Saturday, December 20, 2014

Seashells on the Alabama Gulf Coast

There are a wide variety of shells that can be found on the shores of Alabama. Beachgoers enjoy strolling along the beautiful water on the white sand in search of shells. Even the most avid of shell hunters enjoy searching the pristine beaches for treasures to bring home. Here ares some of the Alabama Gulf Coast's most common seashells:


Ark shells come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. They are usually white or beige in color. Some of them have deep brown striped shells. They have a long, straight-hinged line that almost gives the appearance of teeth. Ark shells are commonly found in the area.

Augers Auger Shell

Augers are also referred to as auger snails. The shells of these predatory sea snails are spiral in shape with ridges throughout. The shells actually have a slight resemblance to a rock drill bit. While alive, they live in the sand and prey on all kinds of marine worms.

Bonnets Bonnet Shell

Bonnet shells are the remains of a medium sized sea snail. The bonnet shell got that name because it looks similar to the Scottish Tam O’Shanter, which is a traditional hat with a tartan pattern. It is usually white with colored patches on it.

Nutmegs Nutmeg Shell

Most nutmeg shells are less than an inch in size. They vary in size, shape and color. Most have a white background with darker colored markings on the shell.

Conch Conch Shell

Conch shells are the shells of medium to large sea snails. They have a really high spiral and a siphonal canal. Conch shells are often used as decorative items because of the beautiful pink to red color on the inside of the shell. The shells can also be made into musical instruments and they are used this way in the islands of the Caribbean.


Coquinas are the remnants of small clams that are edible. These beautiful shells usually wash onto the beach at low tide. They are only about 20cm in size. They can be very colorful and beautiful.

Jewel Boxes Jewel Box Shell

The jewel box shell is roughly an inch and a half wide. It has a thick, off white shell. The inside of the shell is glossy and has a pinkish hue to it. The ribs have frilly spines that protrude from them. The shell is surprisingly heavy for its size.

Moon Shells Moon Shell

Moon shells are very common snail shells found on the Gulf Coast. They often have a white base color with tannish brown or gray swirls on it. Moon shells can be up to three inches in diameter.


The giant Eastern murex is also common to this area. This is a predatory sea snail that is between medium and large in size. They are often collected on our beaches at 3 to 4" in length. These shells have really interesting shapes, ridges and spines, and have a whitish color with brown accents.

Lettered Olive Lettered Olive Seashell

The lettered olive shell is the remains of a large sea snail with a predatory nature. The shell is cylindrical and very smooth and glossy. The shells are usually tan or gray and have a brown zigzag pattern on them. They can be as large as 2 ½ inches

Friday, December 5, 2014

Pelican Place at Craft Farms

Pelican Place at Craft Farms is one of the newer shopping centers on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Located only four miles from the beach on Highway 59 (Gulf Shores Parkway), the shopping center has a diverse and wide array of specialty shops, big box chain store stores, dining establishments and a movie theater. This is a good place to spend a rainy afternoon during the summer or a cold day during the winter-- or if you like to shop, it's just a good place to spend some quality time. I can say this because I hate to shop and there's enough here to entertain me while my wife does her shopping. We're both happy.

The center has a modern design that makes parking convenient to the business that you plan to shop first. Each time that we have been to Pelican Place, there wasn't a lot of "parking lot walking" involved (that's one reason why many malls are suffering today).

Unless I'm hungry, my first stop is Books-A-Million. Most people who vacation here are familiar with this book store chain. For those who aren't, it has books, books, and more books. I'm not sure if has a million of them-- I sure wouldn't want to count them! Even though I buy a discount card every year that saves me 10% off anything in the store, I usually just buy a cup of coffee at their Joe Muggs Café and pick a few books to read while I'm enjoying the coffee (which is very good). The markup on coffee is probably more than it is on the average book or magazine so they probably don't care.

Another favorite stop at Pelican Place at Craft Farms is Sweetie Pies. Even though the bakery is new to this center, it has been in business for about twenty years. It was formerly in a street location on Highway 59 in Foley. No doubt it moved for more exposure, as more competition moved in closer to where most of the people are (the beach). They specialize in pies (whole or by the slice), but you can get just about any dessert that you can imagine here. You can take it out of dine in. The shop is very clean and attractive and the seating is comfortable.

Other places to get a quick snack or a full meal are Kitt's Kafe, Island Oasis, Stone Cold Creamery, Elli Bistro, Papa's Pizza, Mikato Japanese Steakhouse, Coffee Heads, Subway, and Longhorn Steak House. If you enjoy a cigar after a meal, there is even a cigar bar in the center called The Dunes.

One of the most popular spots in this center is the Cobb Pinnacle 14 Theaters. This Cobb location has stadium high-back rockers and an extensive food menu.

Also at Pelican Place at Craft Farms is a GameStop store where you can rent games to take back to the beach. If you want to take a computer back home with you or need an accessory for your Apple, there is a Mac N More Apple Specialist store.

You can also pick up computer games and supplies or buy a dvd at the big Target. Target is also a good place to pick up beach supplies and snacks for the beach or your lodging.

Another large store at this center is Bed, Bath, & Beyond. This store is a favorite of locals and those who own vacation property here.

A favorite specialty shop of University of Alabama fans is Bama Fever. The owner of this business is sure to love a season like the last one, where the Alabama football team won the National Championship.

If you enjoy surfing or skating you will probably want to visit Inner Light Surf and Skate. There, you can do just about everything related to those two sporting activities. If you had rather just lie on the beach or fish, shop for sunglasses at Sun Rays Sunglass Center.
Other shops in the center include Beach House Boutique, Maurices, Paisley Jane's, Hibbett Sports, Little Monkey Toes, and Hooch's Mama.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Palm Trees on the Alabama Gulf Coast

You will find many palm tree species on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Although some are native, others have been brought into the area. These are the palm trees that you might see here.

