No trip to the Alabama Gulf Coast is complete without spending some time out on the water, and to that end Wild Native Tours (www.facebook.com/wnative) is a good option for wheelchair-users and slow walkers. Their two-hour pontoon boat nature tours depart from the dock in back of Tacky Jacks (www.tackyjacks.com) in Gulf Shores, and give visitors a chance to see the area from a different perspective.
Accessible parking is available on the right side of the restaurant, near the bar, with level access over to the dock. Tickets are available in the gift shop, which also has level access. For an extra treat, get there early and enjoy a drink in the open-air bar, which has a great view of the Intracoastal Waterway.
Wheelchair-users are boarded from the front of the boat, and although there’s not always level access because of the tide, the crew is happy to lend a hand. According to the captain, they have taken both manual and power wheelchair-users aboard without incident. There is also a small head on the boat, and although there’s level access, there’s just a curtain for a door and there are no grab bars. Best bet is to use the accessible restroom in the bar before departure.
The cruise travels down the Intracoastal Waterway and the Bon Secour River to Bon Secour Bay and neighboring Mobile Bay, before it returns up the Intracoastal Waterway. Along the way the staff naturalist points out the wildlife and important historic points on this calm water cruise. It’s not uncommon to see brown pelicans, double crested cormorants and even a dolphin or two along the way. And as the boat passes by the large shrimp fleet at the Bon Secour docks, passengers are given an interesting overview of the whole shrimping industry.
And if you’d like a different — and more romantic — view of the bay, Wild Native Tours also offers sunset cruises on some days. Overall the crew does everything they can to make things as accessible as possible; but for the best access it’s always a good idea to consult a tide table, and choose a cruise that departs at low tide.