We spent over two weeks in Southern Alabama. From learning about the history of Mobile, to exploring the white sand beaches of Dauphin Island and Fort Morgan, we really got to soak in what the South of Alabama was all about! In total, we explored Mobile, Dauphin Island, Fairhope, Gulf Coast, and Fort Morgan. Whether you are planning a trip to Southern Alabama, or just want to know more about Alabama, we got you covered!
Our first stop of Alabama took us to Mobile! Mobile is the oldest city in Alabama, it was even an established city before Alabama became a state! Fun fact, Mobile was the origination of Mardis Gras!! That’s right baby, Mobile is the city that loves to celebrate!
This city is very rich in history a great for any history buffs out there. While there, we visited several museums & exhibits that really helped give us feel for the city.
1. USS Alabama:
The USS Alabama is what you will find on the top of the list for “Must See’s” while in Mobile. Included in the entrance fee, $13 per person, the USS Alabama also allows you to set foot on the submarine, USS Drum, and gives you access to their plane museum.
We had a great experience here and learned so much about the USS Alabama and all of its history. You can expect to spend at least 2 hours walking through the submarine and the ship. They have set up several self guided walking tours throughout the ship, and they give you a really good feel of what life on a ship might be like. This ship was a full on community full of dentists, surgeons, laundry folders, barbers, and anything else you could imagine! Could you picture yourself being one of the thousands of men living on a ship?
2. Exploreum Science Center
Located directly across from a public parking area, this is an awesome little stop. It was a children centered place, but who doesn’t like to have a little fun! They have lots of different machines to test your fitness and your brain levels, as well as several areas with arts and crafts type of activities.
While we had a great time testing our strength and seeing how healthy our hearts are, our favorite part of the Exploreum Science Center was their Dome Theater! Even if you don’t want to do the other stuff in the science center, stop by just to experience this! Great Bear Rainforest, with some popcorn and a Dr. Pepper (free refill!!)? Don’t mind if we do! This Dome theater plays 2-3 different scheduled movies which are rotated out as new movies are released.
3. History Museum of Mobile
Also located directly across from public parking, this is your best one stop shop if you’re looking to learn about the history of Mobile. We spent around 2 hours here learning about Mobile. They have several different parts of the museum which covered everything from beginning to now. Spanish Exploration, French rule, Slavery, The Civil war, Mardis Gras, and even a Viking exhibit. This town has been through A LOT to say the least.
4. Bellingrath Gardens and Home
We both love botanical gardens! And not only that, our timing was so perfect we had the chance to experience one of the top 10 botanical Christmas Garden Lights in the United States!
Located 25 miles south of Mobile (about a 30 minute drive), Botanical Gardens and homes offers an incredible botanical garden and a chance to go in the original home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. After making this incredible home, they decided to open the property to guests so that everyone could experience the beauty of the garden. The light show is one of a kind and couldn’t recommend it enough!!! If you get the chance to come here during the light show, don’t forget a nice warm adult beverage hot cocoa for the walk!
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Our next stop took us South to Dauphin Island! Overall, this the best stop in the South if you are looking for a dog friendly beach. As far as beaches go, this is by the far the least developed beach areas in Alabama (ssshhhhh, don’t tell anyone!) We stayed at the Dauphin Island Campground, which is located on the East end of the island. The campground varies in price depending on the season, during our stay (middle of December) it was right around $35 a night. The bathroom facility was super nice, and all of the staff workers had great attitudes. Here you are also within walking distance of the ferry, bird sanctuary, dog friendly beach, Fort Gaines and the Alabama Aquarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.
1. The Mobile Bay Ferry:
While we didn’t take a ride on the ferry, this is a nice 45 minute boat ride through Mobile Bay over to Fort Morgan. Prices vary depending on how you are wanting to travel. If you are planning on leaving your vehicle, it is $6 per person. This gets you as many rides as you’d like during that day. Keep a look out for dolphins!!
2. Audubon Bird Sanctuary
Literally right out your backdoor, if you decide to camp at the Dauphin Island Campground, is 137 acres of protected land. Of the 445 documented species of birds in Alabama, 420 of them have been seen in the sanctuary. There is 3 miles of walking trails through the sanctuary.
3. Alabama Aquarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab
From the campground, you can get to the aquarium in less than 5 minutes walking. This is a really cool sea lab that highlights the four key habitats of coastal Alabama. There is a $12 entrance fee that includes all kinds of sea life, educational videos, and even a 7,000 gallon sting ray pool (Yes you can touch them too!). We had a great time here and it taught us all about the coasts of Alabama. Expect to spend an hour here.
