only a seasonal attraction at the time, the Ward family was ever dedicated.

Operating for the next six years in a similar manner, the fate of Zooland Animal Park would be changed forever in 1995 when Patti Hall walked through the gates of the park. Initially, a passionate volunteer, by 1997 Patti was asked to become the Zoo Director of Zooland Animal Park.

Throughout the rest of the ‘90s, Patti fought to help the zoo thrive and become a mainstay in the Gulf Shores community. By 2000, the Zooland Animal Park was renamed the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, providing a level of credibility to the organization. Patti took the initiative to launch several programs designed to attract visitors, such as educational visits to schools, advertisements towards tourists, new community events, and improved facilities! Things were looking up, but they wouldn’t last forever.

Seasonal hurricane weather always threatens the citizens dotted along the Gulf of Mexico. The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo was no different. In 2004, the zoo experienced its best year ever, but its run of success would soon change with the arrival of Hurricane Ivan.

Patti faced a moral crisis. She knew evacuation was coming, but she couldn’t leave the animals behind! The only issue was that a mass evacuation of a zoo had never happened before. That is, until the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo in 2004. Over the course of almost two days, Patti and her staff transported 265 animals to Patti’s property twenty miles inland. There, Patti, the animals, her staff, their families, and close pets hunkered down to weather one of the worst natural disasters to strike Gulf Shores, Alabama.


After Hurricane Ivan, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo was destroyed and under 14 feet of water. But because of Patti’s brave mission, no staff member or animal was harmed! News of her heroism soon spread to major news outlets and after being featured on ABC World News, TV producer Julie Leifermann reached out to her to start a 13-episode tv series surrounding the zoo that would soon be sold to Animal Planet.

With monetary donations flowing in after the series aired, as well as revitalized interest in the Gulf Shores area because of the zoo’s growing popularity, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo was able to open its doors a short 14 months after being destroyed! By the end of 2006, the zoo broke its previous best the year of 2004 and soared to new heights.

Via a variety of charitable efforts over the next decade, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo has gifted a 25-acre parcel of land that was more inland and received financial backing from individuals, including the original founder of the zoo, Joey Ward, to build a new zoo on the land. Through the combined effort of multiple individuals, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo finally turned into what it was always meant to be: a safe haven.

The Animals

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo is home to a wide range of animal species, many of which are considered endangered or vulnerable. Many of the animals in the zoo today were rescued, and some of them were even born at the zoo! Each and every creature here has a name and a backstory, and the zoo staff works daily to ensure the animals always have comfortable and safe conditions to keep them happy.

two lions

You’ll find all the classic animals you would expect at a zoo, like lions, tigers, camels, and more. There are tons of exotic species like kangaroos, anteaters, and peacocks as well. Bird lovers will thrive getting to watch ostriches, macaws, and more as they live their daily lives. No matter what your favorite animal is, chances are you’ll get to see it here!


With such a large zoo, there is sure to be an exhibit that will thrill everyone. For all your reptile needs, head down to The Reptile House. Here, you can see everything from snakes and lizards, to iguanas and bugs! If that’s not your thing, there is still plenty more to see!

Venture on into the zoo to take a look at the black leopard Katrina or even the endangered Bengal tigers Rajah, Rani, and Omar! If you’re looking to get up close and personal, there are plenty of ways to do that as well.

Take the kids and travel to The Petting Zoo! Here everyone from adults to toddlers can interact with, and feed, a variety of different animals. Often seen interacting with guests are goats, sheep, donkeys, and even deer! If you’re looking for an even more personal experience, why not try one of the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo’s Animal Encounters?

Animal Encounters offer a true hands-on learning experience for visitors of all ages! Here you will have the opportunity to interact with kangaroos, lemurs, slots, and even anteaters. Each encounter takes place in a safe enclosure supervised by trained zoo staff. This exhibit is appropriate for all ages so bring the little ones and have a fantastic day!

girl looking at llamas

Education & Conservation

The Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo does so much more than just entertain. They also strive to inspire us all to learn more about the incredible animals they house and how we can work to conserve their species and their habitats. Zoo staff members are always willing to teach guests current, science-based information about the animals in the zoo and stress how real the threat of mass extinction can be.

The zoo also holds tons of educational events to truly make their message hit home. Kids’ programs like Zoo Camp and Animal Encounters help children get hands-on and learn firsthand about the animals. They also offer a Community Outreach Program that brings the wonder of the zoo to everyone in the Gulf Coast area. 

Other Things to Do Nearby

Once you’re done at the zoo, there’s still tons more to discover in the area! Especially if you’re traveling with kids, there’s no lack of entertainment around here. Take a family bike ride on one of the fantastic trails in the area or cast your line at Gulf State Park Fishing Pier. From shopping to restaurants to beaches and more, you can find just about any activity you please just minutes away from the zoo!

Plan Your Visit

After a long day learning about the animals, head back to one of our Gulf Shores rentals to relax and reflect with the ones you love most. We’ve got rentals of all sizes just waiting for you to enjoy it! Contact us today to learn more about our Gulf Shores vacation rentals.