From stunning gardens and seafood to beautiful beaches, Alabama’s Gulf Shores and Mobile Bay have a lot to offer travelers. We sampled a bit of it all, staying in a historic inn, eating at top restaurants and enjoying nature to the fullest.

Day 1- Gardens, Islands, Battleships & Tacos

Drive out to Dauphin Island this morning to visit the Dauphin Island Sea Lab (102 Bienville Blvd, Dauphin Island, AL). Travelers can get up close to marine life at the Estuarium, a public aquarium offering hands on activities. Learn about the four major habitats around Mobile Bay and enjoy educational programs for the whole family, including helping to feed the stingrays at the Ray and Shark touch tank.

Located three miles south of the mouth of Mobile bay in the Gulf of Mexico, Dauphin Island is a beach lovers paradise. White sand beaches, a cool fort, hidden fishing spots… there are lots of places to escape the crowds on this small barrier island.

Depart and drive 30 minutes to Bellingrath Gardens (12401 Bellingrath Gardens Rd. Theodore AL) where beautiful flowers await around every turn. From the rose garden to the terraces by the river and historic home, there is much to delight lovers of flowers, butterflies, art and nature. Stroll the grounds of this 65-acre Southern estate and breathe in relaxing scents of seasonal blooms. With special events surrounding the seasons and holidays, these gardens are a natural oasis year-round. Enjoy lunch at Bellingrath’s Magnolia Café, which serves casual soups, salads and sandwiches.

Drive approximately 30 minutes to tour the USS Alabama (2703 Battleship Pkwy, Mobile, AL). Half as long as the Empire State Building is tall, the USS Alabama is a mighty battleship with an interesting history. Step aboard to learn about the crew’s daily life on this ship that saw 37 months of active duty during World War II and earned nine Battle Stars.

End the day with dinner at the Ok Bicycle Shop (661 Dauphin St. Mobile, AL) where tasty margaritas and good local beer are on the menu with sushi and tacos. The atmosphere is funky and fun.

Spend the night at The Malaga Inn in downtown Mobile. Located on Church Street, you can walk to restaurants from this charming, small Southern inn.

Day 2- Golf, Shopping & Mardi Gras

Rise early and drive less than a half hour outside of town to take a golf lesson at Magnolia Grove (7001 Magnolia Grove ParkwayMobile, AL). Enjoy nature in an active way playing golf at this course, which features creeks, marshes and lakes set amid hardwoods and pines. Named one of the “Top 50 Public Courses” by Golf World Magazine readers, Magnolia Grove’s varied topography and proximity to Mobile make it a fun outing for golf lovers. Part of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, it’s just one of many great places to tee up in Alabama.

Next, drive approximately 45 minutes for lunch in charming Fairhope to explore the unique shops and galleries like Punta Clara Candy Kitchen, the Fairhope French Quarter, and Gator Alley Boardwalk. Located on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, art galleries mix with cafes, making for a sweet escape while in Mobile.

This afternoon back in Mobile, celebrate Mardi Gras year-round at the Mobile Carnival Museum (355 Government St. Mobile, AL). From spectacular costumes to floats to interactive exhibitions for the whole family, this colorful and interesting museum traces hundreds of years of Alabama’s Mardi Gras celebrations through 14 different gallery rooms, so even if you can’t make it to Mobile for Mardi Gras, you can still get in on the excitement at this entertaining museum.

Seek out BBQ for dinner. There are a lot of tasty options. We ate at Moe’s Original Bar B Que (701 Spring Hill Ave Mobile, AL), which was darn good. Other top options include Dickey’s Barbecue Pit and The Brick Pit.

Night at the Malaga Inn.

Day 3- Gulf Shores Adventure & Seafood

Head this morning to the Gulf Shores and take in awesome beach views at the Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park (21101 State Highway 135, Gulf Shores, AL), where you can zip from up to 90 feet high, providing a unique view of the sea. With seven towers and six different zips, you’ve got lots of time to enjoy the ride.

Experience a top seafood lunch by the sea at The Gulf, a restaurant located in two unlikely places, by the Gulf of Mexico and inside a shipping container. This recycled restaurant takes eco-friendly to a whole new level and helps you enjoy healthy, fresh options while taking in Orange Beach nature. Alabama’s Gulf Coast restaurants are known for their seafood, like the grilled grouper sandwich served up on a brioche bun with a side of fresh-cut fries I enjoyed by the shore. A tasty way to experience Alabama.

This afternoon take a walk along the second longest pier on the Gulf of Mexico at the Gulf State Park. Open to the public, this is a place to not only enjoy great beach views, but to hit the beach. Enjoy the Gulf State Park’s two miles of beautiful beaches, perfect for fun in the waves or relaxation.

Enjoy dinner tonight at festive Lucy Buffet’s LuLu’s or DeSoto’s Seafood Kitchen.