The Top 10 Things to Do in Gulf Shores — and best of all, most are absolutely FREE! Enjoy!
Mobile Bay Ferry: Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island – Best $10 Deal for 2!
Looking for something original to do while in the Gulf Shores, AL area? Ride the Mobile Bay Ferry to Dauphin Island for $10 for 2 people ROUNDTRIP! You read that right, just go to Ft Morgan, park your car, pay $10 for two people (roundtrip) and walk on to the ferry! It takes about 30-40 minutes to ride across Mobile Bay from one side to the next, while seeing oil rigs, freighters, tankers (think BIG SHIPS), birds and dolphins! Where else can you get a sightseeing boat ride for $10 for two people across and back! We rode across, walked 5 minutes from the ferry terminal to Ft Gaines (a small civil war fort at the western mouth of Mobile Bay – home of “Damn The Torpedos, Full Speed Ahead”), explored the fort for an hour, then returned to the ferry base for the ride back across Mobile Bay. Great fun … did I mention it was $10 for both of us both ways? 🙂
Hugh S Branyon Backcountry Trail
After riding (bicycle) all but one of the 7 trails in the 14+ miles of Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, by far our favorite was the Gulf Overlook Trail because of of the view and trees draped with Spanish Moss over the trail. The trails themselves are paved and wide – easy to wide two abreast and chat while we rode. In December it was not crowded at all – at more crowded times, you might not be able to ride two abreast.
The Rosemary Dunes trail features “Lefty” the resident alligator – residing in the area marked “Alligator Habitat”. Our first time through we saw “Lefty” and asked at the Gulf State Park Nature Center because it seemed almost “Disney-esque”. Turns out that alligators are territorial and tend to reside in a small area. “Lefty” is actually a female with two baby alligators right now. Enjoy your ride!
“Damn the Torpedos, Full Speed Ahead!” Despite the fact that historians are unable to agree on whether Union Admiral David Farragut actually uttered the famous phrase, Fort Morgan was where the Union’s attack on Mobile Bay began. What at that time were known as “torpedoes” today we’d think of as land mines (the underwater variety). Directly off the Ft Morgan coast is a buoy marking where the Union lead ironclad, the USS Tecumseh, struck a mine and sank. But against all odds, Admiral Farragut ordered his fleet forward through the underwater minefield and into Mobile Bay. The rest is history and much of the history is preserved in Forts Morgan and Gaines, the two forts guarding either side of the entrance into Mobile Bay.
Beyond history, the views were great – watching the freighters and container ships go out so close to the beach was lots of fun – watching the dolphins in a feeding frenzy between the beach and the ships was even better. We had a great picnic – sitting on the tailgate of our pick up — buzzed by the Blue Angels practicing – very fun day and a nice change from the beach!
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge trails provide an opportunity to discover different habitats of the refuge: dunes, swales, wetlands, maritime forests and scrub habitats. The trails are open year-round, sunrise to sunset and highlight the unique features of the area. We originally spotted the Visitors Center sign along the road driving to Ft Morgan. After getting a trail map, we decided a day’s exploration was in order. We hiked the circle – leaving our truck at the Pine Beach Parking area just off Route 180, walking the Pine Beach Trail, past Gator Lake (where we saw no gators, but it was cold) and on to the beach. We then walked the beach to the road, back up the road until it intersects with Gator Lake Trail. Across Gator Lake Trail back to Pine Beach Trail and back to our truck.
After the hike, we drove down to the beach parking area, grabbed our beach chairs and enjoyed a picnic on the beach … until the clouds chased away the warm sunshine and I decided I didn’t have enough clothes to enjoy watching the surf fishermen any longer. 🙂
Sunset at the Beach
No need for elaboration! Many different options for sunset – we liked the Gulf State Park Pier and also Fairhope Town Dock.
The 2nd longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico, Gulf State Park Pier entry fee is included in your camping pass, so if you’re camping at Gulf State Park, go as often as you want!
Gulf State Park Hiking/Biking Trails
Aside from the Hugh S Branyon Backcountry trails, there are many trails winding their way through Gulf State Park – some are wooden boardwalks allowing for easy walking and nice views of the surrounding ecosystems.
Local Events – Christmas Boat Parade
We always pick up the local events free newspaper at the visitor center of anywhere we visit. We’ve been fortunate to participate in many fun local events this way. Gulf State Park’s visit was timed perfectly to watch the Christmas Lighted Boat Parade and enjoy some of the best nachos we’ve ever eaten, “Garbage Nachos”, afterward at Tacky Jack’s Bar & Grill.
Speaking of delicious food, don’t forget about locally owned DeSoto’s Seafood Restaurant. Their senior specials are great values. The delicious blackened grouper is my favorite!
Blue Angels Practice
If you happen to be in Gulf Shores when the Blue Angels are practicing, do not miss their FREE practice sessions – usually every Tuesday & Wednesday mornings from March through November. Click here to see their current schedule. (Note: This shot wasn’t at an official practice as they weren’t practicing in December – this was taken as they practiced over Fort Morgan as we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the tailgate of our trusty Toyota.)
So many fun things to do in the Gulf Shores area – and I didn’t even mention the outstanding Outlet Mall – which actually has good prices (unless you go in the Polo store), unlike many outlet malls. 🙂
Do you have other suggestions for fun things to do while in Gulf Shores, Alabama? Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan