Easy Southern Escapes: Fairhope & Point Clear, Alabama

by  Melanie Warner Spencer | Sep 25, 2015
Pier in Fairhope, AL
Pier in Fairhope, AL / Melanie Warner Spencer

Relaxation and bayside biking are the order of the day in the towns of Fairhope and Point Clear, Alabama. These verdant cities on the Bay are a scenic 30-minute drive from Mobile, AL -- and a world away from the daily grind. Be warned: You'll have a hard time leaving the Bay's natural beauty, the area's variety of local food and drink, and the easy Gulf Coast atmosphere.

Activities:  In Fairhope, it's as much about enjoying the scenery as it is about actively doing anything, what with the town's picture-perfect brick sidewalks and tree-lined streets. But rest assured that charming boutiques and attractions fill the area, including the highly recommended  Fairhope Museum of History . Make a stop here, even if just to view the original jail and fire department. From there, stroll along the piers by the park to take in more views of the bay. Pro tip: Fishing enthusiasts will want to bring their tackle box and poles.

Food & Drink: Hungry travelers have a variety of fresh options in Fairhope. Enjoy lunch outside on the deck of the Pelican Patio, where a burger, along with sweet potato fries and barbecue wings, go quite well with the $5 Bloody Mary special on weekends. Dinner at Master Joe’s for sushi is a must, though you can expect a wait of at least 30 minutes to an hour for a table at the popular hotspot. The hostess will text you when your table is ready; we suggest filling up the time with a promenade through the town. In the morning, make time for breakfast at kitschy Buck’s Diner and order the decadent Cajun Eggs Benedict -- topped with a crab cake, poached egg, and spicy cream sauce.

If you're feeling thirsty, hoist a few pints at McSharry’s Irish Pub, which has an exceedingly friendly staff, several of whom bear an Irish lilt -- the owner hails from Sligo, Ireland. Find a seat on the covered garden patio (or, as they cheekily call it, “paddy-o”). Beer lovers must visit the laid-back Fairhope Brewing Company, owned by five self-described beer geeks, which opened a few years ago and has quickly become a lower Alabama favorite. The hours are a little unconventional, so be sure to check the taproom hours prior to your visit.

Stay: A member of Historic Hotels of America, the nearby Grand Hotel Point Clear Resort & Spa in Point Clear was first constructed in 1847 with 40 rooms -- and served as a Confederate hospital during the Civil War (a part of the history that's recognized each day at 4 p.m. with a "grand salute to the military" and a cannon firing). After a series of fires and hurricanes that ravaged the original structure, the property was rebuilt in 1940 and today features 10 times the number of rooms, starting at $200 per night in the off-season.

Great perks of staying here include dazzling views of Mobile Bay and complimentary use of the resort’s gear-less, cruiser-style bikes. The rentals are a great way to coast an easy 3.5 miles to Fairhope -- but you should also dedicate some time onsite to cocktails on the beach or poolside, daily afternoon tea in the main building, strolling along the resort's boardwalks, and warming up by the fire pits behind Bucky's Birdcage Lounge (the clubby, dark wood-filled bar with an impressive bourbon selection). And don't forget the local beers, tropical beverages, and casual snacks at the poolside Pelican’s Nest and Blue Marlin Bar. To make it a real vacation, book a treatment at the European-style spa, where the women’s candlelit relaxation room boasts a 22-person hot tub surrounded by Mosaic tiles.

Getting There: Fly into Mobile. To get to the resort, take the short 30-minute drive on Interstate 10 and US-98/AL-42, past Fairhope and into Point Clear.

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