Canary Island Date Palm

The Canary Island date palm is an ornamental palm tree. Its massive size gives this tree a grandiose appearance. It can grow up to sixty feet tall. The incredibly thick trunk has a diamond pattern on it. The crown of the Canary Island date palm boasts more than fifty leaves. The leaves are between a foot and a foot and a half long. As the name implies, this palm tree was imported from the Canary Islands.

Canary date palms are at the right in the photo.

Gulf Shores Palm Trees

Windmill Palm

The windmill palm usually grows to be about twenty-five feet tall; however, specimens have been found as tall as forty feet. The fronds are between two and three feet in length with dark green leaflets. Windmill Palms can survive in the cold all the way down to five degrees.

Windmill palms are to the left in the photo.

Sago Palm

The Sago Palm is technically not a palm at all but a cycad. They are actually prehistoric trees. Fossils of this specimen have been dug up all over the world. They can grow to ten to twelve feet high with an eight to twelve feet spread; however, it can take up to fifty years for the tree to reach this size. The leaves are about four feet long and dark green in color. The sago palm prefers sandy soil that drains well.

Sago palms are in the foreground of the photo above.

Washingtonian Palm (Mexican Fan Palm)

The Washingtonian palm grow very tall, sometimes exceeding one hundred and twenty feet, though most that you will see will be no taller than forty feet. The trunk is thinner than most other varieties of fan palms. The Washingtonian palm’s fronds are a deep shade of green. They require a fair amount of maintenance and need to be trimmed annually. This palm tree is indigenous to the southern half of Baja California and northern parts of Mexico.

Pindo Palm

The pindo palm is one of the smaller palm trees as it only grows to about twenty feet tall. The bright green fronds have a feather-like appearance. The spring flowers eventually grow into orange fruits that resemble dates. The fruits are edible either fresh or as a jelly. They are native to South America where the fruit’s flesh is smashed and mixed with alcohol for a flavorful drink!

Sabal Palmetto (Cabbage Palm)

The sabal palmetto palm usually grows to be fifty to sixty feet tall and the trunk can be as much as two feet around. The fronds are between five and six feet long and each has approximately fifty leaflets on it. The pale yellow flowers develop into black fruits. The fruit is a good food source for birds and other wildlife. The sabal palmetto does well in salty conditions near the water.

Saw Palmetto

The saw palmetto is native to the Alabama Gulf Coast. It is a small fan palm that only grows between three and six feet tall. They usually grow in clumps and prefer the sandy soil of coastal areas or pine forests. The center of the frond has sharp spines that can easily tear your skin open. This shaft supports about twenty leaflets.

Needle Palm

The needle palm is a small fan palm that grows up to six feet tall. It doesn’t have a trunk; it has a crown from which the leaves grow. The crown expands slowly to allow more leaves to grow. The needle palm has a bush-like appearance. This palm is a native palm tree species. It is very cold hardy and has a high level of drought resistance

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Margaritaville Beach Hotel Pensacola


A short drive from Gulf Shores, Alabama, and into Florida leads to Margaritaville Beach Hotel, a Jimmy Buffett franchise. Certainly there are less expensive hotel rooms and condos to be found on Pensacola Beach. However, Margaritaville isn’t just a place to stay. As do the laid-back songs of the President of Parrot Head Nation, this hotel conjures up something on which you just can’t place a price. It evokes a sense of tropical escape, a place where travelers need no passports, and the friendly staff speaks English and accepts dollars.

No cash? No credit? No problem.

Framed and enlarged copies of Buffett’s album/CD covers adorn the walls of the beautifully appointed, open-flow lobby. For instance, “Jimmy Buffett: A white sports coat and a pink crustacean.” The title tells anyone all they need to know about the whimsical mind of the genius behind the Margaritaville Beach Hotel franchise and marketing guru that is Jimmy Buffett (J.B.). In the form of his music, books, and items unique to the hotel, it’s way too easy to buy a piece of paradise. No cash? No credit? No problem. Charge it to your room!
Pensacola Beach Margaritaville Lobby
By mid-October (2010), when my husband and I visited Margaritaville Beach Hotel, there were no “tourists covered in oil,” British Petroleum, Coppertone or otherwise. There were couples and families on the beach, “blowing out their flip flops” in eighty degree sunshine and scooping up shells in the Gulf of Mexico’s turquoise waters.

Frank & Lola Love Pensacola Cafe

I’d love to tell you about all the wonderful places to eat on Pensacola Beach, but during our three day stay, the food was so good at Margaritaville’s Frank & Lola Love Pensacola Café, we never ate anywhere else. One caveat, on a later visit, the Sunday brunch didn’t match the order-from-the-menu quality. However, with $6.00 bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys during Sunday brunch, perhaps one shouldn’t complain.
The nightly specials, usually fresh seafood, are highly recommended and always beautifully plated. Shrimp and Gouda grits arrived with fried green tomatoes, a spinach cream sauce and topped with “sweet potato hash.” An explosion of textures, color and taste worthy of three stars in a hoity toity French restaurant . . . as if any French restaurant would serve shrimp – with grits! Hrmph. Their loss.
My husband suffers from Celiac disease. Each of the darling wait staff could not have been more attentive to his special food allergy needs. Still, perhaps President Parrot Head would be wise to rip a page from his sister’s menu. Lucy Buffett’s Gulf Shores’ restaurant, LuLu’s At Homeport Marina, has excellent gluten-free selections.
Pensacola Beach Margaritaville Pool
Most every table at Frank & Lola’s has a Gulf view—as do most of the lounge chairs by the magnificent outdoor pool, which also has an outdoor tiki bar that serves inevitable drinks like, “It’s Five O’ Clock Somewhere,” “Rum Runner” and “Hurricane.” All made, of course, with award-winning Margaritaville Beach Hotel mixers. JB may rule a nation of Parrot Heads, but the man’s marketing empire seems to be a nation unto itself, one that knows no borders, no limitations.

