Fabulous Fall Festivals & Fun This October On The Gulf Coast

Visit the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast in the fall and you may find so many fun adventures you could end up staying for the whole month.

The month of October, especially, is full of opportunities to explore festivals like the Alabama Coastal Birdfest, the Festival of Flavor, the Annual National Shrimp Festival and fun fall activities like corn mazes, hayrides and pumpkin patches.

Alabama Coastal BirdFest

Alabama Coastal BirdFestBird lovers rejoice in the annual John L. Borom Alabama Coastal Birdfest, which is held every October.

In 2016, the festival will be held Wednesday, October 5, through Saturday, October 8.

On Wednesday will be a Hummingbirds Workshop, where Fred Bassett, certified master bird bander, will present an overview of hummingbirds’ habitat, food and migration and discuss how to attract hummers to your yard.

A second workshop will provide an overview of the basics of birding for those who want to enhance their experience during BirdFest and beyond.

Festival events the following days take bird lovers on a variety of excursions and visits:

Wednesday, October 5
o  Hummingbirds Workshop
o  Basics of Birding Workshop
o  Orientation, Presentation & Welcome Reception

Thursday, October 6
Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
o  Bayou La Batre, Forever Wild Grand Bay Savanna, Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Point aux Pins
o  Mobile Bay, DISL Research Vessel Alabama Discovery Cruise
o  Blakeley Island Mud Ponds & Battleship Park
Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve/Weeks Bay Explorer Cruise
o  Lagan Park & Environmental Study Center
o  Eagle’s Nest Kayak Tour
o  Weeks Bay Paddle
Bon Secour River EcoCruise
o  Alligator Alley Adventure
o  Weeks Bay Sunset Cruise

Friday, October 7
Dauphin Island/Trans Gulf Migration Flyaway
o  Mobile Bay, DISL Research Vessel Alabama Discovery Cruise
o  Splinter Hill Bog
o  Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and Weeks Bay Explorer Cruise
Gulf State Park & Perdido Pass
o  Middle Bay Lighthouse Boat Tour
o  Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge Kayak Tour
o  Delta Discovery Cruise
o  Bird & Nature Photography Workshop
o  BirdFest Social with Speaker & Silent Auction

Saturday, October 8
o  Dauphin Island Shorebirds
o  Blakeley Island Mud Ponds & Battleship Park
o  Fort Morgan Peninsula/Trans Gulf Migration Flyway
o  Bayou La Batre, Forever Wild Grand Bay Savanna, Grand Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Point aux Pins
o  Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve/Weeks Bay Explorer Cruise
o  Delta Discovery Tour
o  Alligator Alley Adventure
o  Wolf Bay Dolphin Cruise
o  Bon Secour River Paddle
o  Fairhope Fly Creek Exploration Paddle
o  Delta Sunset Wine Tasting Cruise

Annual Festival Of Flavor

Festival of FlavorThe Festival of Flavor, scheduled for Oct. 8 in downtown Foley, celebrates local and regional foods and this year is a qualifying event for a Golden ticket to the World Food Championships – The Ultimate Food Fight Experience.

The World Food Championship will be held Nov. 9-13 and highlight some of the most iconic cuisines around the world in categories like barbecue, chili, sandwich, burger, dessert, bacon, seafood, steak and recipe. The recipe category is based on a theme of food, which, this year, is “breakfast.”

A highlight of the Festival of Flavor is the farm-to-table dinner, which is held by the Chicago Street Supper Club. This ticketed event is the first of the festival, happening about two weeks before the actual weekend, and it features a special arrangement of expertly prepared foods for guests who purchase tickets to the meal.

In addition to the food displays and dinners, there are also a number of street vendors on hand to show off crafts and other works of art. Jazz performers and similar live entertainment provide the perfect background music for a relaxing day at the festival. Face painting and other kid-friendly displays are planned as part of the festival.

The Festival of Flavor will be held on October 8 and is open to the public. The festival will have sample tastes not only from competing chefs but also from local breweries, wineries, restaurants, mom-and-pop shops and much more.

