Overlooking Selma, Alabama, showcasing the town's historic architecture, streets, and the iconic bridge spanning over the river.

9 Most Charming River Towns in Alabama to Visit in 2024

With over 132,000 miles of waterways like streams and rivers within its borders, it is clear that Alabama's waterbodies are an incredible resource. There are even more species of fish in the Cahaba River than in the entire state of California. But there is so much more to Alabama’s diverse river network than fishing. One can find plenty of charming little towns all along Alabama’s vast collection of rivers. These towns offer scenic escapes from city life and lots of opportunities to relax by the water. Consider these towns when planning your 2024 trip to Alabama.


Selma, Alabama, showcasing the town's historic architecture, streets, and the riverfront
Selma, Alabama, riverfront.

Situated on the banks of the Alabama River in central Alabama, the 1820s town of Selma is the seat of government for Dallas County. The town is dripping with history, much like how the trees here drip with Spanish moss. The town is a key part of Alabama’s Black Belt, both for its role during the Civil Rights Era and for being a location for a Civil War battle. The town’s historic district is worth visiting for Civil War history buffs.

The town boasts having more than 1,200 architecturally significant houses, churches, and buildings to its credit such as Sturdivant Hall or the nearly 200-year-old St. James Hotel, a Selma Landmark. Nearby, the Edmund Pettus Bridge spans the Alabama River. This bridge was the site of the protest march that turned violent as Black Americans, including Martin Luther King Jr, marching for their rights, were set upon by Alabama State Troopers in what would be known as Bloody Sunday.


O'Neal Bridge over the Tennessee River between Florence and Sheffield Alabama.
O'Neal Bridge over the Tennessee River between Florence, Alabama and Sheffield.

The town of Florence owes much of its appeal to the Tennessee River, which it overlooks from nearby bluffs. The town is known for so much more than its gorgeous river, however. Florence hosted the Division II championship NCAA football game for 28 years, a streak that ended only in 2013. If you are looking to catch a football game in the Shoals, Tom Braly Stadium is definitely for you.

Hikers will want to take a trip to Shoal Creek Preserve to discover the many creeks and waterfalls running through over 300 acres of stunning terrain. Birders will appreciate the plentiful wildlife as well: There are nearly 400 species on the North Alabama Birding Trail, such as Bald Eagles and ruby-throated hummingbirds. After a long day of birdwatching and chasing waterfalls, there is a vibrant live music scene in Florence, as shown by the WC Handy Music Festival. This weeklong blues festival hosts over 200 events, from intimate mini-concerts to feature performances by headline acts.


Bridge over the Coosa River in Wetumpka, Alabama, The Bridge
Bridge over the Coosa River in Wetumpka, Alabama.

Wetumpka is parted down the middle by the Coosa River, a tributary of the Alabama River. The town has plenty to do, see, and experience, with attractions ranging from the area’s natural beauty to the many events hosted in the town itself. Events like the Downtown Artists Wetumpka Art Show and the Big Fish House Gallery showcase the town’s artistic side. Wetumpka even hosts its own Oktoberfest, which foodies are sure to love. The town’s Chamber of Commerce has worked hard to revitalize its downtown, and the hard work has paid off. Today, Wetumpka is a vibrant town with a burgeoning community of artists and musicians.

Outside the town, tours of the Wetumpka Impact Crater take visitors around one of about six above-ground impact craters in the world. The town is also known for having a big recreation scene. The town is a stop during the Great Alabama 650, the world's longest annual paddle race. This is because the Coosa River itself is the ideal place to paddle, swim, and relax.


Bibb County, Alabama courthouse in Centreville
Bibb County, Alabama courthouse in Centreville.

Golf lovers will have a hard time packing up and leaving Centreville. The semi-private Cahaba Falls Country Club has 18 holes to its credit set within verdant Bermuda grass along the glorious Cahaba River. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy the hiking, camping, swimming, rafting, and fishing opportunities that the Cahaba offers. If you need a place to host a special event no further than The Oaks, a charming venue with its chapel, well-groomed gardens, and its conservatory.

The small town boasts a rich history, filled with beautiful architecture and monuments that tell the story of its past, like its lovely Bibb County Courthouse. Nature lovers will appreciate the abundance of wildlife and natural beauty that can be found here. The Centreville Walking Trail and the Cahaba River Walk are just two ways to appreciate the scenic beauty of this Alabama town.

