Weekend in Fairhope, New Orleans’ colorful neighbor

A fountain at the center of a flower garden.
A fountain sits amid a rose garden at the Fairhope Municipal Pier. The park, adjacent to the pier and a golden sand beach, is a great place to start a trip to Fairhope, Alabama. Photo by Jessica Fender

Inside a domed, concrete barrel of a hut, the August temps drop by 10 degrees. Ancient tomes rest on a dusty bookshelf and a vintage writing desk perches next to a window.

Told he had just months to live, Henry Stuart left Idaho and built this tiny dwelling in the woods outside of Fairhope, Alabama, in 1926. (Today, it’s surrounded by a business park.) The snowy-bearded “Hermit of Tolstoy Park,” went on to live another 18 years, becoming a beloved and perpetually barefooted fixture of the community.

It’s telling that even the hermits here are friendly. Perhaps it’s more telling that Stuart is far from the most colorful character to call Fairhope home.

Founded on utopian ideals that have drawn artists, nudists, writers, bohemians and free thinkers of all stripes for more than 125 years, this small bay town today offers quirky beachside respite and plenty of outdoor activities to fill a weekend away from New Orleans.

This piece originally ran in the New Orleans Times-Picayune/Advocate. Read the the full article at Nola.com.

Looking for a one-day outdoors getaway? We recommend one of these easy day trips from New Orleans.

A shirtless man jogs along a tree-lined path.
The 13-mile tree-lined Eastern Shore Trail runs from Fairhope’s municipal pier to Weeks Bay estuary and reserve to the south. It’s popular with cyclists, joggers, dog walkers and other locals. Photo by Jessica Fender
A two story building in downtown Fairhope.
Fairhope’s downtown offers pretty architecture, flowers on every corner, indie boutiques and local restaurants. Photo by Jessica Fender
An old fashioned typewriter on a display with books
Indie bookseller Page & Palette carries works by Fairhope’s many local authors. It’s a great place to grab a coffee and relax after walking downtown. Photo by Jessica Fender
An ice cream pop in the foreground and a blurry street scene in the back
A cadre of local restaurants, shops and markets tempt foodie visitors to Fairhope Alabama. Photo by Jessica Fender
A sunbather in a yellow hat on a golden sand beach.
Several sandy beaches face Mobile Bay. Photo by Jessica Fender
A long pier extends into the Gulf of Mexico at sunset.
The sunsets over Mobile Bay at the Fairhope Municipal Pier. The pier and adjacent park are a great spot to start or end a trip to Fairhope, Alabama. Photo by Jessica Fender
A small, rounded stone room filled with antiques
A small stone dwelling built in the woods in 1926 by a hermit now stands in a small business park in Fairhope Alabama. Known as Tolstoy Park, the dwelling is open to visitors. Photo by Jessica Fender
A large home on a big yard framed by a live oak
Sprawling lawns and beautiful homes frame the coast to the south of Fairhope, just south of The Grand Hotel. Photo by Jessica Fender
A beach umbrella and two kayakers in the water.
Just south of Fairhope, Alabama, The Grand Hotel at Point Clear offers guests a private, manmade beach. Those who aren’t guests can walk the beautifully landscaped grounds and grab a drink at the hotel bar patio, which has panoramic views of Mobile Bay. Photo by Jessica Fender
A redheaded woman in flowered sunglasses reads a book on the beach
I got in a little beach time under one of The Grand Hotel’s umbrella. Selfie by me.

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