“Damn the Torpedoes…”

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Fort Gaines.

For the history buffs among you, visiting Fort Gaines while on Dauphin Island is a bonus. Fort Gaines stands at the eastern tip of the island, where you can not only get a panoramic view of the bay and Gulf of Mexico, but also be immersed into the historical and thrilling account of the Battle of Mobile Bay.

English: Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Alabama

English: Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island, Alabama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On August 5, 1864 the US Navy attempted to run the gauntlet between Fort Gaines and Fort Morgan, in what is now known as the Battle of Mobile Bay.  The passage between the forts was protected by the guns of the forts themselves, torpedoes (also called mines) and other obstructions.  While running the gauntlet the navy warship USS Tecumseh struck a mine and went to the bottom in seconds.  It was at this point that Admiral David Farragut reportedly uttered the famous words, “Damn the torpedoes – full speed ahead!’  The navy pushed on, and the 3-week naval and land battle resulted in the capture of Fort Gaines and the Confederate Fleet by the union forces.

East Bastion

It was cool and breezy as we followed the self-guided walking tour of the fort, which was built in the 1800s.  Exploring the original tunnels, bastion, blacksmith area and multiple huge canons really gave us a feel for what it may have been like here during the heat of battle.

Steve enjoyed the museum, learning about the many types of weapons and ordnance used at the time.

It cost only $6.00 per person to visit the Fort, and Steve was happy to find a nice Hanes Daupin Island T-shirt for only $10.00.  Not bad!

A day of history lessons was just enough reason to take another long walk on the beach, as we had been doing every day.  Several visits to the sanctuary and other bird sites yielded no migrant birds yet, but the resident birds were merrily chirping away.  Click here for the birds I managed to capture at Dauphin Island.

Now about where we stayed.  Folks have already asked about the accommodations, so we’ll give the best report we can.

There are really only two options for where to park your RV, Dauphin Island Campground on the east end or Pelican Nest near the center of the island.  Nina of  Wheeling It wrote a thorough review of the Dauphin Island Campground that you may want to check out – it was fully booked when we were there.  So, we stayed at Pelican Nest RV Resort Park, which has only 12 sites and is located right across the street from the center of the beach and pier.  We liked this park a lot during the first few days, but when the weekend rolled around with beautiful warm weather it got busy and noisy on the road out front.  They also re-opened a restaurant next door and it was VERY loud on the weekend nights.  It may come down to deciding how much the noise will bother you in return for the fantastic beach access.  The road noise will be reduced some if you can get a spot behind the office – sites #7-10.  Try to NOT get #1 next to the road, which is where we stayed.

We really enjoyed our week on Dauphin Island – it’s small, relatively quiet and less touristy than some other places in this area. This island has a popular bakery full of yummy goodies and a fresh seafood store.

And finally, another day another beautiful Alabama sunset.

Dauphin Island

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places:

Pensacola, FL

Montgomery, AL


Life’s a beach – finally! Dauphin Island, AL

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From the Sonoran Desert, to the plains of Texas, to the swamps of Louisiana to an island in Alabama!  Yeah!  We have been longing for white sand, sunny days and a long stretch of pristine beach.  One fine place we found all of it was Dauphin Island, Alabama. Following other RVers travels usually gives us great ideas for places to stay and explore along our upcoming path.  One of them is of course Wheeling it, who consistently point us to interesting locations like this island, which we had never heard of prior to reading their blog.

Dauphin Island is a barrier island located three miles south of the mouth of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico.  There are two ways to get here.  From the west, entry to the island is made by crossing a 3-mile long high rise bridge.

West Entrance to Dauphin Island

From the east  you can access via the Mobile Bay Ferry.  At this time RV’s are not allowed on the ferry because they are running only one boat; be sure to check with the ferry service if you wish to take your RV across in either direction.

Mobile Bay Ferry

The island is approximately 14 miles long and 1 ¾ miles wide at the widest point.  The 14 miles must include the attached stretch of Pelican Island that extends off the main island for several sandy miles, since we measured the main island at only 8 miles end-to-end.  At the east end you will find the Dauphin Island Campground, the Mobile Bay Ferry and Historic Ft. Gaines.

