Aerial view of Port Aransas, Texas.

9 Best Towns On The Gulf Coast For A Winter Getaway

When you feel you cannot stand another snowy day and miss the days you would stroll the street, hit the trails, catch a magical sunset, or just wander through the woods, the many gorgeous towns along the Gulf Coast can prove therapeutic. The five states bordering the Gulf Coast, including Florida, offer miles of pearly-white beaches and mild to warm temperatures, perfect for traditional snowbirds — or anyone craving some winter Gulf Coast experience. If this sounds like you, discover the nine best towns on the Gulf Coast for a winter getaway.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

The Hancock bank of Bay St Louis Mississippi on main street
The historic Hancock Bank of Bay St Louis, Mississippi, on Main Street.

Boasting a population of about 11,200, Bay St.Louis sits just about 51 miles from New Orleans on a stretch of beauty called Mississippi's "Secret Coast." To kickstart your day, probably with something scrumptious, Mockingbird Cafe has outdoor seating where one can enjoy full-flavored coffee amid ocean breezes and fantastic ambiance. After this energy boost, one will want to head to South Beach Boulevard, the site of the town's dog-friendly beaches. For avid anglers, however, Jimmy Rutherford Fishing Pier is known for excellent all-season trout fishing and is a beautiful spot to cast a line. If you want to stay in a place that overlooks the marina and where you can enjoy sunrise on the porch, Bay Town Inn might be your best bet.

Seaside, Florida

A seaside shopping arcade in Seaside, Florida.
A seaside shopping arcade in Seaside, Florida. Editorial credit: Kristi Blokhin /

Those who dream of playing in the clean, gentle surf of some Gulf Coast neverland in an adventure that does not involve winter coats, gloves, or mittens should consider taking a trip to Seaside, a Florida Gulf Coast charmer best known as the location for the award-winning film The Truman Show. Just like the fast-paced comedy-drama film, a winter getaway in Seaside will see one hopping from one adventure to another. This Northwest Florida beach community, whose slogan is "a simple, beautiful life," sits on Florida's Emerald Coast, a phrase inspired by the area's crystal-clear green waters and unsullied, white sandy beaches. On a brisk winter morning, you will enjoy strolling the streets and admiring the area's candy-colored homes. While the Seaside Amphitheatre is often the hub of all Seaside activities and is known to host year-round events and festivities, you can't miss the Seaside Beach, a stunning strip of white sand that is often quieter and less crowded in winter. Besides, a road trip on the Scenic Highway30A often comes with goosebumps at nearly every step of the way.

Cape San Blas, Florida

Cape San Blas, Florida
Aerial view of Cape San Blas, Florida.

Still on Highway 30A, Cape San Blas hosts a spectacular beach that one can have to herself. Besides, this beach boasts waterfront views that are among the most heart-melting in the state. A secluded piece of paradise, Cape San Blas is secreted close to Port St. Joe, the county seat of Florida's Gulf County. Snowbirds can head to the Gulf side or opt for the Bay side. The former is known for big waves, suitable for surfing, while the latter, besides being calmer and hence ideal for kayaking or lounging in the sand, provides access to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, one of the best beaches in the country. Still, do not miss the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park at the end of the peninsula. This park is the most productive shorebird nesting beach on the Florida Panhandle.

South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island, Texas.

Bounded by the Gulf of Mexico on the east and Laguna Madre on the west, South Padre Island is the closest to a tropical island in the Lone Star State and, hence, a fantastic winter getaway. For perspective, aside from its unsurpassed beauty, the Laguna Madre is the longest estuarine system in Texas— and one of six hypersaline bays in the world. Several miles of sparkling white sand and lucid emerald waters are among this town's well-known features. While one can be spoilt for choice, no words can describe the experience of being a pirate for a day on the Black Dragon, a cruise attraction consistently ranked among the best in the state. You will enjoy smiling with dolphins, firing a real cannon, and sightseeing. At the Laguna Madre Nature Trail, you can lock eyes with an alligator and see all kinds of birds. To hold a snake or a little gater or pet a tortoise's head, head to South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

Fairhope, Alabama

The pier at Fairhope, Alabama.
The pier at Fairhope, Alabama.

