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Monday, January 20, 2020

5 Fun Day Trips from Gulf Shores, Alabama



Looking for something a little different to do while vacationing in the Gulf Shores or Orange Beach area?  Or even somewhere to stop on the way there or when heading home? Give one of these places a visit!



1. Big Lagoon State Park  in  Perdido Key, Florida

30 minute drive from Gulf Shores



This Park is a 705-acre located on the northern shore of Big Lagoon, which separates the mainland from Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico.

Address:

12301 Gulf Beach Hwy, Pensacola, FL 32507

Hours:

8am to 6pm daily

Admission:

$5.00 - $10.00 per vehicle, depends on number of occupants






2. USS Alabama War Ship Tour in Mobile, Alabama

1 hour drive from Gulf Shores





The Uss Alabama is a 1940 World War II ship that housed a crew of 2,500 men located in Mobile.


Address:

2703 Battleship Parkway | Mobile, AL 36602


Admission:

$15.00 or less per person, $4.00 parking fee


Summer Hours:

April-September
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Winter Hours:

October – March

8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.



3. Fairhope, Alabama

45 minute drive from Gulf Shores




Located on the shoreline of Mobile Bay, Fairhope’s charm and inviting atmosphere make it the perfect place to visit. You can even visit a fairy tale castle. See my complete post on Fairhope here



4. Fort Morgan, Mobile Ferry, Fort Gains, Sea Lab, Ship Island beaches - Alabama


35 minute drive + 40 minute ferry ride from Gulf Shores


Leave early morning to see all of these in one day.

Fort Morgan State Historic Site



Fort Morgan is a masonry fort built between 1819 and 1833. Its main roll was in the Battle of Mobile Bay.

Address:

110 AL-180, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Hours:

Seven Days A Week

9AM-4:30PM

Admission:

Adult $8
Seniors/child $5



Mobile Bay Ferry





The Mobile Bay Ferry goes between Dauphin Island and Fort Morgan at Mobile Point. It takes about 40 minutes. You can stay in your automobile or get out and walk around.

Address:

Fort Morgan Side

110 AL-180, Gulf Shores, AL 36542

Dauphin Island Side:

111 Bienville Blvd., Dauphin Island, AL 36528

Schedule:

Varies, check here   

Fees:

Regular automobile and driver is $16 + $5 for each passenger.


Fort Gaines


Established in 1821, Fort Gaines known is for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the American Civil War.

Address:


51 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, AL 36528

Hours:

9AM – 5 PM daily

Admission:

Children (Ages 5 -12) are $5.00
Adults (Ages 13+) are $9.00



Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium 



Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium is an educational public aquarium exhibiting the four key habitats of coastal Alabama.

Address: 

102 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, AL 36528


Hours vary from winter and summer. 

Check here   https://www.disl.org/estuarium


Admission:

$6 - $12




Dauphin Island


At only 14 miles long and 2 miles wide, Dauphin Island lays at the entrance of Mobile Bay.




This is a great place to enjoy beaches without many people on them.

Bienville Beach (1501 Bienville Blvd)

West End Public Beach (Drive west on Bienville Blvd to the very end)



5. Pensacola, Florida Snorkeling & Fort Tour

45 minute drive from Gulf Shores


Escambia County Bay Snorkel Reef 





Located approximately 50 ft. off shore in Park West, just before the entrance of Fort Pickens. Great for beginner snorkeler.

Address:

Park West, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561




Fort Pickens State Park




This 1834 pentagonal historic United States military fort is located at the west end of Santa Rosa Island. It is named after American Revolutionary War hero Andrew Pickens.

After visiting the fort, enjoy some of the 10 miles of gulf and bay beaches leading to the fort. It's also one of the few places in the Pensacola area to find seashells.

Address:

1400 Fort Pickens Rd, Pensacola Beach, FL 32561

Hours:

March 1 - October 31: 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (last entry at 8:00 p.m.)

November 1 - February 28: 5:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Hours:

Historic Fort: 8:00 a.m. to sunset

Admission:

Per person (pedestrian, cyclist, etc.) ............................$15
Motorcycle....................................................................$20
Private vehicle (capacity <15) .......................................$25



Happy Travels!






Thursday, January 16, 2020

Mississippi's Secret Coastal town – Bay St Louis



Bay St Louis is a small coastal town between New Orleans, Louisiana and Biloxi, Mississippi. My first visit was just a stop over on a road trip to Florida. I have since been back two times. 




