GPS: 30°41′40″N 88°02′35″W
Shipwreck explorers and serious fishers abound in this historic port city. Charter boats sail into the Gulf of Mexico daily for intense deep-sea fishing excursions, and old Native American shell mounds are prime locales for day hikes and kayaking.
Head to the nearby Gulf Shores, a public white-sand beach, to surf some easy waves, or join up with the Down Under Dive Shop to explore the Whiskey Wreck—a submerged, 200-foot (61-meter) long "Rum Runner," just off the white-sand beach; Down Under offers a full menu of rentals and PADI open-water diver courses ($199 a person for five confined-water dives and four open-water dives; www.downunderdiveshop.com).
Mobile locals live on sweet tea and seafood, so join them at Wintzell's Oyster House for the fried, stewed, and nude (raw) varieties (www.wintzellsoysterhouse.com).
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Spend your evenings at the Battle House Hotel, the center of local high society in the late 1800s. Set in a stately neighborhood of quiet, oak-lined streets, the hotel's site originally acted as Andrew Jackson's military headquarters during the War of 1812. Today, it has been restored to resemble the lavishness of Southern living past (doubles from $159; +1 251 338 2000).