Known for its lush farmland, manicured golf courses, quaint towns and beautiful beaches, Baldwin County is rich with resources. But if you’re willing to travel off the beaten path, the B.C. has a few more gems to offer.
Baldwin County is proud of its pecan groves, but the increase in development, aging landowners and economic challenges have forced many of the groves to close. Despite that, B & B Pecan Co. remains. Family-owned since 1956, the shop and groves are managed by the Bishop family. Clarence Bishop maintains the trees, while his wife, Sandra, oversees their retail and online business. “Pecan farming is nice as long as the weather is nice, ” Sandra says. “But a hurricane can really set you back.” Regardless, the tradition will stay in the family, as two of their children prepare to take over.
B & B Pecan Co. • 16151 Greeno Road, Fairhope. 1-800-732-6812. 928-9031. securehost.siteonestudio.com/pecangifts.com/
If you’re looking for a way to cool off after a day at the beach, Gulf Shores has plenty of options. Rides like the Jet Stream and the Screamin’ Demon have made Waterville USA a destination for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush. If you’d rather be out on the open water, banana boats have become popular with families. Towed behind jet skis, the inflatables seat up to six people and offer riders a 15-minute spin along the beach.
Waterville USA • 906 Gulf Shores Parkway. 948-2106.
A Big Birthday Bash
Stop off at a liquor store in the Summerdale area in mid-August and chances are you’ll find a sign that says, “Buy Kenny’s Rum Here.” The rum in question is Appleton Estate, and the man is local builder Kenny Horton. Known for his eclectic custom homes, he can often be seen driving around Baldwin County with his pet donkey riding shotgun. Every year, Kenny celebrates his birthday with a rum party that has now become legendary, so much so that he’s been able to secure corporate sponsorship. There is no formal guest list or invitations, but some years the headcount has topped a hundred. The only requirement for attendance is a sense of humor and a bottle of Appleton, which is either drained into an old wooden keg or mixed into Kenny’s famous “Painkillers.”
Ask anyone who lives in Baldwin County the best place to watch the sunset and you will get a myriad of answers, from Fairhope Pier, above, to their own backyards. People are as passionate – and as secretive – about their favorite locations as they are their favorite fishing hole. Laura and Tobin Street spend almost every Sunday evening watching the sunset with family and a glass of wine. The spot is so perfect that they regularly host barbecues and “sunset parties.” Laura is cautious about revealing the exact spot. “I don’t want to ruin it!” However, she did reveal that there is a public park across from Bayview Street in Fairhope, which allows anyone who needs a dose of beauty and tranquility to enjoy.
The Ferris wheel at the Wharf has become famous not only for its grandeur, but also for the spectacular views that it offers its riders. Standing 112 feet tall, the Ferris wheel makes for a romantic first date or great entertainment for the kids. But if you really want to experience the Gulf from a bird’s eye view, parasailing is also offered close by. Kerry Begnaud, who owns Pleasure Island Parasail, offers rides from five different locations. “Our rides take you about 400 feet in the air, ” she says. “It’s an experience the whole family can enjoy.”
The Wharf • 4673 Wharf Parkway, Orange Beach. 224-1000. alwharf.com
Pleasure Island Parasail • The Gulf Shores Plantation: 805 Plantation Road. 747-3613. The Pink Pony Pub: 137 East Gulf Place, Gulf Shores, 946-9000.
Bahama Bob’s: 605 W. Beach Blvd., Gulf Shores. 923-9636. San Roc Cay Marina: 27267 Perdido Beach Blvd. Orange Beach. 974-5359. The Beach Club: 925 Beach Club Trail, Gulf Shores. 747-3613.
Manci’s Antique Club
In 1924, Italian immigrant Frank Manci bought an old, wooden produce warehouse in downtown Daphne and opened it as a gas station. Later, his son Arthur, a former mayor, took over and by 1967, the gas station was selling liquor. As the gas station transitioned to a bar and restaurant, Arthur, who was known for his sense of humor, installed the now legendary fig leaf in the women’s bathroom. “You’d just have to know him to understand, ” says Frank’s son, Alex, who now runs the restaurant with his wife. The Indian statue is dressed in nothing more than a strategically placed fig leaf. Curious patrons who dare to lift the fig leaf are in for a surprise.
Manci’s Antique Club • 1715 Main St. 626-9917.manci.net
Baldwin County is home to a wide variety of birds that are unique to coastal areas. Great blue herons and pelicans are common sights along the water. If you’re willing to venture a bit off the path you might even catch a glimpse of a bald eagle or a Peregrine falcon. Bird enthusiast Bob Sargent has been bird watching for more than 30 years. “I’m totally hooked on all phases of bird life, ” he boasts. His favorite spot in Baldwin County is the Fort Morgan State Historical Park, especially the stable and middle ground area, as well as Mobile Point.
If you don’t know where to start, The Alabama Coastal Birding Trail, which includes three trails in Baldwin County, has been created as a resource for both frequent and novice bird watchers.
Fort Morgan State Historic Park • 110 state Highway 180 W. 540-5257.
Alabama Coastal Birding Trail • 877-226-9089. alabamacoastalbirdingtrail.com/
The swamps of Baldwin County are notorious for their alligator sightings. A trip to Meaher State Park, 1, 327 acres situated on the wetlands of Mobile Bay, is sure to satisfy any outdoorsman’s desire to commune with nature. A little ways down the Causeway, 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center is another hotspot for the creepy crawlers. But if hanging with a gator in its natural environment isn’t for you, then try spending an afternoon at Alligator Alley. Located in Summerdale, the park has been open since 2004. Owner Wes Moore converted the land once farmed by his grandfather into an alligator rescue and habitat. Tour guides can answer all of your questions, while allowing you to feed and touch the reptiles.
Meaher State Park • 5200 Battleship Parkway E., Spanish Fort. 626-5529. alapark.com
5 Rivers Delta Resource Center • 30945 Five Rivers Blvd., Spanish Fort. 625-0814. outdooralabama.com/outdoor-adventures/5rivers/facilities/
Alligator Alley • 19500 state Highway 71, Summerdale. 946-2483. gatoralleyfarm.com
Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder