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Celebrate summer on Alabama’s Gulf Coast

people on kayaks and stand up paddle boardsWhen you think of summer on Alabama’s coast, what comes to mind? Is it memories of family beach vacations, fishing warm gulf and back bay waters, playing on the beach, and delicious food? If so, you are not alone.

Summertime on Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a time to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the area. Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway provides the perfect start for a coastal vacation and forming special memories with your family. Pick one of our itineraries, or just strike out with our interactive map and enjoy the ride.

There are numerous ways to celebrate summer on the coast. Water-related activities can include kayaking the rivers and back bays for a fun family adventure with older kids. Gulf State Park has kayak and paddleboard rentals to help you explore Lake Shelby. Fishing charters can take you on half- or full-day trips or overnight. If you want a little power on the water, personal watercraft are available to rent by the hour or longer to explore the Intracoastal Waterway, bays and islands.

Off the water, your bicycle or a rental from the many local outfitters can take you along the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail or the Eastern Shore Trail. Enjoy lunch on the deck of a local restaurant or sit inside to bask in the comfort only an air conditioner can provide.

Don’t forget the number-one place on the coast: the beach! Bring plenty of sunscreen and an umbrella for shade to simply relax, or wade into the water to play in the waves as they roll in. Alabama’s Gulf Coast has much to offer and summertime is the perfect time to enjoy it.

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Indoor activities can be found on Alabama’s Coastal Connection

The Estuarium at Dauphin Island Sea LabAs much as we love the outdoors and our beautiful coastal environment, sometimes there’s a need for a little indoor fun on Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway. Don’t worry – we have it covered. Yes, pun intended.

If you take a look at the attractions along the byway, you’ll find a multitude of indoor activities to escape rainy days and late summer heat.

  • The Estuarium at The Dauphin Island Sea Lab is one of the most popular stops on the byway. The aquarium highlights the four key habitats of coastal Alabama: the Mobile Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the Barrier Islands and the Northern Gulf of Mexico. You’ll enjoy 31 aquariums in the 10,000-square-foot exhibit hall that includes a stingray touch pool.
  • The Baldwin County Heritage Museum in Elberta preserves the culture of the farm communities of early Baldwin County through historically significant buildings and documents, as well as artifacts from community life.
  • The Foley Railroad Museum and Model Train Exhibit are housed in the Louisville and Nashville railroad station in downtown Foley. Even if you aren’t a train enthusiast, the 60×20-foot “O” gauge model train exhibit is entertaining for the whole family.
  • Fairhope Museum of History resides in the historic circa 1928 Spanish mission-style building that once served as City Hall. The museum features permanent exhibits of Fairhope’s unique history, including the town jail.
  • The Gulf Shores Museum’s home is in a former beach house donated to the city after Hurricane Frederic in 1979. Explore permanent exhibits and traveling exhibits in the heart of Gulf Shores.
  • Old Methodist Church Museum of Daphne is the second oldest church building in Baldwin County and is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
  • Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum includes photos, memorabilia and artifacts about the area’s Native American culture, regional fishing and marine history.
  • The Holmes Medical Museum in Foley is located in the first hospital in South Baldwin County, in use from 1936 through 1958.
  • Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is a public research and education facility that includes an interpretive center with indoor displays.

No matter where you choose to spend your off-beach time when you visit the southernmost region of Alabama, you’re sure to discover plenty of interesting facts and sites to write home about!

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Being at the beach makes us happier

two young girls sitting at the waters edgeA break that includes fresh air can clear the mind and boost our spirits. Include a body of water in that break and the feeling is amplified. A trip to the beach might just be the prescription you need. Of course, we’re partial to Alabama’s waters and beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.

Studies show spending money on experiences rather than material things continues to make us happy for years to come. When you look at your vacation photos or see pictures of the beach where you stayed, the pleasant memories come back to mind.

Studies have also shown the beach is one of the best places to relax and relieve stress. We don’t need science to tell us we are more relaxed and happier when we are near water. Below is our list of five reasons the beach makes us happier.

  1. The rhythmic sound of the waves.
  2. Walking barefoot on the beach and feeling the sand between our toes.
  3. The fresh smell of the salty air. There’s no other scent like it!
  4. Being surrounded by the color blue, a relaxing color. 
  5. The warm sunshine soaking into our skin and making vitamin D and serotonin is truly relaxing.

Making memories at the beach is easy when you travel Alabama’s Coastal Connection Scenic Byway.  Plan some time to explore Coastal Alabama and spend a day or two – or maybe even a week or more – on the beach in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach. We know you’ll be happy you did.

