One of the most unsung historic destinations in the country, Mobile Bay is an Alabama treasure, rich in French, Creole, African, Greek and British cultures dating back centuries. Surrounded by water, picturesque Spanish moss and delta wildlife, it’s beauty charms all who grace its shores. With an emerging foodie scene, rich in local delicacies, and some serious shopping chops, Mobile Bay is attracting tourists from all over searching for a unique beachfront destination.
The Scout Guide Mobile Bay editors Katie McNeil and Jamie Conger are sisters both born and raised in Mobile who grew up spending their summers on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay and down at the Gulf of Mexico. We asked them to share a collection of their favorite local spots for the ultimate summer weekend in their hometown. Here, they share a mix of favorite old-standbys and new hot must-stops.
WHERE TO STAY
Treat yourself to a memorable experience at the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa (One, Grand Blvd., Point Clear). This resort is situated on gorgeous, waterfront grounds, ideal for taking in the area’s renowned sunsets. Complete with cascading pools, an 18-hole golf course and luxurious spa, this resort caters to luxury seekers. A stay at the historic Malaga Inn (359 Church Street, Mobile) feels like you’re stepping back in time. Book a balcony room overlooking the hotel’s old courtyard for a special treat. The Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa (64 S. Water St., Mobile) is a more modern option right in the heart of bustling downtown Mobile.
WHAT TO DO
“Our culture celebrates family, food and our rich history. And as most Mobilians are quick to remind you, the original Mardi Gras celebration, back in 1703, was founded right here in Mobile,” McNeil shares. Today Mardi Gras is celebrated in the region 365 days a year with mystic societies, balls and parades. To learn more about the mysteries and traditions surrounding the celebration, check out the Carnival Museum (355 Government St., Mobile, AL) where you can see the intricate crowns, scepters and robes of Mardi Gras monarchs and climb an actual float for the perfect Instagramable moment.
For more photo ops, take a sunset walk along the boardwalk in Point Clear (which begins at the Grand Hotel). As you stroll under the legendary moss-draped oak trees the area is known for you’ll have a chance to admire some of the oldest homes in Mobile Bay. Do stop to watch the sunset, though.
Take a land and water tour of downtown Mobile with the Gulf Coast Ducks (150 S. Royal St.), where you’ll learn all about the history of our port city and splash into the Mobile River on this fun, adventurous tour. A visit to Mobile wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the “Mighty A,” the USS Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park (2703 Battleship Parkway). This illustrious vessel served in World War II and is the sixth ship in the United States Navy named after the state of Alabama. The park is dedicated to all Alabama citizens who’ve served in the United States Armed Forces, and the numerous artifacts, exhibits, and displays make it one of America’s most unique military attractions.
“The water is by far the best thing about where we live,” McNeil says. “The Bay is in our back yard, just looking at it relaxes you.”
There are plenty of beaches and waterways at your fingertips in Mobile. Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, Mobile Bay, Dog River, Dauphin Island, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Weeks Bay, Fowl River and Magnolia Springs each just a short drive away, are some of McNeil and Conger’s favorite spots.
WHERE TO SHOP
In Mobile, fantastic shopping abounds, but it does require a car. A must on the sister’s list is a drive out to Charles Phillips Antiques and Architecturals (4505 Laurendine Rd. Theodore, AL). “It’s a bit of a trek into the country, but everyone who visits knows why it is so special,” Conger says. “They have eight warehouses full of antiques and unique treasures from all over the world.”
The showroom at Atchison Home (921 Dauphin St. Mobile) is also a wonderful place to find inspiration for your own home. McCoy’s Outdoors (3498 Springhill Ave.) is a locally owned and operated shop with infinite fishing gear and experts who can tell you where to catch the best trout and red fish, depending on your preference. If camo isn’t necessarily your thing, then head to Debra’s Boutique (4068 Old Shell Rd.) and Hemline (4356 Old Shell Rd.) for two beautifully curated collections of women’s fashion and accessories.
Downtown Fairhope is brimming with quaint shops, including Sadie’s (5 South Section St. Fairhope), a favorite spot for the locals. Gigi and Jay’s (400 Fairhope Ave. Fairhope) carries classic children’s clothing from infants up to juniors. East Bay Clothiers (39 N. Section St. Fairhope) stocks men’s and women’s tailored looks.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
For the quintessential bayside meal, and to try some of the region’s freshest catches, then head to Bluegill (3775 Battleship Pkwy., Spanish Fort) or Felix’s Fish Camp (1530 Battleship Pkwy., Spanish Fort). They are both located right between Mobile and Fairhope, a great stop over in between your shopping adventures. At either spot you’ll be treated to a gorgeous view of the Bay and Delta. At Felix’s, order a Chrissy for dessert (a drink made with hazelnut liqueur, vodka and ice cream). For a different kind of vista, snag a table at Dauphin’s (107 St. Francis St.), with views of the Mobile River, Mobile Bay and Downtown from 36 stories high.
When you’re eating in Mobile and the surrounding areas, the sisters advise you order blue crabs caught right from the bay. Their two favorite dishes are fried crab claws or West Indies salad (jumbo lump crab meat with vinegar and salt and pepper). These are what the locals do best, and you can’t quite find the same anywhere else in the world.
“Noble South (203 Dauphin St. Mobile) is a restaurant after our own heart,” McNeil notes. “Chef Chris Rainosek brought the farm to table concept to Mobile and solely uses ingredients that are in season and sourced from local farmers. He creates culinary magic while accomplishing his mission of supporting locals.”
For a Mobile institution that’s been around for generations, pop into The Dew Drop Inn (1808 Old Shell Rd. Mobile). The sisters recommend you order the basics done right, especially the fried seafood. “We grew up going here after every sporting event for a quick bite to eat,” Conger says. “Our grandparents used to go on dates here, it’s a staple to Mobile natives for a good reason.”
Master Joe’s (21 N. Section Street Fairhope) is known to locals for its creative and delicious sushi rolls. Sylvia’s Biscuits + Poboys (150 S. Royal St. Mobile) is a newly opened breakfast and lunch spot that’s already serving some of the best poboys in the region. For another local staple, try their pimento cheese and conecuh sausage biscuits — just what every Southerner craves. If you’re in the market for a healthier option, try Soul Bowlz (68 N. Bancroft St. Fairhope) for an acai bowl that will fill you with nutrients and cool you off.
Tongue & Groove Drinkery (77 S. Section St. Fairhope) and The Haberdasher (113 Dauphin St. Mobile) are both purveyors of fine handcrafted cocktails. McNeil likes to change it up and ask for the bartender’s choice martini at Tongue & Groove and Conger’s favorite is the Jerk Store at the Haberdasher — a refreshing cocktail and a Seinfeld reference all in one. Both agree that the cold beer at Fairhope Brewing Company (914 Nichols Ave. Fairhope) hits the spot during the hot Alabama summer.
For more insider’s tips on what to do and see in Mobile Bay, follow Jamie and Katie on The Scout Guide Mobile Bay’s Instagram.