If you’re visiting Orange Beach, Gulf Shores or even Dauphin Island in Alabama, make sure you put a visit to the Fort Morgan Historic Site on your must-see list.
Fort Morgan is a masonry fort located on Mobile Point at the western tip of Fort Morgan Peninsula in Alabama. The Fort is unique in that it was active during four wars—the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II.
Visitors of all ages can spend hours exploring the maze of rooms in the fort, but the Fort Morgan Historic Site also features nature areas, a boat launch, picnic area, and beaches for relaxing or shell hunting.
If you’re looking for a unique destination, the Fort Morgan Historic Site and nearby Orange Beach and Gulf Shores AL will check all the boxes for a day of learning, exploring and entertaining everyone in the family.
Past Lane Travels contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of those links, we may receive compensation at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services we use and trust. Read our disclaimer for more information.
Why Is Fort Morgan AL Famous?
If you think back to your history class, you might remember the famous quote from Admiral David G. Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
You can learn why and see where that action occurred by visiting this historic fort that is often referred to as the “Guardian of Mobile Bay” due to its location.
Designed to control the main shipping channel into Mobile Bay, the star-shape design of Fort Morgan allowed soldiers to concentrate their artillery fire on an enemy fleet as it attempted to move into the bay.
The fort was also designed with extensive land defenses to enable it to withstand a siege.
Fort Morgan reminds me a lot of Fort Macon off the coast of North Carolina, but every fort I’ve visited has its own unique characteristics.
The National Historic Landmark of Fort Morgan provides visitors the chance to take a step back in time and learn about an important piece our nation’s history.
Background On The Fort Morgan Historic Site
Fort Morgan’s history actually stretches back to the War of 1812, when the United States needed a new fortification to protect Mobile Bay.
Lt. Col. John Bowyer oversaw the construction of a fort in 1813 that was reinforced with logs and sand. The original fort featured a fan shape that allowed artillery to sweep the water and hopefully clear it of enemy ships.
Named Fort Bowyer at that time, the fort was called into action two times to defend against British invasions.
The first attack came on September 15, 1814 and involved four British warships with soldiers made up of the British Royal Marines and Creek Indians.
The battle was a complete victory for the Americans, and one of the warships was sunk.
Unfortunately, the second battle did not go as well.
The defenders at Fort Morgan were forced to surrender during the last battle on February 11, 1815, when the combined land and naval force of the British vastly outnumber the Americans.
A few months later British forces learned that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed December 24, 1814, which had officially ended the war.
The British had to return Fort Bowyer to the United States under the terms of that treaty.
Once American forces gained control of Mobile Point again, they decided a stronger fortification was needed.
Fort Morgan: The Guardian Of Mobile Bay
Construction on the new fort began in 1819, however due to its isolation on the tip of Mobile Point, it took 15 years to complete.
It’s hard to imagine—especially since it was the early 1800s—but more than 30 million bricks were manufactured to build Fort Morgan. The bricks and mortar were the only materials that could be obtained locally.
All of the other construction materials had to be shipped from New York. For that reason, the fort was known as the “Work on Mobile Point” until April of 1833 when it was officially named to honor Revolutionary War hero General Daniel Morgan.
Fort Morgan was completed in 1834 at a cost of about $1.027 million.
Who Was General Daniel Morgan?
Daniel Morgan—the man the fort was named after—was an amazing figure in our nation’s history that few Americans have ever heard of.
In fact, he was one of the most respected battlefield tacticians of the American Revolutionary War and later commanded troops from 1791–1794.
In addition to a soldier, Morgan was an American pioneer and politician.
General Morgan is perhaps best known for leading the Continental Army to victory in the Battle of Cowpens.
After the war, he retired from the army, but was recalled to duty in 1794 to help suppress the Whiskey Rebellion.
Morgan ran twice for the United States House of Representatives, winning election to the House in 1796. He retired from Congress in 1799 and died in 1802.
Fort Morgan AL During The Civil War
On January 4, 1861, Fort Morgan was seized by troops of the State of Alabama, and was then turned over to the Confederate Army in March of 1861.
Not only did Fort Morgan serve as the first line of defense for the city of Mobile during the Civil War, it also provided protection for blockade runners entering Mobile Bay.
But on the morning of August 5, 1864, Union naval forces successfully fought their way past the Fort Morgan, and began siege operations on the fort and its occupants.
The naval squadron they defeated to get into the bay included the C.S.S. Tennessee, one of the most powerful ironclads built in the South during the Civil War.
In the battle, the occupants of Fort Morgan fired almost 500 rounds. The barrage badly damaged some of the Union ships but failed to sink them.
The Tecumseh was the only ship lost when it struck a mine and sank within a minute, resulting in the loss of most of its crew.
The Smithsonian Institution surveyed the wreck in 1967 with the intent of raising it, but the project was abandoned due to funding issues.
On August 22, the Union forces began an intense artillery bombardment that is considered one of the heaviest on a single fort recorded during the Civil War.
The severe shelling caused the 581 Confederates in the fort to surrender.
