Mobile and Pensacola: Neighbors that expand vacation options

Lunch at Sunset Grille near Perdido Key is about fresh seafood and relaxing vistas

Lunch at Sunset Grille near Perdido Key is about fresh seafood and relaxing vistas

What Pensacola, Fla. and Mobile, Ala. have in common are really great seafood restaurants that serve wonderfully fresh oysters, shrimp and local fish.

You would also want to save room for key lime pie or bread pudding. Both desserts are specialties of restaurants in the region.

However, a mere hour’s drive apart on Interstate 10, their options of things to do and places to go vary greatly.

Dinner at Wintzell's Oyster House is a Mobile tradition

Dinner at Wintzell's Oyster House is a Mobile tradition

Both towns are on bays separated from the Gulf of Mexico by the Intracoastal Waterway and barrier islands but Mobile sits further north at Mobile Tensaw Delta.

Five rivers: the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee and Blakeley Rivers all flow into Mobile Bay.

A drive to 5 Rivers, a public recreation center on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay does hiking and boating adventures into the Delta and is an easy drive on I 10 or US Highway 98 from either town.

Take a pontoon excursion or kayak up the Delta from 5 Rivers recreation area

Take a pontoon excursion or kayak up the Delta from 5 Rivers recreation area

East of Mobile, the northern part of Pensacola sits on  Escambia Bay and the southern part of town borders Pensacola Bay.

But Pensacola area is really noted for the Pensacola Naval Air Station home of the Blue Angels and the Naval Air Museum just south of town.

It is also a nature destination known for the birds and turtles of the Gulf Islands National Seashore on the barrier islands separating the bays from the Gulf.

Pensacola's Gulf Islands National Seashore attracts birds and walkers carrying binoculars

Pensacola's Gulf Islands National Seashore attracts birds and walkers carrying binoculars

The Naval Air Station and National Seashore are accessible from US 98 and a short drive from wherever you are staying near Mobile or Pensacola. 

The famed Blue Angels planes can be viewed inside the museum all year.

However, visitors can watch the Blue Angels practice every month outside from spring through fall.

When visiting the area see the Blue Angels and historic planes inside the Pensacola Naval Air Museum

When visiting the area see the Blue Angels and historic planes inside the Pensacola Naval Air Museum

Now, about where to stay. Both towns have good hotels but when on vacation where water is part of the scenery you ought to bed down at a resort or condo complex that takes advantage of the vistas.

Near Mobile, Alabama

If you like good golf or a good spa, good views or good pools, check out the Grand Hotel Point Clear Resort, Golf Club & Spa on Mobile Bay.

A 550 acre resort operated by Marriott, the Grand is on US Hwy 98 23 miles southeast of Mobile and 49 miles west of Pensacola in Point Clear, Ala.

Landscaped pools at the Grand Resort encourage relaxing but so does walking along the bay a few steps further

Landscaped pools at the Grand Resort encourage relaxing but so does walking along the bay a few steps further

Its 36-hole champion golf courses are part of the 26 course Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail.

Outside, relax at a beautifully landscaped pool. Inside, get rid of stress with help from a massage therapist and relax in the European-style spa.

The only problem with the food mid-day is there are so many good choices on the Grand Gourmet Deli Buffet. But you can order from the menu.

Near Pensacola, Florida

If you like the space a condominium offers but want a seaside balcony, pools, fitness center and spa typical of a good resort, check out the Eden Condominiums on Perdido Key.

The water is fine. So are the views, pools and beach outside Eden Conominiums

The water is fine. So are the views, pools and beach outside Eden Conominiums

The key is a place to run, hike or gather seashells because its 16 miles include Johnson Beach at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Big Lagoon State Park and Perdido Key State Park.

Ranked among the top 20 beaches in the United States, the key has snowy white sand.

Perdido is connected by bridges to Alabama on its western end and to Pensacola further east. Neither bridge is far from US Hwy 98 which connects the Pensacola area with the Mobile region.

Watch the egrets, pelicans and other wildlife from the condo balcony or walk the beach for exercise and shells

Watch the egrets, pelicans and other wildlife from the condo balcony or walk the beach for exercise and shells

Other Attractions

In Pensacola, walk its historic village with costumed guides to see Colonial and Victorian homes and an 1832 church to find out more about Pensacola’s history dating back 450 years.

Then learn more about Florida’s history at the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum housed in the 1908 Renaissance Revival building that was City Hall.

The Florida State Museum is on the Pensacola historic tour

The Florida State Museum is on the Pensacola historic tour

Mobile is said to have celebrated Mardi Gras before New Orleans and the city still takes the event quite seriously.

So stop at the Mobile Carnival Museum to see a couple of floats and learn the event’s history. Go upstairs to ooh at  the elaborate costumes and robes worn by the Mobile Mardi Gras “royalty” over the years.

Visit the Mobile Carnival Museum for its Mardi Gras costumes, information and floats

Visit the Mobile Carnival Museum for its Mardi Gras costumes, information and floats

To bring back some of the same stuff used on floats and worn by people in the parade you can get items at the museum supplied by Toomeys.

For a huge selection go over to Toomeys Mardi Gras Mart, a 70,000 square foot supply store where you can get lost among the beads, masks and decorations.

Stay near either town but play at both.

The glitz of Mardi Gras fills the Mobile Carnival Museum store and Toomeys 70,000 square foot store

The glitz of Mardi Gras fills the Mobile Carnival Museum store and Toomeys 70,000 square foot store

(Photos by Jodie Jacobs)

 

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