Dauphin Island, in southwestern Alabama, is the ideal location for a low-key family vacation where you and the kids can relax and spend quality time together. This small island in the Gulf of Mexico offers white sand beaches and calm, warm water. Find a Dauphin Island vacation rental along the beach where you can wake up each morning and watch the sun come up over the Gulf from the comfort of your own deck. While you could probably spend each day of your vacation reading a book on the beach, you want to make sure your kids have plenty to do. Here’s a quick look at the top 9 things to do with your kids while visiting Dauphin Island.

1. Fishing Charter

Whether you and your kids are beginner fishermen or old pros, a fishing charter from Dauphin Island gives you the chance to land some big fish. Many of the charter companies include the fishing gear if you don’t want to bring it from home to your vacation rental. The charters take your family out to the best fishing spots, so you have a better chance of a big catch. When smaller children grow tired of fishing they can indulge in some dolphin watching.

2. The Estuarium

The Estuarium – or the Dauphin Island Sea Lab – houses around 100 sea creatures that make their home in Gulf or small lakes. This small aquarium focuses on the sea life of the Mobile Bay Estuary. At the aquarium, your children can learn more about this delicate ecosystem as they take a peek inside the tanks, each featuring a unique fish or another sea creature. Local experts give talks about the estuary and other topics.

3. Mobile Bay Ferry

Head out on to the water to enjoy the views of Mobile Bay and the surrounding area. The Mobile Bay Ferry goes from Dauphin Island to Fort Morgan in about 40 minutes. While on board, you and your family can find a seat close to a window – or choose the outdoor seating, where you can enjoy the fresh air and the breeze coming off the water. This ferry also has room for your family car if you want to get off and spend the day in Fort Morgan.

4. Shell Mound Park

Learn a little more about life in North America, long before the arrival of European settlers, at Shell Mound Park. This park is one of the best-preserved digs that you can see in the South. On these mounds are the remnants of the meals of the Native Americans who lived here between 1100 and 1550. Many scientists believe that Native Americans from around what is now Alabama came to Dauphin Island during the winter for warmth and to eat lots of oysters.

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5. Dauphin Island Heritage and Arts Council

Check in with the Dauphin Island Heritage and Arts Council to see what’s on the schedule during your time on Dauphin Island. This organization supports art and culture in the area and offers art classes that you and your family can take. In addition to the classes and occasional talks, the council’s art gallery displays and sells the work of local artists.

6. Audubon Bird Sanctuary

Pull out your binoculars and notebook before leaving your vacation rental for a day of bird watching at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. At this unique sanctuary, you can see birds that normally make their home in Central and South America. If you’re there in the spring, you’ll get to see birds as they migrate back to parts of the northern United States from their winter homes. Walk along the wooden pathways, and keep your eyes open for these migrating birds.

7. Fort Gaines

Located along the eastern shore of Dauphin Island, you and your family can learn more about the history of Alabama and security of its shores at Fort Gaines. More than 150 years old, this fort once protected the Mobile Bay area from hostile forces. Your kids can learn more about the fort’s history at a blacksmith shop and a museum. You and your family can go down into the tunnels and see how these underground routes connected parts of the fort.

8. Dauphin Island Marina

Stretch your legs and visit the Dauphin Island Marina to watch the boats leaving and coming into the island. Grab a snack at the marina store. From this location, you can also rent a pontoon boat for the day, or select kayaks or canoes for a slower ride. You can even take a spur-of-the-moment charter from this location to tour the island from the water or go out to see the dolphins playing in the water.

9. Fort Morgan

Make the quick trip over to Fort Morgan to learn more about the American Civil War and Alabama’s role in it. This fort protected the Mobile Bay area during the war and received its name from the Revolutionary War hero Robert Morgan. This fort sits atop the ruins of another fort that dates back to the War of 1812. Pack a picnic lunch at your vacation rental, and make a day of it. Your kids will love exploring this old stone fort.

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