20 Best Things To Do on Dauphin Island

things-to-do-on-dauphin-island-alabama

If you’re looking for the best things to do on Dauphin Island, you’re in the right place. The island is incredible and boasts 7 miles of sugar-white sand public beaches, clear water, beautiful weather, and fewer crowds. Guess what else? The beaches are dog-friendly.

It is the perfect Gulf Coast retreat to relax, recharge, and explore. We share all the best things to do to help you have a great trip. It is one of our favorite places to visit along the Gulf.

Top Things To Do on Dauphin Island

welcome-to-dauphin-island-alabama-sign

This post contains affiliate links, which means we’ll receive a commission if you purchase through our links at no extra cost to you. Please read our full disclosure for more information.

The island itself has so much to offer, especially if you’re into the outdoors. There are trails to walk or bike all over. There are lots of opportunities for bird watching and trying to spot an alligator (that’s right, an alligator). There are also a few green space parks and nature reserves, plus an estuarium and sea lab with public aquariums.

Check Out These Central Alabama Adventures:

Where Is Dauphin Island?

Dauphin Island is one of the Mississippi-Alabama barrier islands located off the coast of Alabama, south of Mobile and the Mobile Bay, in the Gulf of Mexico.

It is accessible via the Dauphin Island Bridge, officially named the Gordon Persons Bridge. Gordon Persons Bridge is an enormous concrete bridge spanning 3 miles of 2-lane traffic from Alabama State Route 193. The bridge takes drivers over the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway connecting the island and the mainland.

The island can also be accessed via the Mobile Bay Ferry from Fort Morgan (west of Gulf Shores). More on the Dauphin Island Ferry below.

Dauphin Island Map of Public Beaches & Destinations

Dauphin Island Beaches

You’re probably wondering about the most essential part of any island holiday, so we’ll get right to it. The beaches on Dauphin Island are stunning. The bright white sand on a sunny day will take your breath away. If you’ve never been to Alabama, you’re in for a treat.

Plan to hit all the beautiful public beaches while visiting. There are 7 miles of public beaches along with a few different access points and areas to park.

20 Best Things To Do on Dauphin Island, Alabama

We explored for a little under a week. Below are 20 popular attractions to see.

1. Explore the Dauphin Island Beach

dauphin-island-dauphin-beach
Great Blue Heron fishing along Dauphin Beach sandbar.

The best beach (in our opinion) is Dauphin Beach. Visitors pay to park and walk along the pier out towards miles of beautiful sugar sand. The water is clear, and the beach is pet-friendly.

There is so much space to spread out while spending the day here.

There is a sand barrier off the coast, and the beach is tucked into a cove, so the water is more protected and calmer, making for an excellent place to swim and soak up some sun.

2. Visit the Dauphin Island East End Beach

dauphin-island-east-beach
Dauphin Island East End Beach.

The East End Beach is located precisely where it is named – on the east end.

There is less parking, and the water is not as clear. However, the east side of the island is home to protected sand dunes for nesting sea turtles, shore, and sea birds.

May and November are excellent times of the year to see nesting sea turtles. The spring is also a great time for bird-watching.

Visitors can even access the East End Beach from the Dauphin Island Campground and the Audubon Bird Sanctuary Trails. So if you’re camping here, you can simply walk to the beach.

The East End Beach is dog-friendly.

3. Check Out the Dauphin Island West End Beach

dauphin-island-west-end-beach
Dauphin Island West End Beach from parking lot.

The West End Beach is located near a popular residential and vacation home area.

Drive towards the west until there is a parking lot. Visitors must pay to park here.

Stretch out for miles along the white-sand beaches and the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This pristine beach is quite long, and there is no development after the parking area.

Dogs are not allowed at the West End Beach.

4. Browse the Historic Fort Gains

dauphin-island-things-to-do-fort-gains
Entrance of Fort Gains.

Iconic for its importance in the American Civil War, Fort Gains guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay for over 150 years. It was constructed between 1819 and 1853 to protect the island.

