The Gulf Coast of the U.S. is recognized as having some of the most beautiful small towns for all manners of tourism. These towns, which span across the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, are crucial elements of travel that make for an unforgettable experience. Here are eight must-visit destinations on the Gulf Coast that should appeal to anyone seeking newfound adventures and something to remember for a lifetime.
In northwestern Florida, Destin is seen as the "Panhandle" city, full of nature trails, sheltered wildlife, and water parks. With a population of 14,085 residents, this small town caters to fishing enthusiasts and aquatic views, such as the ones found on Crab Island. In this popular filmmaking locale, floating bars and boat rentals are commonplace for travelers. Baytowne Wharf near Miramar Beach is also available, should tourists be keen on checking out marinas and multi-million dollar yachts up for display. Those visiting Destin Harbor may even find cute boutique shops and sunset panoramas at Harborwalk Village while enjoying outdoor entertainment venues. As for beach lovers, Norriego Point to the east is an ambient locale worth every return trip for its historical Spanish influence and inlet swimming routes.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores is a city with 16,830 residents on Alabama's coastline, a getaway destination for travelers craving bright white beaches and soothing warm waters. The Gulf State Park allocates two miles of sun-kissed sand for beachside fun, with some occasional Native American fishing history discussed by aquatic experts. Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge is a natural landmark with migratory birds and coastal habitats, while the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo provides hands-on exposure to lemurs, kangaroos, and sloths. For tourists with an interest in history, Fort Morgan offers perspective on Revolution-era masonry forts originally built during the 1800s. History buffs may further stop by the University of South Alabama's Archaeology Museum to witness over 12,000 years of prehistorical findings in person. Shoppers who want to scour the pier may find delight at the Gulf State Park Fishing and Education Pier, which has various concession areas and indoor souvenir shops, making for a lasting trip.
South Padre Island, Texas
Based off the southern coast of Texas, this small resort town of 2,035 residents is perfect for birdwatching and turtle sightseeing. Forty-three acres of coastal wetland environments await travelers at the Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary, where avian and reptilian habitats are bound to bring enjoyment to visitors. Adventure Park is designed for the best excursion memories, as tourists can take on unparalleled horseback riding and ziplining. For historical and sociocultural influence, South Padre Island guests can marvel at the El Cristo de Los Pescadores memorial, a donation to the town that serves as a memory of Jesus Christ. Port Isabel Lighthouse, on the other hand, is a more privatized historic landmark with its 1850s cottage architecture that appeals to all age groups. This island town combines nature with history to create a meaningful experience.
Located in Mississippi with 48,814 inhabitants, the vibrant casino town of Biloxi is a fantastic getaway motivator. With world-class hospitality found only at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, tourists will get poolside views of the sea without sacrificing pleasure. Biloxi Beach, one of the most popular beaches in the entire state, stands out from the rest for its sunbathing resort charms and 19th-century glamor discoverable at the Biloxi Lighthouse. The Beauvoir Estate is a historical landmark that provides public tours of American Civil War memorabilia, while the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum is crucial for cultural tourism with its underwater artifact collection. Natural features of history can even be seen at the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a park consisting of smaller islands lending significance to the 1970s harbor life. Travelers with a penchant for sports activities may have the most fun at MGM Park, a downtown retro landmark that doubles as a famous ballpark for the Biloxi Shuckers and Milwaukee Brewers baseball teams.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Another Mississippi town on the Gulf Coast, Ocean Springs, has a population of 18,335 residents and is seen as the "City of Discovery" by locals and visitors alike for its quaint history, artistic flair, and lush landscapes. Take in delicious gyro cuisine at Glory Bound Gyro Co., or stop by the semi-historic Martha's Tea Room, which offers homemade salads, soups, and desserts in an antiquated fashion. Fort Maurepas State Park, a French settlement locale, is ideal for those who want to learn more about overseas influence in this small town, while the Davis Bayou Area is a lovely treat for hiking and museum tours. For artistic talent, the Bridge Mosaic Mural is visualized as the state's longest mosaic panel depicting natural beauty. Travelers may also find the Crooked Feather, a 30-foot sculpture paying homage to Native Americans of the 1970s. Park visitors can enjoy the morning views at Front Beach or Fontainebleau Nature Trail, both offering peaceful walking excursions as a highlight of the town.
Grand Isle, Louisiana
A small town in Louisiana with southern hospitality and mouthwatering seafood, Grand Isle is a paradise for renowned fishing and birding habitats with a population of 999 residents. Elmer's Island Wildlife Refuge is a 230-acre beachfront for nature experts and novices, while birdwatchers can usually be found at the Lafitte Woods Nature Preserve, a customary landmark for over 100 species of birds making 500-mile treks across the Gulf of Mexico. Grand Isle Beach is another popular locale in the town, as it brings out the best views of brown pelicans as well as other species of shore avians. Tourists who want to stay indoors may find that Blue Water Souvenirs houses the best antiquities to take home with them or Pirate Island Daiquiri for refreshing cocktails near the ocean. As for those wanting insight into Grand Isle's origins, Fort Livingston demonstrates the historical allure of the early 1800s as a base for Confederate and piracy operations.
Marco Island, Florida
On Florida's southwestern coast, Marco Island allows for a taste of luxury and natural splendors. The island, just south of Naples, with a population of 16,307 residents, is a key destination for travelers because of its emphasis on family-friendly coastal fun. Tourists will appreciate Tigertail Beach and South Marco Beach for their unspoiled sands, tidal pools, and social tiki hut bars, while Frank E. Mackle Park appeals to all audiences with its oceanside resorts and boardwalk tours. For seafood cravings, Pelican Plaza offers the finest shrimp around the coast and appeals to culinary sensations through its local favorites as well. The Marco Walk Plaza, a premier shopping destination, is also an option for tourists looking to take in warm sunshine and sea air while browsing specialty stores that are historically unique to this town only on the Paradise Coast.
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
A small Mississippi town with 11,207 inhabitants, Bay St. Louis is a common destination for travelers looking for fancy thrills and historical value. It is a must-visit town for the Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum, a free-admission locale that sponsors some of the most exquisite art pieces made by historical painters. The 100 Men DBA Hall is another artistic locale that features musical renditions and murals paying tribute to the talent of the past. A scrumptious meal over at Mockingbird Cafe or Serious Bread Bakery is sure to keep tourists satisfied, while a trip to Kate Lobrano House enhances travelers with southern Mississippi history. Science, technology, and engineering minds may even go as far as to visit the Infinity Science Center, a non-profit that prides itself on carnivorous plants, innovative rocket labs, and swamp exploration activities. This town has just about everything to please any tourist.
All of these small towns provide the best tourism experience when traveling around the Gulf Coast. With multiple states to consider for one's next itinerary, there may be no hesitation to pick up the bags and head to exotic beach locations that continue to spur interest in the travel industry. Having this list in hand guarantees enjoyment and fulfillment when looking at must-visit towns with historic and natural beauty.