Alabama’s Coastal Connection

Details

  • DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2009)
  • Intrinsic QualitiesScenic
  • LocationAL
  • Length130 miles
Byway Visitor Information
Alabama's Coastal Connection Scenic Byway
Statewide Byway Partners
Alabama Department of Transportation
Alabama Tourism Department
Alabama’s Coastal Connection
Bellingrath Gardens Photo

Overview

Beautiful beaches, authentic downtowns, wildlife preserves, historic sites and the freshest seafood you'll ever put in your mouth are all yours to enjoy on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Visit the Coastal Connection to take in the natural beauty and experience all there is to see and do here. Alabama’s southern tip is one of those places where even first-time visitors find a connection. Here, you'll experience the link between the traditions of the Deep South and a more laid-back island lifestyle, between the wildlife of thousands of acres of preserved lands and the good life of a beachfront vacation.

Local Byway Partners

Story of the Byway

Alabama’s southern tip is one of those places where even first-time visitors find a connection. Here, they experience the link between the traditions of the Deep South and a more laid-back island lifestyle; between the wildlife of thousands of acres of preserved lands and the good life of a beachfront vacation; between the gunships of past naval battles and the countless recreational opportunities of the present and the dedication to conservation methods for the future.

Visitors make their own connections, too. Poking their toe into the sun-warmed Gulf of Mexico, they feel it. Wandering the halls of a 150-year-old brick fort and imagining the voices of soldiers who inhabited it, they understand it. Standing motionless among the trees to catch a glimpse of a colorful neo-tropical migrant bird, they recognize it. Choosing a charter captain or a seafood retailer because “they’ve been around these parts forever,” they’ve made the connection.

Alabama’s Coastal Connection is a treasure to those who have discovered it and a unique asset to the state. The waters of Alabama’s Gulf Coast create its strongest connections. Some people are drawn here by the water. Others are held by it. While the natural, recreational, and scenic values of the Gulf, bays, lagoons, and bayous cannot be disputed, their cultural value started it all. Making a living from the waters is a tradition that is alive and well here. Shell mounds hold the stories of early inhabitants who lived off the bountiful waters. Shrimp and charter boats are captained by those who still make their living that way. And research vessels carry those dedicated to understanding the waters and preserving the ecosystems that are so dependent upon them.

Historic Forts Gaines and Morgan stand united around the mouth of Mobile Bay. In earlier times, they stood guard against enemies and housed soldiers prepared for battle. Today, the brick and wooden fortresses tell the stories of those battles and those soldiers to the many visitors who step onto their grounds. Further east in Orange Beach, more history can be found at the Indian and Sea Museum, which chronicles the lives and ways of natives and early settlers. In Foley, the original character of the town built by those whose livelihoods were as much related to land as to the sea can still be seen in the preserved buildings and museums.

The Dauphin Island Audubon Sanctuary, Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, and Gulf State Park provide more than 12,000 acres of protected lands along the coast. Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of only 25 such reserves nationally and is literally where the soil meets the sea. These vast natural assets are complemented by smaller municipal parks and trails and by the sites along the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail. Indigenous wildlife and seasonal migratory birds are common sites, as are varieties of native foliage. Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge alone boasts habitats including beaches and sand dunes, salt and freshwater marshes, scrub forests, freshwater swamps, and uplands. Volunteer opportunities and interpretive exhibits at these sites, as well as at the Estuarium on Dauphin Island, are excellent ways for visitors to make a connection and to get involved in good stewardship of our natural resources.

The natural beauty of these and other assets on Alabama’s Gulf Coast provide the setting for those who enjoy its scenic aspects, as well as its recreational ones. While enjoying a stroll along the shore at sunset or a quiet sail on the backwaters suits some, others may opt for more exciting recreational opportunities. Golf and offshore fishing are popular pastimes. And here, dining is definitely recreation! Seafood is standard fare and can be prepared any way imaginable. A variety of accommodations are available, making the shore accessible to those looking for a campsite, a family-friendly beach house, a luxury hotel, or anything in between.

