Aerial view of Pass-a-Grille Beach, Florida.

14 Small Towns Getaways On The Gulf Coast For Retirees

Retiring is a time for tranquility, to rediscover forgotten dreams, or to forge new ones. The kids have grown, and there is no expectation but utter intrigue and comfort. Many retirees enjoy combining these, while others lean towards one aspect. Some want white sands, culture, warm weather year-round, and various activities. From glistening, turquoise seas to friendly neighborhoods and community centers, the Gulf Coast is somewhere many retirees may want to consider for their glimmering golden years.

The Gulf Coast of the United States, also known as the Gulf South or the South Coast, is the coastline along the Southern United States, where they meet the Gulf of Mexico. These Gulf states include Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Many of these states have smaller towns that radiate an inviting energy that the larger cities do not possess, one that flows along the seaside easily and dreamily, not rushed or expectant.

Destin, Florida

Aerial view of Destin, Florida city skyline.

Aerial view of Destin, Florida city skyline.

This beachside destination is ideal for retirees looking for sun and endless activities. Located on a small peninsula along the Florida panhandle and about halfway between Panama City and Pensacola, Destin boasts crystal green waters and is highly known as a tourist destination. Its borders include 21 golf courses and over 40 companies offering fishing charters. Or if relaxation is on the menu, lay upon the 100 miles of powdery white sand nicknamed the Emerald Coast, or indulge in one of many New Orleans-influenced cuisine like the Boshamps Oyster House. 

Though the cost of living is higher than average for the state, retirees say that it is worthwhile simply for the friendliness of the people and the available amenities. Destin is home to 8 active adult communities, ranging from condos to 55-plus communities, along with an additional six assisted living and nursing homes. 

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Beachgoers with beach chairs and umbrellas at Gulf Shores Beach, Gulf of Mexico.
Beachgoers with beach chairs and umbrellas at Gulf Shores Beach, Gulf of Mexico. Editorial credit: Mark Winfrey /

This sparkling location was ranked as one of the Top 100 Areas to retire in the United States, and that is for several essential reasons. Most of all, it is due to the price of living compared to larger cities, which is only 25% above average. A bigger town like Santa Barbara would cost a whopping 127% above average for a person wanting to retire. Other factors for the ranking include the climate, which is not constantly scalding the way it is in Florida but is relatively warm in the summer and colder in the winter. The brilliant white sand and beach selection are things to behold, as is the famous Robert Trent Jones Gold Trail. Gulf Shores is a more upscale resort that acts as a retirement community at the entrance to Mobile Bay. Oyster Bay Village is a popular 55-plus community within the area, as well as The Village at Craft Farms. 

The South Baldwin Regional Medical Center is within Gulf Shores and offers the latest high-tech stroke and chest pain care advancements. 

Longboat Key, Florida

Aerial view of Longboat Key town and beaches in Manatee and Sarasota counties, central west coast of Florida.

Aerial view of Longboat Key town and beaches in Manatee and Sarasota counties, central west coast of Florida.

This small town is an island located 25 miles south of Tampa and is ideal for retirees due to the constant warm weather, green spaces, like the Quick Point Nature Preserve and Bayfront Park, and plentiful beachside. Longboat Key has an urban feel with a combined coastal ambiance. It was only ranked number 7 out of 660 by Niche on the list of Best Places to Retire in Florida!

A bonus part of retiring on Longboat Key is the presence of communities designed to keep residents physically, mentally, and socially active. A Spanish Yacht club with a fitness center includes yoga and water aerobics. On top of that, Longboat is exceptionally safe, with security cameras taking snaps of each car’s license plate as it goes off the island. The closest access to healthcare in Longboat is at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, less than half an hour's drive. 

Miramar Beach, Florida

Beach views from Miramar Beach, Florida.

Beach views from Miramar Beach, Florida.

Mesmerizing turquoise waters, golden soft sand, and palm trees are not the only things appealing about retiring in Miramar Beach. With a population of only 9,000, Miramar Beach has an old-style Mediterranean feel with pastel-colored bungalows, crab shacks, and oyster bars running along neat sidewalks. The retirement community is highly ranked between independent living centers and fully staffed nursing homes. The Blake offers many activities, allowing residents to come and go from restaurants and theaters and shop at places like Holly Lobby. Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast Hospital and ER is located at the town's core, where all essential care needs are taken care of.

The cost of living in Miramar Beach is relatively high, 124.6, which means the total cost of housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, taxes, and other necessities is 24.6 percent higher than the U.S. average and 20.9 percent lower than the average for Florida. Miramar Beach is undoubtedly a choice for those with a larger-than-average retirement fund. 

Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island, Texas on a sunny day.

South Padre Island, Texas, on a sunny day.

Padre Island is another famous Gulf Coast resort town on a long barrier island of the same name on Texas’ southernmost tip. The small town of 3,000 is often considered a party spot, with several nightclubs, live music, and dancing venues between sports bars, seafood shacks, and beachside grills. WAVE is a free shuttle that moves visitors around the area, from the lively downtown atmosphere to a laidback wildlife observation. The Sea Turtle Center in South Padre is one attraction not to miss. In addition to its 70 miles of protected coastline, other important ecosystems abound, including a rare coastal prairie, a complex and dynamic dune system, wind tidal flats teeming with life, and the Laguna Madre, one of the few hypersaline lagoon environments left in the world.

The cost of living is affordable, at 5% lower than average, with a certified retirement community. Padre Island is also warm most of the year, with a Caribbean feel meant for those who are active and lively and are inclined toward warmer weather. 

Panama City Beach, Florida

View of Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach, Florida.

View of Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach, Florida.

One of the main reasons people are flocking to Panama City Beach to retire is the affordable cost of living compared to other, more expensive Florida cities and towns. Housing costs, including home prices and property taxes, are reasonable and allow retirees to stretch their savings further into the community. The year-round warm weather, exotic-looking beaches, and endless activities make retirement living on Panama City Beach easy and enjoyable.

Those seeking to indulge in their adventurous side can try boating and kayaking in St. Andrews State Park and enjoy the scenic trails of Conversation Park. Access to quality healthcare is also accessible in Panama City Beach, which includes the Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center and Sacred Heart Hospital. Everyone a retiree could ever want and need is within arms beach in this ideal, small coastline town. 

Pass-A-Grille Beach, Florida

Aerial view of Pass-a-Grille Beach, Florida.

Aerial view of Pass-a-Grille Beach, Florida.

This town has more of an old-style feel than the big city bluster of St. Petersburg, known as the ‘Sunshine City,’ which is only a twenty-minute drive away. It is located in the historic district of St. Pete Beach and offers a 1% lower cost of living. The town exudes a vintage, pastel-shaded beach town vibe, with spectacular sunsets and seafood chains everywhere the eye can see. A tight-knit community helps retirees float along through their remaining golden years. 55-plus homes like Carlton Arms and Adlington Place are situated on lush, tropical properties, with appropriate amenities and on-site assisted living staff to aid with specialty needs. 

HCA Florida Pasadena Hospital is only a thirteen-minute drive away in the larger city of St. Petersburg, providing comprehensive emergency, diagnostic, medical, surgical, and women's services. 

Tarpon Springs, Florida

Colorful buildings with blue banners on Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Colorful buildings with blue banners on Dodecanese Boulevard in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

This charming town started as a winter resort in the late 1870s and was named after a prominent fish that flows through its famous clear waters, with painting-like sunsets spilling across the shoreline. A rich Greek culture runs through the vein of Tarpon Springs, with cuisine and architectural buildings that exemplify that. It has a suburban feel with many things to do, from a performing arts center, four golf courses, and a romantic Sunset Beach with nightly concerts to a busy Fred Howard Park. Retirees of all capabilities and requirements will thrive in Tarpon Springs, with 17 living options within the town and 63 nearby—these range from assisted living to fully staffed nursing homes. Addington Place of East Lake and Brookdale Tarpon Springs are the highest rated regarding compassion and medical needs. 

The cost of living is only 2.8 percent higher than the US average.

Port Aransas, Texas

Aerial view of Port Aransas, Texas Marina with town and ocean
Aerial view of Port Aransas, Texas Marina with town and ocean.

Port Aransas is perched on the Gulf of Mexico and teeming with coastal-themed activities and pastimes that those considering retirement will surely enjoy. Bird watching and fishing (known as the ‘Fishing Capital of Texas’) are common interests, as are dining in various seafood restaurants. Artistry, sunbathing, and nature hikes through dunes are other popular hobbies, giving the recent retiree endless options to spend their time on. Many flock to Charlie's Pasture, a vast 1280-acre property with uplands, sand flats, marshes, wooded motts, and ponds supporting diverse plants and animals. The cost of living is higher than the national average at 13%.

And as far as retirement services go, Port Aransas has a fair selection. The Viera Senior Living facility is of the highest standard and is the retirement community of Mirador. Both are staffed with skilled nurses and medical personnel on call.

Matagorda, Texas

Aerial view of sunset over beach houses on Matagorda Bay, Texas.

Aerial view of sunset over beach houses on Matagorda Bay, Texas.

