Alabama News Water

Are Alabama beaches public or private?

Understanding Access to Alabama’s Sandy Shores: Public or Private?

Alabama’s coastline, with its sugar-white sands and warm Gulf waters, is a popular destination for both residents and tourists. However, the question of whether these beaches are public or private is a topic of ongoing discussion and legal interpretation.

Public Beaches and Private Property Rights

Under Alabama law, the public has the right to access certain areas of the beach. The state upholds the concept of “public trust,” which dictates that the government holds the shoreline in trust for the public’s use. This means that the wet sand area, up to the mean high tide line, is generally considered public property and accessible for walking, fishing, and other recreational activities.

However, the dry sand area above the high tide line is often privately owned, with beachfront property owners holding deeds to the land. These private stretches may have restrictions on public access, and visitors must be aware of and respect private property rights when visiting Alabama’s beaches.


Q: Can I walk along the beach in front of private homes?
A: Yes, as long as you stay below the mean high tide line, you are on public property.

Q: Are there any completely public beaches in Alabama?
A: Yes, Alabama has several state parks and public beaches that are fully accessible to the public.

Q: How can I tell where the high tide line is?
A: The high tide line can usually be identified by the line of seaweed and debris left on the sand.


Public Trust: A legal principle that holds certain natural resources, like the shoreline, in trust by the government for public use and enjoyment.

Mean High Tide Line: The average line on the coast established by the flux of high tides, typically used to demarcate public and private property on beaches.

As beachgoers enjoy Alabama’s coastal offerings, it’s important to understand the balance between public access and private property rights, ensuring that the beaches remain a welcoming environment for all.