Joseph Pawlak

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.

Alabama Aquarium

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.        

Enjoy blue skies and moon pies during our annual Mardi Gras celebration! Family friendly parades with colorful floats begin rolling down Bienville Boulevard with the Krewe de la Dauphine January 21, 2023 at 1pm.  The following Saturday, The People’s Parade will take to the streets and bring more festive fun at 1pm on January 28th! Later, on February 4th, the adorable fuzzy four paw parade of The Mystic Krewe of Salty Paws will be coming through at 10am. You may even leave with a new companion as this parade doubles as an adoption event for rescue pets! To conclude the Dauphin Island Mardi Gras season on February 5th, don’t miss the traditional Historic costume parade by the Massacre Island Secret Society at 6:30pm.

Dauphin Island parade goers should arrive early to secure a parking spot along the parade route that follows Bienville Boulevard from the east end of Bienville to just past the 1500 block of Bienville on the Islands west end.  Here are a few Town of Dauphin Island parade etiquette rules to remember for 2023:  You’re not supposed to reserve a parking space before sunrise on the day of the event, and you can’t mark off your turf with rope or tape boundaries. Once you’ve claimed space with parked vehicles, lawn chairs or canopies, at least one member of the party must remain on the scene. Sites should be fully cleaned up immediately after the parade.

There will be many parade attendees from the mainland coming to join the fun. We will have vendors on the Island with fun keepsakes, beads and silly hats for all ages! The fun begins long before the parade arrives with families of all ages enjoying time together socializing in our warm and sunny community atmosphere with tailgating and cook outs! Take time to enjoy the day with local parade goers and maybe even bring a blanket, pack a picnic, and settle down for a nice lunch while you wait for the parade to begin. There will be lots of excitement and frivolity, along with fantastic Mardi Gras beads and throws to catch as you enjoy a great view of the Dauphin Island parades that kick off the Gulf Coast Mardi Gras season!

After the last moon pie is thrown on Dauphin Island, the Mardi Gras season continues in nearby Mobile, AL with parades rolling downtown through the final day of Mardi Gras, known as “Fat Tuesday” on February 21, 2023. See AL.com’s website for the full Gulf Coast Mardi Gras Parade Schedule, including adult only events and more!

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