Off the beaten path, Dauphin Island is a subtropical Gulf barrier island situated three miles off the Alabama coast, 35 miles to the south of Mobile, and 120 miles to the east of New Orleans. The beaches are never crowded, even during the peak summer season. Enjoy the Gulf Coast's best fishing, unlimited water sports, beach-combing, world-class birding, our 'laid-back' atmosphere, and the Gulf Coast's finest seafood. Dauphin Island is off the beaten path, located 3 miles off Alabama's Gulf Coast, 35 miles to the south of historic Mobile and 90 miles east of New Orleans.
Over a millennium before the first Europeans landed, prehistoric Native Americans enjoyed the seemingly endless supply of shellfish and seafood. Many were drawn from further north by the readily available supply of food. Serpentine in shape, the Indian Shell Mounds, constructed over 1500 years ago by the Mound Builder culture, is lasting testament to Native American long-term occupancy and usage of Dauphin Island.
In 1519, the Spanish explorer Pineda was the first documented European to visit, staying long enough to map the Island with remarkable accuracy.
The Island's modern history began when the French explorer Pierre Le Moyne Sieur d'Iberville landed on the Island in 1699, beginning the first permanent settlement. Isle Dauphine, or Massacre Isle , as it was first called by the French due to the piles of human bones they found on its shores, became the first capital of the French Louisiana Territory in 1700. The Island was captured by the British in 1766 only to be seized by the Spanish in 1780 while the British were busy with the Revolutionary War. American forces captured the island in 1813 to prevent the British from using it in the War of 1812 (1812-1814).
Fort Gaines was begun in 1821, completed in 1848, occupied by Confederate forces in 1861 and was captured by Federal troops during the famous Battle of Mobile Bay. The phrase, 'Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,' was spoken by U. S. Admiral David Farragut just a few hundred yards from Dauphin Island's shore.
Today, the Island has a permanent population of about 1,200. It's a noncommercial, family oriented community offering varied outdoor activities while maintaining the serenity desired by the permanent residents.
Tourism activities include boating, fishing, camping, swimming, scuba diving, shopping, cycling and bird watching. Be sure to visit historic Ft. Gaines and the Estuarium, Dauphin Island Sea Lab's new Marine Educational Center and Aquarium. The visitor will find an astounding variety of natural wonder, friendly folks and plenty of fun things to see and do.