Visitors can walk around the outside of the fort free of charge.

Admission to enter is $5 (ages 5-12) and $10 for adults.

5. Discover the Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab

dauphin-island-things-to-do-estuarium
Entrance to Estuarium and Sea Lab.

Directly across from Fort Gains, on the east side, is the Estuarium and Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Marine scientists have ongoing research occurring here. You might even be able to see them in action — we did.

Outside of the building, there are boardwalks along the shoreline to read about the science being conducted to monitor the environment. A living marsh boardwalk meanders through the estuarium detailing ecological explanations for visitors to learn more about the importance of the different coastal habitats.

Visitors can walk around the outside of the Sea Lab free of charge.

6. Visit the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Aquarium

Outside of the aquarium.

Inside the Sea Lab, there is a public aquarium. Inside the aquarium is an exhibit hall and sting-ray touch pool, along with 31 aquariums with over 100 species of wildlife that visitors can learn about and admire.

Admission to enter the aquarium is $6 (ages 5-18) and $12 for adults.

7. Visit the Goat Tree Reserve

dauphin-island-goat-tree-reserve
Goat Tree Reserve.

Visit the Goat Tree Reserve to see the island’s iconic giant oak trees. Supposedly, wild goats would climb up the trees back in the day to avoid being eaten by alligators!

The reserve is also home to migratory birds. Keep your eyes open for little green lizards, too.

8. Explore Indian Shell Mound Park

dauphin-island-things-to-see-shell-mound-park
Shell Mound Park sign.

In 1973, Indian Shell Mound Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In the 90s, archeologists found shell mounds containing layers of oyster shells, fish bones, charcoal, and potsherds from as far back as the Mississippian Period (AD 1100 to 1550).

The park is not only of historical significance but is home to many birds and island wildlife. Don’t miss walking the trails through the beautiful coastal forest.

9. Hike and Bird Watch in the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary

dauphin-island-bird-sanctuary-boardwalk
Boardwalks through Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

Over 350 species of resident and migratory birds have been identified on the island — it is a birding hot spot. The Audubon Bird Sanctuary is roughly 164 acres.

On the eastern end of the island, visitors can walk the beautiful trails and boardwalks through the coastal forest and marshland and along the beach to watch for birds.

Keep your eyes open for a potential alligator spotting as well.

10. Walk To Pelican Peninsula

dauphin-island-alligator-pond
Alligator pond with lily pads.

South of Dauphin Beach, there is a peninsula that jets out into Pelican Passage. The sandy island is a great place to walk towards to enjoy bird watching and views along the Gulf of Mexico.

11. Discover the Dauphin Island Marina

The Dauphin Island Marina is the main marina. There are, however, multiple places to launch watercraft besides the marina.

The marina has fishing charters if you’re looking to go on a fishing adventure. There are also a few restaurants close by.

12. Go Fishing

While you’re visiting, go fishing with a local charter or bring your own gear.

Lots of people were fishing right off the coast on the east end.

13. Ride the Mobile Bay Ferry

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

You can take the Mobile Bay Ferry to Fort Morgan. The ferry can accommodate multiple sizes of vehicles and trailers. They even just take passengers if you want to do a day trip to check out the Historic Fort Morgan.

We took the ferry with our truck and small camper to Fort Morgan on our way to Gulf Shores, Alabama. The trip takes about 40 minutes and is a neat way to see sea life, including dolphins and birds.

Check out the Dauphin Island Ferry schedule (link to their website) to plan.

Read More Alabama Gulf Coast Adventures:

14. Take a Tour to Sand Island Lighthouse

To date, the Sand Island Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in Alabama and has been around for over 150 years.

To visit the lighthouse, a boat is required. It is free to visit the lighthouse; however, costs are required to rent a boat or take a boat tour (unless you have your own).

15. Golf at Isle Dauphine Golf Club

If you’re into golfing, check out Isle Dauphine Golf Club.

We aren’t golfers, but we drove there to see the area.

There is a restaurant, pool, and parking area, which allows visitors not playing golf to access the beach. Visitors do need to pay for a wristband to use the pool and access the beach.