Radio Margaritaville

When there is no live music out by the pool tiki bar, not to worry, Radio Margaritaville Beach Hotel plays Parrot Head music there and throughout the hotel’s public areas. The house station mixes in other selections by other contemporary artists, like Bob Marley, skilled at conjuring up an island feel. Tom and I were surprised, but thrilled, to hear songs by two of our favorite artists wafting over Margaritaville Beach Hotel airwaves. You have to believe JB selects every song aired. It’s generous of him to make room for Hawaiian artists like Gabby Puanihi and the late and legendary Israel “Bruddah Iz” Kamakawiwo‘ole. Before his untimely death in 1997, “Bruddah Iz” blended magic paradise dust with his love and knowledge of ukulele, jazz, and reggae to create his unique brand of love for Hawaii’s lifestyle and beaches. As does Jimmy Buffett’s, Bruddah Iz’s artistry has transcended place and time.

“Mother Ocean, I hear your call”

There are various priced rooms depending on if you are on the Sound or Gulf side, or if you opt for a corner room with views of both. Skip the balcony; save a few bucks. We opted for a Gulf-front, king size with balcony. Entering the room we encountered a white partial-wall in which a louvered window with view out to the Gulf immediately created a beach cabin feel. To the left stood a curved wall with a tropical sunset mural. A bit hokey, but it grew on us. Another wall and the ceiling were painted in varying shades of pale blue. On the valance over the sliding glass doors leading to the balcony were JB lyrics, "Mother Ocean, I hear your call." Painted in white on white reflective paint, the lettering was only visible in day light. A duvet and crisp white linens were tucked into the frame of an enormous platform bed. The room was equipped with an I-pod docking-station that we appreciated.
Pensacola Beach Margaritaville.jpg.jpg
The bathrooms are large and attractive. We particularly liked the seashell light sconces, the over-sized shower and the double vanity that appeared to be made of blue sea glass. Of course it wasn’t, but it certainly evoked that feeling. The mirrors are positioned for Gulf views while guests brush their teeth, shave or apply makeup.
Perhaps what we loved best was the proximity to nature. Monarch butterflies were enroute on their winter sojourn to their own version of Margaritaville—Mexico. We awakened every morning to watch the sun rise over Pensacola Beach pier, then waited for an early rising heron to arrive at the tidal pool. Each morning he stood at attention, solitarily staring out to sea as if he were a lone sailor stranded on a barrier island, waiting to be picked-up by a passing freighter.
We also enjoyed seeing pods of dolphin swim by, mostly in early morning and evening. Do rent beach chairs and umbrellas and spend time in the water, shelling. We brought back a variety of miniature shells that are jewel-like in their perfection. The tiny shells encrusted the beach like glimmering strands of crystal.
Mother Ocean, I hear your call. Like every well-bred Southerner, I always do what my Mama says. I will go back to Margaritaville, the paradise on Pensacola Beach that is more siren’s song than mere hotel.

As of late October 2010, only Phase I of the Margaritaville Beach Hotel Pensacola project is complete — the hotel and the adjacent Land Shark Landing open-air pavilion for afternoon and evening drinks, burgers and music. Projected phases are set to include a restaurant between the hotel and Land Shark Landing; a water park; an outdoor covered dome pirate ship; and perhaps even a volcano that explodes several times per hour like at Magaritaville/Orlando.

All Photos: Tom Latino

[Atmore, AL native, Bonnie Bartel Latino, is a former columnist for Stars and Stripes newspaper in Europe. Her story, "The Rush of Butterflies" won the Military Writer Society of America 2009 People's Choice Award. Follow Bonnie Latino on Facebook and on Twitter, @BonnieBLatino.]

Friday, August 15, 2014

Manta Rays on the Alabama Gulf Coast

The manta ray is the largest species of stingray. The largest specimen documented was over twenty-five feet wide and weighed an incredible five thousand and one hundred pounds. The typical manta on the Alabama Gulf Coast tops out at 15 feet wide and 500 pounds-- still a huge fish!

It has been speculated that manta rays evolved from smaller bottom feeders, possibly the sting rays that are common on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Eventually, they adapted and became filter feeders. Their rectangular mouth is perfect for open-ocean feeding. Plankton and fish larva are the main source of food for the manta ray. Mantas are a food source for small fish-- the smaller fish gain nutrition by cleaning parasites from the manta.

Mantas are prey for sharks and orcas, even though mantas are closely related to those creatures.

A Manta Ray Glides under the Surface of the Ocean

Mantas are usually dark in color and can be brown, blue or black on the top. The edges are lighter and they have a white underbelly. They do have some patterns on their skin. Researchers and scientists use these patterns to identify individuals.

The teeth of the manta have changed over time. The teeth in the lower jaw are now covered by skin. The dermal denticles (similar to fish scales) have also been reduced in size and number. Mantas have a tail that is similar to that of a stingray; however, they do not have stingers in their tails. They are not dangerous to people in the water.

Mantas are really curious creatures, and they often swim close to humans. Mantas will occasionally come close to the surface and swim near boats just to check out what is going on up there. They are actually very funny to watch as they really try to interact with people, in a good way.

