At the southern tip of the US, Alabama is a small state rich in US History. While it has some bustling metropolitan centers such as Mobile or Montgomery, there are many small towns off the beaten path that offer rest and relaxation and a break from the daily grind that some of us so desperately need. Whether you want to get away to the sprawling countryside or a seaside town for some famous fried shrimp, there are plenty of options for any weary city soul in need of some quiet and Southern Comfort food.
Check out our list of the best small towns to visit in Alabama!
1. Fairhope, Alabama
Fairhope is located in Baldwin County. On a sloping plateau, the town has great views of Mobile Bay. Fairhope was founded in 1894 by some freethinking radicals who wanted to establish a “Single-Tax” colony (one tax is paid by the local government). It continued to be radical in its thinking, establishing a School for Organic Education here in 1907. However, even though their Single-Tax Corporation still operates, it is now more of a resort destination than the utopian experiment of the past.
Spend some time relaxing in style here. Take a hike out to the Weeks Bay Nature Reserve, or go on a horseback riding tour at Oak Hollow Farm. Play a couple of rounds at Rock Creek Golf Club, or enjoy some antiquing at Southern Antiques and Accents. Get comfortable at Bay Breeze Bed and Breakfast and enjoy walking down along the cliffs overlooking Mobile Bay – remember to bring your camera or sketchbook.
2. Mooresville, Alabama
A town in Limestone County, Mooresville is in the northern part of the state. It is one of the oldest incorporated towns in Alabama, and still resembles a quaint 19th century village. Their post office is the oldest still in operation in Alabama and the entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places! When you visit, you might recognize some of the town already – it was the primary filming location for the Disney film Tom and Huck.
Wander the picket fence lined streets and have a cup of coffee at JaVa.Mooresville – we recommend trying the lemonade and apple pie. Take a personalized walking tour with a resident and pay a visit to the Stagecoach Inn and Tavern. Town meetings are still held here! At 1818 Farms, you can buy all sorts of goodies from organic eggs to lavender linen spray, or satisfy your sweet tooth at Lyla’s Little House, always full of sweets.
3. Mountain Brook, Alabama
Mountain Brook is in Jefferson County, and one of the most affluent towns in the state of Alabama. It was developed as a residential area of estate-sized lots set in the amazing scenery and nature of Red Mountain and Shades Mountain Ridges. Pay this community a visit to appreciate their winding scenic roads and laid back environment.
A place that truly appreciates the finer things in life, after you have enjoyed nature, stop in for a drink at Dram Whisky Bar, or try a cigar at Vitola Fine Cigars. You can treat yourself to a fine dining experience at Daniel George Restaurant before settling in for the night at Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook.
4. Tuscumbia, Alabama
Tuscumbia is the county seat of Colbert County, and was founded in 1816 by the Dixon Family. They made a deal with Chief Tucumseh for the Tscumbia Valley and began to build their homes there. After changing names a few times, in 1822, the town was officially dubbed Tuscumbia after the Chief Rainmaker of the Chickasaws.
This sleepy agricultural community was the hometown of Helen Keller and the location of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. You can still visit the Birthplace of Helen Keller here! Tuscumbia even has a Key Underwood Coon Dog Memorial Graveyard. Don’t forget to stop in at Rattlesnake Saloon or go hiking at the Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve.
5. Eufaula, Alabama
Located in Barbour County, Eufaula sits on the land along the Chattahoochee River that was once occupied by three Creek tribes. Although originally included in the Creek Indian Territory, white settlers began encroaching on the property until federal troops had to forcibly remove them. Eventually, the Creeks ceded land that allowed outsiders to settle here legally, and Eufaula was formed by the mid-1830s.
Much of the original character of the town has been preserved in the Seth Lore and Irwinton Historic District. Wander through here and peruse the shops, or head out the Lakepoint Resort State Park – they have boat rentals there, too. Hike out to Yoholo Micco, the Creek Indian Trail with views of the lake and town, or the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge. Refuel at Blue Moon Coffee Shop and enjoy some southern food at Barb’s Country Kitchen.
6. Fort Payne, Alabama
Fort Payne is the county seat of DeKalb County, and used to be where Willstown, a significant Cherokee village, was located. Sequoyah, a silversmith, lived here and is the one who invented the Cherokee syllabary, thus turning Cherokee into a written language. Willstown was founded by after a mixed race man named Will, but later tragically became a fort used to intern Cherokees before they were forcibly relocated to Oklahoma, and thus becoming what is Fort Payne today.
Despite the sad history, when here, you should visit the Little Canyon National Preserve and DeSoto State Park. Marthas Falls are also nearby. Stop in at Orbix Hot Glass to see some beautiful glass blowing, or go antiquing at Big Mill Antique Mall. Enjoy a lovely meal at Vintage 1889 or have some excellent BBQ at Sally’s Smokin Butt BBQ. If you’re too full to drive, you can always stay over at Fort Payne Inn.
7. Mentone, Alabama
A town in DeKalb county, Mentone is located atop Lookout Mountain and has the highest elevation of any town in the state. Named after a town by the same name in France, Mentone is in the Ridge and Valley region of the Appalachian Mountains. You’ll find there are plenty of mountain-top views and waterfalls to enjoy.
While you’re visiting, be sure to take a trip out to Desoto Falls or Cloudmont Ski Resort if you’re here in the winter. Attend services at Sallie Howard Memorial Baptist Church and listen to the gospel choir. You can always find offbeat treasures at White Elephant Antiques Gallery or Moon Lake Trading Company. Have some lunch at Wildflower Cafe or kick back at Mentone Mountain View Inn.
8. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores is located in Baldwin County on the Gulf of Mexico, and is the furthest-south settlement in Alabama. Now a tourist destination because of its location, people flock to the town for the beach views and ocean breeze. Especially ideal for golf lovers, Gulf Shores is home to two top-rated golf resorts in Alabama – Craft Farms and Kiva Dunes.
Even if golf isn’t your cup of tea, there are plenty of other ways to keep yourself busy: Fishing, boating, watersports and dolphin watching are just a few examples. Walk down the Gulf State Park Fishing Pier or visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Escape to a natural habitat at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge or have some fun at Waterville USA! Relax at Island Winds East and enjoy your beach vacation.
9. Monroeville, Alabama
Located in Monroe County, Monroeville is the hometown of two prominent writers: Truman Capote and Harper Lee. After the lasting fame of the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, tourism has continued to be drawn to this town, and the Alabama Legislature designated Monroeville as the “Literary Capital of Alabama”.
Visit Monroeville and check out the County Courthouse and Heritage Museum (The courthouse has been restored to its 1930s version.). The museum maintains and operates six historic sites in the county that display the area’s rich history. Spend an afternoon at Rikard’s Mill Historical Park, or the Capote Marker where Truman Capote spent his childhood. Have some authentic southern food at David’s Catfish House and maybe pick up a souvenir copy of To Kill a Mockingbird to bring along with you.
10. Magnolia Springs, Alabama
Magnolia Springs is located in Baldwin County at the headwaters of the Magnolia River. Previously dependent on boat and steamship traffic as well as turpentine distillation, the distilleries were destroyed in the Civil War when the town was about to be captured by the Union soldiers. The Magnolia River still remains an important lifeline for the area, and is protected by the state.
Visit this quaint town – many of its buildings are National Historic Landmarks, such as Moore’s Grocery. You can also play a round of golf or two at Magnolia Springs, or walk along the river a ways. Why not get a view from up in the sky and take a hot air balloon ride at Taking Off Hot Air Balloon, Co.? Enjoy a cozy meal at Jesse’s Restaurant and a peaceful night at Magnolia Springs Bed & Breakfast.
11. Greenville, Alabama
Located in Butler County, Greenfield is also the county seat and is known as the Camellia City. The movement to change the state flower from the goldenrod to the camellia actually began here in Greenville. The town wisely changed its name from Buttsville to Greenville to commemorate South Carolina, the home state of many of its inhabitants. As a random side note: a satellite camp for German prisoners was held here in Greenville during WWII.
Come visit this bustling industrial town and see if you recognize any of the scenes from Sweet Home Alabama (some of the movie was filmed here!). Or, visit in August for the Watermelon Jubilee, a local arts and crafts exposition, or the Butler County Fair in September! Enjoy some authentic barbeque at Bbq 65 or bask in Southern Hospitality at the Martin House Bed and Breakfast Inn.
12. Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach is a town in Baldwin County right on the Gulf of Mexico. Perdido Key, Florida, borders it on the east. Come down to this town if you’re in search of a beach retreat and great sunsets. It’s the perfect place for a swim suit, sun block and some solid you-time.
Take a dolphin cruise with Dolphin Fun Cruises or go whale watching! Hike along the Hugh S Branyon Backcountry Trail or go parasailing. After a long day at the beach, be sure to catch the sunset at the Wharf, or take a helicopter tour! Enjoy some delicious, fresh seafood at Big Fish Restaurant & Bar and enjoy a drink and an ocean view at Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina. Pamper yourself at Turquoise Place for some luxury on the beach.
13. Bayou La Batre, Alabama
Bayou La Batre is in Mobile County. A fishing village known for its harbor and shrimp boats, the locals call Bayou La Batre the “Seafood Capital of Alabama”. It was the first permanent settlement in Mobile County and was founded by Frenchman Joseph Bouzage. Visit this picturesque town; it might already seem familiar to you as it has been featured in files like Forrest Gump and Pirates of the Caribbean!
This town is a must-see for any seafood lovers. Whether you actually go out on the water and experience the bay or sample the local restaurants, you’ll not be disappointed. Walk out to the Lighthouse Restaurant and try the crab claws, or have some delicious seafood at Catalina Bayou. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Sugar Rush and sleep off your food coma at the GuestHouse Inn & Suites Bayou La Batre.
14. Loxley, Alabama
Loxley is located in Baldwin County and is almost exactly at the middle point between Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. The town was founded by John Loxley, a man from Chicago who came down to Alabama to start a lumber camp. After the lumber was exhausted, the town turned to local business and cement block plants until it became a popular suburb location.
Spend some time and disconnect from the city here in Loxley. They have a lovely farm market, Burris Farm Market that is a perfect place to pick up fresh produce. You can also rent kayaks at the Alabama Kayak Adventure or play golf at Steelwood Country Club. Treat yourself to a quiet and relaxing night at Wind Chase Inn or refuel at Sea and Steak Restaurant.
15. Eclectic, Alabama
Eclectic is located in Elmore County. Its unusual name is due to its founder, Dr. Fielder, who was a practitioner of eclectic medicine (an emphasis on botanical remedies from Native Americans that was popular in the 1800s). Come visit if only to say you’ve been here – it’s up to you to decide whether the name fits the town!
At the very least, Eclectic is a good destination for food – try Kickin Chicken or Cottons Alabama Barbeque if you’re hungry. They even have a pub called “The Pub” so you can’t forget the name! Hea5d out to Lake Martin for a beautiful stroll and view, or play a round of golf at Willow Point Golf and Country Club.