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Celebrate Independence Day on the coast

We can’t think of a better place to celebrate our nation’s independence than along Alabama’s Coastal Connection. Start July off with a trip to Alabama’s coast and a beautiful drive along the byway. Plan a few days to explore and learn about our waters, ways and wildlife. And, of course, fireworks will be lighting the coastal skies July 3 and 4.

  • Beautiful colorful firework display at nightJuly 3 – World War I photo exhibit at Fort Morgan. A display of photos taken at Fort Morgan during the WWI era depict the life of soldiers and their families. The living history staff and volunteers will be dressed in period clothing. 
  • July 3Independence Day Street Party at The Wharf in Orange Beach. 
  • July 4Mobile Bay Fireworks Cruise. The cruise from Bartram Dock at Five Rivers Delta Resource Center in Spanish Fort takes guests out into the headwaters of Mobile Bay for a stunning view of Mobile’s 4th of July fireworks display. 
  • July 44th of July Fireworks in Downtown OWA in Foley. 

Plan your adventure with our Interactive Map to include wildlife preserves, beautiful beaches, historic sites and natural beauty.  


Attractions Connecting with Each Other Just for Kids

Kid-friendly activities at OWA

Kid-friendly activities at OWA

OWA is a fun destination just a short drive from the white-sand beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. There you will find delectable dining and unique shopping options in the downtown area, Wacky Waters splash pad, 22 amusement park rides, and a great selection of midway games. 

Feel the thrill throughout The Park. Spin and rock as you glide along the Wave Rider track. It is a fan favorite for sure! If you are ready for a really daring ride, hop aboard the Rollin’ Thunder and scream as loud as you can during the big drop as well as its twists and turns. Prefer something calmer? Plenty of family-friendly rides are perfect for all ages, such as the AeroZoom and Flying Carousel. There are even rides available for the smallest of guests, including Flying Aces where you take flight in a classic biplane. Those are only some of the rides at The Park, so make plans now to experience them all!  

Making The Park even better is its affordable and yummy snack and meal options. Shady Arbor and Veranda restaurants are ideal spots to cool off and refuel before you hit your next ride. 

The quaint Downtown OWA is filled with candy, ice cream and clothing shops. The amazing dining and entertainment options there provide even more opportunities to satisfy everyone in your group. Be sure to stroll through the streets and take in everything OWA has to offer.  

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A girlfriend trip is just what you need for rejuvenation

Women work hard. In the office, the home, schools, everywhere. That’s why taking a girls’ trip to the beach is a necessity. Yes, going to the beach is good for you and good for your friends!  

There’s nothing better in the world than lying on the beach, soaking up the sunshine and listening to the waves caress the shore, especially when your best pals are with you. According to research, the sound of waves changes our brainwave patterns, lulling us into a deeply tranquil state. When we’re relaxed, our mind and body rejuvenate. This is exactly what your hard-working self needs. 

Lying on the beach also helps relieve stress. The heat of the sun on our body affects our endocrine system, encouraging it to secrete endorphins that make us feel relaxed and less stressed. The perfect combination. 

Did you know that salt air combats depression and mood disorders? It’s the negative ions in the salt air that lift the emotional state. It’s nearly impossible to be in a bad mood at the beach! 

Those negative ions also boost our ability to absorb oxygen while balancing levels of serotonin, a body chemical that makes us more relaxed, yet alert and energized. That’s why we often sleep more soundly after spending the day on the beach.  

Make plans today to get away and rejuvenate along Alabama’s Coastal Connection with your besties.  

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Escape Fort Morgan

Experience the Gulf Coast’s most immersive escape room at historic Fort Morgan. Suitable for all ages, this 60-minute “A Tale of Two Forts” experience will take you back in time to more than 200 years ago. 

Imagine setting off on a challenging adventure that takes place in the midst of World War II. Off the coast of Fort Morgan, you will spy German U-boats in the distance, setting the stage for a perilous situation.  

Your only option is to reach a boat docked off Dauphin Island at Fort Gaines. But will you make it out? Can you conquer the obstacles along the way? 

In order to escape, you must solve a series of puzzles and mind games. Gather your team of two to eight people and get ready for the challenge. But beware: Only 84 percent will successfully complete their mission to escape!   