It is important to never intentionally touch a manta. Touching the ray will remove the mucous layer which protects the skin. Merely touching the manta ray can cause lesions that will take months to heal. This is dangerous to the fish because bacteria can enter the wound and cause a major infection that could result in death.

There is a new program that allows scientists to tag any manta found offshore in coastal Alabama. These tags are the same as global positioning sensors. The researchers can monitor the patterns of migration of the rays. This will allow them to understand where they travel and for what reasons. Understanding their migratory patterns can help scientists learn more about the elusive manta.

It is really important for anyone that sees a manta in coastal Alabama to contact the Dauphin Island Sea Lab. The lab is trying to keep track of the mantas that come into the area

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fairhope, Alabama

The beautiful city of Fairhope Alabama sits on a sloping plateau amidst the shoreline of Mobile Bay. Population is around 14,000. You aren't likely to find a more pleasant place to visit or live.

Fairhope regularly shows up on "Best Places to Live or Retire" lists, among those are Money Magazine and U.S. News and World Report.

Fairhope was first settled sometime around November of 1894, where Alabama City used to be. The Fairhope Industrial Association founded the town as a Utopian colony espousing single taxation. The colony's principal founder was social philosopher Henry George. He had twenty-eight followers, the basis of the city's original citizens.

Their goals were to establish and conduct a model colony which was to be free from all kinds of private monopoly and where they could secure city members equal opportunity, as well as rewards for individual efforts. The first citizens of Fairhope Alabama pooled money to purchase some land, including Stapleton's Pasture, located on the eastern edge of Mobile Bay. The city fathers divided the land into long-term leaseholds. Rent paid all government taxes and this simulated a single tax.

A corporation called Fairhope Single-Tax is still in operation. It has 1,800 leaseholds, spread out over 4,000 acres both around and in Fairhope, Alabama. In the 1910 version of "The Landlord's Game," a precursor of "Monopoly," Fairhope Avenue was included.

In 1907, educator Marietta Johnson founded a school called Organic Education in Fairhope. John Dewey praised the school in his 1915 book Schools of Tomorrow. Both Johnson and Dewey founded an association called Progressive Education. Other noted intellectuals regularly wintered in the city, and it was a magnet for artists and writers. The esteemed writer Upton Sinclair often visited the city.

Over time, the city has moved from a Utopian experiment to an intellectual's and artist's colony, and then on to an affluent suburb and boutique haven.

Residents and tourists have witnessed the jubilee phenomenon for over fifty years. A variety of aquatic animals, which include flounder, blue crabs, eels, catfish and stingrays move to very shallow water. The timing of jubilees are unpredictable, but they occur during the summer months, usually just before dawn. If you are lucky enough to be in Fairhope during a jubilee, grab a net and you will certainly catch dinner. The phenomenon is thought to be caused by a lack of oxygen in the water due to decaying vegetation.

Weeks Bay National Estuarine Reserve boasts a wide variety of wildlife and plant species in a swamp forest. There is an elevated walkway, so the visitor can walk easily through the wetlands. This is one of the few places that you can see a pitcher plant bog in the wild. These plants are carnivorous, but don't worry-- they only eat insects. Early spring is the time to see the pitcher plants in bloom, but other plants are in bloom all the way into late fall. Pitcher plants create an ecosystem that can not be found anywhere else on Earth.

If you are visiting in March, you might be in town during the Annual Arts & Crafts Festival. In 2011, it is scheduled for March 18, 19 & 20. More than 200 artists and craftsmen bring some of their work to be purchased or just enjoyed. Live entertainment is also a highlight of the festival. If you are anywhere within driving distance of Fairhope Alabama and enjoy events of this nature, this is one you will want to attend.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Red Tide in Gulf Shores, Alabama

Red tide is a natural phenomenon that occurs when temperature, salinity, and nutrients reach a certain level, resulting in a higher than normal concentration of a certain type of algae (Karenia brevis). The exact formula is unknown, but it is known to occur when the temperature is high and rainfall and wind is low.

The outbreak doesn't have to be red in color. It can appear green, brown, or purple. The water might even retain its normal color.

One is most likely to occur in the Gulf Shores, Alabama, area during the summer or early fall.

Unless the surf is rough and pushing salt spray into the air, people enjoying the beach will probably not even know that an outbreak is in their vicinity.

Most beach tourists have never heard of the phenomenon until they experience one, and then they worry whether it is dangerous. Symptoms include sneezing, tearing, coughing, and eye, nose, and throat irritation. Contact with red tide might remind the tourist of the last cold or allergic reaction he experienced. Symptoms usually subside once leaving the affected beach.

Red tide is nothing but a discomfort to otherwise healthy people, but it is inadvisable to "stick it out." If the beach you usually enjoy is affected, find another beach or even move to a protected water. This is especially good advice for those with respiratory conditions like emphysema or asthma.

Particularly bad outbreaks can kill fish, sometimes millions of them. Most of the fish killed are small "bait fish," but sometimes larger fish like hardhead catfish and flounder wash up dead on the beaches. Often it is the dead fish that drive tourists from the beaches. Thousands of dead fish on the beach is unpleasant, at best.

Caution should be exercised walking barefoot around dead, larger fish.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Shorebirds on the Alabama Gulf Coast

Coastal Alabama is a birdwatcher’s paradise. There are tons of different species to spot and catalog. Avid birdwatchers flock to the area because it is home to such a wide variety of avians. Shorebird identification for some of the most common species:
Warsaw Grouper

Great Blue Heron

The great blue heron is nearly four feet long and has a wingspan of about five feet. These wading birds are commonly found on the shoreline of open water. They are the largest of all of the herons found in North America.