4. East Public Beach
I said earlier how we liked Dauphin Island for the dog friendly beaches. It’s important to note that this only applies to the East side of the island. The West side of the island does not allow dogs on the beach areas. Best part about the East beach? The beach stretches for about a mile long, and you can get there straight from your campsite!
Spanish Fort/ Fairhope
After visiting the West side of Mobile Bay, we made our way East over to the Fairhope and Spanish Fort Area. We spent a few days in the area, here were our favorite stops.
1. Five Rivers Delta Center
This is an awesome free stop to experience and learn about the Five Rivers Delta area. We spent about an hour here exploring their trails and checking out their indoor animal exhibits. Originally we had planned on staying right across the road at Meaher State Park, but after terrible customer service and waiting around for over an hour trying to get a campsite we decided to bail (We do not recommend Meaher State Park).
2. Alligator Alley
15 miles East of Fairhope, this is pretty cool stop right outside of Summerdale, AL. IMPORTANT NOTE: Alligators are very sleepy in the winter time! They have over 400 alligators here, most of which seem to stay on their own will. When the gators aren’t sleeping for the winter, they do live feedings every half hour! We were hoping to catch the feedings, but our timing was just a tad bit off! Admission is $13 for adults, and $11 for seniors and children.
3. Fairhope Pier
We absolutely loved this Pier! There was no intention on going here until we found ourselves within a mile from it on Christmas Eve. This was a very nice and well kept area offering lots of parking and a great view of Mobile Bay.
4. Downtown Fairhope
If you’re looking for a day of shopping and eating, this would be your spot! Old downtown Fairhope is extremely well taken care of with lots of places to eat and a lot of different places for shopping.
Not our cup of tea, but if you’re into it, what a spot! We did enjoy a wonderful coffee shop where we got work done & the dogs were able to sit inside with us! It is a great little town to go people watching!
Gulf Shores, Alabama
After visiting Fairhope and Spanish fort, we cruised our way south down to the Gulf Shores area. While here, we checked out the Gulf Shores State Park, ate at the famous Lulu’s, and saw the animals over at the Gulf Coast Zoo.
1. Gulf Shores State Park
Overall, just not the place for us. It is a well kept and maintained campground, but for $70 a night for a basic setup, we would try someplace else. With 496 camp spots, you can expect a lot going on. It wasn’t a crammed campground for how many people were there, but the price for the experience didn’t meet our standard. They do however have clean bathrooms, wifi, and lots of walking trails you can access from the campground.
This the famous restaurant of Lucy Buffett, little sister of Jimmy Buffett. They had a great atmosphere here with a lot of seating to choose from. The staff did a fantastic job and we had a great experience. Best part? They did a PHENOMENAL job at making sure everyone at the table got exactly what they wanted when it came to dietary restrictions. They use a special little sheet to help mark ALL diet allergies and take it very seriously. BRAVO!
3. Gulf Coast Zoo
Great Zoo! This is a somewhat smaller zoo, but they seem to a fantastic job here. The staff was all very friendly and you got the sense that the animals were very well taken care of. You could expect to spend about 2 hours here, and if you want, they even have a restaurant with live music! We didn’t eat here, but the food smelled amazing! Don’t miss out on the Sloth experience either! They have several exclusive experiences that get you up close and personal to either kangaroos, slots or lemurs. Grace loves sloths so we couldn’t pass it up!
Admission to the zoo is $19.95 for adults, $16.95 for seniors, and $14.95 for children. Add ons like the sloth experience do add an additional cost.
Fort Morgan, Alabama
BEST VACATION SPOT IN SOUTHERN ALABAMA
If you’re looking for the best overall beach experience in Alabama, look no further. This area, similar to Dauphin Island, is very uncommercial. While there are a lot of different rental properties here, you won’t be overwhelmed with the tourist scene restaurants and shops. Make sure to get your food and beverages in the Gulf Shores area before making your way to the beach, because you will be a solid 15-20 minutes from the nearest grocery store.
Dogs are not technically allowed on this beach, but in offseason (Winter months) you will find a lot of people with their dogs on the beach with them. Especially because it is a residential area.
Enjoy the white sand beaches for miles and miles!
Overall, we had a great time in southern Alabama. We learned so much about the history, people, and animals of Alabama and were enlightened about how incredible Alabama’s beaches really are! If you get time to explore the south of Alabama we hope this list gives you some ideas and insight into where you might want to make a visit to!