I love to walk along the coast and down the streets lined with colorful beach houses. It is so peaceful and relaxing.





We seem to always have bad luck with the weather during our stays, but it never fails to be clear the morning we are leaving. Lol  I took photos of some of our favorite spots on our last visit. Most were taken in the rain….   Hope you enjoy them anyway.



Bay St Louis Historic L & N Train Depot 



The Bay St Louis train depot, built in 1928, houses the visitors center and Mardi Gras Museum. The bottom floor had a display of Mardi Gras costumes as well as some historical timelines about the area.


Address:

1928 Depot Way, Bay St Louis, MS 39520

Hours:

Monday – Saturday 10am to 4pm 





Alice Moseley Folk Art and Antique Museum


Address:


1928 Depot Way, Bay St Louis, MS 39520

Hours:

Tuesday – Saturday 10am to 4pm

Admission:

Free



Serious Bread Bakery



This place has the best artisan breads and muffins. A must try!

Address:

131 Main St, Bay Saint Louis, MS 39520-4545

Hours:

Tuesday – Sunday  7:30am - 5:30 pm



St Rose De Lima Church


This beautiful catholic church dates back to 1855. Mass is still held almost every day of the week.


Address:

301 S Necaise Ave, Bay St Louis, MS 39520



Angel Trees



Remnants of beautiful live oaks are now works of art by Chainsaw sculptor, Dayle K. Lewis. The Angel trees stand as a monument to Hurricane Katrina.



Walking Tour of Filming Locations


Robert Redford’s 1966 movie "This Property Is Condemned" was filmed mostly in Bay St Louis. Take a walking tour to see some of the locations and building used. Get map here.



 Beaches 



Beaches run along Beach Blvd with parking on the shoulder across from the sand. A parking area and pavilion are located at the Garfield Ladner Pier.

Address:


125 N Beach Blvd, Waveland, MS 39576



Bay Saint Louis Municipal Harbor





We love just walking around looking at the boats and visiting with fishermen. This is also the best place to watch a sunrise!

Address:

100 Jody Compretta Dr, Bay St Louis, MS 39520



Bay Saint Louis Bridge


The Bay Saint Louis Bridge connects Bay St Louis and Pass Christian.


Address:

229 N Beach Blvd, Waveland, MS 39576



Shopping



Clothing and specialty shops are scattered through the historic area.



Bay Town Inn






 We always stay at the Bay Town Inn. The place is gorgeous and they love to pamper you!

Address:

208 N Beach Blvd, Bay St Louis, MS 39520

Phone:

(504) 421-0960



Pirates Day in the Bay Festival 



The Pirates Day Festival is held in the spring each year. It is so much fun and has a true small coastal town feel. It will be held May 15th & May 16th this year.

Address:

100 Jody Compretta Dr, Bay St Louis, MS   



Hope you enjoy this charming little town as much as we do!

Happy Travels!







Saturday, January 11, 2020

Activity Guide (Anna Maria Island) Florida



Anna Maria Island is one of my top three picks for best places to visit in Florida. Just in case you are curious; Naples and the Keys are the other two places. My favorite thing about the Anna Maria is that no matter where you stay, it feels like you actually live there. All of the hotels/resorts are nestled in neighborhoods among palm trees, colorful foliage, and private homes.

The Island is about an hour’s drive south of Tampa and is 7 1/2 miles long and less than a mile wide. It is divided into three sections; Anna Maria (Northern end), Holmes Beach (Middle section), and Bradenton Beach (Southern end).




Anna Maria (North End of Island)


The north end is my favorite part of the island and where we usually spend most of our time. The homes are gorgeous and the beaches are less crowded. Unless you are staying in the area, it is hard to use the beaches due to lack of parking.



Beaches

Bean Point




Bean Point is the best beach on the island. It is at the northern tip of the island. There is a massive area of white sand and the sunsets are amazing. It is a public beach, but mainly used by people staying in the area.







 Limited parking is along North Shore Drive. Park completely off the road (no tires touching the road) and between the designated signs.  Last time we were there, it was limited to about six spots along the whole road. It will basically be in someone’s yard. There are access points along the road with signs indicating beach access. It will be between houses. Be prepared for a long walk through sand to get to the water.

Address:

Starts around 825 N Shore Dr Anna Maria, FL 34216 and runs west


100 Pine Avenue access

 It is usually more crowded by people staying locally and basically has no parking either.