The call of the great blue heron is very distinctive. The sound is reminiscent of a gigantic frog croaking. Herons are more vocal when it is breeding season.

For the most part, the great blue heron feeds on small fish, crabs, shrimp, rodents, small mammals and even birds. They usually swallow their food whole and occasionally will choke trying to consume something that is too big.

Brown Pelican

Brwon Pelican Photo

Pelicans are large water birds that have long, pouched bills. They are good swimmers as they use their strong, little legs and webbed toes to propel themselves through the water. The tail of a Pelican is squared off and short with about two dozen feathers. The wingspan is large and the breast muscles are strong which aid in their ability to glide and soar.

A pelican’s diet is mostly fish but they will eat crustaceans and frogs. Though a rarity, they will occasionally consume small birds. Pelicans will generally search for food in large groups. They will chase schools of fish toward the shore and scoop them up for a quick meal. Pelicans will also catch fish by piercing the fish with their bills. They will then pop it into the air and catch the fish in the air and slide it down into the gullet.

Warsaw Grouper

The killdeer is technically a plover and it is customarily found near the shore. They will also congregate in large, grassy fields such as golf courses and football fields. They eat insects and they stir up the bugs by running around in the grass. Killdeer have the typical characteristics of all plovers. Their bodies are slim and lean with long tail feathers that end in a point. They have round heads with short bills and large eyes. They are tawny colored with a white breast. The breast has two bands of black on it. The face has black and white markings. The rear area of the killdeer is orange in color.


Oystercatchers are wading birds. The feathering is usually solid black or black to brown with a white breast. They have large and long bills that are either red or orange. These birds are noisy. By noisy, I mean incredibly loud and boisterous and they can be very annoying.

Warsaw Grouper

The diet of the oystercatcher is shockingly varied. They will eat bugs, worms, oysters, clams, crabs, mussels and fish too. When they’re hungry they certainly have many options for finding dinner.

All oystercatchers are monogamous birds. They are very territorial and will not only defend each other but their nesting site as well. Researchers studied a pair of oystercatchers that stayed together and defended the same nesting area for more than 20 years!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Old Gulf Shores Alabama Postcards

On these pages will be vintage postcards and memorabilia from the Alabama Gulf Coast.
Gulf Shores Alabama New and Old Intracoastal Canal

"Historical "Catilever" Drawbridge across the Intracoastal Canal at Gulf Shores, Alabama, with the new High Level Bridge in the background. Photo also shows the Golf Course, Oyster Bay, the Gulf of Mexico, together with many thriving businesses." (1970's)

Gulf Shores Alabama 1960's Postcard

"Maisel Cottages ... Located on snow white beaches of the Gulf. Enjoy the cool Gulf breezes or the air conditioned comfort of your own cottage. Fish or swim in the beautiful Gulf or take a cool dip in our pool." (1960's)

Gulf Shores Alabama Vintage Postcard

"Peganita Cottage is the summer home of Mr. & Mrs. S.H. Goldman at Gulf Shores, Ala. Although only 500 feet from the Beach, on the Gulf of Mexico, it is surrounded with shrubs and flowering plants growing in the sand." (1950's)

Gulf Shores Alabama Vintage Postcard

"Old Spanish Fort Tourist Village ... Located 7 miles east of Mobile, Alabama, at the junction of U.S. Highways 31 & 90, is built on the site of the last battle of the War Between the States (April 8-9, 1865). The original trenches and breast works have been preserved and official U.S. Government War Department maps identify the various batteries, gun replacements etc. The 60 unit motor court, restaurant etc. (Air conditioned) enjoy a Coast-to Coast reputation for excellent service and genuine hospitality." (date on back 1-17-51)

Dauphin Island Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo 1950's

"Dauphin Island is the scene each summer of a Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo. the top prize fish is the Tarpon which is the State's official fish. The entire Alabama Gulf Coast is famous for excellent speckled trout during the winter months."

Gulf Shores Vintage Postcard

"Along the Gulf Coast of Alabama ... The sugar white sand along the new Gulf Shores meets the azure blue water and enhances the pleasure of thousands of people who come for fun and sun to this busy resort area."

This shot centers on Highway 59 (Gulf Shores Parkway) at the intersection with Highway 182 (Beach Boulevard) ... 1970's

Gulf Shores Vintage Postcard

"Along the Gulf Coast of Alabama ... Convention Center ... The beauty of the Convention Center is enhanced between the blue fresh lake and the Gulf of Mexico. The fast growing area of Gulf Shores to the west is a delightful place to visit. A complete vacation spot for fun, sun, and relaxing." (1970's)

Gulf Shores Vintage Postcard

"Gulf State Lodge & Convention Center ... Gulf Shores, Alabama ... Following along the gleaming white shore line of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, is this modern convention center."(1970's)

Gulf Shores Vintage Postcard

"Along the Gulf of Mexico Gulf Shores, Alabama ... Gulf Shores has taken on a new look that is unique in its accommodations. The front has pavilions and parking area to accommodate vacationers. The sugar white sand and the fun in the sun is still the best in the south." (1970's)

White Caps Motel Postcard Orange Beach

"White Caps Beach Apartments Motel ... 5 Miles East of Gulf Shores, Alabama at Romar Beach on Alabama 182 ... All luxury equipment air-conditioned, electric kitchenette, tile bath, shuffleboard, maid quarters, beautiful private beach with cabana. Swimming pool."

The White Caps was the first motel in Orange Beach, and it was the site of the first swimming pool on the island. It opened in 1960. Summer House Condominiums occupies the site today.

