The West Surf Beach is the beach area on the south side (Gulf side) of the west end of Dauphin Island, from Pirates Cove all the way down to the area known as the West End Beach.
On the south side of Bienville Blvd, Pirates Cove is the sand-covered “street” just east of Ponce de Leon. The portion of Pirates Cove which is south of Bienville is shown on Google Maps, even though it is currently inaccessible due to sand buildup over the years.
The West End Beach (public)
and the West Surf Beach (private)
Note that the West END Beach and the West SURF Beach are two different areas.
The West End Beach is a public area, owned by the Town of Dauphin Island, which is located at the west end of Bienville Blvd.
The West Surf Beach is private property, owned by the DIPOA and property owners, and is open only to property owners on Dauphin Island.
Public Beaches on the West End
The public beaches on the West End of the island are as follows:
- The Park & Beach Board Public Beach. This is the area south of the large condominium complexes and the schoolhouse, which is bounded on the west by Pirates Cove, and on the east by the edge of the Isle Dauphine property. That area is shown by a yellow box on the right side of the graphic below.
- The West End Beach. This is a small area at the west end of Bienville Blvd, shown by a small yellow box on the graphic below, between the two large areas of private property.
The West Surf Beach is open only to property owners
The public may walk along the water line (the tide line) of the West Surf Beach, but the public may not sit down, make camp, set up chairs, umbrellas, etc., anywhere on the West Surf Beach, since that beach is open only to property owners.
The West Surf Beach was public for 7 years
For 55 years prior to February 2009, the West Surf Beach on Dauphin Island was private property. The West Surf Beach was established when the Dauphin Island Property Owners Association (DIPOA) came into existence, and new parcels on the island, including the West End, were put up for sale to private property owners.
After decades of erosion (caused in part by the ship channel dredging), the Town of Dauphin Island and the DIPOA came to an agreement – the DIPOA would deed the West Surf Beach to the Town of Dauphin Island, in the hopes that by converting the beach to public property, it would help the Town to acquire restoration funds from state and/or federal sources to rebuild the eroding West Surf Beach.
When the proposal was first being discussed, and about to be put up for a vote by the property owners, a group of property owners felt it was not wise to simply give away that land to the Town without a guarantee that restoration would happen. So an agreement was struck – the DIPOA would give the Town a maximum of seven years to acquire funding and begin a restoration project. If the Town did not meet the goals stated in the deed agreement within seven years, the West Surf Beach would revert to ownership of the DIPOA and the property owners.
Since no beach restoration project for the West Surf Beach was begun during those years when the land was owned by the Town of Dauphin Island, the West Surf Beach was returned to the property owners in February 2016, and the beach once again became private property.
The Far West End has always been private
Note that the entire Far West End of the island, beyond the small public area right around the West End Beach parking lot, is private property, and has been since the 1950s, when lots all on the West End began to be put up for sale. Walking along the water line of that area is legal, but sitting, camping, fishing, etc. on that property by the public is trespassing and is not legal.
This is partly the reason why the Town purchased a small portion of land at the end of Bienville Blvd (the West End Beach), so that there would be some public beach area on the West End, at the end of Bienville, in addition to the public beach area east of Pirates Cove which stretches up to the DIPOA property around the Isle Dauphine Club.
Some Private Lots Are Underwater
Some private lots on the West Surf Beach are underwater, and this has been the case since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The owners of some of the underwater lots are still paying taxes on the land they purchased. The hope is that someday a beach restoration project will restore their lots for use once again.
Until such time (if ever) that a beach restoration project restores those lots, the mean high tide line is considered to be roughly where it is shown in the satellite photo above, where the water currently meets the beach during a typical high tide (not a high tide caused by storm surge). The assumption is that the public can walk across those underwater private lots at present, since those lots are now south of what has become the mean high tide line.
But again, note that while it is legal to walk along the water’s edge of the West Surf Beach, it is trespassing to stop there (or anywhere else that is private beach) for fishing, sitting, camping, etc.
Perhaps public again someday?
If funds could be found for a large restoration project that would restore much of the West Surf Beach which has been lost to erosion, it is possible that the island property owners may be willing to convert the West Surf Beach back to public, as was done in the years between 2009 and 2016 when a restoration project was hoped for, but did not come to fruition.
The more people (property owners and visitors alike) who support efforts to get funding for and undertake a major restoration project for the Gulf-front beach on the West End, the more chances there may be for converting the land back for use by the public.