The Perfect 2 Day Dauphin Island Visitor’s Guide

How to Spend 2-Days on Dauphin Island

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Dauphin Beach

What should you do if you only have 2 days on Dauphin Island? This 2 day Dauphin Island visitor’s guide will take you to the best spots around the island and Mobile Bay. Of course, you can’t pack in everything, but we’ve whittled it down to some of our favorites when we visited during the month of May. During May, the weather was incredible for enjoying the beaches, walking around the island, and sightseeing!

Visiting Dauphin Island is one of the most memorable things you can do if you are in the Mobile Bay area for a few days, weekend, or vacation.

Let’s dive into the perfect 2 day dauphin island visitor’s guide and all the best things to do!


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Dauphin Island Visitor’s Guide

Headquartered on a narrow barrier island south of Mobile Bay, this Gulf Coast island offers beautiful white sand beaches and a laid-back vibe that makes it an easy and relaxing 2 day or weekend excursion.

Day 1 on Dauphin Island

Fort Gains, the Estuarium and Dauphin Island Sea Lab, East End Beach, and Audubon Bird Sanctuary are all located on the island’s east end. It is easy to walk from one place to the next and spend 1 entire day exploring what this side of the island offers.

Fort Gains

Fort Gaines is the perfect place for a few hours of outdoor adventure and sightseeing.

The fort was constructed in 1821 and served as an outpost during the American Civil War. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The fort can be explored on foot. Visitors can enjoy the inside and outside with views of the Gulf. Fort Gains is right next to the water and East End Beach!

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Front of Fort Gains historic fort

The Estuarium and Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Located on the grounds directly north of Fort Gaines is the Estuarium and Sea Lab. As its name indicates, this facility is a place where you can learn about sea life and aquatic ecosystems. Visitors get to see live creatures that normally inhabit the area and learn about their characteristics, behaviors, and habitats. It’s easy enough to make the Estuarium a part of your day-trip adventure.

This is an excellent spot to visit on Dauphin Island, and it’s open year-round. It has 31 aquariums with over 100 species of marine life. It is also a nature center where you can learn about the local ecosystems.

East End Beach

After exploring Fort Gaines and the Estuarium, take a walk over to the East End Beach. This white sand beach is perfect for spending the afternoon. The beach is close to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. The bird sanctuary trails go from the sandy beaches into the coastal forest and marsh.

Keep your eyes peeled for nesting sea turtles during May and November!

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East End beach

Audubon Bird Sanctuary

The Audubon Bird Sanctuary is another excellent place for people who want to explore more of the outdoors along Dauphin Island. This sanctuary is known for its wide variety of birds, and one of the biggest attractions that it offers is viewing live wild animals up-close (we saw turtles and lots of birds). In addition, there are beautiful trails and boardwalks. You might even catch a glimpse of an alligator or nesting Osprey!

Spring is one of the best times for bird watching on Dauphin Island!

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Audubon Bird Sanctuary boardwalk

Day 2 on Dauphin Island

Dauphin Beach, the Goat Tree Reserve, Shell Mound Park, and the West End Beach are all located on the central to west end areas of the island. It is easy to drive from one place to the next and spend one day exploring these areas. So pack your car for the beach and some light hiking!

Dauphin Beach

Dauphin Beach is one of the most popular beaches on the island. It’s located at the southern end of the island, and it offers a long, beautiful stretch of white sand that starts to curve gently into emerald waters as it grows wider. There are sandbars that help make the water calmer – perfect for swimming.

To access the beach, visitors are led by boardwalks and a long pier taking beach-goers out to where the incredible white sand begins.

Dauphin Beach is dog-friendly too!

After you have had fun at the beach, be sure to explore the area. There are a few shops and restaurants that will keep you busy. You might even want to drive further west to walk the West End Beach – or save it for sunset later in the day (more on the West End Beach below).

Goat Tree Reserve

If you are a nature-lover, then you will want to visit the Goat Tree Reserve. This is where you will find huge live Oak trees on the island. The local lore says that goats would climb up these tall trees to escape the alligators at one time – hence the name Goat Trees.

You’ll want to drive or bike here.