Magnolia Springs

River in Magnolia Springs, Alabama.
Magnolia Springs, Alabama.

The town of Magnolia Springs sits along the lovely Magnolia River in South Alabama. The town is scenic, charming, and unique: It offers its mail delivery by river delivery. Magnolia Springs can trace its history back to the Spanish land grant in 1800. Stay in a lauded bed and breakfast built in a 19th-century Victorian home, or head down to Jesses Restaurant to dine on the catch of the day.

The nearby Gulf State Park is 30 minutes by car and an excellent place to work off all of that delicious Southern cruising. It is home to marshes and coastal swamps, and there are plenty of kayaking opportunities to be had. There are 28 miles of trails to be explored and a beach as well! Nearby is the town of Gulf Shores, and its bevy of natural outdoor areas to explore.


Historic buildings in Camden, Alabama
Historic buildings in Camden, Alabama.

With attractions like Gees Bend Ferry, Camden is the ideal place to experience the outdoors. Or, take a tour at the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center. Visitors can learn a few fascinating facts from craftsmen and women across Alabama’s Black Belt. Looking to rest and refuel? The Gaines Ridge Dinner Club is the place to be when it comes to Southern dining.

There is a surprising amount to see and do in Camden. Not far from the Camden Bypass, Bridgeport Beach is the perfect place to spend a hot Alabama afternoon. Similarly, Roland Cooper State Park sits along the 22,000-acre William Dannelly Reservoir and has 236 acres of park to explore. Campgrounds, picnic areas, boating, and a golf course are all there to be enjoyed.


Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama.
Lake Guntersville in Guntersville, Alabama. Image credit Carla Sloke via Shutterstock.com

Guntersville is a premier place for rest and relaxation. The city of Guntersville rests on Alabama's largest lake, Lake Guntersville. Visitors will be pleased to find the best fishing in the Southeast at their fingertips. Largemouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, and more await at Lake Guntersville.

On the nearby banks of the Tennessee River, Lake Guntersville State Park features 6,000 acres of natural woodlands, including more than 36 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, in addition to a sandy beach area for swimming and kayaking. Swimming burns plenty of calories, and if you are looking for some delicious dining opportunities, Guntersville is sure to deliver. Old Town Stock House’s head chef studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York and the restaurant features perfectly cooked, freshly caught fish and is absolutely worth the price.


Post office in Millbrook, Alabama.
Post office in Millbrook, Alabama.

As one of the featured locations in the movie Big Fish, it is safe to say that Millbrook is a picturesque town. Found at the heart of Alabama in Autauga and Elmore counties, just north of Montgomery, Millbrook’s tranquil waters and vibrant community show what makes Alabama’s small towns so special. The Millbrook Theatre is fun for all ages and features a cornucopia of varied productions hosted by the Millbrook Community Players. Meanwhile, The Pines Golf Course offers tree-lined, rolling hills from which golfers are encouraged to drive to their hearts’ content.

The Barber Berry Farm has two acres of thornless blackberries and blueberries to pick in addition to local honey and other produce for sale from their outdoor hydroponic garden. Jackson Lake Island’s placid waters invite kayakers and anglers to paddle and cast respectively all day long.

Muscle Shoals

The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at The Shoals, Muscle Shoals, Alabama
The Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at The Shoals, Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

There must be something in the Tennessee River because Muscle Shoals has been the source of an incredible number of musical hits. Despite being home to just over 15,000 people, Muscle Shoals punches far above its musical weight class. Legendary musician Rick Hall established FAME Studios in the 1960s, which later became the recording studio for albums by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Cher, and the Rolling Stones. Today, FAME and the nearby Sheffield Muscle Shoals Sound Studio are open to the public for tours of the town's amazing musical past. 

Wilson Dam is another worthwhile location to visit between Muscle Shoals and Florence. The dam has one of the single-lift locks in the world and is an absolute architectural marvel to behold. There is also the opportunity to golf on the scenic 18-hole Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at the Shoals or spend the day boating on Pickwick and Wheeler Lakes during warmer weather.

Alabama has so much natural beauty, thanks in no small part to its many rivers. The waterways of this state are teeming with birds, fish, and unmistakably amazing flora to discover. Visit the historical Black Belt to learn about Alabama’s history and laze in the crystalline waters of its many lakes and streams. When it comes to Southern hospitality and scenery, ‘Bama is hard to beat.

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