Relax On White Sand Beaches At This Tropical Southern US Destination

The Gulf of Mexico features some of the most well-known beaches in the United States, from South Padre Island in Texas to the Florida Keys. Many of these beaches are famous for their white sand, and others are infamous for their party atmospheres. Think MTV's "Floribama Shore." Among the states which border the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama has the shortest stretch of coastline. However, there is plenty to do and see in the area than the state's popular Orange Beach or Gulf Shores.

Near the border with Mississippi is Dauphin Island, known as the "sunset capital of Alabama." This island is conveniently located at the end of Alabama's State Route 193, which includes the 3-mile-long Dauphin Island Bridge. White sand beaches aside, this island has plenty of wildlife, easy access to nearby historical landmarks, and plenty of locally owned lodging. What makes it all the more peaceful is that it sees fewer crowds than the state's coastal areas further east.

Dauphin Island is perfect for birdwatching

Dauphin Island's quiet beaches are found all over the island. Sandy Point is at the westernmost point, and the West End Public Beach is closer to the town on the east side. Pelican Peninsula juts out from Pelican Cove and is flanked by white sand on both sides and at the pointed end. Public beach access is only $10 per vehicle and $20 for RVs and buses.

The Dauphin Island East End Public Beach is another public beach option, but a significant highlight of this area is the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. This large section of land is one of the best locations to witness bird migration during the spring because species like egrets and herons use the area as a rest stop during their long flights. The American Bird Conservancy recognizes Dauphin Island as a "Globally Important Bird Area." Within the sanctuary are 3 miles of walking trails through tall maritime forests, sand dunes, beaches, and swamplands to explore while you observe the birds.

See 19th century history at Fort Gaines

Another highlight of Dauphin Island's eastern region is Fort Gaines, an important site during the American Civil War. The Battle of Mobile Bay occurred here throughout August of 1864 and ended with the Union armies successfully taking control of the Confederate port of Mobile. Today, Fort Gaines has well-preserved cannons from the 1800s and sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico. Nearby is the Mobile Bay Ferry landing, which takes passengers to Fort Morgan, Alabama. This star-shaped military site dates back to 1834 and was built to protect Mobile Bay from potential invaders. While on the ferry, keep an eye out for dolphins swimming in the open water.

Some of Dauphin Island's popular places to stay include the Dauphin Island Harbor House, the family-owned Gulf Breeze Motel, and the Inn at Dauphin Island. Many rental houses are listed on Vrbo, too. More beachfront options are available through Dauphin Island Real Estate, which works similarly to Vrbo but is specific to rentals available on the island.