Fort Morgan Historic Site After The Civil War
The history of Fort Morgan didn’t end with the Civil War.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began constructing a new fortification system at Fort Morgan in 1895, and replaced the old brick fort with reinforced concrete batteries.
Between 1900 and 1923, Fort Morgan became the largest permanent military base in Alabama with a garrison of more than 400 Coast Artillery soldiers.
During WWI, 2,000 troops were stationed at the fort, with many of these men getting trained on the newest artillery weapons.
I found it interesting that during times of war in the modern area, the entrance to Mobile Bay was protected through the use of electrically detonated under water mines.
After WWI, the number of men at Fort Morgan was reduced and in 1923 the post was ordered closed.
However, the role of Fort Morgan as a coastal defense post was not over.
In November 1941, the U.S. Navy reoccupied the post and in April 1942, units of the 50th Coast Artillery Regiment arrived to renew the fort’s coast defense mission.
It was not until July 1944, that Fort Morgan was abandoned as a defense.
Luckily, it still serves a purpose as a place that preserves American history, while helping educate visitors about its storied past.
Can You Visit The Fort Morgan State Historic Site?
Yes! And don’t forget to pack your camera and walking shoes!
Since the Fort Morgan Historic Site is located near the beautiful beach towns of Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama, it makes a great place to visit when you need a change of scenery from the beach.
The Fort Morgan State Historic Site is located 22 miles west of Gulf Shores AL at 110 Hwy. 180.
Entrance Fees To The Fort Morgan Historic Site
Gates are open at the Fort Morgan Historic Site from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Museum and Gift Shop are open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The museum has displays that highlight the history of Mobile Point AL from 1814 to 1945.
The cost for adults is $8 and children 6 to 12 as well as seniors are $5. Children under 6 are free. Military with an ID are also free, and there is a special price of $20 for families (2 adults/2children).
There are special group rates as well as rates for special events.
⬇⬇⬇ NEED A ROOM IN ORANGE BEACH OR GULF SHORES AL? ⬇⬇⬇
Other Things To Do At Historic Fort Morgan
The Fort Morgan Historic Site offers a wide variety of outdoor activities in addition to exploring the fort.
If you’re a history nut like I am, you can visit the iconic landmark called Battery Bowyer. This battery served as an anti-sailor gun battery from 1898 to 1917, and is part of Fort Morgan State Park.
Traipsing around an old fort is great fun to me, but if you’re not a history buff, there are still plenty of things to do at Fort Morgan.
I wish I had found more time to explore the wildlife refuge that offers miles of nature trails and photo opportunities.
The Fort Morgan Historic Site also has a sandy white beach for relaxing, a boat launch and a picnic area.
Note: This area isn’t recommended for swimming because of strong currents.
If you enjoy bird watching, you are in luck. With more than 300 species of birds, Alabama’s Gulf Coast is one of the best places in the country to go bird-watching.
Interestingly, Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a resting spot during the fall migration period as birds make their journey across the Gulf of Mexico.
During the spring, they rest there as well, so bird watchers get quite a show.
Note To Dog Lovers: Fort Morgan is a dog-friendly site, however, keep dogs on a leash at all times and pick up after them.
Ferry Ride To Dauphin Island From Fort Morgan
Want to visit Dauphin Island while you’re in the area?
Drive your car onto the Mobile Bay Ferry and enjoy sightseeing from a different point of view. Birds, sea life, boats and ships are just some of the things you’ll encounter along the 40 minute jaunt.
You’ll also get to see a second fort — Fort Gaines — that guards the other side of Mobile Bay on Dauphin Island.
The ferry service uses two ferries—the Fort Morgan and the Marissa Mae Nicole to carry passengers and vehicles across the Bay.
Fort Morgan AL: Other Things To Do
The Fort Morgan Historic Site is a great place to explore, but it’s only a short drive to Orange Beach and Gulf Shores Alabama where there’s even more to do.
Whether you want to go shopping, play miniature golf or cool off on a water slide at Waterville USA, this destination has you covered.
Maybe you just want to relax…and EAT. You’re in the right place for that too!
Read on to find just a few of the things that Orange Beach and Gulf Shores offer.
✅ Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Shopping:
If you like to shop, you’re in luck. Hands down one of the best shopping experiences I’ve ever had was at The Wharf in Orange Beach, AL.
Actually it’s more like a destination than a shopping experience. You can walk down “Main Street” and visit the shops, enjoy a meal by the water and even ride a Ferris Wheel.
And by the way, that Ferris Wheel lights up with brilliant colors at night.
They even have a SPECTRA Laser Light Experience that features choreographed lighting effects with lasers and surround-sound music.
The Wharf also hosts lots of live events and special entertainment, so check their website before you go.
The Wharf is located at 23101 Canal Road, Orange Beach, and can also be visited by water.
✅ Take A Scenic Bike Ride
Sad to say, I probably haven’t been on a bike for 30 years, but had an amazing time thanks to Beach Bike Rentals setting up my bike perfectly.
We rode through the Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail and even got to see the famous local alligator with her baby.
This 12.2 mile trail system features a lake along with six distinct ecosystems. We passed beautiful scenery from freshwater marshes to coastal hardwood swamps and a butterfly garden on the trail.