45th Annual National Shrimp Festival

National Shrimp FestivalSlated for the second full weekend in October, the Annual National Shrimp Festival is always held Thursday through Sunday.

Free to attend, the festival was started in 1971 and today draws more than 250,000 people to the main Gulf Shores Public Beach area to browse exhibits, arts and crafts vendors, enjoy live music, enjoy kids’ interactive games and, best of all, indulge in the astounding variety of shrimp dishes. Those who don’t like shrimp will be able to enjoy foods like chicken, burgers, pizza, hot dogs, pasta, salads, nachos and even the now famous Cajun Pistol!

Kids are given the royal treatment at the Children’s Activity Village. Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., this area features a sand sculpture contest on Saturday, interactive games, make-and-take arts and crafts, face painting, kids’ musical and dance performances, and more.

Locals weigh in on how to make the most of the Shrimp Festival experience.

Bring your best friends down to the beach for the weekend and reserve a three-bedroom condo in Orange Beach.

There are shuttle stops along the way making it easy to catch a ride to the festival site at your convenience.

Or, if the whole family would like to enjoy the festival, which is consistently rated among the top festivals in the country, consider a five-bedroom house in Gulf Shores.

There are plenty of conveniently located beach vacation rental options to suit every taste and size of group in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key.

See our Shrimp Festival deals and specials here.

The Original German Sausage Festival

Elberta German Sausage FestivalAnnually attracting an estimated 30,000 visitors, the Original German Sausage Festival is always held the last Saturday in October and March in nearby Elberta.

The festival is a town fundraiser spearheaded by the Elberta Volunteer Fire Department. Proceeds are used for improving the operations of the fire department as well as the quaint German heritage town located a few miles north of the beach.

Festival organizers sell about 7,000 pounds of German Sausage (with or without sauerkraut – your choice!) at each festival as well as German-inspired and American foods such as cabbage, potato salad, goulash, red beans and rice, hamburgers, hot dogs, barbecue, ice cream, popcorn and peanuts.

Vendors at the festival feature everything from homemade crafts and jewelry to art and even clothing. Music is a big part of the festival, with polka, country, contemporary and German music entertaining festivalgoers. Don’t be surprised if you are invited to join in the dancing fun during for a Waltz or the Schuhplattler!

More October Delights

Magnolia Springs Corn Maze and Pumpkin PatchIn the weeks leading up to Halloween, the Gulf Coast area comes alive with opportunities to celebrate fall.

For example, the Magnolia Corn Maze this year will celebrate its eighth year as a fun local attraction.

Open from Oct. 1 through Nov. 5, the Magnolia Corn Maze is located at Magnolia Farms, a few miles north of the Gulf Shores beaches.

Families can enjoy

o  2 challenging corn mazes
o  Pumpkins
o  A hayride and cow train
o  A petting zoo, pig race and pony rides
o  Knocker ball
o  Jump pad
o  Bazooka ball
o  Corn cannons and duck races
o  Parties and campfires
o  Playground areas for all ages
o  Zombie paintball and the Field of Terror

All Aboard The Pumpkin Patch Express

Pumpkin Patch ExpressOpen from Sept. 30 through Oct. 31, the Wales West Light Railway invites visitors to board the authentic steam train to the kid-friendly pumpkin patch or the haunted barn maze.

Kids will enjoy Wales West’s mini train ride, hayride, refreshments, bounce house, pumpkin cannon, petting zoo and pony rides, café and gift shop.

Kids can also select their own pumpkin at other local pumpkin patches, including Hillcrest Farm, Magnolia Farms and Sanders Pumpkin Patch, for example.

If you’re going to be at the beach over Halloween, there are numerous neighborhoods that love opening their doors to trick-or-treating kids.

Indoor Adventures Abound On The Gulf Coast

Even though most days on the Gulf Coast are sunny, an afternoon rain show is not uncommon. And, while your beach condo or house is a perfect spot to relax and wait until the sun emerges once again, your family may want to get out a bit and explore some of the area’s fantastic indoor activities.

From arcades to museums and movies to shopping, there are plenty of adventure-filled indoor activities to explore on the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast.

