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Dream Drive: Hwy 180, Fort Morgan, AL

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Years ago, I remember reading one of the major travel magazines that did a piece every month called “Dream Drives.” It featured a beautiful place to take a road trip, and what to do, see, and eat along the way. Hwy 180 is a dream drive that can be done in a day and is hidden from the hustle and bustle of Gulf Shores.

Hwy 180, or Fort Morgan Peninsula, is a 22 mile stretch of land with Mobile Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other side. I can’t tell you the countless people I run into who have visited Gulf Shores, some several times, and have never driven down this road to see what Fort Morgan has to offer.

Fort Morgan map view

Map view of the Fort Morgan Peninsula

Why should you go? Fort Morgan’s remote location makes it seem worlds away from the busy condo buildings, souvenir stores, and restaurants. It is natural, beautiful, and since building has been restricted to a minimum, it is sparsely populated and untouched in many areas. There are also some very special spots along the way you must see.

Cycling and Biking: If you are an avid cyclist, you need to bring your bike. There’s a bike lane that stretches from one end to the other, and with the small amount of traffic driving this road, you can feel totally safe. Not to mention, down and back is a flat 44 miles, so getting several miles in is easy. For those who like to bike, but aren’t as comfortable riding on the road with cars, or prefer the more relaxed beach cruiser way of getting around, there is a winding bike path adjacent to the road on the right side of the highway that extends part of the way down the peninsula, about five miles. Riding along the golf course, under the Spanish moss, is a great way to stay active while enjoying a leisurely ride. If you have a large group going and can’t fit all your bikes on your rack, you can rent from a local company that will deliver them to you. To pick up the path, park your car at the grocery store at the corner of Hwy 180 and 59.

Fort Morgan bike trail

A view from the bike trail on the Fort Morgan peninsula

Bird Watching:If you are into bird watching, the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail Fort Morgan Loop, offers several opportunities, since much of the Fort Morgan Peninsula is in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge. The birding trail and sites are well marked with signs along Hwy 180, and here is a site that lists the locations and species most often in occurrence at that location.

Little Lagoon: Little Lagoon is situated between the land that is West Beach and a 10 mile portion of Fort Morgan. It is about ½ mile wide and consists of brackish water from Lake Shelby and the water that comes in at the pass from the Gulf of Mexico. There are three opportunities to see the lagoon up close on Fort Morgan: Lagoon Park (pictured below), Pine Beach Trail or Jeff Friend Trail, with the last two also being on the birding trail. The day I took this photo, it was overcast and the lagoon was perfectly still, like glass, mirroring every object.

Lagoon Park

Lagoon Park is beautiful no matter the weather.

Shipwreck: Continuing down Fort Morgan, turn left at mile marker 6, make a right at the end of the road, and you’ll find the Rachel, aka The Mystery Ship. The Rachel is a 155’ Schooner believed to have been built around 1923. As you can imagine with any old relic, there are so many stories surrounding it. Many say the ship was a Civil War era ship called the Monticello that left Mobile Bay in the 1860s. Other legends say it was a rum runner and call it the “Whiskey Wreck” trying to smuggle liquor during Prohibition. Depending on shifting sand and weather conditions, the ship may or may not be exposed, but it is definitely a sight to see. It’s lying flat on the beach in someone’s backyard. Literally, it’s almost right under their deck. There isn’t any parking, and it’s located in a residential area, so remember to be respectful when walking through the area. You can park a few lots away, and you’ll see signs posted in the areas where you cannot park. Currently, there is a vacant lot of open sand you can walk in without walking under a private house. Again, just be respectful, and remember, this isn’t a tourist destination, it’s a residential neighborhood.

mystery shipwreck

They call this mystery shipwreck the Rachel. Find it on the beaches of Fort Morgan, Alabama.

Eat: You must try Tacky Jacks 2 at the Gulf Shores Yacht Club and Marina at Fort Morgan. This two story structure, which looks like it was once a house, sits right on Mobile Bay. In the summer months, the sun sets in Mobile Bay. In the winter it sets in the Gulf of Mexico, and both are equally beautiful. Tacky Jacks is a chain around Gulf Shores, but we love this off-the-beaten path location. Upstairs is the restaurant, downstairs is the bar, and from either level you can see the water. They have some of the best bushwhackers on the Gulf Coast, and if you’re brave (and you must be) order one with a floater. If you go in the summer, as I mentioned above, you will be treated with this breathtaking view from the deck.