Gulf State Park Casino Postcard

"This beautiful white sandy beach along the Gulf of Mexico is truly a paradise for the vacationist. Swimming, boating, and salt water fishing are but a few of the many diversions for relaxation."

The Gulf State Park Casino was at the end of Hwy 135 on the site where the convention center was located before Hurricane Ivan. The casino was primarily a teenage hangout. It burned to the ground in the early 1950's.

The Palms Court Loxley Alabama Postcard

"The Palms Court" Loxley, Alabama ... 14 Units - Comfortable - Reasonable - Electric Fans - Heat - "Friendly Service Always"

The Palms still stands today. This postcard is probably from the early 1940's. In those days tourists would have stayed in a motel like this one and made day trips to the rivers and Mobile Bay to fish.

Satsuma Oranges Mobile Alabama

"The Satsuma is a Mandarin type, "Kid-glove" orange of delicious dessert quality. It was introduced into the United States from Japan in 1876. Satsuma oranges are grown extensively in the Gulf Coast section. Single orchards in Mobile County comprising as much as 1100 acres." Postmarked 1947.

Foley Alabama Vintage postcard

This postcard is postmarked Jan 20, 1937. I don't recognize the scenery. If you do or know anybody who might, let me know.
Tarpon Bay Lodge Weeks bay Alabama Postcard

"Tarpon Bay Lodge , West of Foley, Alabama, on beautiful Weeks Bay - The Home of Game Fish. A Grand Place to Play or Rest." Postmarked 1950.

Dauphin Island Holiday Inn Postcard

"Holiday Inn Dauphin Island, Alabama ... State Highway 163, 32 miles south of Mobile in the Gulf of Mexico ...When you visit the sparkling sugar-white sands of Dauphin Island's beaches, you'll know you're in the paradise of the Gulf." Postmarked 1967

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Great Blue Heron

No bird is more regal than the great blue heron. These are large wading birds which are found in wetlands and near open water. Their territory runs over a majority of North and Central America, the Galapagos Islands, and the West Indies. This bird shows up in Europe rarely, and it has also been spotted in the Azores, England and Spain.

The great white heron was once thought to be a separate species, but it's not. The white heron roams south Florida and the Caribbean and is actually a white morph of a blue heron. Another species of heron called the Wurdemann's heron looks similar to the great blue heron, but it has a white head.

In Europe and elsewhere a similar but smaller bird, the grey heron, is predominant. Along with the cocoi heron and the great blue, the grey forms a sort of super-species. There are also five subspecies.

The bird's territory goes up to Alaska and Canadian provinces. Birds normally living in the northern part of their range migrate South for the winter. On the West Coast and in the southern U.S., they stay put. In the north, some of the birds do remain during cold winters, as these are hardy birds.

Great Blue Heron

The blue is the biggest of the herons in North America and grows up to fifty-five inches tall. Stretched out, the wings may cover a length of seventy-nine inches. It can weigh up to eight pounds and it has lovely, slate-blue feathers, reddish brown thighs, and two stripes down the flanks. Its neck is a rust-grey color with white and black streaks down the front. It features an almost-white face and a pair of bushy black "eyebrows" on its head.

The great blue heron has a dull-yellow beak and this turns orange at the start of the breeding season. Young birds have an overall duller color, no plumes, and a beak which is dull gray-yellow. The bird walks in an almost straight line and the distance between steps is about nine inches. It has small talons which imprint as it walks.

Habitat is varied for this large bird. It is very adaptable to its surroundings. The great blue is always found close to bodies of water, and it prefers nesting in an elevated location such as bushes or trees. The great blue heron might be spotted in both saltwater and freshwater marshes, at the edges of lakes, shorelines, and in temporarily flooded meadows, like their cousins the egrets.

They are a favorite of birdwatchers because they are regal, refined and elegant. Watching them wait patiently for prey and then lightning quick catching it, brings a few of those gorgeous Audubon paintings to life.

You are likely to spot these large and beautiful birds if you visit the coast or inland waterways of Alabama. They are very common on the beach, and there you will normally see a solitary heron in search of food. They are very accustomed to humans, so it is easy to get close enough to take a good photo. If you are in a watercraft, look for their nests (from the water, of course) on the islands in and near Perdido Pass.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Gulf Shores Memorabilia

Old Perdido Pass Bridge Photo

Alabama Point, Alabama ... Spanning Perdido Bay, this bridge connects the resort areas of two states - Florida and Alabama. (1960s)

The first bridge over Perdido Pass was opened to traffic in 1962. This two-lane bridge was damaged by Hurricane Frederick in 1979. After the hurricane, a higher four-lane bridge was built and the old won was demolished.

Old Perdido Pass Bridge Photo

Ashwander Beach Cottages ... Completely Furnished for Housekeeping ... Air-Conditioned ... New and Modern ... Write or call for reservations ... Earl & Lois Ashwander - Gulf shores, Alabama. (1960s)

Old Perdido Pass Bridge Photo

Friendship House ... Gulf Coasts' Finest Food ... Restaurant - Lounge - Antiques ... Highway E. 180 on Intracoastal Canal ... Gulf Shores, Alabama 36542 (1960s)

The Friendship House, owned by Nick Coles, was located on the Intracoastal Canal at the old drawbridge.

Lovell's Restaurant Loxley Alabama

Lovell's Restaurant ... Loxley, Alabama ... Serving the most delicious meals, specializing in plate lunches, chicken and sea foods... Owned and operated by Mr. and Mrs. M. Lovell. (1960s)

This building still stands. Several different businesses have occupied it since Lovell's closed.

