20 Best Things to Do in Dauphin Island

Dauphin Island
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Dauphin Island, also known as the Sunset Capital of Alabama, is one of the best idyllic beachy getaways of the south.

Apart from pristine white beaches, the island is a treasure trove with its quaint history, quiet forests, buzzing bird sanctuaries and much more.

Few miles south of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, Dauphin Island is easy to reach as it connects to the mainland.

Also, the ferries operating year-round offer spectacular views of Mobile Bay while cutting down on the travel time.

Dauphin Island is the best spot for unwinding after a long week and having a wholesome weekend with friends and family.

The island offers attractive recreation options both on land and on water.

Scroll down to read our list of 20 must-do activities during your stay at Dauphin Island.

Little Red School House Community Complex

The Little Red School House Community Complex is a great first-stop to make when you land on the island.

It started as a school building in the 1930s.

Later, when authorities laid the plans to demolish the building, the locals protested.

The building was then relocated to Bienville Boulevard, where it started the second phase of its life as a community center.

The historical building now consists of a museum, a gift shop, and a library.

The museum is alive with the island’s history.

It contains pictorial records of significant landmarks, ways of life, bridges, and much more.

The extensive library includes books of all kinds for all ages and lends them free of cost.

There is also a sizeable collection of DVDs, audiobooks, games, and puzzles to borrow if you want.

So if you are here for an extended vacation, check out the library.

Fort Gaines

Fort Gaines
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Take a walk back into the past with a self-guided tour at Fort Gaines.

The 19th-century fort played a vital role in the Battle of Mobile Bay and has guarded its entrance for more than a century.

Due to coastal erosion, Fort Gaines is an endangered historical site.

It is now famous for its well-preserved ramparts, original cannons, tunnels, vintage officers quarters, and panoramic view of the bay.

The blacksmith and cannon firing demonstration is also a crowd-puller.

The tunnels connecting the different parts of the fort are open for exploration.

Additionally, the museum and gift shop are also worth checking out with their handwritten letters and cute knick-knacks to carry back home.

Dauphin Island East Public Beach

A trip to Dauphin Island without hitting the sugar-white beaches with their blue waters and warm rays would be a sad affair.

Deck up in your beach gear and go down to the Dauphin Island East Public Beach to see for yourself why the island is called the Sunset Capital.

Littered with shells and crafty seagulls, the beach promises to give you a fun-filled day with occasional sightings of dolphins frivoling.

The beach is also pet-friendly and adjacent to the trails and parks if you get tired of feeling the sand squishing beneath your feet.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary

Audubon Bird Sanctuary
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Dauphin Island is one of the first stretches of land that the migratory birds coming from Central and South America rest at, making the island a haven for bird watchers.

The Audubon Bird sanctuary is a preserve that gives you a glimpse of nests and birds recuperating before taking off again.

Apart from bird watching, the sanctuary also houses huge woodlands, swamps, marshes and beaches with abundant wildlife.

Bundle up in your hiking outfits and sunscreen and walk the miles of trails through pines, live oaks, magnolias, swamps and along beaches.

The trails are easy, and if you are lucky, the turtles might let you feed them.

Dauphin Island Ferry

Mobile Bay Ferry
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The Dauphin Island Ferry or the Mobile Bay Ferry connects the island to Fort Morgan at Alabama.

It is the shortest and most time-saving route between these two points.

The ferry operates year-round and is equipped to carry vehicles as well.

Along with being the practical option, the route is the cherry on the cake with its spectacular views.

During the 40-minute ride, you can enjoy the steady cool breeze, the leaping dolphins, diving birds and the huge oil rigs.

You can either stay back and explore Fort Morgan or hop on for the ride back.

Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan
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At the end of your Mobile Bay ferry ride, visitors can explore 19th-century Fort Morgan.

Though not as well restored as Fort Gaines, the architecture is magnificent.

The fort played a significant role in many wars, including WWI and WW2.

The fort is surrounded by beautiful beaches, scenic views and is ideal for a day out.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Dauphin Island Sea Lab
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If you are waiting for the ferry, with few hours to while away, especially if you are with kids, the Sea Lab would make for a good jaunt.

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab or the Estuarium houses over 100 species of aquatic fauna in its 30 plus aquariums.

The Sea Lab welcomes school student tours, research students and professionals to use their resources for fieldwork and projects.

The Estuarium, a public aquarium, allows general visitors to learn more about life under the sea.

If you are on time, you can feed the stingrays, see the manta rays, nurse sharks, octopuses and other fishes.

They also hold seminars to educate people about ecological issues- these seminars are free to the public.

Indian Shell Mound Park

Indian Shell Mound Park
Jeffrey Reed, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Indian Shell Mound Park is a unique spot- the park is located on top of Native American shell mounds.

The tale goes that the shells are remains of the seafood meals of the Native Americans.

The mounds were formed in the 1st century when the Native Americans congregated during winters to cook oysters together.

The remains are now covered with foliage.

Apart from historical importance, the park also hosts several rare plants and herbs planted for medicinal purposes.

The Coastal Birding trail is located here, making it a haunt for bird lovers as well.

