Attractions & Things To Do
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Sometimes you need a break from the sun and the sand! Fortunately, along with our sugar-white sand beaches, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer a plethora of unique, educational and fun activities for visitors to enjoy.
The Alabama Gulf Coast is home to a thriving arts community. Whether you want to browse and study pieces by local artists or get your hands dirty at an interactive artsy option, there are several ways to enrich your experience.
If you’re looking to create your own piece:
- Jewelry making at Blue Girl Beading Co.
- Glass blowing at The Hot Shop at The Coastal Arts Center
- Pottery spinning or pick-and-paint at The Clay Studio at The Coastal Arts Center
- Learn to weave off-loom at the Coastal Textile Center at Clara’s Loom
If browsing and buying is more up your alley:
- Explore The Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach displaying art from 120 local and regional painters, potters, sculptors, glass and textile artists
- Take a stroll through Waterway Village to the Gulf Coast Art Alliance’s Art Gallery or stop by one of their Art Markets held every Saturday in January-April and September-November
From the Civil War and other Naval battles to a long-established fishing and maritime industry, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and surrounding areas have much history to be explored.
Civil War Trail
The Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail is comprised of 14 stops throughout Baldwin and Mobile Counties, where action occurred during the Battle of Mobile Bay and the Overland Campaign. The 90-mile trail consists of 18 interpretative site signs that tell the stories of ship captains, fort commanders and common fighting men through firsthand accounts, historical references and detailed illustrations. This trail is a joint partnership between Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism and Visit Mobile.
Fort Morgan State Historic Site
Fort Morgan stands as a living history lesson of the fort’s pivotal role in the Civil War. Constructed between 1819 and 1834, this 479-acre site was the famed location where Admiral David Farragut is believed to have cried - “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead” – moments before he led his sailors into the Battle of Mobile Bay on Aug. 5, 1864. After a two-week siege, Union forces overtook the fort, which was later America’s largest permanent military outpost between 1900 and 1923. The fort that once served during the Spanish-American War and both World Wars offers visitors a realistic look into the past. Meanwhile, neighboring Fort Gaines Historic Site is just a short ferry ride away on Dauphin Island.
GulfQuest National Maritime Museum of the Gulf of Mexico (Mobile, AL)
Guests can take in 90 interactive exhibits, simulators, displays, theaters and more on multiple decks of a life-size replica of a container ship to explore the many wonders of the Gulf of Mexico. Located on the Mobile River and dedicated to hands-on experiences, GulfQuest is the only museum dedicated to the Gulf of Mexico.
Small local museums offer a distinctive perspective of the area’s rich history, dating back to the first Native American inhabitants of the island.
- The Gulf Shores Museum hosts several special exhibits, films and events throughout the year
- The Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum houses artifacts specific to the area’s Native American and fishing heritages.
- Swift Coles Historic Home in Bon Secour was purchased by a local sawmill and lumber business owner and his wife. The home is filled with Coles’ stunning antiques and is rumored to have a ghost or two hanging around.
National Museum of Naval Aviation (Pensacola, FL)
Just a short car ride away, the National Museum of Naval Aviation is the world’s largest naval aviation museum and showcases an extensive collection of more than 150 aircraft representing every military branch. There are plenty of interactive simulators and activities for families to participate in. The NAS Pensacola is also home to the world-famous Blue Angels. They can be seen practicing over the museum several times throughout the year. Practices are free and open to the public. Visit the museum’s website for the practice schedule.
USS Alabama at Battleship Memorial Park (Mobile, AL)
Venture back in time at Battleship Memorial Park and discover the USS Alabama’s past in the present. The massive ship went to battle for 37 months during World War II and brought home nine battle stars among many other triumphs. In the 1960s, many ships were declared to be scrapped, but Alabamians rallied through a corporate campaign, raising the necessary $1 million for the Navy to donate the ship to become a state landmark. The USS Alabama debuted as a public memorial honoring those serving in the armed forces on Jan. 9, 1965. This park is also home to the WWI submarine USS Drum, a historic aircraft collection and much more.
Take a Dive
Below are some of the most popular wrecks and sites in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach created by the Alabama Gulf Coast Reef & Restoration Foundation:
Sunk in 2013, The LuLu is a 271-foot retired coastal freighter. Originally named M/V Yokamu and purchased by David Walter of Walter Marine, the ship was renamed The LuLu by the project's title sponsor Mac McAleer, owner of Homeport Marina in Gulf Shores. With the top of the ship sitting at 60 feet below the surface and the bottom at 115 feet, the upper portion of the artificial reef is accessible for first -time divers while veteran divers can explore the deeper sections of the vessel.
At a depth of 40 feet, Poseidon's Playground is a group of shallow artificial reefs for scuba divers to explore just three miles south of Perdido Pass and the Gulf State Park Pier. With fun, whimsical statues including Poseidon, Venus of the Sea, Apollo and various marine creatures, this project adds to the diversity of dive sites along Alabama’s Gulf Coast and makes for a unique underwater selfie location. The site is perfect for kids and beginner divers, training classes, night dives and shallow-water fun. The first statues were deployed in December 2014, and the site continues to grow. In 2015, a new theme was added to Poseidon's Playground with the introduction of the "Reefs of Fame." While Nicholas Cage was in Orange Beach filming "USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage," he, Cody Walker and director Mario Van Peebles placed their hands in concrete that was then incorporated into a fish pyramid reef. This is an ongoing project that continues to add the handprints of well-known artists, actors, etc.
Capt. Shirley Brown Memorial Reef
The Capt. Shirley Brown is a 128-foot long former vessel built in St. Marks, Florida, in the 1940s for the Tennessee Gas & Transmission Company (later “Tenneco”). Capt. Brown purchased the vessel from Tenneco in the 1980s and transformed it into a "party" vessel for birthday parties, community breakfasts and industry trade forums in Pensacola, Florida. After Capt. Brown passed away, his family donated it to the foundation for deployment as an artificial reef. The wreck sits at a depth of 85 feet and the top deck is approximately 75 feet from the surface.
Fairfield New Venture
The Fairfield New Venture is the newest dive site in Orange Beach. The former research and survey vessel was built in 1986 in Louisiana. The 250-foot long and 56-foot wide ship was deployed in late June 2018. The New Venture sits near The LuLu allowing divers to hit both dives in the same trip. With the top wheelhouse being 60 ft. deep and the bottom sitting at about 125 ft. deep, this dive site is accessible to both novice and advanced divers.
Recently, 166 snorkeling reefs were deployed at three locations past the second sandbar south of the Beach Pavilion at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, and the Romar Beach Access and east of Perdido Pass in Orange Beach. The reefs sit at about 10 feet of water and will extend about 20 feet. This is a fantastic option for families and non-divers to explore the fascination underwater life that resides in the beautiful Gulf of Mexico.
For more information on the location of dive sites and dive operators, please visit www.gulfshores.com/diving; and to learn more about snorkeling, visit https://www.gulfshores.com/things-to-do/water-activities/snorkeling/.
With an array of waterways, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have much to be explored. The destination has several rental companies that offer both kayaks and paddleboards as well as various types of guided tours. Guests can choose from paddling out in the Gulf, Bon Secour River, the Orange Beach back bays or Gulf Shores' Little Lagoon. Whether you are new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, adventure awaits you on the water.