Arcades

Looking for a fun rainy day activity? An arcade can fill the bill for vacationers of all ages.

Arena The Next Level
Play in more than 10,000 square feet of fun on the upper level at The Wharf in Orange Beach.

Get competitive with your friends during a round of laser tag. Or, play Bazooka Ball, which is a combination of laser tag and paintball. While safe for younger players, the game provides an adrenaline rush for seasoned players too.

Fat Daddy’s Arcade
Open daily at 10 a.m., Fat Daddy’s Arcade is located in Orange Beach and offers more than 100 arcade games, interactive rides, a photo booth, food and more.

Interactive games include Guitar Hero, Jumping Jackpot, Big Buck Hunter Open Season, Terminator Salvation and The Fast and the Furious. Other games include coin pusher games, prize claws, Barber Cut, Deal or No Deal and more. There are even more traditional arcade games like Skee Ball, Hoops, Pac Man and Air Hockey.

Shrimpy’s Mini Golf & Arcade
Located at 204 East 2nd Ave., in Gulf Shores, Shrimpy’s Mini Golf and Arcade is a colorful spot to play. And, right next door is a seafood restaurant, making for a perfect evening of fun.

The Track Recreation Center
In Gulf Shores, just north of Gulf Shores on Ala. Hwy. 59 is The Track Recreation Center, where a large arcade is a perfect spot for a rainy afternoon of fun. In addition to fun arcade games, there are also interactive thrill rides inside as well.

Waterville USA
Waterville USA is more than just water slides and wet and wild fun. An on-site arcade and the House of Bounce stand ready to welcome the entire family.

The House of Bounce is a 2,500-square-foot indoor playground that dares the family to tackle the obstacle course, dare the giant drop slide and play in the inflatable play area. Parents can hang out in the arena as the kids bounce to their hearts’ content.

Browse & Learn At Museums

The Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast is blessed with numerous museums and learning centers that help tell the story of the area.

Baldwin County Heritage Museum
Located in Elberta, only a few miles from the Gulf Coast Beaches, the Baldwin County Heritage Museumcontains exhibits that were collected from the daily lives of the men and women who built Baldwin County.

The museum’s exhibits are located within 20,000 square feet of space and allow visitors to reconnect with the early history of Baldwin County.

The museum also features special exhibits and events, and is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.

Gulf State Park Nature Center
Gulf State Park’s Nature Center is a living museum of plants and animals that are native go the Gulf Coast region.

Weekly programs include guided nature walks, beach walks, pier walks and a nature time.

The center, located within the state park campground area, is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum
Originally a schoolhouse when it was built in 1910, the Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum has been a museum since 1995.

The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday, but group tours may be booked at other times.

The museum houses local artifacts and memorabilia related to Orange Beach’s Native American and fishing heritage. Families of early fishermen have donated supplies and collectibles that show the challenges and achievements of the early days of the area.

National Museum of Naval Aviation
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the National Museum of Naval Aviation is the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida.

The museum contains more than 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Aviation. Historic and one-of-a-kind aircraft are displayed both inside the museum’s nearly 350,000 square feet of exhibit space and also on the 37-acre grounds.

A 325-seat giant screen theater presents a variety of films, including “The Magic of Flight,” offering a “Fly with the Blues” experience that tells the story of human potential and the importance of training and importance.

Admission and parking are free. Visitors to the museum 16 years of age and older must have a valid photo ID and all bags are subject to search.

Fort Morgan Historic Site
Located 23 miles west of Ala. Hwy. 59 on scenic Fort Morgan Road, the museum at the Fort Morgan Historic Site is filled with displays of artifacts portraying the artillery, uniforms and history of the area for more than 200 years.

The museum and gift shop are open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., daily.

Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center & IMAX Dome Theater
The Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, located in Mobile, features exhibits that explore science, math and technology in an effort to provoke innovative and critical thinking that leads to discovery.

The center features a variety of permanent as well as special exhibits. Permanent exhibits are housed in three galleries: Hands On Hall, Wharf of Wonder and My BodyWorks. There are also live demonstrations held in the ChemLab and BioLab.