This tiny town of barely 500 should be on the radar for retirees seeking a legitimately private and slow-paced style of living. Matagorda’s cost of living index is 79.4, meaning it is 20. Percent lower than the United States average. Residents can explore the Texas Gulf Coast, try out Schulman’s Movie Bowl Grille, or float along the paddling trails in East Matagorda Bay. Matagorda Bay Nature Park sits right on the edge of the town, where wildlife can be viewed in their natural habitat, ranging from various species of birds to deer and dolphins swimming along the Colorado River Channel. Health care is available at a 58-bed Matagorda Regional Medical Centre hospital, part of an 11-acre medical campus. 

Retirees can play a round on the Rio Colorado Golf Course or discover the town's history at the City by the Sea Museum. 

Crystal Beach, Texas

Aerial view of Crystal Beach Water Tower in Crystal Beach, Texas.

Aerial view of Crystal Beach Water Tower in Crystal Beach, Texas. Editorial credit: Felix Mizioznikov /

Crystal Beach is a pretty small town near Port Bolivar on the Southeast coast of Texas within Bolivar County. The Bolivar Peninsula features 27 miles of magical beachside, famous for its fishing and camping venture. It is a renowned place for retirees and tourists due to the sense of relaxation and the intrigue of the wonder of the tropical-like waters. Delve into nature's beauty at the great coastal birding trail, or indulge in live music. Crystal Beach is known as a hotspot for music, so all musicians and artists alike will be welcomed with open arms. The Galveston – bolivar ferry is the link between Galveston and the Bolivar Peninsula, which is free to all residents and travelers 24/7. The cost of living rate in coastal towns is 4.2% below the national average.

Medical facilities in the Crystal Beach area include the University of Texas Medical Branch, which is only a fifty-minute drive away. 

Guntersville, Alabama

Rear view of Lake Guntersville from The Wyndham in Guntersville, Alabama.

Rear view of Lake Guntersville from The Wyndham in Guntersville, Alabama. Editorial credit: Carla Sloke /

The lush hills of northeastern Alabama hide a sleepy town of 8,800 along a stretch of 900 miles of shoreline. The hub of life is Lake Guntersville, approximately 69,000 acres large, where water skilling, bass fishing, canoeing, and birdwatching abound. The State Park of the same name sits along the Tennessee River just northeast of the town, with an 18-hole golf course, hiking trails, and a campground. Regarding retirement communities, Guntersville has a meager cost of living, a public bus system, and robust senior programs. Terrace Lake Retirement Community is one of the most renowned, offering assisted living and independent living packages for those who do not require as much medical attention. 

The cost of living in Guntersville is relatively low, with a living index of 80.5, which means that the total price is 19.5 percent lower than the National average.

Orange Beach, Alabama 

Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Orange Beach began as a fishing and farming village in the 1800s and sits along Alabama’s easter Gulf Coast next to the Florida border. Gleaming white sand and emerald waters are not the only appealing aspects of Orange Beach, as the town is home to the annual Festival of The Arts, a fun celebration of visual, culinary, and performative wonders. There are 11 golf courses within a 10-mile drive, with The Baldwin Rural Area Transportation System leading. The South Baldwin Regional Medical Centre will tend to any medical needs. Some of the best-rated retirement communities exist here, from independent living facilities to assisted living. Orange Beach is rated #1 out of 190 of the best places to retire in Alabama, and one of the reasons is the lower cost of living (5.5 percent lower than the American average).

Thibodaux, Louisiana 

Colonel's Softball Complex in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Colonel's Softball Complex in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Editorial Credit: By Spatms - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

This quaint bayou community is where the traditional Cajun lifestyle blends with the modern lifestyle. The fair taxes, recreational opportunities, and healthcare facilities make it a viable option for those looking to retire. The Thibodaux Regional Medical Centre is sleek and state-of-the-art, keeping residents fit and addressing natural issues that arise with aging. Walking paths and an extensive sidewalk system throughout the town keep retirees moving, and the transit system that stretches into the historic Thibodaux Main Street area of downtown guides residents into a place bursting with fairs and festivals with great ease. The Claiborne is a facility that comes with all the trimmings, ranging from options in assisted living, independent living, and memory care. 

Choosing Your Coastal Haven

In choosing your coastal haven, it's essential to balance the unique pros and cons each Gulf Coast town offers, aligning them with your retirement dreams. Whether you prefer peaceful beachfront living, vibrant community activities, or rich cultural experiences, these towns cater to diverse tastes and lifestyles. Remember, selecting a retirement destination is about finding where your golden years are spent and meaningfully lived. Take the time to explore and let your preferences guide you to the perfect coastal retreat for your retirement journey.

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