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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

SEC Beachfest 2012

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

Start warming up your arms for weeks of high-energy fist pumps. Begin your food planning for weekly sports-related snacks. Get your voice back in shape to enthusiastically sing your favorite school’s fight song.

SEC BeachFest, football, Gulf Shores, Alabama, Meyer Vacation Rentals, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M

Meet current and legendary coaches, play beach games, swap stories with players and fans, enjoy two great concerts, and participate in even more family-friendly fun at SEC BeachFest August 23–26, 2012 in Gulf Shores, AL.

And now there’s one more preparation for an awesome SEC football season: Pack your bags and head to the beach!

Get psyched to meet current and legendary coaches August 23–26, 2012, during the first SEC BechFest in Gulf Shores, Alabama. There’s no question that you’ll know these names: Nick Saban of Alabama, Gene Chizik of Auburn, Les Miles of LSU, Pat Dye of Auburn, Gene Stallings of Alabama, Vince Dooley of Georgia, R.C. Slocum of Texas A&M, and Phillip Fulmer of Tennessee.

ESPNU’s SEC preview show will be broadcast from the beach, and it will include the current coaches. Get the inside scoop from these hard-hitting leaders during town hall discussions with the fans. You may even learn a few new moves from the icons of Southeastern Conference football at the FanZone sports clinics and games.

For some, it may be hard to understand that SEC football isn’t at the top of your loved one’s list. We understand your disappointment. But don’t leave those folks behind! Fueled by BP, FanZone will also host family and kids’ activities such as a sandcastle-building competition, beach games, beach volleyball, touch football with SEC legends, a 5k run and one-mile fun run, and a waffle breakfast. You can even get a foursome together and participate in the SEC BeachFest Golf Scramble.

In keeping with the excitement-filled “something for everyone” weekend, you’ll be treated to two fabulous evening concerts: Celebrate 35 years of rockin’ beats with the B-52s on Friday night, and dance on the sand Saturday night to Grammy-winning voodoo funk by Dr. John.

Each SEC school will have a fan/alumni headquarters at LuLu’s (Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee), Tacky Jack’s Gulf Shores (LSU, Georgia, Mississippi State, Texas A&M) or Tacky Jack’s Orange Beach (Alabama, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri), so be prepared to swap stories and relive great football and school memories between 5:00 and 8:30 each evening.

To make the weekend even more appealing, we’ve arranged for you to get your 3rd night free in a condo or your 4th night free in a house when you stay with Meyer Vacation Rentals—AND you’ll get FREE passes to the weekend’s activities (each ticket is a $25 value). Get all the details, then get busy warming up for a fantastic SEC football kickoff event at the beach!

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 TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

Army Band in Gulf Shores and Foley

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Patriotic music moves us. Marches inspire us. And the sound of a military band excites us.

Army Band, free performance, concert, gulf shores, foley, alabama June 2012

Two opportunities to enjoy the 151st Army Band patriotic concert: Tuesday in Gulf Shores and Friday in Foley.

This week, you have two opportunities to experience all of the above!

The 151st Army Band’s Concert Ensemble will be performing Tuesday, June 19, at 6 p.m. in Gulf Shores. Bring your lawn chairs, blankets and snacks, and choose your spot in the lawn behind the Erie Meyer Civic Center, 1930 W. 2nd St. This is a free event, so bring your family and friends—the more the merrier!

Can’t make it Tuesday? You’ll also find the military musicians playing Friday, June 22 at 7 p.m. at Heritage Park in Foley (corner of Hwy. 59 and 98). Their appearance, preceded at 6 p.m. by the Alabama Baton Corps, is part of the free weekly Music and a Movie event that also includes a farmer’s market (3–6 p.m.), so be prepared to shop and then stay for the evening to view Forever Young on the large inflatable screen.

It’s not too late to join us at the beach for this weekend! Take a look at what is still available for your arrival this Friday, June 22, then start packing for a fun-filled, sunny getaway on the beautiful white sands of Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan or Orange Beach (Alabama) or Perdido Key (Florida)!

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.