Special exhibits have included solving a murder mystery at the Sherlock Holmes and the Clocktower Mystery exhibit, the Da Vinci: Machines & Robotics exhibit and more.

The J.L. Bedsole IMAX Dome Theater shows films on a variety of topics, such as great white sharks, mummies, the Hubble telescope, airplanes, Greece, Everest, space and more.

The Exploreum is open daily, and admission prices depend on age.

Gulf Shores Museum
Housed in a World War II-era home on land donated by one of the founders of Meyer Vacation Rentals,Claude O’Connor, the Gulf Shores Museum first opened in 1982 as a library and later as a youth center. Today, it tells the story of Gulf Shores with a variety of artifacts that appear in permanent exhibits. Seasonal programs and events are also offered.

The museum is located on 19th Avenue in Gulf Shores, near the public library and city government buildings.

USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
Named Alabama’s 2015 Attraction of the Year, USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park offers self-guided tours of the USS Alabama, USS Drum submarine, the Aircraft Pavilion, park memorials, military equipment and a recreational area.

The USS Alabama, a South Dakota-class battleship, was commissioned in 1942 and served in World War II in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. She was retired in 1962 and in 1964 taken to Mobile Bay and opened as a museum ship the following year. She was added to the National Historic Landmark registry in 1986.

The park is open 364 days a year.

Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
Located in Fairhope, the Weeks Bay Reserve encompasses more than 6,000 acres of land and water in and around Weeks Bay and along Mobile Bay.

The Reserve has a free educational interpretive center and two boardwalks. One boardwalk is behind the Reserve Interpretive Center and leads to Weeks Bay; the pitcher plant bog boardwalk connects to Fish River.

The Reserve is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Get Adventurous

A little teamwork and an adventurous spirit go a long way for these next rainy day options.

Breakout Orange Beach
Not your average outing, Breakout Orange Beach invites visitors to solve mysteries. With different rooms that follow unique storylines, you and your friends have 60 minutes to escape your adventure of choice by cracking codes, solving puzzles and following clues.

Themes at this uniquely adventurous spot include “Kidnapping,” “Operation: Casino,” and “Hostage.” Escape themes are periodically changed.

Breakout Orange Beach is located on the second story of The Wharf at Orange Beach, so when you’ve “escaped,” there are plenty of restaurants, shops and other attractions to explore.

Gulf Coast Escape Room
Escaping is also the key at the Gulf Coast Escape Room, located at the Bayou Village shopping center next door to Matt’s Ice Cream shop.

Visitors have 60 minutes to solve puzzles, find clues and escape a themed room. Players are advised to communicate and cooperate with one another to maximize the experience created by this sophisticated code-cracking adventure game.

Themes at this experience include “Zombie Autopsy,” “The Doll Room,” and “Stop the Oil Spill.”

For either of these venues, reserve tickets in advance online for the experience of your choice.

Catch A Movie

Two movie theaters are located in close proximity to Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach and Perdido Key: Carmike Cinemas Wharf 15 in Orange Beach and Cobb Pinnacle 14 Theatres in Gulf Shores.

The Wharf 15 is located at 23151 Wharf Lane in Orange Beach. Call (251) 981-4444 for show times.

The Cobb Pinnacle 14 is located at 3780 Gulf Shores Parkway. For movie times, call (251) 923-0100.

Explore The Arts

There are lots of opportunities on the Gulf Coast to peruse beautiful works of art and also to make your own.

Blue Girl Beading Company
A “bead boutique,” Blue Girl Beading Company is located at 2200 East 2nd Street in Gulf Shores.

Owner and designer Tara Gifford teaches visitors how to design their own jewelry using wire, metal work and intricate stitching. Drop by to design your own piece, or register for a class. Classes are taught for a fee, which also includes materials.

Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach
Love the arts? There is plenty to see at the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach. A gallery and gift shop showcase watercolorists, potters, painters, photographers, sculptors and textile artists. Artwork is frequently changed so there is always something new to see!

Also on site is a hot shop, where you may visit to see glass blowing in progress. There are also glass blowing lessons, group demonstrations, glass fusing and lamp work done on site.

