The Secretly Awesome Tour of Mobile with WildNative Tours
The Secretly Awesome Tour of Mobile, operated by WildNative Tours, is a family-friendly two-hour boat trip through the harbor, the bay and the estuary. It is an incredible opportunity to see what makes Mobile unique and learn about industry and nature. It left us wanting to see more of Mobile.
We took the Secretly Awesome Tour on Labor Day. Mobile is only an hour from Pensacola, making it an easy day trip for us. The Big Little is finishing up Wild Explorers Club and had to research and go on a guided tour as part of his travel to new places badge. With just a little help from us, he found the WildNative tour company (our homeschool field trip group had used them in the past) and scheduled us on the Secretly Awesome Tour.
The tour departs from downtown Mobile, just behind the Gulfquest National Maritime Museum. The boat has a bathroom. You are welcome to bring food and drink aboard. I also packed hats and coats for the kids, as I wasn’t sure how the temperature would be. We needed the coats, but the hats were unnecessary, as the boat has a cover. Tours run year round, rain and shine, as long as there isn’t lightning.
The Port of Mobile is the 9th largest port in the nation as well as housing an Austel ship building facility. No matter when you visit Mobile there is bound to be something happening in the port.
Austel has several docks right in the harbor, allowing you to get an up-close look at some of the newest ships in the Naval fleet.
Some of the ships are further along and are being outfitted with the guns and technology. You can’t get as close to these, but you’ll still get a good enough view from the water.
You are likely to see an oil platform or drill ship somewhere in the port. This oil platform was recently pulled into the harbor in order to be disassembled and scrapped.
One of Mobile’s cranes has been out of work all season due to an osprey nest, built in the rigging. Once the nesting season is over they will be able to remove the nest and hope the birds find a new place to settle next year.
The Littles loved watching the cranes unload a steel ship. Most of this steel will go into the automotive industry.
The crane operators use huge magnets to life the metal off the ship and load it onto waiting trucks or trains. It is incredibly fun to watch.
Everywhere you look, there is something going on. There is a huge coal terminal. It is cheaper to ship the coal than to truck it.
You also sail past the old banana docks, now the convention center. In 1937 Mobile was the third largest banana importer in the United States. These docks are also where Fire Ants were first introduced from South America into the United States. oops!
As you head into the bay you get a stunning view of Mobile’s downtown skyline. There was a Carnival cruise ship in port the day we visited, which looms almost as tall as Mobile’s buildings.
You will be entertained by fascinating stories about Mobile’s bay. Hurricanes and Climate Change are wreaking havoc over the landscape. You’ll see evidence of invasive tropical plants that are thriving in the now year-round warm waters of the bay.
We also got stunning views of the U.S.S. Alabama. It is Alabama’s most visited tourist attraction. I visited once when I was little, but will be bringing the boys back soon. The view from the water though cannot be beat!
Then you pass under the bridge and into the Estuary. There isn’t much time to explore. WildNative offers a tour of just the Estuary that leaves from the battleship. You may see some animals in this area though. It was too cold for alligators, but in warmer weather you might see them out and about.
A two-hour tour can seem long for kids. WildNative keeps the tour moving. Our captain spent time making sure the kids’ questions were answered. (The captain also made sure the childless couple on board with us got lots of attention.)
Each of the kids got a turn to drive the boat. The captain picked fun times when we were trying to just cover some ground , so they were able to drive when the boat was going fast.
The Little Little mostly just wanted to honk the horn. The captain happily showed him how.
The Big Little was in his element. He asked lots of great questions and was riveted by the captain’s dad jokes and funny stories.
The Big Little basically ditched us to hang out with the captain. He was helping with spotting animals and trash. (The captain has a grabber to pick up plastic he finds in the water.)
There is plenty of space on the boat for the kids to walk around and look. They are allowed to stand at the doors, which are easier to see through.
The Little Little lost interest about an hour in, but we kept him occupied with a whole bag of snacks. I also brought the carrier to contain him when he got manic.
If you want to go on the Mobile WildNative tour you will need to make your reservations in advance. (Obviously we think you should go!) Reservations can be made online. It is a great way to learn more about the Mobile bay. It is both fun and educational, which makes it a huge win in my book.
WildNative Tours also does group tours if you are looking for a field trip. They are happy to work with you to offer discounted group rates. Our homeschool activity group is booked with them for their Estuary tour in the spring time.