Best things to do in Dauphin Island, Alabama besides the West End beach
Dauphin Island is the sunset capital of Alabama and truly a gem not to be missed. Off the beaten path and miles away from hustle and bustle of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach you can find this pristine island oasis. On Dauphin Island you won’t find giant hotels, packed beaches, or crazy boat traffic. It is a getaway for those of us who love the peace and serenity of a coastal beach town without the craziness of tourist traps and out of control spring breakers.
First let’s talk about how to get there! Dauphin Island is a short 45 minute drive from downtown Mobile. Many locals drive out on weekends for a short day trip or visitors may also book at one of the many vacation rentals if they want to stay on the island.
If you’re wondering how to get to Dauphin Island from Gulf Shores or Orange Beach Alabama to experience this hidden oasis you have a couple options.
- You can choose to drive 1 hour and 45 minutes each way taking you around Mobile Bay and through the city of Mobile Alabama.
If you choose this route I highly recommend a stop for coffee and delectable beignets at Mo’Bay Beignet Co. Locals flock to this place for beignets as good as, or some might even say better than, the famous beignets at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans. Word of advice, don’t wear black if you plan on stopping here! As you can see from the photo below, these delicious balls of goodness are doused in powdered sugar, making them not only drool worthy, but also quite messy. You are bound to end up with sugar all over you if you’re not careful. But hey, that’s half the fun anyway!
If you fancy a cocktail instead (as long as you’re not the driver of course), swing into Squid Ink Eclectic Eats and Drinks for an other worldly squid ink margarita or spicy shrimp topped Bloody Mary. They also offer a full menu with specialties including southern style shrimp and grits, burgers, and sandwiches.
- If that sounds like way too long of a drive, you can opt to take the Mobile Bay Ferry. Schedule can be found at https://mobilebayferry.com/schedule/
The ferry runs year round 7 days a week (weather permitting) with service between Fort Morgan on the west end of Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island and takes only 40 minutes!! YES, you can take your car, truck, even camper (contact them for confirmation on size limitations) on the ferry!
Once on the island, remember that you are no longer in tourist central and understand, experience, and appreciate the slower pace of life here. You won’t find the typical tourist trap souvenir shops, overpriced restaurants, or unlimited things to do. What you will find, is sure to delight you and make you want to come back for more year after year.
Here are my top 5 things to do while on Dauphin Island
PADDLE BOARDING or KAYAKING WITH PURE ALOHA ADVENTURES ALABAMA
Paddle Boarding Lessons with Pure Aloha Adventures Alabama brings the aloha spirit of Hawaii to the shores of Dauphin Island Alabama. A woman owned and operated business, Pure Aloha is sure to delight children and adults of all ages. This is one of the most family friendly activities on Dauphin Island. Tours and rentals are available daily and all ages and skill levels are welcome. Advanced reservations are required. Click here to book online or call 251-391-4832.
Tours are done in the calm waters of Aloe Bay where guests will learn the proper ways to stand up paddle. Tours include a beach lesson and in water coaching. They also offer Dauphin Island kayak rentals and tours and paddle board rentals.
SHAVE ICE AT GULF COAST RETRO SNO
After your paddle boarding lessons in the hot Alabama sun, cool down with some yummy shave ice as it’s known in the islands, otherwise known as a snow cone, at Gulf Coast Retro Sno. These guys have a cute little camper set up as a food truck which serves ice cold snow cones with delicious flavors such as watermelon, bahama mama, blue raspberry, king cake and so many more. They even offer topping like sprinkles, whip cream, and even…..pickles believe it or not! Don’t forget to take your “oh so Instagrammable” photo with your shave ice in front of their camper! I’m not sure if there’s a better thing to do on a hot summer day in Southern Alabama.
COFFEE AND PASTRIES AT LIGHTHOUSE BAKERY
If shave ice isn’t your thing, get your pick me up at the famous Lighthouse Bakery.
The bakery serves flavorful coffees, appetizing lunches, and danishes to die for! The staff is super friendly and it is one of my favorite places to visit morning or afternoon. They definitely have the best coffee on Dauphin Island and soon as you walk in you can smell the fresh baked goodies and see the beautiful display of decadence before you. If you’re not a danish fan you can opt for one of their giant cinnamon roles, cupcakes, banana bread muffins, or any of their seasonal favorites depending on the time of year you visit. It you’re visiting Dauphin Island in the winter time be sure to check out their daily soup specials and specialty coffees.
WEDNESDAY WINGS AT PIRATES BAR AND GRILL
If you’re ready for some more fun in the sun head on over to the beach near Pirates Bar and Grill. Here you can soak up the sun or grab a drink at the pool. Beach access here is only $3 and pool use is $6 and often includes live music from local bands, drink and food specials, and an over all cool atmosphere. If you happen to luck out and be there for Wing Wednesday at Pirates, you can get their famous wings and drinks at a discount! Winter months enjoy them fireside and summertime enjoy them poolside!
Pirates on Dauphin Island also has an indoor dining area and bar with panoramic views where you can cool off and enjoy the views with Alabama’s most famous drink, the Bushwacker! Although Bushwackers originated in the US Virgin Islands, Alabama has since claimed them as their own. They are a decadent mix of ice cream, rum, more rum, chocolate and topped off with a cherry. Although there are many places in southern Alabama to get bushwackers, we have to say that Pirates is our favorite.
CATCH AN EPIC DAUPHIN ISLAND SUNSET
Last but not least catch the truly amazing sunsets that our beautiful little island has to offer! There’s a reason why Dauphin Island is known as the sunset capital of the world. With miles of pristine untouched beaches, no giant hotels blocking the views, and calm coastal waters, it’s the perfect place to put your toes in the sand, drink in your hand, and have not a care in the world while watching the sun set on this hidden island oasis.