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Giant oak tree – “goat tree”

Shell Mound Park

Shell Mound Park is a beautiful place where you can easily spend an hour walking around, taking photos, and relaxing. There are a few interesting historical sites in this park, such as large shell mounds built when people lived here centuries ago. You’ll also want to drive or bike here.

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Indian Shell Mound Park sign

West End Beach

West End Beach is also known as a popular public beach, and it’s another great place to spend your time on Dauphin Island. The sand here is even better than that of other beaches!

This particular beach and area of the island is also known for beautiful sunsets. Every night, photographers flock here to take pictures of the sky changing colors just above the water.

Pets are not allowed at the West End Beach (if you are road-trippin’ with your best friend).

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West end beach view of sugar white sand

Day Trips from Dauphin Island

If you have more time on the island, you might enjoy these other day trip options while enjoying your stay.

Mobile Bay Ferry to Fort Morgan

If you are interested in learning even more about the local history and exploring other attractions, then take a trip on the Mobile Bay Ferry to Fort Morgan. This is an excellent way to enjoy the beautiful bay. Fort Morgan is a fun place to visit if you are a history buff.

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Mobile Bay Ferry to Fort Morgan

Gulf Shores

After visiting Fort Morgan, explore more of the Gulf Shores beaches, and enjoy a seafood lunch at one of many great restaurants. Gulf Shores is known as being the Riviera of the South! There are so many things to see and do as well as miles of Gulf State Park beaches.

Where is Dauphin Island?

From Mobile, Alabama, follow I-10 West out of Mobile until you reach the bridge that connects to this island paradise.

You can also take the Mobile Bay Ferry from Fort Morgan and the Gulf Shores area to arrive near Fort Gains.

Do You Need a Car on Dauphin Island?

We would recommend having a vehicle (or a bike) while you’re on the island to make things easier. Though it is a small island where you can walk or bike to most places – it is 14 miles long.

Having a vehicle just to get to the island makes things a whole lot easier!

Visitors can drive to the island or take the Mobile Bay Ferry.

Is Dauphin Island Worth Visiting?

Yes! It’s a natural wonder and one of the best-kept secrets of Alabama!

The island is connected to land via an overwater concrete bridge. It is entirely surrounded by water, so it feels a bit like an oasis in the middle of the bay. You can drive around the entirety of Dauphin Island in about 1 hour (provided you’re not stalling at all the beautiful places to stop and enjoy the Gulf views).

Where to Stay on Dauphin Island, Alabama

Dauphin Island Campground

Dauphin Island’s only campground is located on the eastern end of the island. It provides easy access to Fort Gains, the Estuarium and Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

The campground has basic sites, which include a picnic table. It has RV hook-ups, showers, and flush toilets. If you are interested in staying here, then be sure to check out the availability and reserve your spot well ahead of time. Read more about the Dauphin Island Campground and our personal experience camping in May (we loved it!).

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Dauphin Island Campground

Dauphin Island VRBO

Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) provides an alternative to camping, hotels, and motels. VRBO can sometimes be much less expensive, more private than a hotel room, and are often more spacious.

If you’re looking for an extended stay on Dauphin Island, then renting a vacation home or condo could be perfect for your needs. VRBO is one of several vacation rental services you can use to find just what you’re looking for on Dauphin Island. In addition, VRBO can help connect you with listing owners who are eager to provide affordable vacation accommodations.

For an excellent selection of budget-friendly beachfront accommodations on Dauphin Island, be sure to check out beachfront on the VRBO website. There are so many cute beach bungalows on the island!

Airbnbs

Another competitor to traditional hotels and motels is Airbnb. If you want to be away from a lot of other tourists, then renting an entire home or condo can really pay off. If you find yourself in need of lodging on Dauphin Island, then exploring what this site has to offer could lead you to your perfect spot!

Check out Dauphin Island Airbnb listings on the Airbnb website.

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Dauphin Island colorful bungalows

Dauphin Island vs. Gulf Shores

Both Dauphin Island and Gulf Shores have beautiful beaches. However, if you are looking for fewer crowds and a more secluded beach vacation, Dauphin Island is the way to go.

