Take this amazing Scenic Byway on your way to Gulf Shores or Destin for a chance to see the gentle transformation of the Alabama Gulf Coast to the Southern elegance and charm by the Bay.
Drivers along the Scenic Byway will of course drive through the Beach Towns of Dauphin Island, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, but there’s so much more to see on your way to or through these destinations!
1. Muddy Creek Wetlands Management Area The Scenic Byway starts on Hwy 193 West of Mobile, and heads South down to Dauphin Island on the Dauphin Island Parkway. Here you’ll cross over waterways with names such as Rattlesnake Bayou, Dog River and Rabbit Creek, which all are flowing down to Mobile Bay. The waterways and wetlands are prime birding spots, and at Muddy Creek Wetlands Management Area you can take a break from driving to enjoy the scenic trails and boardwalks, or make an early morning visit to see some of the incredible wildlife the area has to offer!
2. Bellegrathe Gardens and Home Theodore This magnificent estate sits on 65-acres and includes their amazing gardens, which offer something in bloom year round! In Spring, the 250,000 azaleas are breath-taking, as are the cascading chrysanthemums in November, and the Magic Christmas in Lights during the holidays! Of course, if you’re visiting during the summer, everything is blooming, with hibiscus, hydrangeas, Southern Magnolias and Crepe Myrtles creating an incredible pallet of colors!
4. Fort Morgan A 40 minute ferry ride across Mobile Bay brings you to Fort Morgan. Completed in 1833 and made a state historic site in 1946. the Fort offers Living History Tours as well as access to the grounds and beach.
5. Gulf Shores offers some of the prettiest, sugar sand beaches in Alabama!
6. Orange Beach In addition to a beach-line from Gulf Shores to Perdigo Pass and on to the Redneck Riviera at FloraBama State Line, you won’t want to miss the many things to do along Canal Rd. and in the bay.
7. Alligator Alley Farm, Summerdale Located just up Hwy 59 in Summerdale, visitors can see over 200 alligators along the elevated boardwalk, and watch the daily alligator feeding shows!
8. Magnolia Springs Sitting on the pristine Magnolia River, the little incorporated town of Magnolia Springs boast the only mail-delivery by water in the country; that is the postal carrier delivers from a boat onto mailboxes set up off of piers. The town also has oak-lined streets and enough Southern charm to make you forget your final destination, if it wasn’t Magnolia Springs to begin with. You’ll find a home away from home at the Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast, and relax to a fine steak or fresh Gulf seafood at Jesse’s Restaurant. Reservations are recommended and you’ll feel on the phone the attention you will receive when you visit, as they try to seat you in the best room in the house for your party!
9. The Pitcher Plant Bog at Week’s Bay Estuary Visitors Center As anyone with boys knows, they are captivated with carnivorous plants, as the Venus Fly Traps in my kitchen windowsill can attest! The Pitcher Plant, a carnivorous plant that resembles a green funnel to capture it’s prey, is found in the wetlands in the United States, and visitors to the Week’s Bay Pitcher Plant Bog is like Disney World to like minded children! The Bog is also home to the carniverous sundews plants, which traps it’s prey on sticky dew-covered leaves and then curls in to consume them!
10. Week’s Bay Plantation If you’re visiting during the Summer, be sure and check out this pick your own blueberry farm, where you’ll find much more than just blueberries! From here, you can drive down Mary Ann Beach Rd to Pelican Point RD 1. Go East to Pelican Point at the southern tip of Week’s Bay, or just take Rd. 1 along the Bay. You’ll just see houses that sit on the bay, but I still prefer the drive, and there are a few access beach points. Remember, this isn’t the sugar sand beaches of Gulf Shores, these are Bay beaches, and not the same. After Rd. 1 merges with Scenic Hwy 98, you’ll pass Live Oaks Water and Beach access, one of the better of the Bay beaches.
11. The Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, Located on Point Clear, the Grand Hotel, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection, offers landscaped grounds around century old live oaks overlooking Mobile Bay, with two golf courses, a spa, incredible swimming pools and well-appointed rooms. The sunsets over the bay alone are reason to spend the night! It’s the perfect girls getaway or romantic retreat!
12, Fairhope A unique combination of Southern elegance and Creole food and design, Fairhope is everything you are searching for in a small Southern town. With huge coastal live oaks sweeping down to the ground, boutique shops and locally-owned restaurants! Try the Swamp Soup at the Fish River Grill By The Bay, do some shopping at the Fairhope French Quarter, home of the largest crepe myrtle in the state. Panini Pete’s (they have 2 other locations but this is the real deal) offers incredible beignets without the lines of New Orleans. Watch the sunset from the Fairhope Beach Pavilion.
13. Gator Alley Boardwalk in Daphne Take a walk along the FREE boardwalk to view alligators, fish and other marine life! Afterwards, head over to the famous Jackson Oak, the huge Live Oak that then General Andrew Jackson climbed in it’s branches during the war of 1812 to address his troops, years before becoming the country’s 7th president!
14. Buc-ees, Robertsdale Take another diversion from the Byway to visit Buc-ees first location outside of Texas! With amazing restrooms, cute souvenirs and t-shirts, and some roadtrip snack, like Beaver Nuggets, with a cult-like following, this gas station is worth the drive!
15. Five Rivers Delta Safari Spanish Fort See the Mobile Bay Delta from kayak on these tours, ranging from an hour to overnight excursions!
16. Meaher State Park Spanish Fort This Alabama State Park offers fishing, hiking, camping and scenic walks on the boardwalk.
17. The Flaming Oysters at Bluegill Restaurant Spanish Fort Chargrilled oysters served still sizzling, but my husband claims the freshly fried Still Poppin’ Pork Rinds are worth the stop!
18. USS Alabama Yes, it’s in Mobile but at the end of the Scenic Byway, and I just feel I’d be totally remiss not to add a tour of the ship to this list!
For more information on the Coastal Connection or other Alabama Scenic Byways, click HERE to visit their website.
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