Relaxation - Southern Style
Ala. Gulf Shores is the southernmost coastal region of
Alabama, 50 miles east of Mobile and 35 miles west of
Pensacola. It’s a barrier island, 30,000 acres with 32 miles
of sugar-white sand beaches and beautiful blue-green
Gulf of Mexico waters.
From Tampa International, it was a 75-minute flight to
the Pensacola Airport, then a short drive to the Alabama
Gulf Coast. The beaches are so different compared with
our Central Florida beaches, with huge sand dunes, tall
sea oats swaying in the breeze and winding boardwalks
to the beach. Just taking it all in starts to make you feel
relaxation is just around the corner.
We arrived at our accommodations quite late, so
imagine our surprise when we awoke to a stunning
view overlooking the Gulf of Mexico with all those
never-ending dunes and boardwalks winding themselves
down to the beach.
Not only were we right on the beach, but we were
staying in an absolutely wonderful B&B called The
Beach House Bed & Breakfast. This is a big, rambling
wooden house high atop the dunes, with large porches
overlooking the gulf, complete with wicker chairs,
swings and hammocks – just perfect to help you relax
and enjoy the ocean breeze and views.
The main beach house, with an extensive library
(actually each and every room has its own books) is home
to the kitchen and hot tub. Each morning you enjoy a
made-to-order breakfast. At other times you just help
yourself to the snacks, sodas, beer and wine that The
Beach House provides.
We stayed in the new additional beach house, separate
from the main house. It’s closer to the beach and has only
four rooms. Our room was incredibly appointed (as they
all are), with wonderful Laura Ashley-type furniture
and a very large and comfy couch and loveseat.
We had our own little kitchen area complete with
stainless steel coffee maker, refrigerator with icemaker
and dishwasher. Creature comforts included a Jacuzzi
bathtub complete with bath salts and candles and the
most heavenly bed in which I ever have slept. It was a
king-size poster feather bed, the kind where you just
sink into a down comforter and pillows and never want
to climb out because you feel so relaxed.
After enjoying a wonderful breakfast of fancy egg
custard French toast, maple sausage and fresh berries
prepared by Diane Childs, our innkeeper, we’re off for
an adventurous first day with a guided tour of the Bon
Secour National Wildlife Refuge.
from constantly changing beach dunes to rolling pineoak woodlands. At the start you are literally walking
through a forest, under the shade of all the thick trees,
and suddenly you see the terrain changes, ending up
at the sandy beach of the Gulf of Mexico.
Ranger Nancy, our guide, was very knowledgeable
and talked about the unique wildlife and habitats. One
of the more interesting creatures that live here is the
Alabama beach mouse. This poor little guy was added
to the endangered list in 1985 and contributes to the
plant life by distributing seeds to help perpetuate the
very important sea oats which help stem
erosion of the sand dunes.
There is a lot to do in this national refuge, with fresh and saltwater fishing, birding, kayaking and the many hiking
trails open and used year round. It’s a great location for nature photographers and truly is a little slice of heaven.
After our hike, we had certainly worked up an appetite. We headed for Jesse’s Restaurant, located in the Moore
Brothers Village Market in Magnolia Springs, Ala. It’s a historic, quaint town located on the banks of the Magnolia
River. The river was very important to early settlers as it was the only means of delivering communication to the outside
world. To this day, mail is still delivered via boat to those living along this beautiful spring-fed river.
Magnolia Springs is a beautiful community, and I do mean community. Everybody knows each other and says
hello, and it’s obvious they all just love their little town.