Sunday, July 12, 2009

Dauphin Island Beach

When my family decided to move to the Gulf Coast a few years ago, one of the factors that influenced our decision was the fact that we would be living closer to the beach. No more waiting for vacations to roll around! We could bury our toes in the sand any time we wanted to. We promised ourselves we would hit the surf every weekend. We lied. We went a couple of times and then we just stopped going altogether. The fact is we're just too lazy for the beach. It requires packing lunches and putting on sunscreen and dragging the cooler out of storage. Ice has to be purchased and beach towels have to be located. We are not an organized bunch.

Last weekend we attempted to revive our love affair with the beach. The whole family packed up and headed for Dauphin Island's public beach. Dauphin Island is a barrier island located in the mouth of Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. The island offers a great many attractions but this week I'm concentrating solely on the public beach. The first thing you should probably know is that parking is free but its limited. We arrived late in the afternoon, as some of the early birds were leaving, so we found an empty space pretty quickly. On holidays, like the Fourth of July, you must arrive early to find parking. DO NOT park in any No Parking or handicap spots! Law enforcement will come by and give you a $50 parking ticket.

Adjacent to the parking lot are the outdoor showers, restrooms, playground and picnic tables. The picnic tables are covered so they provide a little shade while you enjoy your lunch. There are no permanent grills so many people bring there own. This entire area is more utilitarian than aesthetically pleasing but it is clean and well maintained. I don't advise walking barefoot through here. There are sharp rocks in the parking lot and stickers in the grassy areas.

As we climbed the short distance over the sand dunes along the boardwalk there were three large pavilions available for groups to use. All three pavilions were being used last weekend by large families who had brought along grills and assorted beach paraphernalia. I got the impression that they had been there all day. If you want to acquire one of these prize spots for your next family reunion I would advise you arrive early.

So, once we topped the dunes we could see the beautiful white sand beaches that the Gulf Coast is so well known for. The Gulf is about 100 yards away from where the sand starts. A hundred yards isn't far, unless you're toting coolers, umbrellas, beach chairs and toys through the hot sand. My advice is pack lightly. Better yet, use the service offered at the Dauphin Island Pier store on the pier. The pier is opened from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday and the store offers a variety of snacks, drinks, beach toys, T-shirts and sun screen. For $5.00 you can hire someone to carry your stuff down to the beach for you. After spending a day relaxing on the beach the last thing you want to do is lug all that heavy stuff back up to your car. Pay the $5.00 and let someone else do it for you. We packed a lunch of sandwiches and chips to keep costs down. If you don't want to picnic there are many small, informal restaurants close by.

The beach itself was wonderful. Although the heat index at home was 102 degrees it was much cooler and less humid on the water. The ocean itself was warm but not uncomfortably so. The waves were small, really just swells, so we were able to go swimming. I should note that there are no life guards on this beach so you swim at your own risk. Please check the beach forecast ahead of time, beware of rip currents when the warning is posted and keep a very close eye on your children.

On the east side of the pier there is a lagoon that is shallow during low tide so its very toddler friendly. There are no waves on the lagoon to knock small kids down. The water gets deep enough for jet skis and small boats but my three year old grandson had a great time playing in the shallow end. He was excited to discover that the few shells we found all had crabs in them and that there were schools of tiny fish in the water for him to swim with. He even loved chasing the sea gulls. My only complaint about this area is that most of the sand around the lagoon is an ugly shade of green and smells funky. That's because the area is under water during high tide.

My oldest son doesn't care much for the salt water so he dug himself a beach chair in the sand. It provided shade and made a great spot to nap and people watch. My youngest son spent his time in the ocean with his dad bobbing in the swells. My daughter and I enjoyed quietly floating in the lagoon on innertubes. Everyone found there own way to enjoy this terrific summer-time location. Dauphin Island beach is great no matter who you are. We saw people flying kites, fishing, swimming, playing football, digging in the sand, reading and sun bathing. Folks were grilling, dancing, playing cards and making music. Best of all it's free. You don't have to spend a dime to relax at Dauphin Island Beach. Go revive your love affair with the beach.


Baxwrtr said...

Thanks for the great review of Dauphin Island, Renee. I agree that it is one of the Gulf Coast's best getaways.

The Fat Chick said...

I stopped by to read your blog and feed the fish.