Spring Break Beach Escape
If you’d like to getaway somewhere special for Spring Break, you don’t have to look past the borders of our own state. Just look south, toward Alabama’s Gulf Coast. With white sugar-sand fronting turquoise waters, Alabama beaches are some of the prettiest in the country, but there is more to the area than just the shore and surf. Enjoy the beach, and while you’re in the southernmost part of our state, explore some of the other areas too.
The 5 Rivers Delta Center outside of Mobile makes it easy get back to nature. Taking its name from the five rivers (Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley) that converge at the Mobile-Tensaw Delta and flow into Mobile Bay, it was designed for outdoor recreation and conservation education, highlighting the wonders of The Delta, the second largest in the country and one of the most biologically diverse sites in United States.
The Center is a one-stop-shop for an adventure into over 250,000 scenic acres of waterways, woods and wetlands. You can take a guided pontoon boat “safari” for a look at alligators, blue herons, turtles and other wildlife or rent canoes or kayaks to paddle the Bartram Canoe Trail, a system that traverses the many rivers, streams, sloughs and bayous of the Delta. There are also walking trails and exhibit halls with everything from art to ecology exhibits.
For more nature knowledge, visit the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuaruim showcasing the plants, animals and other natural resources of the Mobile Estuary System. It includes an aquarium and the Living Marsh Boardwalk, plus touch tanks and other interactive exhibits that make a big splash with kids.
If paddling around in canoe or putting around on pontoon boat sounds a little slow, a.k.a. boring, to you, consider discovering the Delta aboard an airboat. Delta Airboat Express will zip and whiz you around and through the marshes and bottomlands with both day and nighttime tours.
Wanna thrill the kids? Take the to zoo! When Hurricane Ivan brought its wrath to bear on Alabama’s beaches in 2004, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo was right in the storm’s path and mostly wrecked by the time the winds died down. Its hundreds of animals were homeless, but they survived, as did the zoo itself, earning it national attention and affection as well as the nickname, “the little zoo that could.” Today, it is thriving and showcases over 300 animals, including lions, monkeys, bears and more. There is a reptile house, a petting zoo, and the zoo also offers animal encounters that let kids touch and pet lemurs and sometimes even baby tigers.
Just over the state line, in Florida, the Gulf Islands National Seashore (part of our National Park system) is on Perdido Key. Its miles of unspoiled, uninhabited beach make it worth the trip into our neighboring state. You can even spend the night right on the sand. Pitch a tent (or not), cozy up to a crackling fire and fall asleep under a blanket of stars with the rhythm of the surf providing a lullaby. You’ll need to get a camping permit, but it’s simple to fill out and free.
The Gulf in Orange Beach is a multi-level spot fashioned from old shipping containers painted a brilliant sea blue offering an alfresco dining option perched on the edge of the Perdido Pass. Boats floating by and a constant flurry of activity create an environment that appeals to all kinds: from kids skipping across a sodded lawn to hip young couples lounging on white sofas sinking into a swath of sand. Its menu changes often, but the salad with grilled grouper is always a delicious choice.
Doc’s Seafood Shack in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach boasts “the best fried shrimp in the civilized world,” yet it’s the oysters that bring most people back. Proving that simple can be simply amazing, the fried oyster basket at this longtime favorite (with locations in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach) is packed with soft, briny bi-valves dunked in batter and cooked to crisp perfection in hot oil.
And don’t miss one of our favorite restuarants in the entire state and a definite “can’t-miss” when on the coast: Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina. Check out the article on Fisher’s in our spring issue to learn more.