A magnificent, unspoiled island with 20 miles of gorgeous white sand beach that is nearly deserted not far from Mobile, Alabama? I know it sounds unlikely, but it's true. Dauphin Island, once the administrative headquarters for most of North America during the French colonial days, is an island some 16 miles in length that fronts on the Gulf of Mexico. For two or three months in the summer, it teems with tourists enjoying the broad beaches and warm Gulf waters, but for the rest of the year it relaxes to the point of downright somnolence. The eastern portion of the island (the "sensible end") is covered in trees and guarded by high sand dunes. There is an Audobon park and walkway through the pines and magnolias, complete with a swamp and lake. This is where the permanent residents live. The west end is really just a long sand spit dotted with homes perched high on pilings to stay dry when storms push water clean across the island. Of course, even this precauation isn't much help in a full-blown hurricane: Over 250 houses werelost during Katrina. Nonetheless, dozens of homes are still available for rent (quite inexpensive during the off-season -- call Annette at Boardwalk Realty), and it's just not everywhere in the US you can walk for miles on a beautiful beach, accompanied by a pod of dolphins 20 feet offshore, and never see another person. Not a lot of tourist infrastructure, though there is a golf course, but it's a great spot for a relaxing break. Oh, and don't forget the fresh steamed shrimp from Skinners. Perhaps the best shrimp in the world?
The BP disaster is indeed a catastrophe for the entire Gulf -- and very probably the globe. And I have to agree that, even before the spill, the gas (notoil) rigs on the horizon spoiledthe view a bit (though in theweeks I've stayed there, Ihave never heard a hum!), but that's theproblem isn't it? If we want to maintain this lifestyle, we need energy, and, up to this point anyway, that has meant widespreaddrilling and inadequate oversight. Perhaps this is the wake-up call we all need to review our ways. In the meantime, I truly grieve for the people-- as well as the birds andaquatic life -- of Dauphin Island and the whole Gulf Coast. We had planned on spending three months on the island this winter, but now...Who knows?