Alabama · Family Adventures · Museums and History

Angler Expert, Civil War Siege & the Zoo’s Happy Tears: Dropping the Knowledge in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

There is still a lot to experience in the wilds of of the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach area, and I’m not talking about the Flora-Bama Lounge. Alabama’s Gulf State Park is always close by during your visit.

Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL: Baldwin County

Magnificent hotels and condos are everywhere here in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach with the majority towering over the coastline. Each town hosts countless visitors like us and we did our best to see it all. When you’re driving up and down Alabama’s Coastal Connection you’ll notice a beautiful slice of wilderness that is Gulf State Park. We showed up for some family fishing from the pier in a natural setting.

Family Fishing Trip On the Beach

The pier looks like we’re descending into the clouds over the Gulf. An even more spectacular view was waiting when we go to the end here at Gulf State Park.

*We had the great pleasure to be hosted by the awesome folks at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. Some of our admission fees were compensated/complimentary. The views expressed are always of our own. Let’s gallivant, Bama!

The salt life is the life for Ted Safarian. We were his pupils for his passion that is called Angler Academy and it’s perfect for rookies like us or anyone wanting a morning learning about the coast’s flippy-flappy friends.
That moment you capture all the kids in class paying attention. I didn’t even bring gum this time!
Sinkers, bobbers, hooks, bait, cast…..Ted knows it, done it, and fished it.

Angler Academy at the Gulf State Park Nature Center was the morning kickoff we had here in Alabama. Ted was the instructor and it took about 2 seconds to see how much he loves having folks visit him. There’s plenty of fish out there and he is thrilled to help visitors reel’em in.

That’s right, Gigi. Bring home dinner to the bungalow tonight.
Ted demonstrating the bait situation. Squid and shrimp today with a side of sunshine all morning long.
Ted loves to fish but he loves to see you enjoying yourself just as much.
Who’s watching your line while you take that pic! The Answer: I was. I got it tangled too which is fun cuz you learn to never do that again.
This right here is why Ted does it. Seeing the smiles from an Iowa kid like this enjoying her time fishing at the academy.

Ted had the patience of a saint and the passion of any ship captain I can think of. His tutelage of the area’s sea life, weather patterns, waters, famous catches, and tournaments were all exactly what I wanted to hear about. He also directed us to restaurants and other attractions here on the coast all the while baiting hooks, coaching us up, and putting a lot of smiles on our faces. He works with all ages, abilities, and anyone who’s ready to learn about the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast. He’s got an awesome snarl when it comes to getting birds away from the bait too!

Monkey Business in Gulf Shores

There’s always going to be time to stop in at the local zoo during our family adventures. Especially after what we experienced on this day.

We’ve taken the kids to a lot of zoos in their lifetimes, each with its own distinctive memory. For some reason the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo brought out the happy tears a little more than all the others could do for our daughter, Leah.

Just wait for it girls…..What lurks from the cave will soon appear….And keep those snacks to yourself!
Shall I say it? My new Jack….My new donkey friend! I wonder what he called me? Probably that hansom fella in the neat hat.
I don’t care how exotic your zoo is. If you don’t have goats then what are you doing?
The look you have when you get to the top of the stairs and see your favorite animals. Alpacas are all the rage right now.
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It was tough to get this little monkey to sit still but when he did we got a pic. He would have been smuggled back to Iowa if I let my oldest daughter climb the fence.
The genuine reaction when a little monkey makes eye contact with you and waves his tiny foot in your direction while eating a snack. 

It wasn’t the first time Leah has seen a monkey during our zoo trips in her lifetime. It was the first time that one seemed to interact with her. She fell for that little guy hard and has a new best friend waiting for her return in Gulf Shores at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. If you think a monkey stuffing his furry face behind a fence is cute then wait until you can walk around with a baby kangaroo. Which is also something you can do here! This is a proud local zoo, and they do an excellent job of making you feel educated and enlightened by the time you leave. I think Leah named the monkey Giuseppe Antonio, Esq or something like that.

Protecting History at Fort Morgan

From fishing, to zoos, to a very big bucket list item checked off.

I’m a history buff and have taken many detours to get just a glimpse of historical plaques, pictures of infamous buildings, and parked my fanny at a bar stool to hear an old timer talk about how a hometown Main Street looked decades ago on more than a few occasions. Since I was a child, I have immersed myself in Civil War history and the trip to Alabama’s Gulf Coast grew in anticipation for many reasons with Fort Morgan Historical Site being one of them.

Fort Morgan
Dylan Tucker was the guide here and he is an absolute Alabama state treasure. His knowledge of the fort and history of his home state could fill up the bay in the background.

An hour south of our Iowa City-HQ is the Civil War’s northern most battle in Croton, Iowa. That would be the beginning of the unofficial Civil War trail we’d be taking all the way to Gulf Shores. Through Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama were constant reminders of this important time in our nation’s history. Battlefield markers seem to spring up every couple hours the entire way along with memorials, cemeteries, and museums. It would be here at Fort Morgan, the site of the battle of Mobile Bay, where Dylan would bring this historical road trip all together for me. I happened to be there on the 155th anniversary of when the siege of this fort began.

This cannon hasn’t been fired in many years but it looks like it could be brought back to commission today at the drop of a hat. 
I love an old plaque and as you can see that this was a base of operations decades before the Civil War when the British were trying to reclaim the US.
A view from the top where generations of soldiers have served.
The architecture’s weathered look shows the visible age of Fort Morgan.
One of the most stunning corridors you’ll find anywhere in your travels. Imagine the chaos that would be told if these bricks could talk.
I can’t recall exactly what I was thinking and that’s quite alright. Thank you to Dylan for snapping this pic!
They didn’t miss an angle here at Fort Morgan. Successfully scaling the walls would have been met with another awful battery of firepower.

Dylan is an educational storyteller with respectful knowledge to all sides that fought on these grounds. From the Native Americans in the early 1800s, the US soldiers protecting American interests during the war of 1812, Confederate armies in Alabama, and all the way up to WWII preparations looking out for German U-Boats wanting to attack strategic Mobile. Dylan dresses in Civil War period attire and has a voice that’s just above the crashing waves along the nearby beachfront that exudes a passion for the heritage and history that surrounds the area. He is nowhere near robotic in his storytelling even though he fills every moment with unbelievable facts and characterizations of the men and women of Fort Morgan’s long history. He almost senses the moments when you’re about to be stopped in your tracks with amazement as you zigzag through the grounds.

As long as we all keep visiting, Fort Morgan will stay relevant and have folks like Dylan taking care of it. Though its very old I have a feeling that if need be, the fort would be defended again in an Alabama heartbeat.

The locals make Gulf Shores & Orange Beach the special place it is for the constant stream of visitors like us. There’s plenty to do, get done, and detail in this beautiful community. There’s something about taking a few moments to learn about one’s passion, and the extra time to educate us makes a vacation even more memorable. We loved the white-sands and the hours spent in the sea. The patience Ted showed with my children and Dylan’s unwavering love for Alabama’s history is the representation of many more locals like them and you’ll see it in your own ways here. Add a monkey that will make you weep to the mix and you have vacation gold!

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Just call her, AL.

2 thoughts on “Angler Expert, Civil War Siege & the Zoo’s Happy Tears: Dropping the Knowledge in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach

  1. I went fishing here with a friend. We had our bait and quickly learned from the local fisherman standing next to us that you do NOT place the whole shrimp on the hook- which we had been doing! A memorable fishing experience and I’m ready to go back and try it again.

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