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.
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.
17424 Swift-Coles Ln.
This circa 1882 historic home is located on the Bon Secour river under 120-year-old Southern live oak trees. Originally the home of Charles and Susan Swift and their 11 children, it was purchased in by 1976 Nik Coles. Before his death in 2007, he bequeathed the home to the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission. In 2009 the home was opened to the public and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
2081 Radford Blvd.
Climb the 177 steps up to the historic Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum for one of the most beautiful views of the Gulf Coast. Built in 1859, the lighthouse is located on board NAS Pensacola. Feel the power of the Blue Angels as they zoom past you from the catwalk of the lighthouse or hunt for ghosts in the Keeper’s Quarters and discover why our lighthouse is one of America’s most haunted. Visit us today for a beautiful experience and learn about the interesting history of the lighthouse.
1750 Radford Blvd.
The National Naval Aviation Museum is the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most-visited museums in the state of Florida. Share the excitement of Naval Aviation’s rich history and see more than 150 beautifully restored aircraft representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation.
These historic and one-of-a-kind aircraft are displayed both inside the Museum’s nearly 350,000 square feet of exhibit space and outside on its 37-acre grounds. There’s so much to see and do, you’ll want to stay all day! Admission is free!
355 Government Street
Immerse yourself in the rich history and traditions of carnival. See firsthand the intricate designs and artistry of majestic crowns, scepters and robes of Mardi Gras monarchs. Discover the art of costume design and float construction. View videos of parades and balls. Witness the pomp and pageantry of past coronations. Browse historical photographs dating back to 1886. Experience a behind the mask view of the street party by climbing aboard a rocking float, and become a costumed youth rider in the Little Mystics Den.
4850 Museum Dr.
The Mobile Museum of Art is the largest art museum along the Gulf Coast from New Orleans to Tampa. We have a permanent collection of close to 10,000 works of fine and decorative arts from America, Asia, and Europe that spans periods from classical antiquity to the present day. Take one of our adult art classes or bring your children to one of our art camps to get a more hands-on learning experience. Get your art on by viewing our special exhibits or permanent collection today.
* 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.