Alabama’s a state with a little bit of everything: mountains, charming seaside towns, winding rivers, deep rural communities and more.
Away from the bigger cities – the French-founded Mobile on the coast, Montgomery and Birmingham looming large in the center of the state – there is a wealth of diverse small towns in Alabama, distinct communities famous for that sweet Southern hospitality.
Here, we’ll run through the finest the Yellowhammer State has to offer, taking you on a tour from the deep blue water of the Gulf coast to the tree-lined foothills of the Appalachians.
1. Fairhope: small towns or cities in Alabama
Nestled on the Gulf Coast, Fairhope’s long history as a vacation destination has marked it out as one of the best small towns in Alabama, full of a wide array of attractions.
It’s got some of the best beaches in Alabama and charming parks that both offer space for you to relax and soak in some Southern sun.
The walkable municipal pier extends out from the beach to offer license-free fishing and views that span out over Mobile Bay.
In the town proper, you’re spoilt for choice with galleries, locally-owned boutiques, and family-run restaurants that serve up some of the best seafood you’ll find anywhere in the state.
Meander around the atmospheric French Quarter to discover tiny stores coated in lush tropical greenery.
And, once you’ve kicked back on the coast and eaten your fill in town, you can take a trip out for some golf at the nearby Rock Creek Golf Club or hire a bike and coast around the numerous trails that meander along the shore.
2. Tuscumbia: cute towns in Alabama
If the beach life isn’t for you, head north to the beautiful little town of Tuscumbia.
It was first developed in 1820 and is an authentic slice of rural American life, full of historic buildings (check out the serene neo-classical pillars of the County Courthouse) and mom-and-pop stores.
Here, curled up in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, you can further immerse yourself in the region’s history at the birthplace of Hellen Keller, or discover the roots of some of America’s best music at the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Even older than Tuscumbia, Mooresville was the first town ever to be established in Alabama.
And it doesn’t feel like a huge amount has changed.
Only 45 people live here, of all the best little towns in Alabama (and there are a lot) this has got to be the littlest.
The whole place is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Not just a house or two, but every single still-standing wooden building, the church, the post office (the oldest one that is still going), every inch of this place is preserved as a living example of a mostly lost past.
Interspersed between the ancient oaks and picket fences, you can find delicious apple pie and strong coffee at JaVa, Moorseville, and organic local produce at 1818 Farms or Lyla’s Little House.
There’s nowhere else quite like it.
4. Muscle Shoals
You’ll find Muscle Shoals up in the north of the state, living it up on the banks of the Tennessee River.
It’s famous for its music, home to the ‘Abbey Road of Alabama’ where artists such as Aretha Franklin and the Osmonds came to record the hits that took them to the world stage.
You can take tours of the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios to learn more about the music’s guitar-strumming past and see for yourself where these greats came to work.
Once you’ve had your fill of the music, if that’s possible, the area is full of outdoor possibilities, with mile after mile of hiking trails winding through the woodlands of the area, as well as some prime fishing on the river.
5. Mountain Brook
If you like your towns a little more high-end, Mountain Brook is the place to be.
Its gourmet shops and restaurants offer some of the finest quality products you’ll find in the seat, whether they’re locally owned or more recognizable names, all with the beautiful surrounds of the Shades Mountain Ridges area to still keep that clean air, natural feeling.
Several famous actors live here, and it has the hospitality to match.
Try some refined Southern cuisine at Dyron’s, or head over for a tipple at the Dram Whiskey Bar and try some of the region’s best scotch and bourbons.
In Mountain Brook, it’s all about the finer things in life.
6. Fort Payne: Alabama small towns
The Sock Capital of the World might not seem a natural vacation destination, but today the Fort Payne area is a beautiful small-town set among some truly amazing nature.
The area is famed for its waterfalls that plunge and plummet along the Little River Canyon Preserve, as well as the countless trails that wind around these southern reaches of the Appalachian Mountains.
Outdoor enthusiasts will be spoilt for choice, but the town itself has everything you’re looking for in a quieter trip away as well, with great restaurants, like the rich southern tastes of Sally’s Smokin Butt BBQ, and the see-what-you-can-find excitement of the Big Mill Antique Mall.
And, don’t worry, even though the hosiery industry has calmed down here now, there are always some socks to buy.
This charming town is full of green space, easy living, and deep history.
The buildings of the historic district are still wonderfully preserved, letting you wander the tree-lined streets and feel like you’re wandering back through the same old town that was set up here in the middle of the 19th century.
The main draw of the area is the nearby Lake Eufaula, recognized as the ‘Bass Capital of the World’ (think fish, rather than music).
A lot of these cute towns in Alabama offer some great fishing but none here quite like this.
Over 10,000 keen anglers migrate to the lake each year in the summer season ready to spend their time fishing the rich lake and soaking in the shore-side calm of the area.
Knowns as the ‘Literary Capital of Alabama’, this charming town was once home to both Truman Capote (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), lending some serious cultural capital to the place.