Tacky Jack's sunset

Tacky Jack’s can always be accessed by land or by sea.

And while this isn’t a tourist destination, one of the most recognizable houses on Fort Morgan is the very last house on the left as you head down where the fort property begins. In different light and weather conditions, it reminds me of the perfect setting for a romantic movie or a scary, psychological thriller. The location, the isolation, and the size all come together to make a perfect setting. As you drive towards the fort, the house is concealed until you are past it, so once you make it to the clearing as you enter the fort property, look back over your left shoulder and out towards the water. And by the way, that really was the sky that night. This was taken with my iPhone and no special editing or filter.

Fort Morgan sunsets

This house has a great view, and you can too on your dream drive down the Fort Morgan peninsula.

Fort Morgan: This is the main reason you drove down this road and will be the highlight of the drive. Fort Morgan State Historic Site is a Civil War fort. It is not to be missed and neither are the views. The fort is located at the very end of Fort Morgan Peninsula, and don’t be fooled when you drive up to the parking lot. You can’t see a bit of it from the outside. It’s protected by a sloping grass wall, a common engineering feature of many forts. After walking through the arched tunnel, you’ll see the entrance. At the top of Fort Morgan, you have the best view of the mouth of Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island and the Gulf of Mexico. You can do a self-guided tour and spend as much, or as little time as you like, but exploring the rooms and grounds is fascinating for all ages. The entrance and grounds are all protected areas, and from the parking lot, you can walk out onto the beach where the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay meet. The museum is free and houses many relics and past lenses from the lighthouses around the area.

Fort Morgan entryway

The historic Fort Morgan is located at the very tip of the Fort Morgan peninsula.


Now you’ve come this far and you have an option to extend your day by chartering a small boat for a couple of hours to explore Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

If you decide to charter a boat at Gulf Shores Yacht Club and Marina at Fort Morgan (back at Tacky Jacks), be sure you plan in advance by calling the marina, as boats aren’t always available on a walk up basis. It is a small marina with only a few boats there at certain times. I recommend allowing yourself the morning to drive and get out and explore all the locations and schedule a boat ride in the afternoon. You could even do the fort before heading to Tacky Jacks for lunch, and then catch a boat after lunch. The picture taken below is the marina in off-season. You can see now why you need to plan ahead. As you can see below, even if you are there in off-season when the sun sets on the gulf side, the sky on Mobile Bay is still stunning at sunset.

sunset at Gulf Shores Yacht Club and Marina

Get ready to charter your boat! We’re going for an adventure through Mobile Bay.

Sand Island Light House: On a clear day you can see Sand Island Light, and it’s so hard to believe by looking at how far away it is, at one time, it was connected to land. You must see this lighthouse while you can. It is currently on Lighthouse Digest Magazine’s Doomsday List, a list naming the most endangered lighthouses in the country. You can’t go inside of it, but it is regarded as one of the last great masonry lighthouses on the Gulf Coast. Massive granite rocks have been placed at the base to prevent further erosion. When it was originally constructed in 1838, it was the tallest lighthouse ever built. The lighthouse also has so many stories to tell. It has been hit by several hurricanes and was even blown up when Confederate soldiers found Union soldiers in the lighthouse spying on Fort Morgan. The structure you see today was built in 1873 and is 125 feet tall. If you don’t make this portion of the trip, when you are standing on top of Fort Morgan, imagine if you can, walking from Dauphin Island to Sand Island Light. Dauphin Island residents currently own Sand Island Light and that was the lighthouse’s connection point.

Sand Island Light House near Dauphin Island

The Sand Island Light House is currently listed as endangered through Lighthouse Digest Magazine. See it while you can!

Dolphin Watching: Well, if you haven’t seen a dolphin at some point on your trip while sitting on the beach, I’m very surprised. They are all over this part of the Gulf of Mexico and in Mobile Bay, so you are just about guaranteed to see at least one during your trip. If not, there’s an even better chance you’ll see them on a boat. They are everywhere. The lighthouse is about 3 miles off shore, so keep your eyes open for dolphin when heading out there.

Many of us go on vacation to park our butts in the sand and do nothing. We rush around at home, why would we want to do anything on vacation, right? I hear you. I promise you, even if none of the other stops along the way interest you, at least drive down to the end and see the fort. It is a remarkable place, and you don’t need to be into history to enjoy it. I guarantee it will be one of the most memorable parts of your trip. Relax and enjoy the drive!

