Outdoor adventures in Mobile, Alabama, naturally focus on the Gulf Coast and water activities (kayak with alligators, anyone?). You can explore the Tensaw Delta, Mobile Bay, and the Mobile River by fishing boat, eco tour, kayak, and more. Or, step off the water for a bit to visit a marshland sanctuary, explore the Alabama Bird Trail, or even see what life was like for soldiers in the 1800s.
I visited Mobile previously on a press tour. It was an eco-tour that took us around the area to see up close the diverse ecosystems both on land and water. Since Alabama is one of the most biologically diverse states in the U.S., we discovered a multitude of plants and animals in the area’s wetlands and woodlands. It’s a perfect destination to get outdoors and explore a variety of nature-centric activities.
1. Take A Delta Eco Boat Tour
Experience the diversity of the ecosystem in Mobile on a delta safari tour with Wild Native Tours. You’ll travel aboard an enclosed seasonal vessel with padded seats, a PA system, and restrooms for a 90-minute tour. Mobile is home to the most diverse ecosystem in the U.S., the fourth largest estuary in North America, and the 11th busiest port in the nation. You’ll travel from the bustling port, through Mobile Bay, and into the Mobile Tensaw Delta. You’ll see local wildlife like alligators, birds, and dolphins, naval vessels, cargo ships, plus historical landmarks like the USS Alabama. You’ll be entertained along the way with funny and interesting stories about the sights you see.
2. Watch For Dolphins On A Gulf Coast Cruise
Search for dolphins on a cruise departing from Orange Beach during which you’ll view the Alabama coastline while watching for Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Plus, if time allows, the crew will pull up a crab pot to see if there’s a daily catch — a big favorite with children. And if the dolphins are feeling playful, you may catch them surfing in the boat wake!
According to one Viator reviewer, “The sunset cruise was so beautiful. We saw lots of dolphins and they even put on a little show when the captain created some wakes! They will allow you to bring a small cooler so we got to enjoy some wine and cheese while watching the sunset. I would highly recommend for adults and kids!”
3. Kayak The Bartram Canoe Trail
Start with a tour of the 5 Rivers Delta Center, a $10 million facility located where the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee, and Blakely rivers flow into Mobile Bay. Experience the exhibit hall, learning center, walking trails, and campsites — four of which are floating platforms — and gift shop before putting into the water for a guided kayaking tour. This facility serves as a gateway to more than 250,000 acres of waterways, woods, and wetlands. Follow the Bartram Canoe Trail and be prepared to view alligators in their natural habitat.
4. Try Mountain Biking At Chickasabogue Park
The Chickasabogue Park offers 12 loop trails for a total of 14 bikeable miles. There are challenging single-track paths for experienced bikers plus easier trails for beginners. It’s an interesting journey across boardwalks that carry you over wetlands and bogs, intertwined loops, and swales if you’d like to do some mudding. To keep the trails from wearing down over time, the park alternates days you can ride certain trails.
Rootsrated, a platform for finding the best, hand-picked outdoor activities, says many riders call this the best set of trails in the Mobile area. The trails are rated intermediate but have options for beginners that allow everyone to “get their feet wet in the sport,” and technical challenges for experienced bikers. “The paths are root strewn with a few rocks, some sandy patches, some hills to climb, and plenty of swales so you can do a little mudding. There are also several boardwalks over wetlands and bogs to make the trips even more interesting.”
5. Bird Watching
If birding is your interest, you’ll want to explore the Coastal Alabama Birding Trails on nearby Dauphin Island. If you go for spring viewing, know that Dauphin Island was named one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring migrations. At the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, you can hike a three-mile trail system that includes maritime forest, marshes, and dunes with a lake, a swamp, and a beach. Located on 137 acres, the sanctuary is the largest segment of protected forest on the island and “the first landfall for neo-tropical migrant birds after their long flight across the Gulf from Central and South America each spring.”
The Audubon Bird Sanctuary was recognized by the National Audubon Society as being globally important for bird migrations. On a visit to the sanctuary, you can enjoy hiking, photographing the wildlife (we saw turtles and a small alligator from the dock of one lake along the trail), bird watching, and the various colors of each season.
6. Explore Fort Gaines
While you’re on Dauphin Island, stop by Fort Gaines to see how soldiers lived in the 1800s. This 19th-century brick seacoast fort houses a working blacksmith shop with live demonstrations, the Officer’s Quarters, and costumed interpreters who put on exhibitions like the firing of the actual cannons used in the Battle of Mobile Bay. You can see a video I shot of the firing of the cannon here.
7. Explore The USS Alabama
Take a self-guided walking tour of the historic battleship USS Alabama, the submarine USS Drum, tanks, artillery, and the aircraft pavilion. Step back in time as you see this 100-acre battleship park up close.
The mission of the USS Alabama Battleship Commission when created in 1963 was to “establish, operate, and maintain a state memorial park to honor the Alabamians who participated so valiantly in all armed conflicts of the United States … and, as a permanent public memorial to educate the public on the contributions and sacrifices of the veterans of all branches of the United States Armed Services in all conflicts.”
8. Visit An Alligator Sanctuary
At Alligator Alley, you’ll find a swamp sanctuary, home to more than 200 American alligators and other wildlife. Walk along the elevated boardwalk to view the alligators close up. About halfway through, you’ll come upon Captain Crunch, a 13-foot, 2,982-pound alligator said to have the world’s strongest bite. View the alligators in all manner of poses, with gators from hatchlings to mature adults relaxing, sunbathing, courting, and nesting. During the tour you may also see turtles, ospreys, owls, and bullfrogs.
The alligator farm was opened by Wes Moore in 2004. Moore rescues the alligators, bringing them from unsafe areas to the farm, which is designed to give them a natural environment. The alligators are considered “nuisance animals” because they’ve lost their natural fear of humans, making them dangerous. If an alligator is more than 4 feet in length and determined dangerous to humans or their property, they must be removed. Alligator Alley becomes their new home and the safe educational walking tour is an excellent opportunity to view these massive creatures.
9. Walk Around Downtown
In addition to the busy port, downtown Mobile is a creative hub with art galleries, shops, restaurants, and bars best explored on foot. Evenings and weekends are filled with festivals, open-air markets, live concerts, and special events. Home to America’s original Mardi Gras, you can experience the oldest organized Carnival celebration in the U.S. here. Find everything there is to know, see, and do in downtown Mobile at the Downtown Mobile Alliance.
While you’re downtown, explore Mobile’s award-winning food scene with Gulf Coast dishes like gumbo, pralines, and oysters, plus hear stories about more than 300 years of Mobile history covering everything from Bienville to Hank Aaron to the Moon Pie on a food tour.
10. Tour A Maritime Museum
Although only part of this tour is actually outdoors, for anyone interested in the maritime history of the area, a visit to GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico shouldn’t be missed. The mission of the museum is “to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to understand and appreciate the Gulf Coast and its rich maritime heritage through exhibits, programs, and activities.”
With 90 interactive exhibits including theaters, simulators, and displays, it will be a day-long visit. If you don’t have an entire day to spend at the museum, don’t miss the GulfQuest Theater with its 16-minute film on the rich maritime history and culture of the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay from past to present. The Take the Helm pilot simulator is another popular exhibit where visitors can try navigating a variety of vessels around the Port of Mobile, Mobile Bay, and the Tombigbee River in a simulator identical to those used to train professional boat pilots.
Want to get out on the water in Alabama? Here are eight reasons to visit Alabama’s Gulf Shores.