Fort Morgan, AL
Cost: $7/adult, $4/kid (6 and under free)
Smashed Penny Machine: Yes, but it was broken
In an attempt to escape the lingering effects of the tropical storm, we decided to check out Fort Morgan. The fort sits at the very end of the East peninsula that form Mobile Bay. The fort is about a 30-minute drive from Gulf Shores via a two lane highway that takes you through mostly residential areas. There are few restaurants and beach rental in this direction as well. You can also get to the fort by taking the ferry from Dauphin Island (drive on). Due to rough surf caused by the tropical storm, the ferry was closed so we were unable to check that out.
Fort Morgan (and the forts that sat on that site previously) projected Mobile Bay and the city of Mobile. It played a major role in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. The fort was an active military base through World War 2.
If no one is at the guard gate to take fees (there wasn’t when we arrived because it was later in the afternoon), park and just go into the museum to pay. You’ll get a map of the grounds that gives some background on the fort. The museum is informative but small. There is also a small gift shop here. The restrooms are in a separate building near the parking lot. Bathrooms weren’t dirty but they aren’t fancy either (no a/c). The only other facilities they had were two soda vending machines near the bathrooms so be prepared and bring some water with you.
The park also has beach access and fishing access from the beach. There isn’t much in the way of amenities here (no life guards) so the beach was pretty empty. This might be a nice stop if you are looking for a quiet place to bird watch or just walk along the beach. The view wasn’t quite as nice as in Gulf Shores mostly because you are staring at a bunch of off shore oil rigs.
The main fort is directly across the parking lot from the museum. You’ll walk through a small tunnel to enter the main fort. There are free guided tours available at select times (check out their website for times: http://fort-morgan.org/) and the fort is open for self-guided tours during business hours. Most the fort is a maze of empty rooms. There are a few rooms that have been redone to show what the soldiers’ bunk rooms, an officer quarters and the washer women quarters would have looked like during the Civil War. You can’t walk through these rooms but you can look at them through the windows. You can also walk around the top battlements. That gives you a nice view of the surrounding area. Getting to the top is not handicap or stroller accessible (most the lower level is) and it’s a bit of a climb up some rather steep stairs to the top. Walking around gives you a good feel of what life would have been like for the men stationed here.
There are a few other areas to walk around that are outside the main fort. We also walked around the Federal Siege Lines where there are some Civil War era cannons set up in the earthen fortifications. The kids enjoyed “firing” on the fort. We also found a few really nice shells in the sand on the path.
Be aware there is not much shade (except inside the tunnels of the main fort) so be prepared with sun screen and water.
Overall impression: We enjoyed learning a little about the history of the fort. The kids enjoyed being able to explore all the “hidden” rooms in the tunnels and walking the battlements. It was an enjoyable stop and a nice way to spend a few hours in the greater