There’s a beach in Fairhope, Alabama but it isn’t exactly a beach town. It’s a spirited and close-knit community on the water with a serious passion for art.
A true sun-and-sand outing is just a short drive away in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach, which are located on the Gulf of Mexico. Fairhope is further inland, across the Mobile Bay from the much bigger and busier city of Mobile.
In many ways, it’s in its own little world.
About Fairhope, Alabama
“Charming” and “quaint” are often used to describe this city of about 23,000 people, founded in 1894 by a small group of utopian-minded settlers from the Midwest.
In recent years, beautification efforts have become a priority. The city has its own greenhouses and regularly replenishes public flowerbeds throughout the city with seasonal varieties. The result is a vibrant community that always seems to be in full bloom.
Fairhope, Alabama, and its surrounding areas in Baldwin County are some of the fastest-growing places in the country, overall, the climate is mild and the people are friendly. A common story is of people visiting once and deciding to move to Fairhope,
Despite perennial threats from serious storms such as Hurricane Sally, which struck in September 2020.
How to Spend a Fantastic Weekend in Fairhope
To truly experience Fairhope, Alabama, you’ll want to spend some time outdoors before heading inside for food and drink. Our plans for the weekend include brushing up on a bit of history and taking in some local art.
You’ll find out what drew those original colonists to Fairhope, Alabama – and what continues to attract newcomers. You’ll learn what’s so captivating about this sparkling gem on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay.
Learn about Nature and Wildlife at Weeks Bay Reserve
A few miles south of town lies Weeks Bay. Freshwaters form upland rivers collect here as they flow gently toward the gulf. There’s not a lot of development in this area, so it’s a great opportunity to enjoy this protected area.
At the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (11300 U.S. Hwy. 98), a visitor center has exhibits on the native flora and fauna. A nature trail on a .7-mile wooden boardwalk extends through forest and marsh, and you can walk it at a slow, relaxed pace. It’s a microcosm of the larger area.
Check out Tolstoy Park and The Hermit House
Overshadowed by some modern office buildings on Parker Road is a most unusual structure. Located at 22787 U.S. Highway 98 is a one-room circular hut made from cinder blocks with a dome top. Starting in 1926, it was the actual home of Henry Stuart, who called his property Tolstoy Park. He lived there for almost two decades.
You may wonder what it’s like to live in such an odd little place. Author Sonny Brewer wondered that, too, so he moved in himself to get a feel for the place. The result was his highly acclaimed novel, “The Poet of Tolstoy Park,” which was published in 2005.
Grab a Beer at Fairhope Brewing Company
This little city loves its leisure time. Fairhope Brewing Company (914 Nichols Ave.) is a great place to unwind and sip some local flavor.
Brian Cane and his wife, Michele, started the place a few years back after visiting brewpubs around the country.
They have more than a dozen beers and ciders on tap every day, including the popular Everyday Ale, (Take the) Causeway IPA and I Drink Therefore I Amber.
Their craft beers have ventured well beyond the city limits of Fairhope, Alabama. They are popular in many stores and bars in the region.
Head to Gator Alley Boardwalk to Spot Gators in the Wild
Are alligators up your alley? They are here in Daphne, a neighboring city just nine miles up the road from Fairhope.
A few years back the city decided to showcase one of its scarier natural features. There were plenty of gators in the bayou there, so why not build a boardwalk over them? That way, locals and visitors can observe them from a close but (mostly) safe distance.
Want to see them for yourself? The Gator Boardwalk is on North Main Street, just southeast of the intersection of U.S. 98 and Interstate 10. It’s educational – and it’s a great photo op.
Visit the Eastern Shore Art Center
The visual arts are so big here that there’s a street festival devoted to them every spring. There are many talented artists who express themselves through paintings, pottery, and metal sculptures.
The Eastern Shore Art Center (401 Oak Ave.) plays a big role in this artistic community. It serves as an accessible exhibition hall as well as a learning center. Local works are on display and some are for sale. A gift shop offers more possibilities for inspired souvenirs.
Learn About History at the Fairhope Museum
Those people who founded the city created what’s known as a Single-Tax Colony. The idea was that one tax paid once a year would fund all city operations and services. It’s a fascinating concept that’s well-chronicled at the Fairhope Museum of History (24 N Section St.).
Admission is free, and the building itself is worth a visit – it’s the old city hall building that was built in 1928. This Spanish Mission-style structure is filled with artifacts and even houses the old fire station and jail cells.
A visit here also puts you right in the heart of Fairhope’s downtown area, which is easily walkable and filled with all manner of retail delights.
Take a Fishing Charter Trip with Point Clear Fishing Adventures
Another big attraction is saltwater fishing. If you’ve got the time to drop a line in the water, Point Clear Fishing Adventures can help you find the action.
Licensed fishing guide Kevin Olmstead has been fishing these waters for most of his life. He knows what’s biting, and where.
Luckily, some of the best fishing spots are fairly close to shore. Capt. Kevin will have you back on the dock in no time with more tales to tell.
Where to Eat in Fairhope
This casual restaurant is in the Grand Hotel, which many consider being Fairhope’s crown jewel. The hotel has a history that dates to 1887 and is known for its impeccable service and its lush, manicured grounds.
Bayside Grill (17855 Scenic 98) isn’t stuffy or snobby, though. It has a family-friendly atmosphere and a commanding, panoramic view of the bay. You can munch on a well-crafted sandwich or wood-fired pizza or satisfy your cravings for fresh seafood. (The chef can even prepare your own fresh catch to order.)
Bayside Grill is open for lunch and dinner. Many of the ingredients are sourced locally – some even come from the hotel’s own garden.
Gambino’s Italian Grill (18 Laurel Ave.) Fairhope’s go-to place for pasta and red sauce and a lot more.
A beloved Fairhope family has run the place for the better part of 40 years, and they’ve built up a loyal clientele. Their menu has changed with the times, but their establishment retains a comfy, retro feel.
Classic Italian flavors share the menu with steaks and seafood dishes – favorites include the Veal Rocco, Shrimp Scampiano, and Char-Grilled Prime Rib. An adjoining cocktail lounge is a warm and inviting place to pass some time.
R Bistro and Pastry
More than a sidewalk café, this tiny, tucked-away eatery serves up big, sophisticated flavors with French and Cajun accents. As the name suggests, R Bistro & Pastry serves up sweet treats along with its inventive savory selections.
Owners Misty and Joe Rider could have made a name for themselves here on their crawfish gravy alone. They spoon it over biscuits, and it’s the magic element in their shrimp and grits, as well.
R Bistro is located right on the downtown drag at 334 Fairhope Ave. Just inside the doorway, you’ll find a pastry case loaded with daughter Maddie’s amazing fresh-baked creations. The croissants and baguettes are hot from the oven, too.
Where to Stay in Fairhope
Coastal Haven RV Resort
This neighborhood-style RV campground has 50 spacious sites in a peaceful neighborhood setting. Located just east of town on Country Road 32, Coastal Haven RV Resort is friendly, clean, and well maintained. At $42/night, it won’t set you back too much, either.
The concrete sites are level, and there’s good access in and out. There are full hookups (50 amp power), and probably some full-timers. Extras include a clubhouse, community kitchen, laundry, and private bath/showers.
“Unique” is another word that’s used to describe Fairhope, Alabama. It’s just not like the other places around it. This alluring town at the water’s edge has its own distinct and charismatic personality.
Chances are good that you’ll be glad you came here for a weekend. Like many others, you may even be tempted to stay.