This charming Southern city on Mobile Bay is ripe for exploring, with its oak-lined shores and walkable downtown. By Madeleine Frank
1 of 5Photo: Jennifer Davick
Towering oak trees shade the streets of this idyllic town on serene Mobile Bay. Fairhope's downtown area is compact and vibrant, channeling a French Quarter feel with its colorful buildings, second-level wrought-iron balconies, and brick courtyards surrounding ornate fountains. Days here are spent on charter fishing boats searching the bay for the daily catch, or biking through town to the Municipal Pier, where local fishermen regale visitors with stories—and sometimes even offer a bit of their bounty.
2 of 5Photo: Courtesy of Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club, & Spa
Where to Stay
The 600-acre Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa offers sweeping views of the bay from the rocking chairs on guest room balconies, perfect for watching the sun set and the city lights of Mobile begin to twinkle across the water. Tea and cookies are served each day at 4 p.m. in the rustic lobby, which is oriented around a three-story stone fireplace. The friendly resort keeps complimentary bikes on hand for guests to explore the town, and fishing poles for angling off the nearby pier.
3 of 5Photo: Elizabeth Bacon/EBPhotography.org
Where to Shop
The Happy Olive is a foodie's paradise, selling infused gourmet olive oils and vinegars the owners source from around the world. A block away on South Section Street sits Page & Palette, a family-owned bookstore that hosts frequent literary events with Southern authors such as Winston Groom and Fanny Flagg. Groom, who wrote the classic Forrest Gump, lives nearby and often stops in to browse the shelves and enjoy a cup at the in-house Latte Da coffee shop.
4 of 5Photo: Rae Leytham
Where to Eat
The Fairhope Inn & Restaurant is a calm retreat amid the bustling downtown. Candlelit tables extend from the indoors through a glass-encased porch and out onto the tree-lined patio. The pan-seared salmon, served with a perfectly peppery lentil risotto, is a standout.
5 of 5Photo: Courtesty of Wash House Restaurant
Where to Sip
Set back from the road in what looks like a wooden shack, The Wash House restaurant and bar is distinctively elegant inside, with dark paneled walls and white lights strung on large branches hanging from the ceiling. Handcrafted cocktails, like a signature Cosmopolitan made with St. Germain elderflower liqueur, attract a regular crowd of locals who are happy to welcome newcomers.