If you’ve ever traveled south down I-65 toward the Alabama Gulf Coast, chances are you’ve passed through, or at least driven by, Magnolia Springs. The tiny town located at the headwaters of the Magnolia River in Baldwin County was incorporated in 2006. As of 2019, its population was still under 1,000 people. Magnolia Springs may be small, but what it lacks in population, its community more than makes up for in heart. With ample small-town charm (mail is delivered by boat!) and plenty of Southern hospitality, it’s a wonderful place to spend a weekend enjoying the beauty of Alabama’s natural features. And for those who love the sand and sun but prefer a secluded setting tucked away from the hustle and bustle of busy beach towns, Magnolia Springs makes the perfect home base, just 30 minutes from the water. 

(Jesse’s Restaurant & The Cold Hole/Facebook)

Where to Eat

No visit to Magnolia Springs is complete without a meal—or two!—at Jesse’s Restaurant. The iconic steakhouse has been around since 1999 and is considered one of the South’s best-kept secrets. Executive Chef Laurence Agnew delights diners with an ever-changing menu of Southern favorites, ranging from Magnolia River Green Tomatoes and Squash Blossoms to Mississippi Catfish, Shrimp & Grits, and Ribs with whiskey barbecue sauce. For red-meat enthusiasts, there are nearly 10 different cuts of steak to choose from, including a 20-ounce cowboy bone-in ribeye, dry-aged Delmonico, and classic filet. After dinner, be sure to leave room for dessert. The bread pudding is served with a Bulleit bourbon glaze that’s utterly irresistible. For something a little more casual, head to Magnolia River Bar & Grill, a local watering hole serving no-frills bar fare in a friendly environment.   

(Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail/Facebook)

Where to Play

One of the best things to do when in Magnolia Springs is just stop and smell the roses, and by that we mean, give yourself permission to enjoy a slow morning. Take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood or rent a bike and pedal in the speckled shade of giant live oak-lined streets. Maybe stop to watch the country’s only river route mail delivery, or take time to chat with locals who have been meeting as part of an active community association for more than a century. Once you’ve taken ample time to appreciate your surroundings, get up-close-and-personal with the river by renting a kayak from Gulf Coast Paddle Sports or venture to nearby Foley, Orange Beach, or Gulf Shores for more activities like biking along Hugh S. Branyon Back Country Trails or exploring the area’s natural flora and fauna at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

(Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast/Facebook)

Where to Stay

Unless you happen to know one of the thousand people who call Magnolia Springs home, you’ll want to book a room at Magnolia Springs Bed & Breakfast for your stay. With its original stained-glass windows, gorgeous woodwork, and sprawling front porch, the charming inn is about as picturesque as it gets. Each of the historic home’s five guest rooms are decorated in classic Southern style but offer all the conveniences and luxuries of a modern hotel. Outside of the comfortable accommodations, Magnolia Springs B&B is known for its Southern hospitality. Breakfast each morning is a gourmet experience that will ruin you on hotel breakfasts forever. The three-course affair, served in the charming dining room or al fresco on the porch, is different each day, but expect things like fresh fruit, homemade biscuits and muffins, French toast, egg or hashbrown casseroles, grits, baked apple pancakes, and more.