I would love to have done more exploring there, so make sure you leave enough time for your bike ride!
Beach Bike Rentals is located at 22989 Beach Blvd., Orange Beach, AL.
✅ Go On A Dolphin Cruise
One of my favorite excursions while visiting Orange Beach and Gulf Shores was a dolphin sighting cruise on Sail Wild Hearts.
We saw lots of dolphins!
This family-owned business offers a variety of cruises, including a sunset cruise and a longer cruise to watch the Blue Angels rehearsals.
I highly recommend this activity if you’re visiting Orange Beach/Gulf Shores. The crew was an absolute delight and really wants to make everyone’s trip special by spotting dolphins.
They’re familiar with the water and the dolphins and know just where to take you.
Sail Wild Hearts boat launch is located in Orange Beach across the street from the Perdido Beach Resort, 27101 Perdido Beach Blvd. (Highway 182), Orange Beach, AL.
✅ Dining And Drinking
I love seafood and I have never eaten so much delicious coastal fare as I did on this trip. Here are a few of my favorites dining spots:
⭐️ The Gulf: Somehow the food is better when you’re sitting on the beach staring out over the Gulf of Mexico, which is what I did when I ate at The Gulf.
This restaurant features a quiet beach setting and has a rotating seasonal menu with fresh local ingredients.
From the front you will see the shipping containers that make up of the design of this restaurant — a great use of reclaimed, recycled and salvaged building materials.
The back is entirely different with tables scattered beneath palm trees dotting the soft white sand.
The Gulf is located at 27500 Perdido Beach Blvd, Orange Beach, AL.
Owned by Lucy Buffet (Jimmy Buffet’s younger’s sister), you’ll definitely get a “parrot” and beach vibe here.
You can work off those extra calories by playing beach volley ball, trying to stay on the climbing apparatus, or just pitching a few games of corn hole.
LuLu’s is much more than a restaurant. You get the whole beachy experience here.
Because of its notoriety, you’d better call ahead and get on the wait list before your visit.
LuLu’s is located at 200 East 25th St., Gulf Shores, Al.
The restaurant has numerous boat slips from small boat to medium-sized yachts.
This busy and popular restaurant has seating inside and out, with live music and a relaxing atmosphere.
And the food… wow. A very varied menu from very talented chefs. You will want to try everything!
Cobalt, The Restaurant is located at 28099 Perdido Beach, Orange Beach, AL.
Brick and Spoon did not disappoint. It’s a local chain restaurant that is dedicated to creating unique Southern fare. In addition to to-die-for breakfasts, they have an extensive breakfast drink selection including the biggest Bloody Mary selection I have every seen.
Brick and Spoon is located at 24705 Canal Road, Orange Beach, AL.
⭐️Sunliner Diner: The Sunliner Diner is one of those places you go to eat as much for the atmosphere as for the food. It is is a nostalgic symbol of American culture that turns back time to the 1950s.
With retro newspaper menus, collector cars and hand-spun milkshakes, it’s a great hangout spot that gives you a blast from the past.
Sunliner Diner is located at 100 E. 2nd Ave., Gulf Shores, AL.
They also have some of the best oysters around because the general manager is a partner in Alabama’s own Navy Cove Oyster Farm.
Fresh and delicious!
Sassy Bass is located at 5160 Hwy 180, Gulf Shores, AL.
⭐️ Flora-Bama Yacht Club: Flora-Bama Yacht Club holds a special place in my heart because it’s where I first got introduced to the “Bushwacker,” a staple drink in the Florida panhandle and southern Alabama.
What is a Bushwacker, you ask? It’s a creamy, boozy milkshakey drink that is made with ice cream, Kahlua and rum. It’s a go-to beach bar drink on hot summer days!
As the name infers, the legendary Flora-Bama Yacht Club is located between Perdido Key, FL and Orange Beach, AL.
In addition to their amazing drinks, they are known for their original menu items and fresh, local seafood.
I also learned that they take part in the Oyster Shell Recycling Program. This program recycles oyster shells from restaurants and puts them back into Alabama water to enhance oyster production.
Flora-Bama Yacht Club is located 17350 Perdido Key Drive, Perdido Key, FL.
They offer authentic Gulf Coast cuisine in an intimate setting that includes panoramic Gulf views. From freshly caught seafood to dry-aged steaks and an award-winning wine list, this is a place where you can relax and enjoy a great meal in a quiet atmosphere.
Voyagers is located 27200 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach, AL.
⬇⬇⬇ My Favorite Place To Book A Room! ⬇⬇⬇
Wrap-Up On Fort Morgan Historic Site & Gulf Shores AL
Fort Morgan and Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Alabama offer such a wide variety of things to do, I can see why it is such a popular beach destination.
From quiet natural wonders to sugar-white beaches and rich American history, there is something for everyone in the family.
Disclosure: I have to thank Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism for hosting me and introducing me to this part of Alabama!
Despite their wonderful hospitality, all views and opinions are entirely my own.
If you enjoy touring old forts, you may want to check out Fort Frederick from the French-and-Indian War.