If you love the Gulf Coast, you'll fall in love with this scenic town.
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Fairhope, Alabama
Credit: Photo: Benjamin Callahan

There are many reasons to visit Fairhope, Alabama, especially in the off-season. If you love the Gulf Coast, there are few places more scenic, with historic homes on streets lined with live oaks and a charming, walkable downtown. Fairhope sits on bluffs that overlook Mobile Bay, so you're never far from a view of the water. It may not have the white sand beaches of the Florida panhandle, but it has a laid-back vibe that lowers your blood pressure—which may be the only reason you need to go. 

Bluegill Restaurant Sign
Credit: Sid Evans

Where to Stay

The Grand Hotel is beloved by generations of Southerners. Constructed in 1847, it served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War, and the hotel's military past is still honored daily with a ceremonial cannon firing. The sunsets are unmatched, and you can watch them from a brick path surrounding the property or a long fishing pier that shoots out into Mobile Bay.

Where to Eat

Breakfast in Downtown

This little cafe and market, Panini Pete's, in the middle of downtown Fairhope is a local institution, and you can see why. The beignets are perfect—light, flaky, and delicious—and the paninis are good too if you want something savory. Go for breakfast, sit in the courtyard under the giant oak tree, and stroll around town.

Dinner with a View

At Sunset Pointe, you'll experience great food and fantastic views. This restaurant has a gorgeous, breezy location right on Fly Creek Marina, and its menu is fresh, inventive, and fun. The Gulf Snapper Throats are the seasonal favorites—a rich, flavorful cut grilled and served with garlic butter. They also make excellent seafood versions of foods such as Seared Tuna "BLT," Crab Meat Balls, and Grouper "Bights." 

Island-Inspired Dinner

Just outside Mobile and perched right on the Delta, the Bluegill Restaurant feels like it dropped out of a Jimmy Buffett song. With a big deck overlooking the marsh and live music around the clock, it's the kind of place where no one seems to be in a hurry. They're known for being the "home of the flaming oysters," grilled with butter and parmesan, and for their gumbo and crab claws. Signs around the restaurant warn you not to feed the alligators—advice I would heed.

Where to Get Outside

Ride Bikes

Fairhope is a biking town with trails that wind along the coast and through some beautiful historic neighborhoods. Bring your own, rent bikes in town, or if you're staying at the Grand, get them at no extra charge from the hotel.

Enjoy Nature Trails

The Mobile Tensaw Delta, about half an hour from downtown Fairhope, is one of Alabama's natural wonders. At 260,000 acres, it's one of the country's most beautiful and diverse ecosystems. Canoe or paddleboat through the delta along the Bartram Canoe Trail or travel by foot, bike, or horse through the trails. The cypress swamps, marshes, and bays are where you're likely to see bald eagles, kingfishers, egrets, herons, and ibis—not to mention turtles and alligators.

Where to Shop

Find a Good Book

Rick Bragg once wrote, "you cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a serious-faced novelist [in Fairhope]," so it makes sense that the town should have a great bookstore. The store, Page & Palette, features signed copies of books by local authors like Bragg, Winston Groom, Howell Raines, Fannie Flagg, and many others, but also has a charming and knowledgeable staff that loves to make recommendations, even to kids. Get yourself a latte at their coffee shop, turn off your phone, and spend an hour browsing.

Search for Antiques

As a part of the Antique Trail, this downtown Fairhope shop offers thousands of curated antique pieces, home decor, and heirloom items. The shop, Copper Roof Antiques, specially selects all the items for the store, making it something you need to see.