Book Signings in Gulf Shores

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

If you haven’t visited Just Books and Coastal Video in Gulf Shores during your beach trips, be sure to put it on your list—especially if you are in town this Saturday, June 16.

just books coastal video movies gulf shores alabama rental games

Visit with nine authors Saturday, June 16, at Just Books and Coastal Video in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., you will have the opportunity to meet, chat with, and get autographs from nine authors! Their stories or their lives (and sometimes both) involve our Southeastern locale. Some of the material is true to life and some is fiction, and it’s always entertaining.

Stop by to enjoy an afternoon with the following authors:

Gilbert Morris—Christy Award-winning author of more than 200 books, Mr. Morris created the series The House of Winslow among many others, and has just published his most recent book, The River Rose from the Water Wheel series.

Chris Warner and Joe GilchristBushwhacked at the Flora-Bama was released earlier this year, detailing the history of the Flora-Bama Lounge at the Alabama/Florida state line and sharing some philosophies of the future of our country’s entrepreneurial opportunities.

Roger Reid—Among his acclaimed young-adult novels is his newest, Time, which follows teenaged Jason Caldwell through another exciting mystery-solving adventure.

Margaret Childress Long—From a native’s perspective, The Best Place to Be: The Story Of Orange Beach, Alabama describes the history and the people of Ms. Long’s beloved home.

flora-bama lounge, alabama florida state line, bar, joe gilchrist, chris warner

Read about the tough times and the great times behind the scenes at the famous Flora-Bama Lounge in this 2012 publication.

Harvey H. Jackson III—Covering the 1930s to present day development of the Alabama Gulf Coast, Rise and Decline of the Redneck Riviera begins with the worries of World War II’s effect on the area and includes the recovery from economic and natural disasters.

Ryan Anderson—Ms. Anderson weaves a mighty story in each of her thriller/murder mystery books, the most recent of which is Undelivered.

Paris Love—Coach, speaker, consultant . . . and now author. Debut novel Growing Pains proves the importance of true friendship as her central characters work their way through the ups and downs of the quest for true love.

Mark J. HaindsYear of the Pig chronicles a hunter’s year-long pursuit of wild pigs in America to celebrate the Chinese Year of the Pig (2007).

While at Just Books and Coastal Video in the Bruno’s shopping center on Hwy. 59, don’t forget to pick out a couple of additional books for your beach reading, and also purchase or rent your favorite DVDs or games (system rentals available) to share with your family or friends. Need more details? Give them a call at 251-968-6828.

If you can’t make it here this weekend, join us when you can! How about staying in a 2-bedroom Gulf Shores house?  Or, with more than 1500 properties to choose from—small to large and budget to luxury—we’re sure to have something that fits your needs.

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.

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.

LuLuPalooza 2012

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

If you can’t squeeze in enough live music during your busy evenings, you will be ecstatic to learn about the free shows at LuLuPalooza this Memorial Day Weekend at LuLu’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

lulupalooza lucy buffett lulu's gulf shores alabama band music concert show

Great music, great fun! LuLuPalooza May 26 and 27, 2012 at LuLu's in Gulf Shores.

Starting at noon Saturday and again Sunday (May 26 and 27), four bands are scheduled each day. You’ll hear soul, blues, R&B, funk, gospel, punk, jazz, rock, roots and pop, sometimes all within the same song. The artists are from New Orleans, Florida, Texas, and even Australia: Honey Island Swamp Band, Eric Lindell, The Lee Boys, Geoff Achison, Roddie Romero and The Hub City All-Stars, Dread Clampitt, Bonerama, and Pat McCann. Take a look at our Concerts & Music page to find out who is playing when.

And all the time you are listening (when you can take a break from dancing), you can be enjoying the food for which LuLu’s is so well known. From appetizers to burgers and sandwiches to seafood, the fresh tastes will have your senses dancing. (Food allergies? Ask for any of their six special allergy menus.)

Between meals, kick back with a favorite drink from the full bar, including their original Loopty Lu or LuLu’s World-Famous Bushwhacker. And spend some time marveling over the talents of Frenchy, a renowned live performance painter.

Can’t make it this weekend? LuLu’s has live music every evening, and sometimes in the afternoon, too! Plan to come for a beach getaway any time, and make a visit to LuLu’s a must-do on your activity list. Check out the current specials on condos and houses in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Fort Morgan, Alabama, and Perdido Key, Florida.

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 TwitterFacebook and MySpace.

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