If you’re looking for history, you can explore the Old Courthouse Museum or take a walking tour of the town that lets you wander through the town’s long history of industry.
Once you’ve satisfied your hunger for history, head on over to the Court House Café for some homely Southern food in a family-ran spot.
9. Florence: quaint towns in Alabama
Found along the wide Tennessee River, this historic space is recognized as one of the best small towns in Alabama to live in.
Its multiple parks and long riverbanks give it a real feeling of open space, but there are still all the amenities you could ask for.
Charming independent shops sell locally-made produce, and there’s been a real growth in the city’s food and drink scene.
Now, you can head over to distilleries like High Ridge Spirits to sample some of their own-made vodkas and moonshine or get your hands on some of the State’s best BBQ at Smokin’ on the Boulevard.
These are just two selections, but even if you’re here long-term, you’ll have options that can make any night of the week special in this charming town.
Living high here on the top of Lookout Mountain gives you a little perspective.
Mentone’s the highest town in the state and is surrounded by the dense green of some of Michigan’s most pristine forests, cut through with clean streams cascading into waterfalls that echo through the valleys, spray mingling with the pure mountain air.
It’s a pretty nice place to spend some time.
The nature speaks for itself, beautiful whether you’re here for the summer’s hiking, fall’s tapestry of color spreading down the mountainside, or the winter sports that come with the cold months.
But the town itself is charming as well.
From rustic restaurants, to log cabin shops, to charming family-owned bed and breakfasts, there’s everything here, ready and waiting to welcome you into a world of Alabama mountain life you won’t find anywhere else.
11. Magnolia Springs
By now, we all know that there are quaint towns in Alabama, but Magnolia Springs is serene, a perfect cocktail of cozy small-town life and awesome nature.
The town is stuffed full of nationally recognized historic buildings.
With streets that are arched over with trees, walking or driving here feels like you are traveling through some green, old world.
If you’re feeling peckish you can find Jesse’s Restaurant just off the river, serving some of the best food in town (come for the steak, treat yourself to the oysters).
Outside the town, the gorgeous Magnolia Springs State Park offers miles of exploration for when you need some green space, wandering the trails, and seeing the rich wildlife.
Do watch out for the alligators though.
12. Orange Beach
Sometimes, you just need to get to the beach, and there’s nowhere better in Alabama for some open sand than Orange Beach.
Located on the Gulf of Mexico, you can swim the tranquil waters, kick back on the beach, or take advantage of the reams of water sports that are on offer.
Just offshore are the Orange Beach Islands and you can venture out to them by your water transport of choice.
Regular tours leave from here to go dolphin spotting, always a family favorite, and not something that Alabama immediately brings to mind.
This is one of the finest lake-side towns in the South.
Lake Guntersville is a huge body of water, stretching over 69,000 acres, and in the summer makes the perfect place for the whole family to enjoy everything from some sunbathing to all the water sports you could ask for.
You can enjoy boats sailing out from the marina or, if you’d rather keep your feet on dry land, take a seat at the Harbor View Winery and watch it all with a glass of some of the region’s best vintages.
14. Bayou La Batre: charming towns in Alabama
This little fishing town has some serious charm.
When you’re sat by the waterside, everything moves at a drifting pace, as independently owned ships pass by, heading out to catch your evening meal.
It became slightly famous as the home for ‘Bubba’ from Forest Gump, helping cement the area’s reputation for some of the country’s best seafood.
And it is good.
You can either catch something yourself or stop by one of the many waterfront restaurants for a seafood boil, great oysters, or anything else fresh from the water.
It’s a treat for the stomach and the soul.
Valley only recently came together to be its own place.
Before 1980, it was four distinct mill villages.
Now, this conjoined diversity means that it is a small but varied place that celebrates the area’s industrial past and lush, natural present.
The four are stitched together by the Chattahoochee Valley Railroad Trail, under 8 miles of well-maintained trail that meanders through the separate spots, showing you some of the best swimming, hiking, and fishing spots that are dotted around the area.
Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, you can find the charming town of Winfield.
It’s a steady, rural place, where life ambles along in its own way, offering visitors a break from the hustle and bustle of elsewhere.
Restaurants serve Southern comfort food, the Pastime Theatre keeps shows going all year round, and every September the place comes alive with the Mule Day event.
A unique day out, Mule Day might not be your usual idea of a vacation, but always worth seeing if you’re in the vicinity.
17. Dauphin Island: best small towns in Alabama to visit
Found just a little further out into the Gulf from Bayou La Batre, this tiny island is dense with beautiful landscapes and history.
The beaches are pristine white sand looking out to the Gulf waters that you can kayak and paddleboard out to.
The network of woodland and rising, falling dunes offer sanctuary to birds that color the island air with a dawn chorus each morning.
Charter boats can take you further out to sea, spotting dolphins or, maybe, a shark or two.
The town itself reflects this tranquil life, an easy-going place still watched over by the remains of the 19th Century Fort Gaines.
The perfect place to get away.
Hey! Want to check out more small towns across America? Here are some of our favorites!
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