Also, visitors can write the names of the birds they saw on the little whiteboard outside the park entrance.

Cadillac Square

Cadillac Square, located at East Bienville Boulevard, is a wooded area with beautiful old oak trees.

This site was the home of Governor Cadillac, the first governor of Dauphin Island.

The house no longer exists, but the park is still there and thriving.

It has morphed into a pleasant picnic spot with tables and benches.

Cadillac Square also hosts several festivals and gatherings.

A 16.5-mile trail runs along Bienville Boulevard.

Visitors can rent or get their own bikes and use the bike path.

Dauphin Island Marina

Dauphin Island Marina
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Dauphin Island Marina offers complete assistance to experience fun and frolic at sea when on Dauphin Islands.

Located at the foot of the Dauphin Island Bridge, the Dauphin Island Marina is a facility that offers everything you need to conduct a boating trip or expedition.

They provide all types of fleet, be it for deep-sea fishing or cruising along the shoreline.

Visitors can refuel, oil, get equipment or bait, grab a bite at the Marina.

Cedar Point Fishing Pier Inc

If fishing is your idea of having a good time, Dauphin Island can entertain you endlessly.

The Cedar Point Fishing Pier Inc is the longest fishing pier on the island and can accommodate you and your chums.

Get a chair and settle for the day, enjoy the view while waiting for a passing fish to get curious.

You won’t have to wait long as the water is teeming with fish.

Visitors can get fishing paraphernalia, snacks for themselves, bait for the fish, all from the store nearby.

Gulfside Golf Course

The Gulfside Golf Course is one of the most scenic golf courses, with a spectacular beach view.

Golf enthusiasts can leisurely observe professionals playing and unwind by playing a game or two.

If mini-golf is more up your alley, head over to Island Golf at De Soto Ave for an afternoon of miniature golf.

West End Beach

One of two beaches of Dauphin Island, the West End beach is located at the west point of the island.

The beach offers basic amenities like shower rooms, comfort rooms.

Ideal for a picnic and making castles on the beach.

The kids would love the waterslide here.

The beach doesn’t allow pets.

Goat Tree Reserve

Not far from Shell Mound Park, The Goat Tree Reserve is one of many bird sanctuaries on the island.

It gets its name from the ancient oak trees whose branches extend far from the trunk, almost parallel to the ground.

According to folklore, the trees served as a shelter for the island’s wild goats and kept them safe from the alligators.

Unfortunately, the goat population is no longer there now- the trees host several birds, warblers, herons, vireos, making it a favorite of bird watchers.

Dauphin Island Heritage and Arts Council

To see more island treasures, head over to the Dauphin Island Heritage and Arts Council Museum, which houses art pieces done by local artists.

The museum is hard to miss with a small lighthouse attached to the building.

Dauphin Island Heritage and Arts Council (DIHAC) is a non-profit organization that strives to promote and preserve art forms endemic to the island community.

They regularly hold painting classes for kids and adults, community theater and musical productions.

DIHAC hosts regular art fundraisers to support their community, promote art and educate people about its value.

Dauphin Island Pier

Dauphin Island Pier
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The picturesque 850-foot long pier was earlier a popular fishing spot.

With the recent migration of Pelican Island merging with the public shoreline, the pier is now on dry land.

The structure has been reutilized as a picnic and sightseeing spot due to its rustic setting.

There are no entry fees, but the pier shutdowns at sundown.

Dauphin Island Festivals

The island is not only all things cute but can also spice things up with its festivals and parades.

After the 4th July festivities, the island descends at the coast for the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.

Yes, it is as wild and competitive as it sounds.

The Mardi Gras celebrations are also a big thing, with bright parades and floats and crowds gathering at the Bienville Boulevard for a day on the town.

Pelican Pub

After a day of exploring the island, you are bound to feel drained and craving something cool and fresh.

The Pelican Pub will restore your energy right back with a refreshing beer and delicious food.

A favorite with the locals and visitors, the pub has excellent staff and food.

Miguel’s Beach’n Baja

Feast on the spicy tacos, filling burritos, and all other Mexican wonders after a day of exploring the nooks and corners of the island.

The joint is a popular food place and is a staple for many locals.

All food is made on the same day, ensuring freshness and hygiene.

Lighthouse Bakery

The Lighthouse Bakery is a charming little place with some finger-licking yummy baked goodies for those with a sweet tooth.

The huge cinnamon rolls are not only tasty but also doubles up as a filling breakfast.

The bakery also does special spin-offs for the festivals, the most popular being the King cakes they make for the Mardi Gras parades.

Their savory options are also worth checking out.

Dauphin Island is a lesser-known but a beautiful island with history, color and fun.

It is one of the most important places for migratory birds in North America.

Its stunning white sand beaches, bird sanctuaries, reserves, and long trails make it an upcoming vacation destination.

The island has something for everyone.

It caters to the history buffs, to the art aficionados and even the adventure junkies and foodies.

With many activities to do, you won’t have to worry about having a lackadaisical itinerary.

Or, if you are the laid back kind, head over the pier for a contemplative day of fishing.