Bayfront Park


Bayfront Park has a nice beach area and the water is calmer. A good size public parking area is available. 

Address:

316 N Bay Blvd, Anna Maria, FL 34216



Shopping

Bayview Plaza


We loved the clothing boutiques and ice cream shop and it is withing walking distance of where we usually stay. 

Address:

101 S Bay Blvd, Anna Maria, FL 34216



Pine Avenue






Tons of colorful boutiques and specialty shops are along Pine Avenue. Most have parking in front. 



Where to Eat

The Donut Experiment



The Donut Experiment is a donut shop where you pick your topping to make a designer donut. We were told they are amazing, but unfortunately, it was so crowded that we couldn’t even get in the door. People were sitting around outside eating them and they did look good! Maybe next time. Lol

Address:

210c Pine Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216



Rod and Reel Pier






Enjoy one of the most amazing views on the island while eating local seafood at The Rod and Real Pier.

Address:

875 N Shore Dr, Anna Maria, FL 34216



Sandbar Restaurant




 The Sandbar Restaurant is another great place with local seafood but with beach front dining and a perfect sunset view.

Address:

100 Spring Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216



Lodging (Reasonably Priced)



Sunrise Garden Resort



The Sunrise Garden Resort is surrounded by lush tropical landscape in a quiet residential area, It is the perfect place to enjoy the laid-back feel of Anna Maria Island. See my review post here.

Address:

512 Spring Ave, Anna Maria, FL 34216



Anna Maria Motel & Resort Apartments




This place is all about the location. Walk across the road and you are at Bean Point beach access. We have only stayed here once, but it was clean and has a nice pool.

Address:

808 N Bay Blvd, Anna Maria, FL 34216



Other Fun Things to do 

Movies in the Park


Movies  at the Bayfront Park on Wednesday nights a 6:30 pm.  Check here to see what’s playing. 

Address:

316 N Bay Blvd, Anna Maria, FL 34216



 Holmes Beach (Middle section)

This is where the main access to the island is located. It is super crowded and is very time consuming to drive through this area.



Beaches


Anna Maria Public Beach  &  Manatee Beach Park


Both are public and have parking. As I said, they are very crowded during the day.

Address:

Anna Maria
102 39th St, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

Manatee Beach
4000 State Road 64 and Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, FL 34217

Shopping

Sun and Surf Beach Shop



They have the cutest clothes and unique gifts. We also love all the birds in the cages lining the front of the store.

Address:

5418 Marina Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217



Where to eat

We usually stop at the Publix Super Market and get food to cook at the cottage. It is the only grocery store on the island.

Address:

3900 E Bay Dr, Holmes Beach, FL 34217



Where to stay

We have never stayed in this area. It is so busy that the north and south ends are better options.



Bradenton Beach (Southern end)


Beaches


Coquina Beach



Coquina Beach is a nice public beach with plenty of parking.

Address:

 1438 Gulf Dr S, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217



 Shopping & Where to Eat

 Bridge Street






Historic Bridge Street is the spot that used to be the only access to the island. An old wooden bridge was where the pier is located now. You will find a good selection of unique places to shop and eat.


Address;

Bridge streets meets Gulf Drive around 111 Gulf Dr S, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217

Lodging


Tropic Isle Beach Resort




Beautifully landscaped, clean, reasonably priced and only a road between it and the beach.

Address;

101 22nd St N, Bradenton Beach, FL 34217




Other Fun Things to Do on the Island

Charter a trip to Egmont Key, rent kayaks or jet skis, get a massage on the beach, or take a sunset cruise

Kayak rentals - https://happypaddler.com/rentals-kayak-paddleboard-longboat-key-anna-maria-bradenton/

Eggmont Key, Dolphin tours, and sunset cruises - https://www.amidolphintours.com/tours


Ways to Get Around the Island


The free Anna Maria Island trolley, Renting a golf cart, or a bike



Shelling on Anna Maria Island

Anna maria is not great for shelling. Occasional shells can be found on the beaches, but they are small. 



Day Trips off the Island



Sarasota Jungle Gardens


About a 30-minute drive 

3701 Bay Shore Rd, Sarasota, FL 34234


Fort De Soto Park


About an hour drive

 3500 Pinellas Bayway S, St. Petersburg, FL 33715


Sunken Gardens


About an hour drive


 1825 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL 33704

Happy Travels!