Museums & History
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
Today’s coastal Alabama is a sandy, southern enclave of beautiful beaches
, welcoming accommodations
, and family-friendly attractions
. But behind the activities and amenities of modern life is a thrilling history that lives on in area museums and heritage sites.
The Rest is History
You might already know that Alabama was part of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War and remnants of that conflict dot the coastline. But if you thought the area’s military history went back no further, you’d be off by about 300 years.
Spanish explorers landed just east of Orange Beach in 1559. That first colony was wiped out by a hurricane, but the Spanish tried again and in 1698 established Presidio Santa Maria de Galve, the first permanent settlement in this part of the Gulf coast. That same stretch of land would become a naval air station, now home to the National Naval Aviation Museum
. Nearby are Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas, the latter used in both the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.
So, in addition to the beaches and attractions, you’ve come to one of the most historic areas in the nation.
Discover it for yourself as a visitor at five of our top historic sites of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach:
- The Baldwin County Heritage Museum records the history of those who settled the county around the turn of the last century. The story is told through the tools, machinery and objects they used.
- From the time of the earliest Native American residents to the town’s founding in 1894, the Fairhope Museum of History covers the Civil War years, the history of pottery, local people who fought in World War II and the Bay Boat years on Mobile Bay.
- Occupying the strategic point where Mobile Bay meets the Gulf of Mexico, Fort Morgan played a critical role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864 and was also used during the Spanish-American War, WWI and WWII. Tours of the masonry fort, completed in 1833, bring the past to vivid life in the present time.
- The Orange Beach Indian & Sea Museum started life in 1910 as a schoolhouse but now showcases the region’s Native American and fishing heritage. On display are local artifacts and memorabilia donated by families of early fishermen.
- Recipient of nine WWII Battle Stars, the Battleship USS Alabama is a legend among legends and saw action at Leyte, the Gilbert Islands and Okinawa. It is now the centerpiece of the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park which also includes an Aircraft Pavilion and the USS Drum, the oldest American submarine on public display.
Mobile Bay Civil War Trail
Set at the end of Highway 180 in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan Museum is the southernmost stop along the Mobile Bay Civil War Trail
, which stretches more than 90 miles from the Gulf of Mexico to Mobile County. There are more than a dozen Civil War sites on this trail, including Fort Gaines
, where Admiral Farragut shouted, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” Also included is Magee Farm, known as “The Last Appomattox,” where Confederate General Richard Taylor surrendered 47,000 troops to the Union.
Gulf Shores Museum
Enjoy a technology-driven interactive display of "Hurricane Hunters", where you can fly through the hurricane's eye. The Gulf Shores Museum offers permanent and special exhibits as well as seasonal festivals. This is a great place to start when getting a feel for the local Gulf Coast history.
Ready to get acquainted with Alabama’s beaches and history? Request a vacation guide
and build your plans to tour our local history! Be sure to book your Gulf Shores hotel
or Orange Beach condo rental
22 listings found.
25521 Hwy. 98
We represent the grass roots of our society by providing a place for visitors to experience the heritage and share the ethnic and farming culture of Baldwin County. The museum was organized in April 1981 by a group of area residents in hopes of preserving artifacts, tools, machinery, etc. used by men and women who lived in Baldwin County before the turn of the century. We are located in Elberta.
• Free admission to museum and grounds
• Closed on Sunday-Tuesday
• Special tours available by appointment
12401 Bellingrath Gardens Road
Step back in time at Bellingrath Gardens and Home. Stroll through the vibrant 65-acre garden and tour the 1936 Home to view the original collections of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. Bellingrath Gardens and Home offers blooms and beauty every day of the year and numerous special events, from Winter Wednesdays in January and February to Magic Christmas in Lights in November and December. Tour the home and gardens in every season!
1906 Springhill Ave.
Beautiful antebellum mansion minutes from downtown Mobile, Alabama. Nestled among centuries-old oaks and beautiful azaleas, the estate was created in 1855. Massive parlors, circular staircase and rooms built on a grand scale, the mansion is furnished with fine antiques and crystal chandeliers. One of the most photographed places in the area, the mansion is an architectural icon representing the Old South, still welcoming guests to enjoy the beauty and grace of Southern entertaining. Open for guided tours, weddings, meetings and other events.
Beautiful beaches, authentic downtowns, wildlife preserves, historic sites and fresh-off-the-boat seafood are all yours to enjoy along Alabama’s Coastal Connection. Experience the link between the traditions of the Deep South and laid-back island lifestyle and connect with the waters, ways and wildlife of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. View our website to see sample itineraries of the area. We hope they’ll give you some ideas about everything we offer on the Alabama Gulf Coast.
2703 Battleship Pkwy.
From the WWII Battleship USS ALABAMA to the Submarine USS DRUM and over 25 aircraft, the spirit of military pride is alive and well at Mobile’s Battleship Memorial Park.
One Academy Dr.
Founded in 1984, the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) is dedicated to the preservation of sports art, history and literature. The ASAMA collection, located on the campus of the United States Sports Academy, is composed of more than 1,800 pieces across all media, including paintings, sculptures, assemblages, prints, posters and photography. The collection is believed to be the largest of sport art in North America and possibly the world. Visit us today and plan to spend a few hours exploring and discovering everything.
101 Bienville Blvd.
At The Estuarium on Dauphin Island, you will get a hands-on learning experience exploring the habitats of coastal Alabama. It is also the fourth largest estuary system in the United States. Enjoy the educational and informative exhibit hall and the “oh-so-cool” sting ray touch pool. Adventure onto the scenic, living marsh boardwalk and learn about the more than 100 local species of plants and animals on display. Visit with your friends and family today for an educational yet fun experience like no other.
150 S. Royal St.
Colonial Mobile sits on the site of a historic fort built in the early 1700’s and celebrates our French, Spanish, British and American heritage. Tour the interactive exhibits that highlight the history of the Fort and don’t miss the Fife and Drum band, cannon firing and live action characters representing real people who lived in Colonial Mobile. Other not to miss places are the Colonial Cafe, Trading Post, Colonial Photo Booth, Breakout Room and shooting gallery. Visit and relive the history of The Fort of Colonial Mobile today!
111 W. Laurel Ave.
At The Holmes Medical Museum, learn how far science and the medical field have progressed by exploring the first hospital in Baldwin County (1936-1958). Browse antiquated medical equipment and exam rooms which are sure to spark the interest of your future doctors and nurses and those in the medical profession. Visit us today to explore and learn about this interesting piece of medical history. You will be amazed at how much you discover and enjoy going back in time.
256 North Joachim Street
The Richards DAR House Museum is a beautiful Italian-style town home that was built in 1860 by a local riverboat captain. Carrara marble adorned mantels and massive bronze and brass chandeliers with ruby red bohemian glass all reflect the ambiance of the era. We are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. We are open Mon, Wed, Thurs and Fri from 11am-3:30pm, Sat from 10am-4pm and Sun from 1pm-4pm. We are closed on Tuesdays. Visit our website for more information.
* All information contained in our database is supplied by the individual businesses to the AGCCVB for inclusion on our web site and in printed materials.