All information and photographs were provided by our guest blogger Cassandra Buckalew.

Entrepreneur and designer, Cassandra Buckalew, is an Atlanta native. She and her husband own a home on Fort Morgan and fell in love with the area after their first visit in 2006. She graduated from the Art Institute of Atlanta and owns a trolley company, a pedicab company and a ghost tour in the metro Atlanta area. She has traveled all over the world but spends her down town rejuvenating on Alabama’s beautiful coast. She enjoys the Gulf Coast lifestyle and friendly laid-back attitude. A lover of photography, travel, design, food and fashion, you can follow her images and adventures on her instagram account at: cassbuckalew or her Facebook design page: Cassandra Buckalew Interiors. She can be reached at: cassbuckalew@gmail.com.

Cassandra Buckalew

Smokey Joe’s Café

Friday, June 1st, 2012

The names Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller may not be familiar, but you will know many of the timeless songs they wrote during the 1950s and 1960s.

Smokey Joe's Cafe, SummerTide Theatre, University of Alabama, Gulf Shores, Meyer Vacation Rentals

Don't miss the highly entertaining Smokey Joe's Cafe! Performances by SummerTide Theatre of University of Alabama through June 29 in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Among their most well-known pieces are “Stand By Me,” “Love Potion #9” and “On Broadway,” as well as novelty songs “Yakety Yak” and “Charlie Brown.” Others you will likely recognize include “Ruby Baby,” “Poison Ivy” and “Spanish Harlem.”

Smokey Joe’s Café is a revue of the music of the prolific Lieber and Stoller writing team. Filled with rock ’n’ roll as well as rhythm and blues, you’ll also pick up on a few hints of country and even Vaudeville in the 39 songs presented by eight highly talented SummerTide Theatre performers.

Since the entire production is a collection of songs with no dialogue, you might expect to sit through a concert, politely applauding after each number. But rest assured, this is a highly entertaining show. Each song is a production within itself, thanks to clever and well-executed staging and/or choreography.

You’ll find yourself applauding enthusiastically and even cheering throughout the performance, especially following the bring-down-the-house “I’m a Woman” that highlights each of the ladies and then brings it home as they join together for a powerful final refrain.

Capitalizing on that momentum, the full ensemble immediately follows up with a high-energy “Jailhouse Rock” song and dance sequence. It’s almost impossible for audience members to keep from dancing then and many other times during the 90 minutes of entertainment.

There’s just not enough room in this blog to share all the wonderful moments of song and dance, melancholy and laughter. So do yourself a favor—get your tickets today for Smokey Joe’s Café.

Performances are Tuesday through Sunday evenings through June 29 at 8 p.m. at the George C. Meyer Performing Arts Center, 2022 W. 2nd St., Gulf Shores. Tickets may be purchased online at SummerTide.org, or by calling 251-968-6721; adults $18, children under 12 $12, groups of 10 or more $12 each.

Each June for nine years, students and recent graduates of University of Alabama have brought their gift of musical theater to Pleasure Island. Each year it has been a must-see experience, and this year’s Smokey Joe’s Café continues their string of smash hits.

If you haven’t made your summer beach plans yet, don’t miss out! Consider staying at any of our vacation rental condos or houses in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan (Alabama) or Perdido Key (Florida). But book now before your favorite property is taken!

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Twitter and Facebook.

Hey, Elvis Fans!

Friday, February 24th, 2012

What is it about Elvis that has folks, all these years later, still in love with him and with his music? Was it his costumes? His hairstyle? His dance moves? His voice? The songs he chose to sing?

Elvis, country legends, concert, impersonator, eddie miles

Is it really Elvis, or impersonator Eddie Miles? Find out for yourself Saturday, February 25, 2012, in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Entertainer Eddie Miles may not be able to give a definitive answer to that age-old question, but he sure gives a definitive performance as Elvis. And Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty and other country legends. The country legends will appear during the first half, and the second half is all Elvis, from his early to his final days. You’ll be singing along with all of them!

Eddie will bring his show, Elvis and Country Legends, to the Orange Beach Event Center at The Wharf on Saturday, February 25, 2012, at 7 p.m. Tickets—ranging from $15 to $30—are available by calling 251-504-2122, or you can stop by Nibbles Gourmet Market and Deli in The Wharf.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

2 Authors to Speak Wednesday at Library

Monday, February 6th, 2012

The first full week of February leads to a full Wednesday at the Orange Beach Public Library—a day when readers, authors and history buffs are in for a treat.

