Day Trip: A beach off the beaten path

Posted on January 27, 2021 by Kristen Echols
Kristen Echols

Dauphin Island at Sunset data-lightbox='featured'

Mounting COVID-19 concerns have brought many vacation travel plans to a screeching halt, but there are still safe and noteworthy getaway spots studding the Gulf Coast for local families to spend a day out of the house. A quieter and more tranquil alternative to tourist hotspots Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is nearby Dauphin Island, connected to the Mobile mainland by the Gordon Persons Bridge. 

The biggest draw to Dauphin Island is the scenic beach that surrounds it. The wildlife that dwell both onshore and offshore make it a year-round flocking place for fishermen and animal enthusiasts. The island also is teeming with local businesses and historic sites to explore after dipping your toes in the sand. When it’s time for a meal, try one of these options, which offer outdoor dining in keeping with social distancing guidelines.

Breakfast at Lighthouse Bakery

A cup of coffee and a baked breakfast good from Lighthouse Bakery is the ideal way to kick off a day trip to Dauphin Island. On top of its array of danishes and bacon wraps, Lighthouse Bakery offers its signature Lighthouse hoagies and gourmet coffees. The bakery currently is selling king cakes in different sizes (including a fitting sandcastle design) for the Mardi Gras season, and it sells omelets only on Sundays. 

Little turtles on the tiles signify appropriate social distancing while in line for transactions, and the bakery offers outdoor seating and to-go orders. 

The Lighthouse Bakery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. (4 p.m. on Saturdays). On Sundays, it is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. 

Shopping at Arts of Dauphin Island

Visiting Dauphin Island’s local art gallery provides a glimpse into the talent that the Island’s inhabitants have to offer. The displays feature artwork that focuses on the island’s scenic views and wildlife, ranging from photography to watercolor paintings. Local handmade jewelry and pottery also are on display and are available for purchase.

There is no entry fee for the art gallery, but the displayed artwork is on sale for any art enthusiast or those looking for locally crafted pieces.

Arts of Dauphin Island is open on Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 6 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Lunch at Miguel’s Beach’n Baja

If you’re in a rush and need to grab lunch in between activities, Miguel’s Beach’n Baja is the island’s go-to for Mexican food and speedy service. The restaurant offers typical dishes such as burrito bowls and quesadillas, a variety of protein options and fresh homemade salsa. Miguel’s is takeout only, but with picnic tables overlooking the nearby beaches, a meal with a view is only a stone’s throw away.  

Miguel’s is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

History at Fort Gaines

Dauphin Island’s historic Fort Gaines is a masonry fort that is most known as a site of the Civil War’s Battle of Mobile Bay. Fort Gaines overlooks Dauphin Island’s eastern beaches. Stepping into Fort Gaines is stepping back in time, as it still holds cannons used in the battle and structures that even predate the Civil War. The fort also has a museum and gift shop. Visitors can take the nearby ferry to Fort Morgan in Gulf Shores to see more of what remains of the historic Battle of Mobile Bay.

Fort Gaines is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Nature at Audubon Bird Sanctuary

The Estuarium at Dauphin Island’s Sea Lab currently is closed due to Hurricane Sally cleanup and COVID-19 safety, but there are still open and safe animal-centric attractions available that highlight the area’s diverse wildlife, including the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Dauphin Island is a flocking place for neo-tropical birds as they head north during spring migrations, and they can be seen in the wild on this scenic outdoor trail. The wheelchair-friendly boardwalk carries visitors through island marshes, forests, lakes, swamps, and beaches for an opportunity to see more than 420 different bird species. 

The bird sanctuary is free, and it is open every day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 

Dinner at Reel Deal and Island Rainbow

Across the street from Dauphin Island’s public beach are two neighboring dinner options: Reel Deal BBQ & Seafood and Island Rainbow. Reel Deal is a seafood restaurant with a unique twist, offering a diverse menu of barbecue plates and sandwiches, seafood plates, burgers and signature egg rolls. 

Island Rainbow is Dauphin Island’s resident pizza place that also offers frozen desserts, including sorbets, sundaes, and waffle cones, to satisfy a sweet tooth after a long day on the island. The Island Rainbow Facebook page frequently posts about deals for its pizzas and dessert items.

Both locations offer outdoor dining and takeout. Reel Deal is open every day from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Island Rainbow is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (closing at 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 6 p.m. on Sundays).


Additional information about Dauphin Island’s attractions and dining options can be found on the Town of Dauphin Island website

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