If you require constant stimulation, with a wide array of activity and attraction choices available to keep you always entertained, then Magnolia Springs is not for you. If, however, you’re in need of a break from the maddening pace of modern life, then this tiny historic hamlet is exactly where you need to be, and autumn’s cooler temps make now the exact right time to visit.
Smothered in the shade of live oaks’ sprawling, fern-covered, and moss-draped branches, Magnolia Springs is about five miles from Foley, Alabama, and twenty minutes from Alabama’s beaches, but it seems worlds—and decades—away. It was settled in the 1700’s and grew as part of a Spanish land grant in the early 1800’s. Its location on the banks of the Magnolia River made it an attractive spot for trade and industry. A brick factory opened in 1819, and for more than ten years turned out the bricks used to build Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay.
The town was officially established in 1891 and took its name from the bubbling natural springs in the area. In the early 1900’s, when “curative waters” were all the rage, visitors flocked to the town to improve their health by drinking or soaking in the spring water.
Today people still journey to Magnolia Springs looking for restoration. The spring waters may not cure what ails you, but a weekend amid gentle breezes off the river, fabulous food, pampering at a B&B, exploring the outdoors, and doing a whole lotta nothing just might.
HISTORY AND HOSPITALITY
In a house dating back to 1900, The Magnolia Springs Bed & Breakfast welcomes guests with a wide, wrap-around porch and offers five lovely rooms, each with a private bath. The exterior was restored to the house’s original look in 1996, and the interior was carefully refurbished to highlight the woodwork and stained glass in the hallways and sitting room. Friendly innkeepers, who obviously love their job, make a stay here special, as does the delicious full breakfast served every morning.
Check into the special packages the B&B is happy to arrange. Get a bird’s-eye view of the area with a hot-air balloon ride. Discover every bend and nook of the Magnolia River and connecting waterways on a twenty-six-foot Panga boat that can go deep into the backwaters to find native wildlife like osprey, dolphins, alligators, and more. Or find a perch on the porch and wile the day away with a good book or, even better, daydream.
Jesse’s restaurant is walking distance from the B&B, and you’ll need the walk and then some after filling up on this award-winning eatery’s renditions of fine-dining classics created with fresh, local ingredients. Ask to sit in the sunroom that’s flooded with sunshine in the daytime and glowing with candlelight at night. Try the grilled shrimp salad with goat cheese, plump Gulf Shrimp, orange sections, sun-dried tomatoes and tangy citrus vinaigrette or the beef filet over creamy gouda grits with sautéed local veggies.
Next door is the old Moore Bros. general store, listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Jesse King was the beloved shopkeeper at Moore Bros. for decades, and by borrowing his name, Jesse’s restaurant honors his place in the community.
IN THE OUTDOORS
The town’s main road runs beside the river and takes you under arched branches and a canopy of leaves that only allow a few drops of sunshine through, making for a comfy stroll or jog. The river itself hosts canoes, fishing, paddle boarding, and other activities.
Venture a little farther to find the nearby Weeks Bay Reserve, part of the National Research Reserve System. Learn about the important role the area’s estuaries play in the future of Mobile Bay and the entire Gulf of Mexico and walk the boardwalk trail through maritime forest and marshland to see it for yourself. Look for the pitcher plant bog, a soggy field full of hundreds of these rare carnivorous plants.
There’re aren’t many shopping options in Magnolia Springs itself, but in the surrounding areas of Baldwin County, there are many, many places ready to part you and your money. Antique stores in particular abound. Stop in at the Gift Horse Antique Centre and Old Armory Mall, minutes away in Foley.