We spent a couple of days enjoying the Mobile Bay. If you look at a map of Alabama, the Mobile Bay is the upside down V in the tail of the state. Just past the bay is the Gulf of Mexico. This entire area is a little known paradise that offers the beach life of the coast combined with the small town feel and charm of the South. It is far less busy than other beach cities which just adds to the appeal.
On our first day we decided to go see the east side of the bay. Just out of town of Mobile we came to the U.S.S. Alabama sitting in the water of the Battleship Memorial Park. The U.S.S. Alabama is a retired naval battleship. Originally built in the 1930’s, this battleship was the fourth and final ship created in the series of fast battleships. This ship was sent all over the world during its service and decommissioned in 1947. It remained in a ship yard until 1962 when a group of petitioners saved it from the fate of the breakers yard and instead turned it into a memorial. Visitors can tour this battleship and get an idea of what life was like in the confines of this ship.
Our first stop was in the small town of Fairhope. The town itself is small and charming. But if you want to go to the town square, then you will need to make your way down to the pier. They even have it listed on the sign that the pier is the town square. And it seemed true because this is where everyone goes for business or pleasure.
From the top of the hill we started walking down to the pier. We passed a memorial fountain dedicated to all those serving in the military and the families they leave behind. It was a tender reminder of the sacrifice made by those who serve.
From there we went down the colorful steps of the Sunshine Staircase which was an art project by a local high school. In the gray morning light, the colors really brightened up the hillside.
Then we made it to the town square of the pier and enjoyed the walk down to one end and back. We passed dozens of people, all of which wanted to stop and talk to us. We passed rows of boats waiting patiently to be used by their owners. The pier is about a half a mile down to the end and makes for a really nice walk with a lot of nice people to chat with.
We kept down the road until we reached the coast and the very tip of the bay. This area is part of the Gulf State Park and includes the remmants of Fort Morgan. We walked out to the water and going past old cannons that have been used at different periods of history to protect the bay. From the beach you can see a few oil drilling machines out in the water. Between the beach and the gentle hills you would never notice the fort hidden from view.
The entrance to the fort is a tunnel set into the hillside. The fort was created with forethought about protection to the occupants and the ability to still have water and food in case they had to block the entrance.
From the tunnel you then come to the outside of the fort surrounded by green grass with waterways built into the ground to capture rain water and send it into the fort. The interior of the fort is surrounded by storage rooms and battery areas along with the living quarters and commanding areas. This fort has been used since the War of 1812 and then again throughout all the other wars since then. It is really incredible that an entire fort is able to be so well disguised right there on the beach.
The next day we decided to go down the west side of the Mobile Bay. We drove down to Dauphin Island which is a lovely barrier island beach town. With one side looking into a small bay and the other side looking out towards the Gulf Coast. We pulled into town and immediately fell in love with the colorful beach houses everywhere. Especially a row of condos that were narrow enough for only one room deep and a back porch that went right onto the water where their boats were parked.
We found The Lighthouse Bakery which was rated the best in the area. The building was an old home converted to a bakery, but still filled with the original piano and bookcases and kitchen chairs from before. The food was great but the warm and welcoming people behind the counter were the best.
When we pulled into the bakery the street that it was on was filling up with people getting ready for a parade. When we asked what was going on we were told that it was the monthly dog parade of Dauphin Island. Apparently every third Saturday the town comes together to celebrate the canines with a parade. People get really into this parade. People were dressed up, the dogs were dressed up, and they even have an award ceremony at the end. With Scout leading us down the street, we joined the dog parade. What was fun was how many people were talking about Scout and his hound dog bay. Everyone loved the sound and wanted to come and see the dog with the great bark. It’s nice to be somewhere that not only knows their hounds but loves hounds so much. Scout is a southern dog to be sure.
We walked out to the water and put our feet into the Gulf Coast. Raised houses stood on the shore and a cool breeze swept our faces. It was a perfect place to take a walk along the water. We did come upon a lot of jellyfish that had come up on the sand- so if you go be sure to watch where you step because even dead on the sand they can send you to the emergency room.
Our last stop of the day was at the small fishing town of Bayou La Batre which was made famous as being where Forrest Gump’s friend Benjamin Buford Blue (aka Bubba) was from. If you are a fan of the movie Forrest Gump, then Alabama is the place to be. The majority of the movie was filmed in Beaufort, Alabama. Even the scenes of Vietnam they used the lush backdrop of Alabama in place of the country itself. While we didn’t make it to Beaufort, we did get to the mass of fishing boats in the harbor of Bayou La Batre (pronounced according to Bubba as Bi-U-le-Bat-Tree all strung together). Apparently some of the fishing boats used in the movie are still there and the locals pay a tax to keep them there because it is less expensive than having them removed. With hundreds of boats though it is tough to pick out the old shrimpin’ boats from the newer and sleeker ships that are there.
We drove back into Mobile after seeing all around the bay. More and more I see why so many people want to live down in this area of Alabama. It is a state of surprises. From old forts hidden in the hillside, to town squares on the pier, to dog parades, and shrimp boats this area is full of things to discover. Forrest Gump was right, you never know what you’re going to get.
If you have enjoyed Mobile, then you might also enjoy these other coastal destinations.
Thanks for coming along with us as we explored the Mobile Bay area of Alabama. There is still so much of this state we need to see.