South Alabama’s East Shore – What an Adventure!

February 24, 2012 · 0 comments

in Best Road Trips

Baldwin County, AL – a big county with big ideas

There are so many towns and so many things to do in Baldwin, County Alabama, it’s hard to choose a starting place. There’s not a better place to go on a road trip.  The eastern side of Mobile bay, to the Florida State Line, is completely encased by Baldwin County. There are a dozen towns, some small, some booming toward big. Some are well known and others aren’t. Each town holds surprises you can’t resist, all are growing. Here are some of the towns … Bay Minette (Baldwin County Seat) Spanish Fort, Daphne, Fairhope, Point Clear,Loxley, Robertsdale, Foley, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Malbis and Elberta … to name a few. Baldwin County, AL is the largest county in Alabama by land area and has an estimated population of 187,183. The county contains, sea shore, bayous, marshland, some of the finest farmland in the south and claims part of Mobile Bay. The southernmost portion of the county fronts the Gulf of Mexico and has some of the most beautiful, clear waters and sandy beaches you’ll find anywhere.

Most of the county is south of Interstate 10 and is easily navigated by two main roads, US Hwy 98 and AL Hwy 59. US 98 goes  through Fairhope to Point Clear. AL Hwy 59 goes north/south through Robertsdale, Loxley and Foley, to Gulf Shores. On the islands, Alabama Highways 180 and 182 extend from Fort Morgan on the west end, eastward along the Gulf Island National Seashore to the Florida State Line southwest of Pensacola, FL.

Foley, Alabama gets the Grand Prize for shopping and dining

Tanger Outlet Mall – Foley, AL

Foley has taken full advantage of its location between I-10 and the beaches. The Tanger Outlet Mall is on the east side of Hwy 59 in Foley and is one of the finest outlet malls you will find. All the big name outlets are here. There are also hundreds of stores, restaurants, motels and specialty stores scattered for miles along Hwy 59. Everything from jewelers, to stores that sell clock parts are here. Mostly though, these stores are the kind you want to find while you are on vacation (places like the Pottery Barn) and have time to shop. The city of Foley, AL has the best online information that I’ve found.

Attractions in Foley include Beach n River Kayak Rentals, a Railroad Museum, Foley’s Antique Rose Trail, Seahorse Stables offers year round rides and of course SHOPPING, you won’t have time to do it all.

Fairhope, Alabama a most picturesque town

Historic Building in Foley, AL

You’re gonna kick yourself if you leave your camera at home. Fairhope’s downtown is not only historic, it looks the part. Old store buildings, which no longer operate as ‘old stores,’ are now antique shops, clothing boutiques, souvenir shops, ice cream parlors and a mixture of other interesting stores. Fairhope has been a favorite wintering spot for artists and intellectuals since its ambitious beginning as The Fairhope Industrial Association in 1890. This is the kind of town what Bubba calls  “artsy-craftsy”.

At one time or another these celebrities called Fairhope, AL home: Jimmy Buffett, Fannie Flagg (author of Fried Green Tomatoes), Winston Groom (author of Forest Gump), Marie Howland, Upton Sinclair, and Boston Red Sox player Dave Stapleton. Everything that attracted them will appeal to you.

Beachside Park at Fairhope, AL

It isn’t just the downtown, even the residential and park areas are beautiful. A new park is under construction that will greatly improve the use of the Mobile Bay beach on the west side of town. When we were here sodding was underway.  The property for the park was donated by the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation, a moving force behind the establishment of Fairhope.  The park will include, when completed, play areas, ponds for a variety of waterfowl, a pier and of course a beach swimming area.

There are some very nice new stores with upscale shopping on US 98 as it passes through Fairhope. This is a pretty good all-around spot for info.

Going south on Alt US Hwy 98 out of Fairhope, you reach Point Clear, Alabama. On your way to Point Clear you can view hundreds of up-scale and down-scaled “camps” which line the shore of Mobile Bay.

Point Clear, AL is a naturally beautiful town, blessed with one of the finest hotels in the United States, The Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club and Spa. The native beauty, superb landscaping, top-ranked Robert Trent Jones golf course, deep sea fishing charters, 5 star dining, spas, restaurants and fashionable accommodations are all in one place at this family friendly resort. The Grand Hotel is comfortably situated on 550 acres which front Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The close proximity to Fairhope, AL provides great shopping.

Gulf Shores,  and Orange Beach, Alabama are the biggest draw in the county

Seagull in flight Gulf State Park

You know when you leave Gulf Shores, because you enter the Gulf State Park. This ‘undeveloped’ area on the seacoast island is a sight to behold. Here you find, undisturbed by development, sand dunes, beaches and camping areas. When you exit the park you enter Orange Beach, AL. Orange Beach is a wiggle behind behind Gulf Shores in the quantity of hotels, condos and the rest. It is a bit quieter and slower paced. These are the very reasons why many choose Orange Beach above neighboring Gulf Shores, AL.

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, AL is the summertime mecca for hundreds of thousands of sun lovers. Singles and families alike love the ambiance and excitement of this blossoming tourist area. Tall, beautiful, elegant buildings seem to be stacked next to each other for miles in either direction along the waterfront of Gulf Shores, AL.

You should not have a problem finding a place to stay as Gulf Shores has many houses, condos, motels and hotels. Plan where to stay in advance. My favorite site for info on Gulf Shores is the Yahoo Travel site.

We have friends who rent one large condo and take two or three families who share the space and cost. They can then afford to stay a week or two.

There is more to do here than you can do in an entire summer. Here is a short list of activities: pier-fishing, swimming, picture taking, sometimes surfing, sun-bathing, girl or guy watching, food, entertainment, attractions, golf, deep-sea fishing, dune-running, bowling, water parks, amusement parks, bumper cars, helicopter rides, wind surfing, go-kart racing and every other conceivable amusement you can imagine. Favorite local foods include, crab, fish, shrimp and oysters.

This is a favorite vacation spot for my family. We took three of our children’s families to Gulf Shores several years ago. We loved our condo, being able to have quick simple toast and cereal breakfasts and sandwich and chips lunches, then having the luxury of eating out when we chose. There is a bountiful number of quik-stops and grocers on the island. If you want it, you can find it at Gulf Shores, AL.

One of our favorites places to eat is King Neptune Restaurant at Gulf Shores. It is on the west side of AL Hwy 59 just south

King Neptune Restaurant in Gulf Shores, AL

of the coastal waterway. The lunch specials are reasonable and it is sometimes difficult to get a seat, but it is worth the wait. There are other places even more popular, especially if you trend to the night-life establishments.

We love to stop at produce markets in the summer to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, watermelons and jellies. We particularly enjoy the Burris Farm Market in Loxley. If it is in season when you go, get some of the fresh-from-the-field, pulled that morning, Silver King Corn on the cob and boil it for 14 minutes, slather it with butter, then dive in. Don’t be bashful, go ahead and get wet. You will smile and smack right down to the last kernel on the cob.

Hope y’all enjoy yourselves. Keep rolling up the miles and dialing up the smiles. I’ll see you next time.


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