Southern Sojourn -Gulf Shores, AL

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Mobile Bay FerryWe did something a bit different upon leaving Dauphin Island for our next destination, Gulf Shores, AL.  You see, the ferry is taking only cars and motorcycles right now; no RV’s.  So, Steve had to drive Betsy 85 miles along the Alabama Scenic Byway (not a bad gig) while I simply hopped a ferry ride across Mobile Bay to Gulf Shores – 29 miles total for me!  The Mobile Bay Ferry connects Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan on the Gulf Shores side.  Luckily, there was no threat of torpedoes during my crossing, or I guess Steve would have had the last laugh after all!  It was a fun ferry ride as I got a closer look at some oil rigs along the way and watched seagulls trying to catch a free ferry ride.wpid11134-2013-03-19-AL-1360645.jpg

Once settled in at the RV park, we hopped into our dinghy to check out the area.  Gulf Shores is a popular resort destination, hence more frenetic compared to the quite slow-paced life at Dauphin Island.  And add to that, it’s spring break!  The beach and nearby restaurants at Gulf Shores were busy with spring breakers.  Fortunately, most of our desire for long walks on sugar-white beaches and sunny days had been satisfied while we were on the Island.

Not only were the beaches packed, the RV parks were also booked with snowbirders from northern States.  We wanted to stay at either Gulf Shores State Park or Meares State Park (both with over 100 sites), but snowbirders apparently booked their monthly sojourn months in advance, keeping them full until April.  We managed to snag the last spot at Island Retreat RV Resort (love it when they call their park a “resort”) for a few days.  Here, many of the guests were from Michigan, while the rest were from Missouri, Minnesota and Kentucky.  There are no RV parks on the beach here, but the Gulf Shores State Park is very close.

For several months now, we have been using the site RV Park Reviews as a resource for our upcoming trip stops.  Steve is now contributing reviews to the site for each park we use.  Although we realize these reviews won’t be helpful to everyone because “different strokes for different folks” and the fact that conditions at parks can change fairly often, we will create a link to our reviews in case you want to take a look.  For now, click here to read Steve’s recent park reviews.

Although the 32 miles of white sandy beaches is the main attraction at Gulf Shores, there are a lot of other things to do here.  For historians, Fort Morgan Historic Site and Museum is at the tip of the western peninsula, where I disembarked from the ferry.  Alabama is a birding paradise – on the coast alone there are six Alabama Coastal birding trails.  When in this area, fresh seafood is king when it comes to restaurants.  With the help of one local dude we found one to satiate our taste buds.  At Tacky Jacks, the atmosphere is casual and the food to die for is the Cajun Shrimp Pasta.  Jason was so right, it was simply the best shrimp pasta we had tried so far.

Mifi set up

New WiFi setup, and it works!

Since we were now near civilization, we took care of some business. With the big “T” day approaching, we gathered all tax docs and did a conference call with our tax preparer, did some banking changes and most importantly we trashed errr… I mean cancelled our Verizon MiFi contract.

Nina’s thorough post about their wifi set up and a personal tour of the setup used by Hans and Lisa at Metamorphosis Road finally pushed us to abandon our appalling Verizon MiFi device and move to Millenicom’s device.  It also uses Verizon service, but the old device never worked correctly and after replacing it multiple times we gave up.  Steve’s blood pressure is almost back to normal now!  Using a micro-to-mini cable to charge the MiFi from the Wilson cradle as Hans suggested also helped clean up the wiring, so everything looks nice mounted to our power panel.  Thanks for the help, all!

Fort Morgan Road Trail

Fort Morgan Road Trail

With all of our business completed it was time to relax and act like retired people!  Our RV park was along a nice paved bike trail, so we took an 11-mile ride along Fort Morgan Road Trail.

Hiking and viewing the birds along the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge was a good way to get away from the crowds.  We walked 10 miles along the interconnected Pine Beach Trail, the Jeff Friend Trail, Gator Lake Trail and the Centennial Trail (all part of the Fort Morgan Loop .)

Here are some of the resident birds.

Osprey

Osprey gathering twigs to build a nest

The south is known for its  hospitality and I felt it here, for I was addressed as “ma’am” at the store, restaurants and most other places.  That’s much nicer than what Steve usually calls me!  I’m beginning to like this place.

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

Comments 38 Standard

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.