Ten Easy Day Trips From Gulf Shores, Alabama
When it’s chilly, raining, or you just want a break from the beach, these destinations offer fun-packed options the whole family will enjoy. All 10 are easy day trips from Gulf Shores, AL.
– BELLINGRATH GARDENS AND HOME, Theodore, Alabama, near Mobile. The former country estate of Mobile Coca-Cola bottler Walter Bellingrath and his wife, Bessie, the 65-acre property includes an English Renaissance-style mansion built for the Bellingraths in 1935. It’s surrounded by green lawns and lush gardens where spectacular plantings bloom year-round. You’ll see camellias in winter, azaleas in spring, roses and hydrangeas in summer, and the famous cascading chrysanthemums in fall. The property also hosts seasonal programs and events designed to appeal to guests of all ages. For more about the house and gardens, check out our
– EASTERN SHORE ART CENTER, Fairhope, Alabama. Founded as a one-room gallery in 1954 by a group of local artists and art patrons, the art center has grown into a facility with five exhibit galleries and four teaching studios. It features monthly changing exhibits in a wide range of mediums, including watercolor, acrylics, photography, pottery, and textiles.
– FORT GAINES, Dauphin Island, Alabama. Standing at the eastern tip of Dauphin Island, Fort Gaines has been guarding the entrance to Mobile Bay for more than 150 years. Before being seized by Northern forces near the end of the Civil War, Fort Gaines and its across-the-bay neighbor, Fort Morgan, kept the port of Mobile open to blockade runners and Confederate warships. Now a historic site, it’s open daily except for major holidays. There is a small admission charge.
– FORT MORGAN, on Mobile Point, about 20 miles from Gulf Shores, Alabama. Completed in 1834, the fort was designed to control the main ship channel into Mobile Bay. Today, it offers panoramic views of both the bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Active during four wars, Fort Morgan is best known for its role in the 1864 Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. The loss of Fort Morgan and neighboring Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island was one of the final blows for the Confederacy. Now a state historical site, the fort is mainly intact and is open daily except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Our blog post, “Fort Morgan: Off the Beaten Path But Worth the Trip,” offers more information about the fort’s history and things to do when you visit. An extra treat on this outing: The drive to the fort runs through part of the unspoiled Bon Secour National Refuge. The refuge, whose name means “safe harbor” in French, offers more than 7,000 acres of protected wildlife habitats for migrating birds, nesting sea turtles, and the endangered Alabama beach mouse.
– NATIONAL NAVAL AVIATION MUSEUM, on the base of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Pensacola, Florida. One of the most-visited museums in Florida, the aviation museum offers something for everyone, no matter what their ages. One of its main attractions is a collection of more than 150 vintage aircraft. It also features themed exhibits, including the Pacific Island Experience, the World War II Carrier Exhibit, the POW Experience in Vietnam, and Naval Aviation in Space. Equally popular with youngsters and adults are the interactive flight simulators, motion simulators, and the authentically reproduced cockpits of dozens of famous aircraft. An IMAX theater and the Blue Angels 4D theater show action-packed, interactive movies. Admission to the museum is free; there is a small admission charge for each of the theaters. For more about the museum, read our blog post, “Aviation Museum Offers Family Fun Away From the Beach.”
– OAK HOLLOW FARM, Fairhope, Alabama. Family owned and operated, Oak Hollow Farm covers more than 300 acres on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. Once a traditional working farm, it dates back to the early 1800s. Today, it hosts weddings, corporate functions, and other special events. It also offers plenty of fun outdoor activities: professionally guided horseback trail rides ($35 per person, six days a week, reservations preferred), skeet shooting ($35 per round of 25, by appointment), pheasant hunting (October 1 through March 31, $140 per person, minimum party size required), fishing in a fully-stocked pond, basketball, corn hole, horseshoes, and volleyball.
– PENSACOLA LIGHTHOUSE AND MUSEUM, on the grounds of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Pensacola, Florida. Completed in 1858 and first lighted on New Year’s Day, 1859, the lighthouse boasts a first-order Fresnel lens, the most powerful available at the time. A climb up the 177 steps to the top of the tower is rewarded with panoramic views of Pensacola Pass (where Pensacola Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico), the Pensacola city skyline, the Navy Yard, and three historic forts. The Keepers’ Quarters, built in 1869, has been
restored and now houses a museum.
– SEA LAB ESTUARIUM, Dauphin Island, Alabama. Both educational and entertaining, the Estuarium features 31 aquariums showcasing more than 100 species of marine life, a sting ray touch pool, and other interactive exhibits. An outdoor boardwalk offers an up-close look at the animals, plants, and other natural resources that make up coastal Alabama’s four main habitats. There is a small admission charge. For more about the museum, check out our blog post, “Sea Lab Estuarium Exhibits Make Learning Fun.”
– USS Alabama BATTLESHIP MEMORIAL PARK, Mobile, Alabama. Decommissioned after World War II in a cost-cutting move by the U.S. Government, the USS Alabama was among hundreds of warships in danger of being scrapped and dismantled for their steel and other parts. Efforts by concerned private citizens, two governors, and the state legislature eventually resulted in the battleships’s return to Mobile Bay and its renovation. The park officially opened in January 1965 – 18 years to the day after the ship was decommissioned. Today, In addition to the battleship, which is open for tours, park attractions include the submarine USS Drum (also open for tours) and more than 25 vintage military aircraft. An onsite concession stand offers sandwiches, pizzas, and other refreshments. There is a small admission charge.
– WALTER ANDERSON MUSEUM OF ART, Ocean Springs, Mississippi. This tiny gem of a museum is dedicated to the works of painter Walter Inglis Anderson. Born in New Orleans in 1903, Anderson is known for his colorful and fanciful depictions of the plants, animals, and people of the Gulf Coast. The museum also features works by his brothers. Peter Anderson, a master potter, was the founder of Shearwater Pottery, while James Anderson was both a painter and a ceramist. In addition to its regular collections, the museum features changing exhibitions of works by other significant artists. There is a small admission charge.
Gulf Shores Vacation Rentals
Planning your stay is easy when you check out our Gulf Shores vacation rentals. Options include hotels, condos, and homes of all sizes, so you’re sure to find something that meets your needs. You’ll find photos, rates, amenities, and more, including convenient online booking for many units and individual homes.