Kelly Blumenthal is a long time Mom Mapper and an advocate for finding the best places for the family when traveling. As both a parent and artist, she has made paintings for the Breast Cancer Auction – Komen Foundation. This past summer Kelly and her family visited the Gulf Coast region. She has been kind enough to write a blog about this amazing place.
Families from the Mid-south flock to the cooler breezes of the Gulf Coast Region in the summertime. The refreshing salt air, leisurely pace, and family togetherness make a win-win for travelers.
From the Fort Morgan Peninsula to Pensacola, this region offers a variety of activities for serious beach goers to families who like experiential travel.
You can take excursions to beach trails in a variety of habitats, or enjoy touristy fun in Gulf Shores. My tween, teen, and techie husband enjoyed the mix of beach time and excursions. Whether we were searching for Ghost crabs at night, or using a fishing net to study the fish swimming under our feet, all provided hours of fun. Here are some of our favorite places to visit:
Mobile Bay Ferry – Noted as “the Gulf-Coast’s most scenic drive”: Ferries run across Mobile Bay connecting the Fort Morgan Peninsula and Dauphine Island. The trip is about 40 minutes. The ferry is great for bird watching and dolphin spotting.
Fort Morgan, Alabama: If you are history buffs or have children that enjoy studying the American Civil War, this is a must see. Located on the tip of the Fort Morgan Peninsula, across from the ferry port. Fort Morgan is a historical settlement with original buildings. You can explore the large fortifications, bunkers, and tunnels. They have an excellent gift shop and museum building on site, as well.
Dauphine Island, Estuarium at the Dauphine Island Sea Lab: A research based museum featuring the unique wildlife of this estuary habitat. Experience films, exhibits, and hands on stations with sea creatures. Complete the visit thru a salt marsh via a stroll on the boardwalk outside.
Lulu’s Restaurant at Homeport Marina, Gulf Shores: Situated by a marina and is a complex with restaurants, live music, hula hoops, and balls in large sandy outdoor play area. It is also a farm to table restaurant, started by Lulu Buffet, the sister of musician Jimmy Buffet. There is the Mountain of Youth, a four level climbing extravaganza for kids. It spoke to their inner pirate. You can even walk the plank, at the very top, if brave enough.
Gulf Shores Park: Recommended as a must see by locals. This is a system of greenways connecting Orange Beach & Gulf Shores to the beautiful Gulf Shores Park. It is a wonderful trail system to bike ride as a family. Choose from 14 miles of paved paths in 6 different ecosystems. We took the Rosemary Dune Trail which leads to a Butterfly Garden and Boulder Park, a climbing rock play area. The path is flanked by a pine forest. The trail passes through an alligator viewing swamp. We encountered vibrant dragon flies, a gopher tortoise, and butterflies.
Sea & Suds, Gulf Shore, AL: A family tradition for many years. A cozy yet open eatery built over the water. Pure and simple, with friendly service. The kids will be entertained by walking on the giant decks that encapsulate the restaurant. Sit at the oyster bar and enjoy watching the oyster shucking, first hand.
Lillian’s Pan Pizza, Perdido Key, FL: A pizza restaurant that serves a wide variety of delicious pizzas in addition to pastas, Italian specialities, salads, sandwiches, and desserts. Kids and adults will both be happy with the selections. An original restaurant enjoyed both by locals and tourists.
Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, Florida: A FREE 350,000 SQ FT museum of exhibit space. Visit this historical museum if you have time, or make it your number one priority. Spend a morning or afternoon here, exploring many facets of aviation history. There is also a space exhibit and a restaurant on premises if you need to refuel.
Most of all, make time to soak up the beach sand and waves. On our last night, our family enjoyed studying the constellations. The stars shone bright, without the glare of city lights, and appeared limitless in their number and density.