1960s Gulf Shores Alabama Travel Brochure

Just glance at the map! Gulf Shores, Alabama, is easily accessible to a vast area of the United States. It's the perfect holiday spot for every member of the family, and ideal for extended visits too! Its fishing and beach sports are yours on a year-round basis. The attractions of the Azalea Trail and Mardi Gras in Mobile, the Pensacola dog races, are only a short, pleasant drive over beautiful highways.

We have Courts, Cottages, Motels and Hotels available at reasonable rates. Kitchen equipped if you like, or you may dine in our many excellent restaurants. They are located on the Gulf Beach, Intra-Coastal Canal and Orange Beach.

The simple life's the rule of wonderful Gulf Shores, but the accent's on true, modern comfort. There's a variety of cottages available, assuring just the type you need. MODERATE rates always.
Fishing? Every day in the year, you have your choice - deep-sea fishing in the Gulf, fresh water fishing in nearby streams, bay fishing in one of our many bays, casting from one of our five piers, or surf casting directly from the shores! All yours in Gulf Shores! (1960s)

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Carnival Cruise Shore Excursions

Carnival Cruise shore excursions can add greatly to the enjoyment of your trip. Notice that I said "can," not will. You should be very cautious about booking them. The wrong trip will waste your precious vacation time and your money.

You should book the trip that is right for you - more often than not, one that is right for you plus the rest of your party. That takes some thought and research.

One of our cruises stopped at Cozumel, Mexico. If you've never been there, it is a wonderful place - much of the experience doesn't have to cost you anything but taxi fare and a little food to tide you over until you get back to the ship.

A family of four was seated with us for dinner. We had been to Cozumel a half dozen times and didn't plan on spending any money there this time, except for food and some T-shirts from the Hard Rock Cafe. We enjoyed the city and snorkeled in the lagoon. That family of four had never been to Cozumel before, yet they bought a shore excursion to CANCUN. To get to Cancun from Cozumel, one has to take a ferry to Playa del Carmen and then a bus to Cancun, eating 4 - 5 hours of time in transportation. Not only that, most of these tours, especially in Mexico and Jamaica, stop at places where the tour guide gets a kickback from the owner of the premises. More time wasted. Cancun is a nice place to visit, but if you haven't seen where the ship docks...

Tulum Mexico

Maybe You Can Do It Yourself?

Another thing to consider when booking Carnival Cruise shore excursions is whether the tour is unique to the place that you are visiting. Snorkeling is fun, but if you can do that closer to home why spend a lot of money doing it somewhere else? Doing it free is one thing, but paying for it is entirely something else. In fact, at most cruise stops all you have to do is tell a taxi driver to take you to the nearest good snorkeling. You will need your own equipment, but if you don't have it you could probably buy your own for the cost of the tour.

.... Which brings up another suggestion that works for those that don't mind a little extra adventure on their Carnival Cruise shore excursion. Before you book an excursion through the cruise lines, investigate and decide whether it would be easier and more economical to just go without a guide booked through Carnival. We do that often. It saves a lot of time and money in most instances and you are not at the mercy of the tour guide. Make sure that you get an exact price for the taxi ride before you get in the taxi and make it clear to the driver that you want to go there and back in a straight line - no stops for kickbacks. JUST MAKE SURE THAT YOU CAN GET BACK TO THE SHIP IN TIME.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Beach Safety

Living on the coast in Gulf Shores, Alabama, has made us more aware of beach safety and all of the things that can complicate a beach trip. Some are relatively minor. Others can mess up not only your vacation, but possibly the rest of your life.

Jet skis are a relatively new beach safety hazard. They are certainly a lot of fun, but unfortunately they can be dangerous and not just to the riders. Many jet skiers get so caught up in the fun that they don't pay enough attention to their surroundings. Pay more attention to them than they are paying to you and watch your children.

While usually not a major beach safety hazard, jellyfish stings can cause a lot of havoc at the beach. The occasional jellyfish at the beach is not unusual and not a reason to avoid the water. A few unlucky swimmers get stung. But there are times when everybody who gets in the water gets stung numerous times. Temperatures, salinity and good feeding are just a few variables that can affect the jellyfish population in a given area.

There are different types of jellyfish, some more dangerous than others. It would be a good idea to research treating jellyfish stings before a beach trip, especially if you have children. There are inexpensive products on the market that soothe jellyfish stings.

Riptides cause many drownings every year. It is probably the greatest danger at the beach. A riptide is a small channel that pushes water out to sea. People drown while trying to fight a riptide. If caught in one, swim parallel to shore until you are past the current and then swim toward the shore. Many public beach areas have flags to indicate swimming conditions. Red flag means stay out of the water, not be careful in the water.

Red Tide is a naturally occurring, higher than normal concentration of microscopic algae. The causes of red tide are not completely known, but it is thought by some experts to be caused by high temperatures combined with a lack of wind and rainfall.

I have read where red tide can be isolated and patchy, not affecting all areas of a beach, but from what I have personally seen at Gulf Shores I wouldn't have been able to avoid it by moving my beach chair a half mile. Symptoms are irritation of the eyes and throat. Obviously, if one suffers from asthma or other respiratory conditions this isn't a good thing, but otherwise healthy people will probably just be uncomfortable.

Sand holes and cave-ins are something that can turn a pleasant day at the beach into a nightmare real fast. Sand is easy to dig, so children sometimes dig deep holes quickly. Children do die from this. A vibration or drying sand can cause a cave-in. It only takes seconds under the sand to cause death.

