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.
111 S. Royal Street
The History Museum of Mobile is a visual masterpiece that provides an unparalleled museum experience. Housed in the 1857 Southern Market/Old City Hall National Historic Landmark, our collection boasts more than 90,000 artifacts related to Mobile history. See items like a cannon from the CSS Alabama and a baseball signed by Mobile legend Henry “Hank” Aaron. We feature permanent exhibits that explore Mobile’s history, themed exhibits highlighting Mardi Gras, shipbuilding and daily life in Mobile Bay. We also feature special exhibits that are rotated periodically.
65 Government Street
We have been voted one of Alabama’s top attractions several years in a row, and we remain a unique destination for school groups and families alike. From the young to the young at heart, the Exploreum has something for all ages. With more than 150 interactive exhibits, thought-provoking larger-than-life IMAX films, and fun, hands-on educational programming, there is always something new to experience. We have perfected the art of making science fun and memorable! Have your next birthday party or event with us.
244 W. 19th Ave.
Fly through the eye of a hurricane with “Hurricane Hunters” and our interactive display. This local history museum tells the stories of this coastal town, its people, their lives and their livelihood. You can see a variety of permanent exhibits and special exhibits. Seasonal events and films as well as adult and youth programs are offered throughout the year. The museum’s home is a beach house that dates to before World War II and was originally located on West Beach. Admission is free.
155 S. Water St
With 90 interactive exhibits, simulators, theaters and displays, this museum specializes in providing hands-on experiences that inspire visitors to understand and appreciate the maritime heritage of the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf is a national treasure. Until now, no maritime museum has been established to celebrate the historical, economic and cultural significance of "America's Sea" and its coastal region. GulfQuest is the first museum dedicated to the Gulf Coast's rich maritime traditions – and one of the only interactive maritime museums in the country.
24 N. Section Street
We are located in the heart of downtown in Fairhope’s 1928 Spanish Mission-style city hall building. The museum includes the original jail, mayor’s office, town council chamber and fire station outfitted with an original 1935 firetruck. We are home to a collection of artifacts from Fairhope’s unique past, preserving them for future generations and educating through exhibitions and programming about “all things Fairhope.” Come learn about our Single Tax District, the Jubilee phenomenon of the Eastern Shore and all that makes this city unique.
125 E. Laurel Ave.
Our museum is located in the Louisville and Nashville railroad station that was built in the City of Foley in 1909. Here you can catch a glimpse of the city’s history as well as the history of Baldwin County. The railroad played a major role in the prosperity of the area. Model trains are in operation on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10am-2pm. The museum hours are M - Sat from 10am-3pm. Volunteers are always needed to run the Event Train. Call if interested.
104 Theatre Street
What was once the site of Mobile’s first jail, now stands the “gateway to Mobile’s history.” This Federal-style home, built by Jonathon and Elizabeth Kirkbride in 1850, reflects Mobile’s history under five flags. It has two confederate parlors, American Federal dining room, British Commandant’s room, French sitting room and bedroom, two American bedrooms, and a Spanish wall garden of the late 18th century design. The museum is now owned, preserved and operated by the National Society of Colonial Dames.
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday from 11am-3:30pm
25521 Highway 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.
* 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.