A glance at the map tells you all you need to know about Dauphin Island. You’ll quickly ascertain that it is a barrier island in Alabama near the Mississippi border. 15 miles long and generally less than a quarter mile wide, it is essentially one long strip of pure white sandy shores.
Needless to say, it is these beaches that attract sun-starved visitors. But with the beach comes other joys. The next several islands to the west are protected land, part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. This allows wildlife to thrive, both in the sea and in the air. Great hosts of birds, dolphins, and manatees continually grace Dauphin with their presence.
Not nearly as crowded as many other popular Gulf destinations, Dauphin Island nevertheless has good infrastructure and many things to do. There’s a bird sanctuary, Alabama’s finest aquarium, and ferries to take you the short jump to Fort Morgan, the site of a famous Civil War battle.
Most of the island does not have roads or buildings of any kind. Two-thirds of the island has nothing but white sands, making it easy to find quiet corners of paradise. Note that some of the beaches charge a $3 fee per person and most homes are on stilts and require guests to tackle a flight of stairs.
To discover this little slice of heaven on the Gulf, you’ll first need to find the right rental. Here are 10 examples of Vrbo rentals on Dauphin Island, none more than a short walk from the beach.
Perfect for a small group or even a couple who prefer cottages to condos, Sassy Seagull is another great Vrbo rental on Dauphin Island. Design and comfort go hand-in-hand on this property. The owners have forgone the lovable, but cliched nautical themes and taken a somewhat different approach. They were successful in their task. All three bedrooms have en suites and the living room is particularly sumptuous. The beach is, of course, just down the steps.
About a hundred yards from where the road ends, the owners of this four-bedroom beach house have a very special piece of property on their hands. So close is the water that they have had to build a small seawall to protect the backyard and foundation. Each bedroom has a comfortable bed (none are smaller than a double), an ocean view, and a hodgepodge of nautical decorations. The kitchen is fully equipped and the living room is quite comfy — not that you’ll be spending much time there when the beach is a much better lounging area. Best of all, dogs are welcome at the home and on the public beach.
Looking out on the cove at the northeastern edge of the island, thissmart cottage is a true delight. Not only is it practically next door to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, but it’s also a short walk from the ferry, aquarium, and marina where you can rent a boat or book a fishing tour. Being on the coast facing the mainland makes for better birdwatching but it won’t prevent anyone from enjoying the Gulf waters (they’re about 15 minutes away on foot). The space is oriented towards large family groups. It has two main bedrooms and a bunk room which sleeps up to four.
Looking out from the driveway, this three-bedroom house could be mistaken for a bog standard home some miles from the Gulf. In actuality, it is a dream retreat a short walk from beaches straight out of paradise. A short trail through the tropical woods will take you to the sheltered beaches of Pelican Cove, ideal for swimmers wanting to avoid big waves. It is also perfectly placed to take walks on the Pelican Peninsula that juts out one mile into the Gulf from the mainland and is made up entirely of isolated beaches where, if one walks far enough, the only crowds you’ll see are herds of seals. Back at home, guests will enjoy two screened-in porches and an interior characterized by big open spaces and surprisingly large bedrooms (three of them, to be precise, each with a large bed).
This bright and roomy custom-built beach house, called Waves of Grace, is nothing less than a fulfiller of dreams. Sit on the sofas on the open-plan ground floor and you’ll seldom feel the need to turn on the television — the ocean is right there! Two of the three king bedrooms have outdoor access and ocean views while the fourth bedroom is fitted with two single/double bunk beds. The bathrooms are pleasingly designed and feature pretty stonework. Eateries and rental shops are within walking distance of this superb home.
A brand new bayside home with a heated pool, Slice of Heaven is exactly what it purports itself to be. Just a couple hundred yards from the end of the road, it is perfect for those keen on exploring the untracked stretches of the western part of the island. Dogs are welcome to join in on the walk. Fire up the grill, take a seat on the swinging chair with a margarita, and know that you’ve come to the right place. Slice of Heaven has two king bedrooms, a queen, and a room with two bunk beds.
A six-bedroom spectacle of island indulgence, this Dauphin home is a treat that will serve up to 12 guests. It is within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and bars. Touch sand as soon as you walk down the steps and your toes will be wet in no time. The bottom floor is made up of the open-plan living space, the master suite, and a powder room. Upstairs there’s another TV room and five queen bedrooms serviced by three bathrooms.
The far eastern portion of the island is home to most of its shops and restaurants, a historic 19th-century fort, and thislovely six-bedroom home. There’s water all around: a pond in the backyard, a canal popular with birds, and, of course, the Gulf of Mexico. The home is just a few hundred feet from the boardwalk that leads to the water. The kitchen is modern in terms of design and appliances. The master bedroom, with its lovely custom walk-in shower, is downstairs, as is a queen and a room with two twins. There are three more bedrooms upstairs with two queen-sized beds and a room with a bunk bed.
There’s nothing quite like having a patch of beach all to yourself. If you’ve never experienced that pleasure, check out this perfectly situated home in Desoto Landing. You’ll appreciate the comforts of staying in a gated community just as you’ll love having your own boardwalk taking you directly to the sand. A community pool and tennis courts can be found a few doors down. There’s little need to prepare as the home is stocked with all the gear you’ll need, including a beach cart and kayaks. The appliances have been recently replaced, so convenience has not been sacrificed on the altar of location. It has five bedrooms with large beds, plus a bunk room for the kids.
With excellent views in every direction, guests at High Dunes Retreat may struggle with decision-making when it comes time to set out. It’s easy to enjoy the sights (especially from the rooftop viewing platform), but much more rewarding to leave the home. But, where do you go? Pelican Cove on the Gulf is a short walk down the hill, as is Graveline Bay across from the mainland. Both are great for kayaking (the home has three kayaks), but those looking for quiet beaches to lounge on should walk down the Pelican Peninsula until they find the perfect spot. Complimentary bicycles mean the whole island is accessible. With so much potential for fun, the owners saw it fit to make sure as many people as possible can enjoy the home, designing it to sleep up to 16 guests.
To discover more fun things to do around Dauphin Island, check out: