Are you looking for a vacation destination with soft sand beaches and plenty of leisure activities? Then set your sights on the Gulf Shores, the serene community on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, where Bluegreen Resorts offers Shoreline Towers and Paradise Isle Resort. In Gulf Shores, you can listen to the gentle waves while relaxing on the beach or go deep-sea fishing, parasailing, and dolphin sightseeing.
History enthusiasts and Civil War aficionados are also drawn to Gulf Shores by the many historical sites in the area. Here are some of the top sites to visit if you want to experience the past in Gulf Shores:
Constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1819 and 1833, Fort Morgan is situated on Mobile Point at the tip of the scenic Morgan Peninsula, where the bay and the Gulf of Mexico intersect. The Third System masonry fort was named after Revolutionary War hero General Daniel Morgan and it went on to become a crucial battle site during the Civil War.
Seized by the Confederate Army in 1861, Fort Morgan was retaken by Union naval forces in 1864 after one of the most powerful Union attacks on a single fort. In the years after the Battle of Mobile Bay, Fort Morgan was refortified and adapted for intermittent use during the Spanish American War and both World Wars.
Along with fort tours, you can explore the Museum at Fort Morgan to witness 200 years of artifacts, including uniforms and artillery, or enjoy the surrounding landscapes with beach access.
Swift-Coles Historic Home
Located just 20 minutes from Gulf Shores in Bon Secour, the Swift-Coles Historic Home allows you to experience the charm of historic Southern architecture and learn about the area’s history. The structure was initially built as a four-room home along the Bon Secour River in 1882. After Charles and Susan Swift purchased the home in 1898, they expanded it in 1902 and 1908 to raise their 11 children. The family also started a lumber business that still operates in southern Alabama. Over the years, much of the white, two-story manor house has been preserved in its early state.
The Swift-Coles Historic Home is currently maintained by the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission, and visitors can take guided tours of the house on Tuesdays and Fridays.
At Fort Gaines, you can take a step back in time by taking fort tours conducted by knowledgeable guides dressed in period uniforms. You can explore the fort’s original blacksmith shop, cannons, tunnels, and kitchens, which are all situated on the eastern end of Dauphin Island. During the Civil War, Fort Gaines played a key role in the Battle of Mobile Bay and it’s where the renowned Union leader Admiral Farragut famously commanded “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” To bring the past to life, Fort Gaines also provides blacksmithing and cannon firing demonstrations.
Fort Gaines’ well-preserved ramparts have defended Mobile Bay for more than 150 years, and the Fort has been listed as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in America because of persistent shoreline erosion.
Gulf Shores Museum
The Gulf Shores Museum showcases artifacts and local treasures that tell the story of Gulf Shores. For example, the museum houses a 1950s steeple from Oyster Bay Baptist Church and a 1940s ship mast donated by a local boatyard. The building that houses these historic pieces also has a past, as it was originally a beachfront cottage constructed before World War II. Donated to the city of Gulf Shores more than 35 years ago, the home has additionally served as a community center and library. The Gulf Shores Museum, which is free to the public, is open between Tuesday and Saturday every week.
Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail
For more Civil War history, you can tour the Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail, which features more than 12 sites of action from the Battle of Mobile Bay and the following Overland Campaign. In addition to Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines, the trail includes sites like Blakeley State Park and Magee Farm. Magee Farm is the last original Civil War surrender house and Blakeley State Park contains miles of pristine battlefields and parapets.
Many of the sites on the trail provide interpretive signs with firsthand accounts and detailed illustrations that tell the stories of Civil War ship captains, average soldiers, and fort commanders.
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
When you visit the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, you get to explore the 680-foot war ship known as the “Mighty A,” which weathered almost 40 months of active duty in World War II and garnered nine Battle Stars. The ship was part of Pacific and Atlantic Ocean campaigns, but did not sustain any major damage or casualties.
In 1947, the USS Alabama was retired in Washington, and the Navy planned to scrap the ship in the 1960s. Alabama soon launched a campaign to save the USS Alabama and relocate her off the coast of Mobile. Since 1965, the ship has been open to the public, and more than 14 million visitors have discovered her decks. Another World War II vessel, the USS DRUM Submarine, was added to the park in 1969.
You should allow at least two hours to see everything at the park, and cameras are encouraged. Active duty members of the U.S. military and senior citizens can also get into the park for free.