The Clay Studio features the work of ceramics artist May Blame-Cantrell. You might also enjoy creating your own pottery Monday through Friday.

Make reservations for the Hot Shop or Clay Studio in advance by calling (251) 981-2787.

More Fun Stuff

Looking to let the family blow off some steam during a rain shower? The below activities are pretty high energy!

The Factory
Open jump sessions are held throughout the day at The Factory, where participants are invited to play now and grow up later.

The park features 12,000 square feet of connected trampolines – more than 50! The famous angled wall trampolines and a series of launching decks from different heights create even more fun.

The Factory also offers air dodgeball, a basketball goal to dunk on, and foam pits to soar into.

A flight simulator allows you to experience air-to-air combat, stunt flying and interactive roller coaster rides. Combined with patented, fully interactive, 360-degree pitch and roll technology, kids and adults will find this indoor attraction very exciting!

Gulf Bowl Family Entertainment
Need to keep everyone busy for a few hours? Bring them to Foley to play at Gulf Bowl Family Entertainment, which is more than just a bowling alley.

Call ahead – (251) 943-4575 — to reserve a lane.

Come early to eat at Captain’s Choice, which serves everything from fried pickles to oysters Rockefeller. A full bar is also available, featuring specialty drinks as well as premium or import draft beer.

Combine your bowling excursion with a game of laser tag at the multi-level laser tag arena on site. Or, enjoy playing arcade games and winning prizes.

Shop

When the rain showers come, many visitors gravitate toward shopping. After all, you don’t want to return home empty handed!

Pelican Place at Craft Farms
Located just north of the Intracoastal Canal Waterway bridge in Gulf Shores and anchored by Target, Cobb Theatres, Books A Million, Bed Bath & Beyond, Publix and a Courtyard by Marriott, Pelican Place at Craft Farms is a lifestyle center featuring a streetscape intersected by a pedestrian restaurant plaza and splash fountain.

Several restaurants and boutique-styled shops are located at Pelican Place. It’s a great place to explore, enjoy an ice cream, watch a movie and browse the shops.

Tanger Outlets
Looking for great deals on your favorite designer or brand name clothing? Check out Tanger Outlets in Foley. Shops are open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

At Tanger, you’ll find accessories and jewelry, apparel, children’s apparel, food, footwear, housewares and home furnishings, and specialty goods.

Some of the popular stores include American Eagle, Charlotte Russe Outlet, Coach, Golf 4 Less, New York & Company, Nike Factory Store, Old Navy Outlet, Under Armour, Levi’s Outlet, Polo Ralph Lauren, Claire’s, Michael Kors, Journeys, T.J. Maxx, Le Creuset, Bath & Body Works, and Yankee Candle.

The Wharf in Orange Beach
The Wharf in Orange Beach is a diverse entertainment destination featuring a 112-foot-tall Ferris wheel, a music and lights show, uniquely coastal shops, restaurants, an amphitheater and a marina.

Restaurants featuring everything from burgers and pub food to steaks and fresh Gulf seafood.

The Wharf Putt-Putt is an 18-hole mini golf course open seven days a week. The Arena offers indoor fun for kids with arcade games, Bazooka Ball, Mission Impossible and Laser Tag. New at The Wharf is Breakout Orange Beach, where you and your friends and family work together to escape a themed room.

Also on site is a 15-screen movie theater, and a 10,000-seat amphitheater that headlines artists such as Keith Urban, Miranda Lambert, Twenty One Pilots and more.

The marina at The Wharf is located on the Intracoastal Canal Waterway and offers everything from boat slip rentals to excursions to see dolphins play or watch the sun set. Charter a fishing boat, rent a boat for a day, tour the bayous and marshlands on a nature tour or relax on a cruise.

50 Years Of Making Your Memories Our Business

Meyer Vacation Rentals has been helping families create forever memories at cool pools across the Gulf Coast since 1967.

These fun indoor activities are near Meyer’s condos and beach houses in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan,Orange Beach and Perdido Key.

Stay On Top Of Gulf Coast News With Meyer Vacation Rentals

 

Sea Star

Stay on top of the latest headlines and issues affecting Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan, Fairhope, Perdido Key and the surrounding areas on Meyer Vacation Rentals’ News Page.

