I agree that it is more for locals who own a second place that for tourists.
I like Gulf Shores. More laid back and more bars, restaurants, rental places etc.. The Florida beaches are a little nicer but also pricier.
Anything from Pensacola to Panama City Beach will provide much nice beaches and a much larger selection of things to do. According to Google maps, it'd be 50 additional miles of driving if you went to Destin instead of Dauphin; that one hour of driving would make every day substantially more enjoyable.
If you decide to head near Destin, I and many others on the board can provide numerous recommendations on condos and activities.
than those of Mississippi or Alabama.
There is not much to do on Dauphin Island except go to the beach and tour Ft. Gaines, a Civil War coastal fort. If you want restaurants, bars and tourist attractions you will need to take the Mobile Bay Ferry over to Ft. Morgan and drive about 45 minutes into Gulf Shores on the Redneck Riviera. Dauphin Island is populated by beach houses owned by people from Montgomery and Bham, who go down on weekends to get away from everything. It gets real quiet down there after dark. It is nice but you want fun things to do, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are much more lively.
I'm sure you could get a great house, but I didn't like the beach. I have been spoiled my entire life on the West Michigan beaches of Lake Michigan. So for me, the brownish water, very average beach, etc. wasn't all that great for me.
It's not houses - mostly condos, but I really like the beach in the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area. Seemingly much cleaner, lots of stuff to do, etc. But there will be a lot more people around.
Mobile is an incredible city, with some of the friendliest folks I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. We had an fantastic experience there, while our oldest daughter taught in ACE. I've said it before - One of my favorite meals of all time is a Shrimp Po Boy, cheese grits, cole slaw, and 5 or so Yuengling on draft at The Original Oyster House on the Causeway. Giddy-up.
It's pretty much the main beach for Mobile.
The last time I was there (and this has been a few years) the beach wasn't much to write home about. Daupin Island is right on some major shipping lanes, so you get a lot of algae, jelly fish, and the like churned and washed up. But other than that, the Alabama-Mississippi coast is pretty nice as I recall. The drive into Mobile isn't bad at all, if you want to do something urban. If you want a really great beach down there, I recommend Ship Island, off Biloxi. You can't sleep on the island, though---you have to take a ferry on and off in the same day.