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 and Hurricane Sally in 2020.
According to 2020 Census estimates, Gulf Shores recorded a population of 12,550. Of that number, 96.7 percent of respondents identified themselves as white, 4.3 percent as Hispanic, 1.8 percent as Asian, 0.3 percent as African American, and 0.2 percent as two or more races. The town’s median household income was $53,209, and the per capita income was $34,792.
According to 2020 Census estimates, the workforce in Gulf Shores was divided among the following industrial categories:
- Arts, entertainment, recreation, and accommodation and food services (17.8 percent)
- Retail trade (17.0 percent)
- Finance and insurance, real estate, and rental and leasing (14.8 percent)
- Educational services, and health care and social assistance (10.3 percent)
- Professional, scientific, and administrative and waste management services (9.2 percent)
- Construction (9.1 percent)
- Information (4.6 percent)
- Public administration (4.6 percent)
- Wholesale trade (3.9 percent)
- Manufacturing (3.3 percent)
- Transportation, warehousing, and utilities (2.9 percent)
- Other services, except public administration (2.6 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. Coastal Alabama Community College maintains a campus in Gulf Shores
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 booths selling shrimp dishes.
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.
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.
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.