Sunburn is very avoidable, but millions of people still get sunburned. At the very least, it can make the rest of your beach visit less comfortable. A beach umbrella makes a lot of sense if you plan on staying throughout the day. Beach tents are becoming popular, especially for children. They are fairly cheap and can be bought at the beach and thrown in a dumpster or given away at the end of your trip.

Puncture wounds are something to watch out for. Not very many people are going to do it, but it is best to wear some sort of footwear in the sand unless it is firmly packed sand near the water. Even on the packed sand, watch out for dead fish and sharp debris, especially after tropical storms and hurricanes.

Stingrays are non-aggressive creatures, but they can give you a dangerous puncture wound if you step on them.  Stingrays will not come after you and in fact will swim away from you if given the opportunity. When wading in the water, it is a good idea to drag your foot across the sand occasionally. The sound and vibrations will warn them that are getting closer.

The greatest fear of most beach tourists is a shark attack. The fear of sharks goes beyond beach safety. People have nightmares about them in Kansas. Certainly take precautions. Don't swim in schools of fish, especially in murky water. Take your flashy jewelry off before entering the water. Don't swim near bloody dead fish. Think twice about swimming between dusk and just after dawn.

But  shark attacks are rare. Deaths from shark attacks are extremely rare. In fact only 10 people in the entire world die each year from shark attacks. To put that in perspective, 150 people die in the world each year from falling coconuts. True.

The family should sit down and discuss beach safety before leaving home. Kids are not going to listen as well after they arrive at the beach. They are usually too excited to even sit still. Upon arrival, it is a good idea to briefly go back over what you discussed at home, as the situation dictates.

Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Alabama

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Types of Jellyfish on the Alabama Gulf Coast

There are several types of jellyfish on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Jellyfish can be problematic creatures. A jellyfish sting can not only be painful but dangerous for the person that is allergic to them.

  Moon Jelly

The moon jelly is one of the most commonly found jellyfish in the area. The bell can be anywhere from three to twenty inches in diameter. It is often clear or has a slight whitish hue to it. A cloverleaf pattern can be observed on the bell. The cloverleaf is either orange or pink in color. The tentacles are short and almost give the appearance of a curtain. The sting of a moon jelly is a mild one.

  Stinging Nettle

The bell of the stinging nettle is between one inch and one foot in diameter. It is nearly transparent and has small whitish spots. Commonly, there are also red or brown colored stripes on the bell. It has very long tentacles. Those that have been stung by stinging nettles assert that it is very painful.

Big Pink Jelly

The big pink jelly is certainly one of the strangest looking jellies in the area. The entire creature is the color of Pepto-Bismol! This thing is seriously pink. The bell is smooth and flat with curved edges. The bell can be anywhere from four inches to three feet in diameter. The tentacles are super long. Some people claim that they had no reaction to the sting whatsoever while others state that the sting is very painful.

Portuguese Man of War

The Portuguese Man of War is a dangerous jelly. The sting is incredibly painful and can be life threatening if allergic. The size of the bell varies from two inches to fifteen inches. The bell is filled with gas and it is blue or purple. The tentacles are long and either red or purple in color. They are often spotted floating on the surface of the water.

Jellyfish Sting First Aid

It is definitely wise to stay alert when in the water. Keeping watch for jellies will certainly help prevent you from getting an unwanted and uncomfortable sting. Pay attention to the color of the flag on the beach. Never go in the water if the flag being displayed is red or purple. Those colors warn you that there are dangerous conditions in the water. Heed the warning and stay safe!

There are some products available that claim to keep jellyfish away. The manufacturers state that they work just like OFF! works on mosquitoes. These products can be purchased on the Internet.

It is always best to be prepared when you go to the beach. Always bring vinegar, work gloves and a container of meat tenderizer. It does sound strange but they will all help if you should get stung. Don’t leave them in the car. Keep them with you.

The tentacles must be gently removed from the skin of the person who was stung. Do this while wearing the work gloves to prevent further stings.

Rinse the area with saltwater. Do not use fresh water to rinse because it can make the cells that haven’t discharged do so. This will cause more pain.

Pour the vinegar over the jellyfish sting or soak the area in a bucket of vinegar. The vinegar helps reduce the stinging pain. Now, mix the meat tenderizer with salt water to form a thick paste. Smear the paste on the part of the body that was stung. This should provide immediate relief.

It is not normal to have a hard time breathing or swallowing after a jellyfish sting. If this occurs, see medical attention immediately.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Orange Beach Alabama Dog Park - Unleashed

"Unleashed," the new Orange Beach dog park, opened for business on September 13, 2010, with an official ribbon cutting. There are very few places in the Gulf Shores - Orange Beach area where dogs can run wild. Tourists are often disappointed to find out that they can take their dog on the dog on the beaches, even on a leash, but "Unleashed" is probably the next best thing.

"Unleashed" is managed by the City of Orange Beach.

The park is very easy to find. It is located near the shore of Terry Cove and Sportsman's Marina, just short of a mile and a half from Highway 161, towards Bear Point. The park can be used at anytime from sunrise to sunset.

It is a great asset for the area because dogs love to run free and their owners like them to be happy. A dog needs a certain amount of vigorous playtime to remain healthy. At this park your dog will have 3/4 of an acre to run-- and you will have some nice benches to sit in the shade and watch him have fun.

If you have a small dog and worry about his safety around other dogs, there is a separate area for your pet.

For those who want to train their dog to jump, the park has an agility training station.

There are water stations throughout the park for your dog to cool off and for you to remove the sand and dirt from him before he gets in your car.

To use the park, dogs must have up-to-date vaccinations, be at least 4 months old and be accompanied by a human at least 14 years old. Each dog must have one person to take care of it. A complete set of rules are posted at the park.