More than six million visitors come to Alabama’s Gulf Coast each year, and they come back again and again. Some return to enjoy different activities at different times of the year. – Special events offer a wide range of experiences. Music festivals, historical re-enactments, sporting events, and celebrations of Seafood are just a few. – Others return to the same spot, year after year, starting their own traditions here. Strengthening their connection to this paradise found.

Whether they are families on the annual vacation, couples seeking a secluded getaway, birders searching for that rare sighting, or history buffs combing the forts, they’ll find a connection here. And some will build their own. Alabama’s Coastal Connection has much to share, and it beckons travelers to learn more about The Waters, Ways, and Wildlife of Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Driving Directions

The Coastal Connection Byway is approximately 130 miles long and traverses through two Alabama Counties – Mobile and Baldwin. For the most part, the Byway is a continuous loop but it does have a few spurs that lead to significant intrinsic resources in the corridor’s vicinity. The Byway begins in the west at I-10 in the community of Grand Bay in Mobile County and ends in the east at I-10 in the City of Daphne in Baldwin County. The Byway runs through several coastal towns and provides access to several historically and ecologically significant destinations along Alabama’s Gulf Coast.

Points of Interest

  • Bellingrath Gardens and Home

    Serene setting for acres of flowers, waterfalls & a 1930s home housing a porcelain collection.

  • Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary

    Migrating birds can be seen in the forest, dunes and swamp of the Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

  • Historic Fort Gaines

    Fort Gaines is one of the key sites in the famous Battle of Mobile Bay where Admiral Farragut shouted his now-famous order, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” The fort has original cannons, a blacksmith shop, kitchens, a museum, gift shop, and tunnels.

  • Mobile Bay Ferry

    The Mobile Bay Ferry crosses beautiful Mobile Bay, Alabama and connects SR 193 at Dauphin Island on the west side with SR 180 at Mobile Point on the east. Considered “the Gulf-Coast’s Most Scenic Drive”, the ferry saves travelers hours of driving time plus the high cost of fuel by providing a travel link across the mouth of Mobile Bay.

  • Historic Fort Morgan

    Fort Morgan is a Third System masonry fort built between 1819 and 1833. Standing guard where the bay meets the Gulf of Mexico, the fort played a significant role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864.

  • Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

    Beach refuge known for sea turtles, migratory birds & other wildlife offers trails & events.

  • Gulf State Park

    There is something for everyone inside Gulf State Park. The beach pavilion provides picnic tables as an escape from the beach, the nature center is a great place for the kids to learn, the swimming pool provides refreshment for our guests and the Lake Shelby day use area offers kayaking and canoeing. For a change of pace while visiting check out the fishing and education pier, miles of biking on the Backcountry trail, and beautiful flowers in the butterfly garden.

  • Eastern Shore Trail

    A connector for runners, walkers and casual cyclists between North Daphne and South Fairhope, which consists of sidewalks and paving that extends from I-10 at the north end, follows US 98 and Scenic 98 through Daphne, Montrose, Fairhope and Point Clear, ending at Weeks Bay.

  • Historic Downtown of Foley

    Unique cafes and bistros, shops.

  • Historic Downtown of Fairhope

    Home to the Fairhope Museum of History. Enjoy the Public Art Walking Trail.

Itinerary

  • Beaches, Seafood, and More

    Start at Grand Bay Wilmer Road just off Interstate 10, north of Grand Bay, AL. Take Highway 188 out of Grand Bay, traveling southeast to Bayou La Batre. From here the Byway breaks off into 4 different spurs. Focusing on one very scenic spur: Continue as Highway 188 turns east towards the Alabama coastline, where you will find Highway 193 that goes south to the coast. Take the Dauphin Island Bridge. Water will be on both sides. Check out the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary before boarding the ferry to Fort Morgan. Take Highway 182 to the Gulf State Park. On your way, stop at as many white sand beaches and seafood shops as you wish. Remember this area is known for its seafood and laid-back island vibe. This section of the Byway ends at the intersection of Highway 182 and State Highway 161/Orange Beach Boulevard in Orange Beach.

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