Gulf Shores, Alabama

By Michelle Segrest

Since I was 5 years old, I’ve been a proud Alabamian. My family has been vacationing in Gulf Shores for as long as I can remember. In fact, most of my favorite memories have been our trips to Gulf Shores, which we simply referred to as “The Beach.” When my three brothers and I all grew up and had children of our own, we continued this tradition. Each summer we came down to “The Beach” with the entire family and rarely ever even considered any other vacation spot for family vacations.

Gulf Shores is a small city on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. With a population of around 12,000, it’s the perfect combination of small town and big tourism. It boasts fabulous fresh seafood restaurants, festivals, concerts, craft fairs, local pubs—all with a waterfront atmosphere, beaches with sand as white and soft as sugar, smooth waves, and breathtaking sunsets. And with warm climate all year long, it’s perfect for those of us who love to be outdoors.

As an adult, I lived, worked, and reared my children for 23 years in Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city. In 2016, when my children left the nest for college at Auburn University, I made the easiest decision of my life—I made Gulf Shores my home and have never looked back! Follow this link to read about Plash Island!

A Brief History of Gulf Shores

The completion of the Intracoastal Waterway in 1937, and the opening of the Gulf State Park in 1939, were both crucial factors in attracting people to the Gulf Shores area. The first post office opened in 1947. Previous to that time, the area was sparsely populated with the exception of a small fishing community, which dates back to the early 1800s. Incorporation activities began in 1956 with the Town of Gulf Shores finally receiving validation for the incorporation by the judicial system in 1958.

The Intracoastal Canal
Originally the town encompassed some 206 acres geographically located along the banks of the Intracoastal Canal. The 700 feet on the north side of the canal was joined to the larger section on the south side by a cantilever bridge. Development began shortly thereafter, and by the 1960s the town was thriving with family-owned grocery stores, restaurants, cottages, and motels for the summer tourists. During the fall and winter months, the town was virtually deserted. In an effort to generate business for these seasons the community arranged fishing rodeos and a National Shrimp Festival began in 1971. Held in October, it has now become a national tourist attraction with upward of 200,000 people in attendance over a four-day extended weekend.

In 1979, Gulf Shores took a direct hit from Hurricane Fredric. In the aftermath, development surged with increased construction of condominiums, restaurants, and retail outlets. It was during this time the town became the City of Gulf Shores. 

Summer months generate a surge of tourists estimated in the hundreds of thousands. In addition, we are visited in the winter months by a large population known as “snowbirds.” Snowbirds visit Gulf Shores for as many as three to five months during the winter and spring, and then return to their primary residences in northern states for the remainder of the year.

Shrimping, oystering, and fishing employed almost everyone in the area throughout the early settlement years until the 1970s. Fishing laws and regulations have since diminished this way of life. As tourism and real estate replaced the fishing industries, Gulf Shores’ families began to enjoy a more diversified lifestyle than early settlers.  Read More.