Nestled along the shoreline of Mobile Bay, lies the charming city of Fairhope, Alabama. Founded in 1894, Fairhope was the beacon of a model colony, based on equality, co-operation and free from private monopolies.
Today, the city is more of a boutique seaside resort and a known affluent suburb of Mobile city located across the bay.
Fairhope is famous for its “jubilee”, a natural phenomenon which occurs on the shores, when flounder, crabs and shrimp swarm in high density along the shallow bay. This celebrated regular event provides fisherman with easy to catch seafood and attracts tourists from miles around.
Visitors to Fairhope are blessed with exceptional shopping, dining, nature preserves, and there’s also plenty of beautiful beaches to enjoy.
I’m from Alabama and visited Fairhope numerous times, I think it’s a great holiday destination with lots to do in the area. I’m sure you will enjoy my list of the best things to do in Fairhope:
1. Fairhope Municipal Pier
Offering stunning views over Mobile Bay, Fairhope Municipal Pier is one of my favorite attractions of the city.
Whether you wish to walk in the park admiring tended rose gardens, cycle the promenade or picnic by the shores, you can do it all here.
Sit by the fountain or take your binoculars to spot herons and rare sea birds.
If you venture to the pier just before sunset, you can gain exceptional photo opportunities, or you can take a romantic waterfront stroll before dinner.
2. Fairhope Avenue
Fairhope Avenue is the heart of the city. With an abundance of independent shops, art galleries and book stores, it’s the perfect place to pick up handicrafts, antiques or a souvenir of your Alabama stay.
This quaint city has a relaxed feel to it, and locals welcome newcomers, displaying good old fashioned Southern hospitality.
There are superb restaurants serving International and regional cuisine, where you can enjoy a light lunch or elegant dinner with friends and loved ones. I had dinner recently at Pearl Restaurant, which I can highly recommend, especially if you enjoy seafood.
A special time to stroll along Fairhope Avenue is around the festive season, when it is lit a thousand bulbs and decorations to get you into the Christmas spirit.
3. Fairhope Museum of History
Fairhope Museum of History tells the fascinating story of the city, beginning with Native American Indian settlers, to the reformists whose goal was to achieve a single tax utopia, to the present day.
The museum houses a collection of artifacts ranging from early clay pottery to Civil War and Mobile Bay boat exhibits.
It is set in an historic Spanish Mission-style building which dates back to 1928 and is open 5 days a week.
If you enjoy delving into local history like I do, don’t miss this superb educational facility in Downtown Fairhope.
4. Weeks Bay Reserve
Weeks Bay Reserve sits 11 miles southeast of Fairhope where the rivers meet the sea.
This superb reserve is one of 25 in the area which aims to protect shorelines and estuary waters of Mobile Bay for education and research.
The nearby visitor center exhibits animal displays and indigenous plants and offers visitors the opportunity to take a self-guided nature trail through wetlands, forests and marshes.
I think It’s a perfect day out for those interested in discovering more about diverse eco-systems and local wildlife of Alabama.
5. Eastern Shore Art Center
Founded in 1954 by local artists, Eastern Shore Art Center has grown from a one-room gallery to five exhibition galleries and four teaching studios.
With a whole host of monthly exhibits, adult and children art classes, and regular organised art walks, it’s a great place to learn about art, and unleash your own creative talents.
The center boasts a sculpture trail, gift shop and galleries feature art, ceramics and woodwork from Alabama artists.
6. Tolstoy Park
Tolstoy Park is home to the Henry Stuart House, built by an Englishman of the same name who emigrated to America.
Henry was living in Idaho when he was advised to move to a warmer climate due to a health condition. He purchased the land outside Fairhope and named it Tolstoy Park.
He made this land his home for almost 20 years, building the so-called ‘Hermit House’, growing his own food and using a loom to weave rugs in his spare time.
The domed house, in which Henry Stuart lived is about 14 feet in diameter with two skylights in the round roof.
The house has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and a novel based on Henry Stuart’s life ‘The Poet of Tolstoy Park’ was released in 2005. It’s an interesting park to visit if you are interested in learning more about local characters, architecture and history.
More on Alabama: 30 Amazing Hidden Gems in Alabama
7. Fairhope Brewing Company
Opened by a group of craft beer connoisseurs in December 2012, the Fairhope Brewing Company began with just 2 beers on tap – their Everyday Ale and Section Street Wheat.
Today, this trendy brewhouse in central Fairhope has 14 craft beers and a cider on tap with myriad flavors to tempt all taste buds.
Whether you like your ale fruity, crisp or prefer a glass of stout, this brew company has it covered. I tasted a few beers here and really loved ‘La Vida Loca’, a sour ale.
