Discover things to do on Dauphin Island, Alabama, a family-friendly vacation spot along the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.
Dauphin Island Beach Vacation
Dauphin Island is a small barrier island off the coast of Alabama. While technically part of the greater Mobile metropolitan area, Dauphin Island feels like it’s worlds away. Travelers must cross a bridge or take a short ferry ride to get there. The Island is about fifteen miles long, with several square miles of undeveloped land devoted to preserving the local habitat.
The word dauphin is French for dolphin, yet referring to the Island as dolphin island would be wrong. King Louis XIV renamed the Island after the future King of France, and a prince waiting for the crown is called a Dauphin. This little bit of Island history begins our list of reasons you should visit for a Dauphin Island Beach vacation.
Dauphin Island Public Beach
The beaches in this part of the coastal Gulf of Mexico have white sand and sparkling warm waters. In addition to the sugar white sands that stretch along the Island’s Gulf shoreline, there are miles of inland walking and biking trails to explore. Most beach areas are pet friendly, leash required, and this little Island has three distinct public beach areas. Experience the east beach near Ft Gaines with a view of local shipping lanes and Sand Island Lighthouse on the horizon. The mid-Island public beach has covered picnic tables and a unique dry pier walkway stretching out over the sand. The pier offers some of the best sunsets watching on the Gulf of Mexico. The west beach, located at the end of the Island’s main roadway, has access to both the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi Sound shorelines, plus unobstructed views of the setting sun. Dauphin Island is called Alabama’s Sunset Capital, so take your time and watch the sun paint the sky with glorious colors.
Step Back in Time
The area that includes Dauphin Island was once home to a Native American population of indigenous people living in various tribes. These were the mound builders, and there’s evidence they lived at least seasonally on the Island. These people created mounds of shells in Shell Mound Park along the Island’s north shore. In 1699, a French explorer found a pile of bones on the Island, which led to the Island’s original name – Massacre Island. What he found was an indigenous burial mound that had been disturbed by storms. The Island’s first explorers were the Spanish. Later, the French used the Island as a stop-off depot for loading and unloading cargo from ocean-going vessels. As a result, the Island has a rich and fascinating history.
A Bird Lover’s Paradise
Audubon Bird Sanctuary celebrates the Island’s place in bird migration patterns as they travel south for the winter and back north for the summer. Flying north across the Gulf of Mexico, several bird species land on Dauphin Island for rest. Thus, Audubon Bird Sanctuary is an ideal place to go bird-watching with children as they try to spot their favorite birds. Many other bird-watching spots of interest abound on this Island sanctuary.
Visit Fort Gaines
Dauphin Island and Fort Gaines preserve pre-Civil War military life. Fort Gaines was built in 1821 to protect the entrance to the interior U.S. after the Louisiana Purchase and is one of the best-preserved examples of pre-civil war masonry. The Battle of Mobile Bay took place with the Fort as a centerpiece during the Civil War. The Fort hosts several living history events throughout the year, so if you’re lucky, you might spot a Knight, a pirate, or a civil war soldier in action during your visit.
This area of the coastal seaway is a protected estuary and a sanctuary for marine and bird life. The Alabama Aquarium features aquatic life native to the waters around the Island, giving families an up-close look at life in the Gulf and surrounding waters. The aquarium also has a living marsh boardwalk to view wildlife and the marine estuary without disturbing the surroundings. The Island is an active research area and home to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, an educational research facility providing marine studies to undergraduate and graduate students at twenty-two colleges and universities and countless K-12 educational programs.
Schedule your vacation at a Boardwalk Realty vacation rental property today, then prepare to relax and enjoy all Dauphin Island has to offer.