Sometimes, the best things on a trip are those spots you stumble onto by accident. Those quiet, out-of-the-way spots. While you may stumble on a few along the way, who knows how many you miss? So, to make sure you don’t miss any on this trip to Fort Morgan; we’ve got a short list of a few “under the radar” Fort Morgan attractions here in the area.
Sand Island Lighthouse
You’ll need a boat to really see this attraction. Book a fishing charter or sightseeing charter that heads past the iconic Sand Island Lighthouse. It’s a few miles out from the mouth of the bay and has been lighting the seas around the Mobile Bay since 1839. You can see the lighthouse from both sides of the bay, from Fort Morgan, and from Dauphin Island too. The lighthouse has been rebuilt many times over the years because of erosion from the waves, hurricanes, and it was a favorite target of Union forces during the Civil War. The lighthouse was actually demolished with gunpowder by a Confederate soldier to keep it from the hands of the enemy. Renovations included stabilization of the tiny island as well as to the structure itself. In fact, the island is larger now than it was when the lighthouse was built, but is still sitting on less than an acre.
Middle Bay Lighthouse
Another lighthouse in the area on the National Register of Historic Places is the Middle Bay Lighthouse. The lighthouse is currently operated by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and not open to tours. Built in the middle of Mobile Bay on a metal framework, this unique lighthouse first began lighting the bay waters in 1885 and was deactivated in 1967. A short tower used to sit on top of the hexagonally shaped light keeper’s house which is about 25 feet above the bay. This unique structure is worth the trip if you happen to be boating in the area. It’s a great place to catch some speckled trout. There are a few boat charters that make the trip past the lighthouse too to add to your list of things to do in Fort Morgan.
Bellingrath Gardens and Home
This estate was home to Bessie and Walter Bellingrath (one of the first Coke bottlers in the southeast) and is on the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage as well as the National Register of Historic Places. Upon their return from a European excursion in 1935, the Bellingraths began to turn their weekend home into a large estate (over 10,000 square feet) with a large garden, open year-round. You can tour the 65-acre public garden and house museum that has been returned to the Bellingraths’ era. The grounds also include a guest house complete with underground six-car garage and a small chapel. There’s a small café too. The house museum also features a collection of Edward Boehm porcelains. The site offers programs throughout the year, including the popular Christmas in Lights and a Mother’s Day Brunch.
- Bellingrath Gardens and Home
- 12401 Bellingrath Gardens Rd, Theodore, AL
Shell Banks Cemetery
Known to some locals as Persimmon Swamp Cemetery, Shell Banks Cemetery is behind the Shell Banks Baptist Church, near the Fort Morgan Volunteer Fire Department. The cemetery is the resting spot for several Confederate veterans, and locals claim that a few pirates, Spanish soldiers and Native Americans are there too. There are almost 300 graves here, dating back to 1864. Legend goes that originally, graves were marked differently for men, women, children, Native Americans and slaves. It’s a small cemetery, with ancient live oaks and a lot of atmosphere. Anyone who loves old cemeteries and the Gulf’s history will enjoy a trip to this quiet little spot. Take a minute to stop and read the historical marker.
Fort Morgan Attractions On Dauphin Island
Dauphin Island may need more than one spot on our list! Just a quick ferry ride from Fort Morgan across the bay, Dauphin Island is home to quaint shops and restaurants, public beaches, and historic Fort Gaines. This little barrier island is big on bird watching, and The Audubon Bird Sanctuary is just one of many bird sanctuaries on the island. The shell middens at Indian Shell Mound Park have been dated from 1000 to 1550, and the park is home to Native American sacred burial mounds. The park is also a favorite spot for birdwatchers looking for things to do in Fort Morgan. Dauphin Island Sea Lab, The Estuarium (a fresh and saltwater aquarium featuring native Alabama species), and Historic Fort Gaines (on the eastern tip of the island), are all worth the visit. The ferry trip over crosses the bay where U.S. Admiral David Farragut is supposed to have shouted, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” during the Battle of Mobile Bay. There’s a lot of history and nature packed on this little island. Don’t forget your binoculars and camera!