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Gulf Shores

James P. Kaetz, Auburn University
Gulf Shores is located in southern Baldwin County in the southwest corner of the state. It has a mayor/council form of government.
Gulf Shores
Until the 1940s, the Gulf Shores area was largely inaccessible beach and wetlands. The completion of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway in 1937 provided greater access to the area and spurred tourism and construction. The first hotel on the beach was built in the early 1940s, serviced by a relatively primitive road. The first post office opened in 1947.
Another spur to growth was the burgeoning shrimping industry. Active since around 1918, shrimping had at first focused largely on providing bait to other fishing industries. But in 1956, deep-sea trawling for shrimp for the commercial food market became common, and the industry expanded into the economic mainstay it is today.
Seeking more local control, a group of Gulf Shores residents petitioned for incorporation in 1956, and the city was granted a charter. However, other locals who opposed incorporation because of concern for local tax increases challenged the incorporation. A local judge overturned the charter in 1957, but the Alabama Supreme Court ruled in favor of incorporation in 1958.
Gulf Shores has been devastated by several hurricanes, including Frederic in 1979 and Ivan in 2004. It sustained some damage in Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
According to 2016 Census estimates, Gulf Shores recorded a population of 11,252. Of that number, 90.3 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 3.1 percent as Hispanic, 4.8 percent as two or more races, 4.1 percent as Asian, and 0.5 percent as American Indian or Alaska Native. The town's median household income was $50,814, and the per capita income was $31,814.
According to 2016 Census estimates, the workforce in Gulf Shores was divided among the following industrial categories:
  • Retail trade (24.0 percent)
  • Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (17.9 percent)
  • Finance and insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing (11.8 percent)
  • Educational services, and health care and social assistance (12.4 percent)
  • Professional, scientific, and administrative and waste management services (10.3 percent)
  • Construction (8.3 percent)
  • Manufacturing (6.1 percent)
  • Other services, except public administration (3.3 percent)
  • Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (2.2 percent)
  • Public administration (1.6 percent)
  • Wholesale trade (1.5 percent)
  • Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, and extractive (0.3 percent)
  • Information (0.3 percent)
Gulf Shores schools are part of the Baldwin County School System. The city has one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school.
Gulf State Park Beach Shelter
The city of Gulf Shores is bisected by State Highway 182, which runs east-west on the south side of Little Lagoon, State Highway 180, which runs east-west on the north side of the waterway, State Highway 135, which runs north-south through Gulf State Park, and State Highway 59, which runs north from the Gulf Coast. Jack Edwards Airport serves general aviation.
Events and Places of Interest
The Alabama National Shrimp Festival has been held annually the second weekend in October since 1971. It features entertainment, arts and crafts vendors, children's activities, and shrimp.
Gulf Shores Mural
The Gulf Shores Museum offers exhibits on the history and development of the city. Nearby museums and attractions include the Orange Beach Indian and Sea Museum, the Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center, Bellingrath Gardens, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, and the Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Numerous historic sites lie within a short driving distance from the city, including Fort Morgan, Fort Gaines, Fort Mims, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, and Blakeley State Park.
The beaches of the Gulf Coast are well-known for their fine white sand and are the major draw for visitors to the area. Gulf State Park, dedicated in 1939, includes a two-mile long stretch of beach and 6,150 acres that can be explored by hiking and biking.

Additional Resources

Baldwin County Heritage Book Committee. The Heritage of Baldwin County, Alabama. Clanton, Ala.: Heritage Publishing Consultants, 2001.
Bonkemeyer, Patricia, Ed. Once Upon an Island, as Told to and Collected by the Gulf Shores Woman's Club. Foley, Ala.: Underwood Printing Company, 1984.
Published:  September 11, 2012   |   Last updated:  January 16, 2019