They host live music and trivia nights, where you can mingle with locals and even dance a little, plus children are welcome, so you don’t have to leave the family at home!
8. Gator Alley Boardwalk
If you thought you would only see alligators out in Mobile Bay, think again! Gator Alley Boardwalk, 9 miles north of Fairhope allows you to see these majestic creatures up-close and personal.
The boardwalk is close to apartment blocks, hotels, and office buildings, and if you’re lucky you can see alligators swimming beneath the boardwalk, wandering the shoreline or laying stealthily in the swamps.
There are information boards along the route, but you may have to stay a while to spot the gators as they like to hide.
It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours, but perhaps leave your furry friends at home.
9. Gambino’s Italian Grill
One of the most popular restaurants in Fairhope is Gambino’s Italian Grill.
Located on Laurel Avenue close to the waterfront of Mobile Bay, this restaurant has been family-owned and operated since 1975. Serving a selection of traditional Italian classics and locally-caught seafood, you can enjoy pasta with freshly-made sauces, or a choice of chicken and steak dishes.
Alternatively, try the Shrimp Scampiano pan-fried in Blue-Fox butter, served with ripe tomatoes, the Gulf Triggerfish fillet, or delicious vegetarian cuisine.
Several nights a week, this elegant restaurant has a live pianist accompanying diners as they eat, and you can hire the venue for private events and parties.
10. Marietta Johnson Museum
Marietta Johnson was a pioneer in the field of organic education.
In 1907 she opened a school in Fairhope which vowed to teach children to learn in their own unique way without the need for standardized testing.
The school teaches yoga to children, to allow them to connect with themselves, encourages kids to express their creativity and most importantly, to enjoy playtime! The museum is located inside the school, showcasing a range of artifacts, exhibits, photos and videos which tell the story of organic education and how it has benefited children from 1907 to the present day.
11. Village Point Park Preserve
If you yearn to be at one with nature, I suggest heading north to the city of Daphne and Village Point Park Preserve.
With picturesque walking trails, winding pathways transport you through forests and across swampland to Mobile Bay.
Take a picnic and stay a while at the beach before venturing back to spot wildlife, flowers and trees indigenous to the region.
Also see: 15 Best Things to Do in Daphne, Alabama
12. Rock Creek Golf Club
In a prime location off the eastern shores of Mobile Bay is popular Rock Creek Golf Club.
This is one of Southern Alabama’s best golf courses, designed by veteran architect Earl Stone.
This golf course is suitable for all skill levels with 18 challenging holes stretching over 6,900 yards.
With manicured fairways flanked by trees, pristine greens and an award-winning club house restaurant, it’s the perfect way to spend a relaxing day near Fairhope.
13. Gulf State Park
Just 30 miles southeast of Fairhope lies beautiful Gulf State Park.
With two miles of pure white sandy beaches, piers where you can watch spectacular sunsets, and 25 miles of back-country trails for hiking and cycling, there’s something for everyone.
Whether you wish to hire a kayak, take a Segway Tour or even try your hand at parasailing, you can do it here.
It’s the perfect place for a day trip, and with several retail and dining options in the area, you can stay from dawn till dusk!
14. Orange Beach
Orange Beach, Alabama is known to be one of the best beaches in the world.
Close to Gulf State Park, it’s a place for sun worshiping, water sports and fun activities. With powdery white sands, turquoise waters and a host of stylish hotels and seafront dining locations, you may wish to stay a while.
Visitors can take a cruise out onto the Gulf of Mexico for a spot of dolphin watching or learn a new skill like scuba diving or snorkeling.
Alternatively, kayak or jet ski out to the unspoiled Orange Beach Islands which harbor sea birds, marine mammals and indigenous plant life.
When the sun goes down, waterfront restaurants serve delicious dishes of fresh seafood and southern grill cuisine with Cajun and Creole flavors to suit all tastes and budgets.
Related reading: 12 Best Beaches in Alabama
15. Meaher State Park
If you wish to stay closer to Fairhope, Meaher State Park is just 13 miles north of the city.
The 1,327-acre park located in the Mobile Bay wetlands, is a popular place for walking, picnicking and fishing.
You can stroll along the boardwalk and admire the natural beauty of the delta, or hike along self-guided nature trails to discover flora and fauna of the region.
I visited the nearby 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center, which is very interesting if you wish to learn more about Delta eco-systems. With over 250,000 acres of scenic waterways, wetlands and woodlands, the educational center and exhibit hall teaches you all about the Mobile Delta.
If you fancy heading out onto the water to view the shoreline from a different perspective, you can rent kayaks or take a boat tour from here too.