The state of Alabama doesn’t have a long coastline. It does however, have a short, very beautiful, very scenic coastline. The Alabama coast stretches for about 60 miles along the Gulf of Mexico in two counties in the extreme southwest corner of the state; Mobile and Baldwin. The main feature of the coastline is Mobile Bay, a shallow estuary where the waters of the Alabama and Tombigbee river systems meet the Gulf. Along the western side of the bay is the city of Mobile. Pronounced MO-Beal, it’s the second largest city in Alabama and the state’s only seaport. Mobile is much older and very different from Birmingham, with it’s magnolias and moss draped live oaks it has much more of an old south feel. It was founded in the late 1600’s and has French and Spanish influences, something not present in Birmingham.
On the eastern side of Mobile Bay, in Baldwin County, there is a stretch of sugary white sand beaches that stretch 32 miles along the open Gulf of Mexico. On the eastern end of this stretch is an old roadhouse known as the Flora Bama. It’s on the Alabama/Florida state line and it’s a cultural icon along the Gulf Coast. It’s sometimes called America’s last great roadhouse. Driving west from the Flora Bama a visitor will pass through the resort towns of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. These towns are tourist destinations for many from the southeast as well as for many winter visitors from the northern states; known locally as “snowbirds”. There are many towering, concrete condo buildings and hotels, seafood restaurants with names like Live Bait, Sea and Suds, Doc’s and King Neptune’s. There are many souvenir shops, some with entry ways that look like a sharks jaws, selling all manner of over priced beach supplies, air brushed t-shirts with corny sayings, shot glasses and refrigerator magnents to take back to the dull inland work- a-day lives of most of the vacationers.
Traveling west from the resort towns, there is a long peninsula between the bay and the gulf. At the very western end of that peninsula sits Fort Morgan , one of two forts built in the early 1800’s to guard the entrance to Mobile Bay. Fort Morgan’s sister fort is called Fort Gaines and is situated on Dauphin Island just across the narrow mouth of the bay. On the way down highway 180, the road to Fort Morgan, the hotels and condos give way to beach houses and bay houses on stilts. It’s necessary for the houses to be elevated because of frequent hurricanes and tropical storms. A house is probably not going to survive a major hurricane, category 3 or higher, because of wind, flying debris and storm surge. If it’s a lesser storm most of the damage will be flooding from the surge. Many houses can survive that if elevated properly.
My wife and I have our own little hideaway about two miles east of the fort. At this point the peninsula is narrow enough that one can stand in the middle and see water on both sides. We have a great bay view from our deck and if you look over our neighbor’s Palm trees, we also have a view of the open gulf. If you like sugar white sand beaches with rolling dunes studded with sea oats, rosemary and other vegetation, a sea which can be as calm as a lake and clear as drinking water or with pounding surfable waves, depending on offshore conditions, then we have one of the finest beaches in America within about a 200 yard walk. Forgive me if I’m sounding like a tourism commercial but it really is a very pleasant place to be.
It’s pretty isolated out here. It’s a good idea to bring most of the supplies you think you’ll need with you since it’s almost 20 miles back to the town of Gulf Shores. There’s a bait shop, convenience store, pizza shop, liquor store combination with an adjacant seafood restuarant, which is new and very good, about 3 miles to the east. About a half mile to the west is Tacky Jack’s, a seafood restaurant with a bar downstairs. There’s a marina with a bait shop and dock store next to Tack Jacks. Life seems to revolve around this place down on this end of the road.
Life is good down here, even if you’re just sitting on the deck breathing the salt air and watching the big freighters come in and go out of the bay either chugging toward the port of Mobile or departing the port on their way to some harbor half way around the world. After a big rain the noise of what seems like millions of frogs be overwhelming; especially at night. Shelling is very good at certain times of the year, we picked up some fantastic shells at Thanksgiving last year. I know that fishing is good too, even though I haven’t quite gotten into the groove of it. Are there any downsides? Very few, I’m sure we would find more if we lived here all the time. Mosquitos, and other biting insects can be bad at times, there are natural gas rigs visable in the gulf and the bay, most of the oil rigs are off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas but the gas rigs look remarkably similar. I just accept them as a fact that I can’t change, but if I had my choice, they would be gone. Then of course there are the hurricanes and tropical storms. The very first year we had the house we had a scare from Hurricane Isaac; thankfully it missed us but unfortunately, the folks in south Louisiana weren’t so lucky. I know that one day we’re going to get some hurricane damage, but for now I’ll just put my feet up, have a Makers on the rocks and bask in the pure beauty of this place.
copyright 2013 R.W. Walker
*All views and opinions are strictly those of R.W. Walker. These views do not reflect the views of any cab company.
sources: Encyclopedia of Alabama, Wikipedia