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Explore your creative side along Alabama’s Coastal Connection

What artistic skills have you always wanted to explore? From ceramics to glassblowing and painting, local experts at the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach are ready to welcome you into their workshops, teach you the tools of the trade, and take you from the spark of inspiration all the way to the finished creation. 

Throw clay on a potter’s wheel at the Clay Studio to express your creativity. Make one-of-a-kind pieces from start to finish. Shape custom cups, bowls and infinite possibilities with resident ceramic artist Maya Blume-Cantrell. The public is invited to attend group classes and open studio time at a variety of times throughout the year.

Learn the art of glassblowing at The Hot Shop. Here, you are encouraged to discover a new creative outlet with resident glass artists Kerry Parks and Dan Rush. They will teach you how to shape and sculpt molten glass into decorative art objects and functional pieces. Appointments are required to make your own fused/blown glass pieces; call 251-981-ARTS (2787) to arrange an individual or group experience.

Explore the center’s art gallery to find inspiration. Admire pieces by featured local wood artists Larry Manuel, Peter Von Glahn and Mike Francis who draw their inspiration from nature. Take in the beautiful two-story, 10,000-square-foot space that includes a scenic view of Wolf Bay as an ever-changing backdrop for beautiful works by Gulf Coast artists. You will not be disappointed. 

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Farmers markets to visit along the byway

There is nothing better than fresh fruit and vegetables found at a local farmers market, especially when the vendors use their produce to create delicious sweet treats that melt in your mouth. That is just what you will find along the coastal byway. 

Burris Farm Market on Hwy. 59 in Loxley is a prime example. Locally grown veggies and fruits line the aisles. The aroma of freshness is in the air. Yum, yum! But wait until you walk in the bakery . . . There you will find ice cream of every flavor, the best waffle cones, and warm peach cobbler that will remind you of Sundays at your granny’s house. Sandwiches and so many other sweet treats, including some of the best cheesecake around, help to convince you to return time and again. This is one stop you do not want to miss.

A few miles farther south is the Coastal Alabama Farmers and Fishermens Market in Foley. It’s located right off County Road 20, down the road from OWA and next to Wolf Bay Lodge. Here you will find locally sourced fruits, vegetables and seafood. The market’s mission is to promote healthy foods from the bounty of the Gulf Coast and make them readily available to all. The local farmers and area fishermen ensure the food provided is fresh, from high-quality produce to organic beef and seafood. The market is open year-round on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., plus Tuesdays during November through March from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and April through October from 2 until 6 p.m. 

Be sure to stop by and stock up at the local markets – and don’t forget to include some yummy treats to enjoy beachside! 

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Discover the Eastern Shore Trail

If improving your health was a resolution or goal for 2020, walking or biking along the Eastern Shore Trails will help you accomplish it. 

The trail begins along Weeks Bay on Hwy. 98 just west of Magnolia Springs, next to the boat launch west of the bridge. Walk or bike west along the paved trail to nature trails along the Weeks Bay Reserve. The reserve boasts two boardwalks with a free educational interpretive center. One boardwalk leads out to Weeks Bay and the other leads out to the pitcher plant bog and Fish River. 

After you immerse yourself in the nature of Weeks Bay, continue traveling west to Mullet Point Park on Mobile Bay, where you will find a lovely picnic area and beautiful views of the bay. From there, you can walk or bike five miles along the trail to the Grand Hotel or Pelican Point and enjoy an ideal view of the bay, as well as a snack or meal. History buffs may want to ride over to the Confederate Rest Cemetery where 300 soldiers were laid to rest after losing their lives during the Battle of Vicksburg. 

The Eastern Shore Trail continues through downtown Fairhope, to the Municipal Pier and past the Flower Clock leading into Montrose. Experienced cyclists enjoy heading north on Scenic Highway 98 through hilly, winding roads and residential communities. 

The trails extend as far north as Daphne. The secluded path there leads down to Mobile Bay at May Day Park in Old Towne Daphne. Another idyllic spot to walk is the Village Point Park Preserve. As the trail winds down to Jackson’s Oak and the waterfront beach and pier, it eventually connects to the Bayfront Park boardwalk. 

The Bayfront Park boardwalk provides a scenic walk along the coastal flats and leads to a large public beach and pier to view lovely sunsets and to observe wildlife. Another popular spot for wildlife watching is the Alligator Alley Boardwalk just off North Main Street. This trail continues under I-10 and often provides a glimpse of an alligator or two! 

It’s time to get moving and get outside with a walk or ride through the Eastern Shore Trails. Experience trail life and take in all the area has to offer!