Here are a few recent headlines and news snippets from around the area:

 

Orange Beach Tops List For 2016 Vacations

TripAdvisor reviewers have named Orange Beach No. 2 on its top 10 list for travelers’ choice destinations on the rise. (MORE)

 

Poseidon’s Playground Gets A Little More Fun

A pyramid, a rocket and a steel structure were deployed at Poseidon’s Playground, an artificial reef located in Orange Beach, giving divers more unique statues to explore. (MORE)

 

2016 Hangout Fest Tickets On Sale

Want to attend Hangout Fest 2016? Buy your tickets and reserve your preferred accommodations before both run out. (MORE)

 

Shorts & Flip Flops For The Christmas Tree Lighting At The Wharf

It was a festive—and warm—scene at The Wharf in December as people enjoyed the annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. Bands played, children sang and wrote letters to Santa, and more. (MORE)

 

Dune Restoration Underway At State Park

The Gulf State Park Enhancement Project team has begun work to restore the equivalent of more than 50 football fields of dunes flattened in 2004 during Hurricane Ivan. (MORE)

 

Stay tuned to our News Page for regular updates on local news.

Dream Drive: Hwy 180, Fort Morgan, AL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Foods You Have to Try While in Gulf Shores

Most people look forward to their Gulf Shores vacations because of the region’s white-sand beaches and stunning turquoise and blue waters, but the traditional cuisine of the area is also a draw for many vacationers.

The city’s location on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico means the opportunities to try the freshest seafood are plentiful. The chefs in the area mix the best local ingredients into traditional Southern cooking, treating visitors to some of the most unforgettable flavors during their South Alabama vacation.

3 Gulf Shores Foods

Try a po-boy made with blackened crawfish, soft-shell crab or a catfish filet for an extra-authentic Gulf Coast experience!

With so many delicious options at all of the Gulf Shores restaurants, your choices are numerous. But let us suggest three regional specialties to try during your stay.

Gumbo

No trip to the South is complete without gumbo. Depending on where you go, this Southern stew consists of some combination of sausage, chicken and shrimp, but in the Gulf Shores area, most establishments add regional catches like crawfish, oysters, crab meat and other fish to the traditional base. No matter which version you order at which restaurant, this dish is sure to please.

Oysters

Sure, you can get oysters at many coastal vacation destinations, but the Gulf Coast is famous for this delicacy. Try them cold on the half shell at any number of Gulf Shores area restaurants, or sample them steamed, fried or baked. Not sure which to order? Many eateries offer a platter with a variety of deliciously prepared oysters.

Po-boys

Po-boys may be ubiquitous in the southern U.S., but the freshness of the shrimp, oysters, fish and crab used in these hearty sandwiches is unparalleled. Try one made with blackened crawfish, soft-shell crab or a catfish filet for an extra-authentic Gulf Coast experience! Mikee’s Seafood in Gulf Shores serves up these varieties along with several others.

Originally posted at MeyerRe.com

Pirates and Princesses Breakfast

Shiver me timbers! It’s a FREE breakfast for the little pirates and princesses, all summer long at The Hangout!

free, breakfast, kids, children, The Hangout, Gulf Shores, Alabama, pirate, princess

Free Pirates and Princesses breakfast for the kids all summer at The Hangout in Gulf Shores, Alabama!

Your Southern breakfast is served family-style: beignets, scrambled eggs, grits, breakfast potatoes, bacon, smoked sausage, and fresh hot biscuits. Children aged 10 or under get a free breakfast with each paid adult breakfast. You’ll find these tasty vittles served between 8 and 10:30 a.m.

Be prepared to cheer on your favorite characters during sword fights and skits. Search for pirate booty during the guided buried treasure tour. And talk with the characters who come alive each morning throughout the summer.

You can be thankful that you don’t have to walk the plank for your food or for a place for your family to stay. Take a look at the many properties available in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Fort Morgan (Alabama) and Perdido Key (Florida). There’s something for families of all sizes and budgets!

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.

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