16. Stay at Dauphin Island Campground

dauphin-island-campground
Dauphin Island Campground.

Island camping is such a fun adventure if you have an RV or a small camper. Dauphin Island Campground is the perfect place to stay.

From the campground, visitors can walk to the East End Beach, Fort Gains, and the Estuarium and Sea Lab, along with the many trails and boardwalks through the Audubon Bird Sanctuary.

The campground is steps from the Gulf’s beaches.

Think our Aliner Camper is cool? Read more about it, here!

17. Watch a Sunset

Did you know Dauphin Island is known as the sunset capital of Alabama? Rightfully so, with clear views on the west end.

If you’re staying at a vacation home on the west end, you’ll have clear views of incredible Gulf Coast sunsets.

18. Catch a Sunrise

dauphin-island-things-to-do-sunrise
Sunrise from the East End Beach.

Along with epic sunsets, you don’t want to miss sunrise if you’re an early riser.

If camping, it takes less than five minutes to walk to the coast to catch a beautiful sunrise.

19. Eat Where the Locals Eat

We talked to a few locals on our trip, and they all said not to miss Skinner’s Seafood and the Lighthouse Bakery during a visit.

20. Picnic at Cadillac Square

dauphin-island-things-to-see-cadillac-square
Cadillac Square sign

Cadillac Square was originally where Governor Cadillac’s home was located in 1715. It was also the capital of the Louisiana Territory. Now, visitors can enjoy the wooded area for a picnic. There are places to park and tables to sit at.

Where To Stay

There are many places to rent beach houses and condos along the island with waterfront views. Check out booking.com to book a fabulous beach rental for your next trip.

Have Fun Visiting Paradise

We hope you have a great trip full of fun in the sun, beautiful walks, and peaceful sunrises and sunsets.

Dauphin Island is definitely an Alabama treasure. We will definitely go back.

Ashlee & Pablo


Where Are You Headed Next?

Gulf Coast Alabama

Gulf Coast Florida

Follow The Happiness Function on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube.

Posted in

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.

12 Comments

  1. Carroll Uithoven on July 6, 2021 at 9:23 am

    Better than visiting the island, is being a resident! We have been permanent islanders for 11 years. Would not live anywhere else! Great article.



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

      Hi Carroll, thank you for reading and commenting. You are so lucky! Dauphin Island is incredible. Thanks for the nice comment. That means a lot to us.



  2. Charlotte on June 24, 2021 at 3:21 pm

    This is such a great post! I love islands like this ?



    • Ashlee Fechino on June 25, 2021 at 5:11 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting. We do too!



  3. Patricija on June 24, 2021 at 1:47 am

    What a cosy place to visit! Would definitely love to catch both a sunset & sunrise there 🙂



    • Ashlee Fechino on June 25, 2021 at 5:11 pm

      Hope you can make it someday! Thanks for reading.



  4. Jen on June 24, 2021 at 1:39 am

    I had no idea Alabama was home to something so cool! Dauphin Island really has all the things I love to do. When would you say is the best time to go?



    • Ashlee Fechino on June 25, 2021 at 5:10 pm

      We didn’t either! It was a treat 🙂 I would say May had great weather – warm but not super humid and there were no crowds.



  5. Petsitter Barbara on June 24, 2021 at 12:23 am

    I lived in Alabama for 5 years and traveled all over the state and never even heard of Dauphin Island. How is that possible?!?! The beaches are gorgeous and my petsitting heart is happy that they are dog friendly! Thanks for enlightening me about Dauphin Island. I didn’t think I’d ever want to go back to AL, but now I do!



    • Ashlee Fechino on June 25, 2021 at 5:10 pm

      Hi there! Hope you can make it back someday! 🙂



  6. William B Randall on June 21, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    All of this vacation seems like fun.



    • Ashlee Fechino on June 22, 2021 at 9:41 am

      Hey Uncle Burt! Thanks for stopping by! Hope you have a great day!