- Helen Armitage
Home to diverse landscapes ranging from mountains and farmland, to river and coastlines, Alabama boasts some of the most picturesque towns in the South. From tiny mountain communities to stunning seaside settlements, we round-up 10 of the state’s prettiest towns.
Frequently hailed as ‘the jewel of the Eastern Shore’, the picture-perfect community of Fairhope overlooks scenic Mobile Bay. Its bustling downtown, sandy beaches and friendly small town vibe have propelled it to Best Small Towns in America status by Southern Living Magazine. A collection of hip boutiques and restaurants make up much of Fairhope’s eclectic downtown and its active arts community has led to a number of galleries and events like art walks and festivals, while picturesque parks ideal for summer picnics and its waterfront lined with mossy oaks and rustic wooden piers only add to its charm.
With a population of just over 50, Mooresville is the smallest town on this list though its rich history and quaint old-world charm make it a worthy addition. An ideal destination for history buffs, the entire town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the oldest operating post office in the whole state, and two picturesque churches dating back to the 1800s. Visitors to this northeastern historical gem can experience life in the early 1800s at the faithfully restored Stagecoach Inn and Tavern, now a museum, and shop for curios and homemade candy at Lyla’s Little House.
A wealthy suburb of Birmingham, the beautiful community of Mountain Brook has all the charm of a small town alongside the convenience of a nearby metropolis. A planned community dating back to 1929, Mountain Brook is based on designs by acclaimed Bostonian landscape architect Warren H. Manning, and is characterized by pretty, winding roads and quaint residential villages populated with European-style architecture. Local attractions include several clusters of upscale restaurants and boutiques, Birmingham Zoo and the lovely, leafy Jemison Park – home to the babbling Shades Creek and the 1926 built Old Mill House designed by architect William H. Kessler.
Located in the northwestern most corner of Alabama in the musical area of The Shoals, Tuscumbia’s roots date back to the early 19th century. Today, its picturesque historic downtown is home to some of Alabama’s most impressive antebellum architecture. The birthplace of author and activist Helen Keller, Tuscumbia offers a glimpse into the courageous woman’s early life at her former home Ivy Green while the beautiful Spring Park, home to the scenic manmade waterfall Coldwater Falls, and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame – which celebrates the contributions of Alabamian musicians like Nat King Cole and the Commodores – are another reason to visit.
Nestled on the edges of Walter F. George Lake across from neighboring Georgia, the town of Eufaula was an important river port during the late 19th century when steamboats used its advantageous position on the Chattahoochee River to trade. Today, the town retains much of its quintessential Southern charm with beautifully preserved antebellum houses throughout its historic district which can be visited during the town’s Annual Eufaula Pilgrimage – the state’s longest running historical home tour. Surrounded by natural beauty, outdoorsy types take advantage of hiking trails and fishing hotspots while Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge is home to American bald eagles and alligators.
Boasting the beautiful backdrop of Lookout Mountain and nearby natural beauties like De Soto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve, the charming mountain community of Fort Payne is certainly paradise for lovers of the great outdoors. Its appeal doesn’t end there though: history buffs can get a sense of the town’s past with historical sites like the Fort Payne Depot Museum, a former train station built in 1891, now exhibiting Native American and local history artifacts, while music fans can visit a museum dedicated to locally formed Southern rock band Alabama and the annual Boom Days music and art festival.
Just a short drive from Fort Payne is Mentone – a quaint mountain village perched atop the majestic Lookout Mountain that, due to its location in the northeastern corner of the state, boasts panoramic views over Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia from its highest points. Surrounded by the lush forests of the Appalachian foothills, Mentone’s rustic cabins make an ideal starting point for visitors exploring the canyons and waterfalls of Lookout Mountain Parkway, while its quaint downtown is home to quirky cafés, stores and fun events like the Mentone Rhododendron Arts and Crafts Festival and The World’s Longest Yard Sale.
The beachside tourist town of Gulf Shores is an idyllic spot overlooking the beautiful, blue expanse of the Gulf of Mexico boasting long, white sandy beaches, cute waterfront seafood restaurants and trendy boutiques. Named one of USA Today’s Best Southern Beaches in 2014, Gulf Shores is an ideal haven for lovers of nature with dolphin spotting and shrimp catching amongst its popular activities. The neighboring Gulf State Park which is home to diverse wildlife including alligators and bobcats while events like the popular Hangout Music Festival give the town a fun vibe.
Quite rightly named the literary capital of Alabama, historical Monroeville has produced several literary greats including Truman Capote and Harper Lee, whose seminal 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird is loosely based on the town, and commemorated with a two-act theatrical production hosted by Monroe County Heritage Museum in town each year. An archetypal small Southern town, Monroeville’s beating heart is its beautiful town square flanked by historical buildings like the Old Courthouse, immortalized in Lee’s book, while the green, leafy Whitey Lee Park offers walking trails, a picnic pavilion and catfish and bream fishing at its lovely lake.
Nestled on the banks of the winding Magnolia River, the small town of Magnolia Springs is a charming little community so-named for its many magnolia trees, and the natural springs that flank the river. Known for its beautiful oak tree lined streets, Magnolia Springs is one of the few remaining towns in the USA that has its mail delivered to riverside mailboxes by boat – a unique aspect of the town that alongside historical buildings like St Paul’s Episcopal Church, built in the early 20th century in the Carpenter’s Gothic style, help retain Magnolia Springs’ small Southern town charm today.