Gulf Shores is more extensive, has more nightlife, shopping, restaurants, and places to stay. As a result, Gulf Shores has more of a resort beach town feel. In contrast, Dauphin Island has more of a laid-back local vibe.

Dauphin Island Visitor’s Guide Summary

If you have 2 days to spend on Dauphin Island, then be sure to do something memorable! You can explore other parts of the island and take day trips, or you can just relax on the beach all day long!

There are so many things to do on Dauphin Island!

We hope you have a great trip!

Where are you headed next?

You might also enjoy our other articles about Alabama:

Dauphin Island

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We’d love to hear from you!

Are you someone who likes to sightsee – or do you plan to spend all day at the beaches!

We hope you find our Dauphin Island visitor’s guide helpful. Please feel free to ask us any questions. We’d love to help you.

About The Author

Ashlee Fechino

I’m a travel and outdoor recreation writer with dreams to inspire happiness through an outdoorsy lifestyle. I want to help people live their best life by sharing free adventure guides. The USA has been my backyard most of my life, and it’s the place where you’ll find most of our escapades! I’m married to an expat Argentine, chihuahua Mom, and am passionate about the environment. I hold a BS degree in Biology and MS in Environmental Policy & Sustainability. We camp in our Aliner often, love road trips, hiking, and SUP’ing!

16 COMMENTS

  1. Burt Randall | 4th Jul 21

    This sounds great !! HAPPY 4th of July to you’guys too !!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 7th Jul 21

      Hi Uncle Burt – thank you for reading and commenting. We hope you had a nice 4th of July as well!

  2. Cristina Sala | 6th Jul 21

    Me parecio muy bello la visita a la Isla Dauphin. Las playas con su arena blanca.
    Fort Gains, lugar historico. Los acuarios para apreciar la fauna marina.El Santuario de Audubon,La reserva de arboles de Cabras y lo que dice la leyenda. Cuanto hay para apreder en ese viaje
    Tambien veo el que pudieron hacer piccnic. Cuanto disfrute,

    • Ashlee Fechino | 7th Jul 21

      Hola Cristina, gracias por tu apoyo. ¡Significa mucho para nosotros!

  3. Burt Randall | 6th Jul 21

    This sounds exciting, as I love the beach !!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 7th Jul 21

      Hi Uncle Burt! Beaches are just the best! Hope you have a great summer.

  4. Emmy | 7th Jul 21

    What a great tutorial for Dauphin Island! I love that you mentioned spring is the best time to be there. So wonderful!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 7th Jul 21

      Hi Emmy – thanks for reading and leaving a comment. We hope you have a beautiful summer.

  5. Jasmine | 7th Jul 21

    I have really never heard of this spot! I live on the east coast and since COVID I have been looking for spots closer to me that I would never normally visit. Those colorful bungalows are SO for me. Thanks for giving me some ideas on smaller places I normally wouldn’t travel to!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 7th Jul 21

      Hi Jasmine! We love hearing this helped you discover a new place to explore. So cool. There are lots of really cute funky colored beach bungalows. Check out the west side of the island. Have fun!

  6. MacKenzie | 7th Jul 21

    I always love a beautiful oak tree! I love that they are called goat trees here. Makes me wish there were still goats roaming about so I could see one hop up, lol. Dauphin Island really seems like a wonderful place for a weekend.

    • Ashlee Fechino | 8th Jul 21

      Hi MacKenzie – we thought the same thing about the Goat Trees! It would have been way neat to see goats climbing around. I bet you’d have fun at Dauphin Island. There are a lot of neat things to do.

  7. Kez | 8th Jul 21

    Islands are not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Alabama, but I’ll certainly be putting this one on my list.

    • Ashlee Fechino | 9th Jul 21

      Hi Kez – we thought the same thing. But Dauphin Island was so awesome! We can’t wait to go back.

  8. Destiny | 8th Jul 21

    Loving all of the nature activities to do here! And I would especially love to stay in one of those adorable bungalows!

    • Ashlee Fechino | 9th Jul 21

      Hi Destiny – Thanks for commenting. Dauphin Island has a lot of outdoor things to do. That is what drew us there! So fun. Have a great summer.

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