Dauphin Island Visitor’s Guide: How To Spend 2 Days


What should you do if you only have 2 days on Dauphin Island? This guide will take you to the best spots.

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, a weekend, or a vacation. Located on a narrow barrier island south of Mobile Bay, this Gulf Coast barrier island offers beautiful white sand beaches and a laid-back vibe.

Dauphin Island Visitor’s Guide: What To Do in 2 Days

Camping on Dauphin Island
East End Beach, Sunny in the camper, Pablo at sunrise.

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Day 1: Explore the East End

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 one entire day exploring what this side of the island offers.

Tour the Historic Fort Gains

Front of Fort Gains historic fort.

Fort Gaines is a neat place to spend an hour 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.

Visitors can tour the inside and outside. Fort Gains is right next to the water and the East End Beach.

Visit the Estuarium and Dauphin Island Sea Lab

Estuarium entrance.

The Estuarium and Sea Lab are located across the street from Fort Gaines. The facility is a place where you can learn about sea life and aquatic ecosystems. Visitors can see live creatures that normally inhabit the area and learn about their characteristics, behaviors, and habitats.

This is an excellent spot to visit, and it’s open year-round. It has 31 aquariums with over 100 species of marine life.

Hang Out at the East End Beach

East End Beach.

After exploring Fort Gaines and the Estuarium, take a walk over to the East End Beach. The white sand is perfect, and it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.

The beach is also close to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. The bird sanctuary trails go from the beaches into the coastal forest and marsh. Keep your eyes peeled for nesting sea turtles from May through November.

Hike Around the Trails in the Audubon Bird Sanctuary

Audubon Bird Sanctuary boardwalk.

The Audubon Bird Sanctuary is a place for people who want to explore more of the outdoors. This sanctuary is known for its wide variety of birds. We saw turtles and lots of birds. There are beautiful trails and boardwalks. You might even catch a glimpse of an alligator or nesting Osprey.

Day 2: Explore the Central and West End

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. So pack your car for the beach and some light walking.

Spend Most of the Day at 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 offers a long, beautiful stretch of white sand. There are sandbars that help make the water calmer — and more clear. It is perfect for swimming.

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

Dauphin Beach is dog-friendly.

There are a few shops and restaurants across the street from the parking lot.

Drive By the Goat Tree Reserve

Giant oak tree “goat tree”

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. It’s just fun to see — you don’t need to spend a lot of time here.

Stop and Walk Around Shell Mound Park

Indian Shell Mound Park sign.

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

Catch the Sunset at the West End Beach

West end beach view of sugar white sand.

The West End Beach is another popular public beach, and it’s a great place to spend your time.

This particular beach and area of the island is known for its sunsets. Photographers flock here to take pictures of the sky changing colors above the water.

Pets are not allowed at the West End Beach.

Day Trip Ideas From Dauphin Island

If you have more time on the island, you might enjoy taking the ferry to Fort Morgan and then onto Gulf Shores.

Taking the Mobile Bay Ferry To Fort Morgan

Riding the Mobile Bay Ferry from Dauphin Island, Alabama
Riding the Mobile Bay Ferry from Dauphin Island, Alabama

If you are interested in learning 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 see the bay. Fort Morgan is a good place to visit if you are a history buff.

Exploring Gulf Shores

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 the “Riviera of the South.

There are so many things to see and do, as well as miles of beaches.

Gulf Shores State Park has a wonderful campground. Check out our travel guide: 15 Amazing Reasons You’ll Want to Camp at Gulf Shores State Park.

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?

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

Is Dauphin Island Worth Visiting?

Yes, it’s one of Alabama’s best-kept secrets. 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. You can drive around the entirety of Dauphin Island in about one hour, provided you’re not stalling at all the beautiful places to stop and enjoy the Gulf views.

Where To Stay

Dauphin Island Campground

Dauphin Island Campground.

The Dauphin Island 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 how to stay at the Dauphin Island Campground and our personal experience.

Dauphin Island Rentals

Cute little buildings on the island.

Private vacation rentals provide an alternative to camping, hotels, and motels. They can sometimes be more private than a hotel 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. Booking.com is one of several vacation rental services you can use to find just what you’re looking for on Dauphin Island.

You can also find listings on VRBO and Airbnb.

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.

Dauphin Island is also pet-friendly.

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

Final Thoughts

There are so many things to do on Dauphin Island. From sunbathing at the beach to exploring the trails and historic sites, we hope you have a great trip.

Ashlee & Pablo

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Ashlee Fechino

Ashlee Fechino is an outdoor recreation and travel writer sharing the best-kept secrets that aren’t in your typical guidebook. Her goal is to inspire people to travel with a sense of adventure by sharing hidden gems across the U.S. and beyond. She is married to an expat Argentine, Pablo. They camp in their Aliner often and love wandering the world. Follow their latest adventures on Instagram @thehappinessfxn.


  1. Destiny on July 8, 2021 at 11:52 am

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

    • Ashlee Fechino on July 9, 2021 at 3:14 pm

      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.

  2. Kez on July 8, 2021 at 11:20 am

    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 on July 9, 2021 at 3:14 pm

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

  3. MacKenzie on July 7, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    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 on July 8, 2021 at 7:28 am

      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.

  4. Jasmine on July 7, 2021 at 5:18 pm

    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 on July 7, 2021 at 5:24 pm

      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!

  5. Emmy on July 7, 2021 at 5:06 pm

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

    • Ashlee Fechino on July 7, 2021 at 5:22 pm

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

  6. Burt Randall on July 6, 2021 at 4:37 pm

    This sounds exciting, as I love the beach !!

    • Ashlee Fechino on July 7, 2021 at 12:24 pm

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

  7. Cristina Sala on July 6, 2021 at 8:19 am

    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 on July 7, 2021 at 12:23 pm

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

  8. Burt Randall on July 4, 2021 at 5:33 pm

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

    • Ashlee Fechino on July 7, 2021 at 12:22 pm

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