Many people tend to forget that Alabama has a presence on the Gulf of Mexico. While the footprint is small, the state still has some of the finest Gulf beaches around. Unfortunately, as in other Gulf Coast states, places where a person can find some sand away from the maddening crowds are disappearing. Fortunately there are still a few secluded beaches where you can dig your toes into the sand without a soul around.
The best part is that beach hiking along the Gulf Coast is a year round pleasure with temperatures rarely going below 40 degrees in the winter. So hit the beach at one of these three great locations. But try to keep them a secret.
1. Fort Morgan/Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge
On the western most tip of the Fort Morgan Peninsula that forms the imaginary boundary between the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay there is a stretch of beach that not many know of or visit. The beach is surrounds historic [Fort Morgan](http://(http://www.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/73morgan/73morgan.htm) , a stone fortress where the famous Battle of Mobile Bay occurred more than 150 years ago and where Admiral David Farragut uttered those immortal words, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
The beach is managed by the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, which is part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. You can walk a good 2+ miles with no beach houses, condos, and few people. This stretch of Alabama beach offers excellent views of the Sand Island Lighthouse and dozens of ships making their way into the Port City of Mobile.
Since it is managed by USFWS, pets are not allowed. Also, the sand dunes are protected so do not climb on them. And remember while it is not posted that you cannot swim here you do so at your own risk. There are no lifeguards and rip currents happen often.
You can access the beach on the old abandoned Dune Road just before the entrance to the fort on the left at the very western end of AL 180. GPS coordinates to the trailhead: N30 13 45.887 / W-88 0 34.322.
2. Pine Beach
One of the more popular beach walks is at the end of the Pine Beach Trail at the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge . The trail itself is just about 2-miles one way and takes you through a magnificent transitional environment from maritime wetlands down to the Gulf.
The last quarter mile of the hike has you walking through some magnificent sand dunes. Be sure to stay on the marked path. These are federally protected dunes and a crucial habitat for wildlife—and they protect the land behind them. Watch where you step, ghost crabs crawl about the trail and blend in with the bright white sand.
As you cross the last dune the view of the Gulf is spectacular and expansive. Almost 100 species of birds may be seen here and this beach is a prime nesting area for Loggerhead, Kemp’s Ridley, and Green sea turtles. Learn more about these amazing creatures, their nesting habits, and how you can help protect them at the Alabama Sea Turtle website.
From the end of the trail there is a good 2-miles of beach you can roam. While it is not posted that you cannot swim there, do so at your own risk. There are no lifeguards and those pesky rip currents are dangerous. Pets are not allowed.
The trailhead is located off of Alabama Highway 180 in Gulf Shores, Alabama, 9-miles west of its intersection with AL 59. GPS coordinates to the trailhead: N30 14.872' / W-87 49.761'.
3. Dauphin Island
A little gem on Alabama’s Dauphin Island is the Audubon Bird Sanctuary . The sanctuary was recognized by the National Audubon Society as a location that is “globally significant for [bird] migration.” In fact it has been recognized as one of the top four locations in the world for bird watching.
The trails wind their way through the sanctuary about 0.9-miles to the southernmost end of the park and a beautiful little section of beach along the shoreline of the Gulf of Mexico. Here you will top the peak of an impressive ancient sand dune over a wide boardwalk. A large “beach observation deck” awaits you with benches and a magnificent panoramic view of the Gulf. In the distance you can see, and often here, the Sand Island Lighthouse that has withstood centuries of storms. Dolphins play in the surf. Fishermen wet their lines.
The deck also has an osprey nesting platform. In late spring and early summer it is fascinating to come time after time to see young birds grow then finally try their wings for the first time while the majestic wide wingspan of the mom and dad osprey circle and deliver food to the youngsters.
From here it is a short walk down a boardwalk to the beach where you can freely walk to the east or west for a good half mile to the east and the west. If you head to the east the beach passes the Dauphin Island Estuarium and Sea Lab, an amazing hands-on aquarium and research center. And just past that you will come to the massive stone walls of historic Fort Gaines.
While this beach is a little more crowded than the other two described here it’s not bad at all and you can still get some quality alone time soaking in the sun and sea. GPS Coordinates to the Trailhead: N30 15.021’/ W-88 05.240’.