At the west end is several miles of privately owned and partially developed land.  It is estimated that 1300 permanent residents call Dauphin Island home, and we saw how that number soars as the weather warms up.  Vacation homes dot the coastline, with several either under repair or rebuild due to the nasty storms that often go through here.  Below are a few examples if you are interested, and we saw several rentals available too.

The entire island has been designated as a bird sanctuary.  There are two places you can view and enjoy the birds.  Birders take note: spring is almost here and pretty soon the island will be swarming with birds!  At the Audubon Sanctuary there are six trails which guide viewers about what species to expect on each trail.

At Indian Shell Mound Park there are benches everywhere to observe our feathered friends.

Other smaller areas or parks are set up for bird viewing or listening.

The pristine white beaches that stretch along the island are excellent places to take long walks as you view the sunsets and the shorebirds.  There is also a nice, wide paved bike trail running the length of the island.  This is one of the few stops where we have been walking AND biking almost every day.  Paradise!

We noticed that wherever folks were fishing there were almost always one or more Great Herons nearby to “guard” the Catch of the Day.

Dauphin Island Beach

Of course, I was just hooked on birds as usual…

and finally the beach sunsets of Dauphin Island.

Dauphin Island Sunset

Dauphin Island Sunset

Up next where we stayed and Historic Ft Gaines.

A Plantation, a Preserve and lots of seafood – NOLA

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American Bullfrog

At the River Walk in New Orleans were 22 plaques describing interesting facts about the mighty Mississippi River.  One thing we learned is that this mud-laden water has flowed over 2,350 miles and takes about 66 days to get from Lake Itasca, Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.  Our crossing of the Mississippi River was a unique trip, according to one of the plaques.  Because Louisiana is the only state divided by the river, and New Orleans the only city that straddles it, this is the only place you can cross the river without crossing a city or state line.  Oh yeah, we felt unique after leaving New Orleans.

Mississippi River

On other days our excursions around the area took us to a Plantation and a Preserve.

Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge are nine majestic historic plantation known collectively as the New Orleans Plantation Country.  The roots of these lavish estates began in 1718 with the founding of New Orleans.  Most plantations produced sugar, which provided their owners with the kind of vast wealth it took to build these huge estates.  To keep their place in history, the homes have been authentically restored to their original style.

We chose to tour the “Grande Dame of the Great River Road,” the Oak Alley Plantation, which is a protected National Historic Landmark.  It is named after its distinguishing feature, an alley or canopied path created by a double row of massive live oaks about a quarter mile long.  They were planted in the early 18th century, long before the present house was built.  The alley runs between the house and the Mississippi River.

Alley of Oaks

Mint Julep seems to be the favorite drink in this area, and they had a little bar set up at the house.  It was still early in the morning, but we didn’t want to seem out of place.  So, with a Mint Julep in hand we strolled the grounds after the guided tour and admired the majestic oak trees close-up.

On another day we took a trip to the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Barataria Preserve, which is 14 miles south of the state park where we stayed.  The preserve’s 23,000 acres include bayous, swamps, marshes, forests, alligators, nutrias, and over 300 species of birds – lots of them.  After a brief stop at the visitor center, we meandered down the boardwalk trails (Visitor Center Trail and Palmetto Trail) and dirt trails (Bayou Coquille Trail) which wind through the preserve.  Here is the trail map, or you can enjoy a self-guided tour or explore with a cell phone tour.

The swamp critters we encountered are quite fascinating.

American Bullfrog

American Bullfrog




American Alligator

American Alligator – Steve finally sees his first ‘gator!

The rest of our days at Bayou Segnette State Park were spent cooking seafood, for just outside the park is a bustling Seafood Market.  And we got busy, cooking and eating, and on other days we simply enjoyed the frequent visits of the Northern Cardinals, seven of them at one time!

After this stop, we need to double up our exercise!

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places:

Gulf Shores, AL

Pensacola, FL