Walking beside Mobile Bay, we spotted a Great Blue Heron standing on the rocks, inches from the railing. My husband, Jim, quietly removed his camera and began shooting the nearly four-foot-tall bird with a dagger-like bill. Becoming bolder, I moved in for a closer look. The heron ignored me—intent on his search for dinner. When excited, his body shook and his feathers fluffed up. For thirty minutes, we followed the bird transfixed by his graceful stalking. It’s moments like these that make The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa a memorable family-friendly retreat.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

For a handy list of birds in the Gulf Coast region, download this brochure.

The Grand sits beside Mobile Bay in Point Clear, Alabama—approximately a 25-minute drive southeast of Mobile or 50 minutes west of Pensacola, Florida. The past three years, the hotel underwent extensive renovations and enhancements to the guest rooms, meeting spaces, restaurants, spa, golf courses, pier, pools, beaches and grounds.

After completing the $32 million transformation, the Grand joined Marriott’s International’s Autograph Collection, a brand with 150 one-of-a-kind hotels.

The resort’s gardeners keep the grounds lush year round

The resort’s gardeners keep the grounds lush year round.

A popular choice for upscale leisure travelers, the AAA Four Diamond rated resort is also an active member of the Historic Hotels of America.

A storied past

The original Grand Hotel opened in 1847. Guests arrived by steamboat when the hotel consisted of just 40 guest rooms. Throughout the hotel’s 171-year history, it developed strong military ties serving as a base hospital for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War and a Maritime Training School for the Army Air Force during World War II.

A daily patriotic military salute and cannon firing honors today’s military and those who passed through the hotel over the years.

The procession begins in the hotel lobby and concludes by firing a canon similar to those from 1847. The 4 pm event kicks off the tradition of complimentary afternoon tea in the Grand Hall, where guests enjoy an assortment of homemade cookies, scones and clotted cream.

Modern accommodations

Our newly renovated guest room’s best feature was the balcony with our treetop view of Mobile Bay. We opened the curtains and felt as though we were sitting in the tree tops. Relaxing in rocking chairs with coffee cups in hand, we could see families stopping beachside to rent paddle boats and bicycles.

Newly renovated guest rooms give the historic property a needed facelift

Newly renovated guest rooms give the historic property a needed facelift.

Designed in dark blue and neutrals, the update is tranquil and modern. The king bed was comfy and we appreciated there were two robes hanging in the closet. Other perks included a mini fridge, in-room safe and a coffee maker. The large bathroom contained an expansive collection of toiletries from a shave kit to a facial mist.

Parking in the Marina Building’s underground garage is convenient and complimentary. Walking through the property’s lush grounds with moss-draped oaks, blooming flowers, water features and friendly ducks highlighted our daily strolls to the main building, where the restaurant and bars are located.

The Marina provides 37 slips for sailboats, fishing boats and yachts

The Marina provides 37 slips for sailboats, fishing boats and yachts.

Casual dining options

The resort’s casual Southern Roots menu changes daily, and the chef enhances dishes with handpicked edibles from the estate gardens. My husband sampled the duck and dumplings, while I had poulet rouge breast—both dishes elevated the simple ingredients. For dessert, we shared the honey sponge—a sophisticated banana cake. Reservations are recommended for this restaurant, which only serves dinner.

Duck and Dumplings is a new twist on a Southern classic dish

Duck and dumplings is a new twist on a classic Southern dish.

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, the Bayside Grill has an open kitchen and friendly staff. Breakfast can be ordered off the menu, but many folks indulge in the buffet with a made-to-order omelet bar. The eclectic lunch/dinner menu with small plates, pizza and sandwiches offers a variety of ways to enjoy fresh caught Gulf seafood.

Two bars, pool-side dining, a cafe/market and room service complete the property’s selection of dining options. Additional foodie experiences include a Sunday Jazz Brunch, Culinary Academy and afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea is served at 4 pm

Afternoon tea is served at 4 pm.

Diversions at the Grand Hotel in Alabama

Some of the daytime options include:

  • With three golf courses and lighted tennis courts, help improve your game, lower scores and boost confidence with The Grand Golf Experience.
  • Chill by the pool in one of the new private cabanas. A large feature pool with waterfalls and a slide is a hit with families.
New cabanas elevate the luxury experience poolside and beachside at the Grand

New cabanas elevate the luxury experience poolside and beachside at the Grand.

  • Play on the lawn where you’ll find a putting green, croquet, horseshoes, crafts, Ping-Pong and cornhole games.
  • Spend an afternoon on the pier fishing—bait and poles are provided.
  • Visit the Spa at the Grand, which offers 20,000 square feet of space for pampering. There’s a wide range of services—massages, facials, manicures, pedicures— for women and men with quiet rooms featuring whirlpools and saunas. The updated fitness center contains cardio and weight training equipment.
  • Got downtown: The Grand Hotel in Alabama provides twice daily shuttles to the town of Fairhope with a walkable downtown. The not-to-be-missed attraction is Page and Palette—a 50-year-old family-run independent bookstore that includes a coffee shop and bar. More than 300 events fill its calendar. Pick up an autographed copy of a new book or get a recommendation for a gift for your grandchild.
  • Grab lunch at one of the many local establishments, go gallery hopping or antique shopping. A handy map can be downloaded online or pick up a guide from the Grand’s helpful concierge desk.

What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?

  • The resort’s array of amenities makes it attractive for a couples’ getaway, girlfriends/guys weekend or a multi-generational vacation with the grandkids.
  • Accessible accommodations are available including rooms with roll-in showers.

Take note

  • A variety of activities are offered at the Grand from boat charters to cooking classes. Chat with the concierge to plan a tailor-made experience.
  • Schedule a tour of the property with the resort’s historian. Ask for a postcard or two as a fun memento of your stay.


The Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, One Grand Boulevard, Point Clear, Alabama, 36564-0639

Disclosure: The authors’ visit was hosted by the resort.

Photo credits: All photos (except lead photo, courtesy of Grand Hotel): Jim Twardowski