By Bobbye Miller Kenyon
Situated on Alabama’s southern coastline, Mobile sports mild temperatures and scenic locales with lots to see and do, combined with a 300-year history.
Also known as “The Port City,” Mobile is the oldest city in the state. It is home to the second largest river delta and wetland in the country, for which it earned the nickname America’s Amazon. For outdoor enthusiasts, more than 250,000 acres of scenic waterways, woods, wetlands and parks provide a unique eco-adventure that’s only 10 minutes from downtown.
Mobile is also known for its historic architecture and several museums. The 65-acre estate garden and historic home of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath is at the top of the list. Bellingrath was one of the first Coca-Cola bottlers in the Southeast, building the spectacular floral landscaped Bellingrath Gardens and Home on the Fowl River near Mobile.
The city also lays claim to the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the United States. If you can’t make it to the annual February event, you can stop by the Mobile Carnival Museum and get an up close look at actual costumes and floats that are created for Mardi Gras. Other notable stops include the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico, Mobile Museum of Art and the History Museum of Mobile. Historic trolley tours, in rotation daily via Visit Mobile’s Welcome Center in the downtown area, provide a unique ticket to take in several of the city’s historic districts.
History buffs may enjoy a visit to Fort Conde, built by the French in 1702. Today’s historic fort area covers nearly one-third of its original space and offers a glimpse into the life of 18th century settlers. For 20th century history, the U.S.S Alabama Battleship Memorial Park is home to the iconic U.S.S. Alabama World War II naval battleship as well as the U.S.S Drum submarine. The military history park and museum is located on the western shore of Mobile Bay and showcases a collection of notable aircraft and ships.
Downtown offers museums, art galleries, boutiques, nightlife, and fabulous cuisine all within walking distance. Visitors may also take in the city sights and sounds with a tour on a duck boat.
With more than 50 restaurants downtown, an array of dining options are available. Wintzell’s Oyster House serves up fresh shrimp, blue crabs and oysters from the Gulf. From the 34th floor of the RSA Trustmark Bank Building, Dauphin’s provides spectacular panoramic views and select French Creole fare. The Noble South dishes up reimagined Southern comfort food in a rustic-chic setting. For dining on the water, a coastal cruise and live entertainment is paired with catering by Bob Baumbower’s restaurants aboard the Perdido Queen Paddlewheel.
Mobile’s newest marina complex, Dockside Marina, sits in a protected harbor of Dog River, less than a quarter mile north of Dog River Bridge on Dauphin Island Parkway. A gated security entrance provides security for monthly or daily dockage with new dock slips available. Its family-friendly atmosphere has a relaxing 100-foot beach, volleyball net, kayak and stand-up paddle board rentals.
Dog River Marina is conveniently located at the mouth of the Tenn-Tom Waterway, just 22 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, and offers boaters a full-service facility: 1,500 feet of dockage with 75 slips, of which 35 are sheltered. The complex houses a West Marine store, Valvtech fuel products, overnight security and free wi-fi. Commercial and private airports are near the complex, with courtesy and rental cars easily available.
For those with more time, stunning seaside escapes are less than an hour’s drive from Mobile. The twin resort cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach provide a wide range of outdoor experiences. Gulf Shores is home to Gulf State Park, Bon Secour National Wildife Refuge and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which offers a selection of animal encounters. Orange Beach is a water sports hub with a fun-in-the-sun vibe to its brilliant white sand beaches. Its Waterfront Park is complete with a fishing pier and picnic areas, and its century-old schoolhouse is now the Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum, dedicated to the area’s Native American and nautical heritage.