Patricia Brady, A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel Donelson and Andrew Jackson

Patricia Brady will speak Wednesday, February 8, 2012, of her newest book, A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel Donelson and Andrew Jackson

At 10 a.m. on February 8, The Friends of the Orange Beach Library will present Patricia Brady, a historian and author, who will speak about her newest book, A Being So Gentle: The Frontier Love Story of Rachel Donelson and Andrew Jackson.

From Rachel and Andrew’s love affair to his rise in the military and political worlds, and from wars to plantation life to raising children (often alone), Rachel unwaveringly supported Andrew’s aspirations. Unfortunately, Rachel died just weeks prior to Andrew’s move to the White House, and the president’s devotion to her kept him from remarrying.

Ms. Brady brings the touching story to vivid life for her readers, and you will enjoy her personal glimpse into the lives of the powerful couple and the research that helped to create the narrative.

After savoring a leisurely lunch and shopping in town, return to the library by 3 p.m. for a different brand of insight into our country’s more recent past with the author of a historical novel that ties together events from present day and 1940.

Bob Buckley, novel, author, The Slave Tag

Bob Buckley's novel The Slave Tag finds two college students investigating an unreported murder from 1940.

Bob Buckley’s compelling story, The Slave Tag, is directed by two college students who stumble upon some information about an old, unreported crime. Their interest piqued, the characters eventually follow their research to an unpleasant set of circumstances in the Deep South.

In addition to the discussion of his book, Mr. Buckley (yes, the geocaching expert from previous library programs) will also enlighten his audience on the changed landscape of publishing in today’s world and how it affects authors.

Join fellow booklovers, history enthusiasts and authors for both of these enlightening (and free!) conversations. But don’t say we didn’t warn you—after visiting with these authors, you will be so intrigued by their books that you will just have to purchase your own copies. Happy reading!

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

2 Presentations Hosted by Orange Beach Library

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

If you enjoy nature-related discussions and you are in the coastal Alabama area this week, you are in the right place at the right time.

nature, presentation, lecture, Orange Beach Public Library, Alabama

Learn about the Backcountry Trail fire damage and recovery, plus historical and future significance of longleaf pine forests.

This Wednesday, January 25, Philip West will be presenting information on the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail in Orange Beach, and how the fire of 2011 has affected it. As the Coastal Resources Manager for the City of Orange Beach, Philip will offer an overview of the timber and trail damage as well as the recovery efforts. Admission to this 6:00 p.m. event held at the Senior Activity Center (east of Hwy. 161, on Canal Rd., next to the library) is free and open to the public; you may wish to sign up at the Orange Beach Public Library or via their website.

Author Roger Reid, writer/director/producer of the Emmy award-winning Discovering Alabama television series, and scientist Mark Hainds, research director with the Longleaf Alliance, have collaborated on a presentation regarding longleaf pine forests in Alabama. In this free seminar geared to all ages, they will include historical background and future significance of these ecosystems. Their appearance is scheduled for Friday, January 27, from 4 until 5:30 in the Orange Beach Public Library Meeting Room. You may register at the library or their website.

Enjoy the Backcountry Trail and locate longleaf pine during your next stay with us. You and your significant other can hike and/or bike many areas while using a 1-bedroom Orange Beach condo as your home base. Or bring the entire extended family to the beach for a nature-centered reunion—there’s plenty of room in a 5-bedroom Orange Beach property.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

Orange Beach Public Library Annual Book Sale

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Love to read? You’re in the right place at the right time.

Friends of the Orange Beach Public Library, Alabama, book sale

Stock up on great reading at the Orange Beach Public Library Book Sale this Friday and Saturday.

The Friends of the Orange Beach Public Library host a sale each January, and this year it’s Friday and Saturday, January 13 and 14. (Yes, this weekend!)

Of course, you’re aware of the tremendous variety of reading material found at a library. The sale will naturally reflect that, so no matter what you enjoy reading, you won’t be able to leave empty-handed. The challenge will be how many books you can carry—but multiple armloads are encouraged!

Browse to your heart’s content Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. or Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. But don’t go to the library. Instead, you’ll find the book sale at the Orange Beach Community Center, 27235 Canal Rd., just east of Hwy. 161. If you have questions, give the library a call at 251-981-2923.

Stay informed of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Vacation Rentals on Facebook and Twitter.

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