The name itself will make the heart of a snowbird start racing. Fairhope is curled up on the shore of Mobile Bay, about 6 miles south of Daphne. The town is home to about 12,300 residents and boasts a beautiful municipal pier as its most loved attraction. This pier features a rose garden, duck ponds, and even a fountain. You will enjoy the sight of gulls, swimming loons, and pelicans consistently splashing the water's surface. If you love biking and getting some early-morning exercise, Eastern Shore Trail is at hand. Minutes from town, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, the largest wetland in the state, features several adventure opportunities and is one of Alabama's natural wonders. For some deliciously tender chicken, the kind you can cut with a fork, Sunset Pointe at Fly Creek Marina will come in handy. 

Anna Maria Island, Florida

Bradenton beach city pier on Anna Maria Island in Florida
Bradenton Beach city pier on Anna Maria Island, Florida.

The Florida Gulf Coast is often known for its range of secluded barrier islands. Anna Marie Island is one of 30 such islands that are usually perfect for a laid-back winter getaway. One can swim, snorkel, catch a magical sunset, laugh with dolphins, or hunt for fossilized shark teeth. If a cake-style donut is up your alley, The Donut Experiment provides a culinary experience that can only be described as divine. To rest for the night, Bungalow Beach Resort offers tasty waterfront views amid swaying coconut palms. One can also traipse through the Historic Green Village and explore the art gallery and gift shops — while enjoying fabulous views that stretch from Tampa Bay to the Gulf of Mexico.

Port Aransas, Texas

Port Aransas, Texas.
Port Aransas, Texas.

Boasting a population of just about 3,400 residents, Port Aransas is a sleepy fishing village that has served as a nostalgic winter getaway for decades. Port A, as locals call this Texas charmer, hosts the non-profit Amos Rehabilitation Keep — whose mission is to rescue and rehabilitate sick or injured birds, turtles, and tortoises found along the South Texas coast before returning them to their native habitat. A visit here may reward you with the sight of the Kemp's ridley, the rarest and most endangered sea turtle in the world. Minutes from town, Mustang Island State Park features beautiful dunes and a large array of wildlife, including deer, sea turtles, and 400 different bird species. For staying, one may opt for Cinnamon Shore, a welcoming beach community where families plot adventures and make long-lasting memories.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.
Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

It is not just the name. This well-known Alabama jewel provides the ultimate Gulf Coast winter experience. Relaxing coastal breezes, mild temperatures, and heart-ravishing views will see one's vacation end before it starts. With its miles of white-as-sugar sandy beaches, bayous, rivers, and lakes, winter here is not the time to dress as someone going to the moon. Gulf State Park boasts 8 miles of paved trails perfect for biking — while Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest undeveloped parcels of land on the Alabama coast, is bearably cooler in winter and, hence, an awesome outdoor adventure spot. In winter, you will likely see birds such as Red-breasted Mergansers and Peregrine Falcons — at the wildlife refuge. The latter is not only the world's fastest bird but also the world's fastest animal. For those who love skating, The Wharf boasts an ice skating rink and is worth checking out.

Destin, Florida

Aerial view of Destin, Florida.
Aerial view of Destin, Florida.

Destin is a historic fishing village-turned-resort community that reclines on the east side of the East Pass about 50 miles east of Pensacola. A pass, for perspective, is a channel that allows passage through an otherwise shallow waterway. The East Pass — or Destin Pass — connects the Gulf of Mexico to Choctawhatchee Bay. The latter is often regarded as the epicenter of some of the most amazing fishing in the Sunshine State. The area, because of its emerald-green water, is called the Emerald Coast. The region's soft, sugar-white sands, natural preserves, and state parks offer a world of outdoor adventure opportunities. When winter rolls on, the town's weather becomes mild and pleasant and, hence, suitable for hitting the links at the numerous world-class golf courses, including the Emerald Bay Golf Club — enjoying a sunset walk along Destin Harborwalk, or cracking your ribs at the Noah & Heather Present Maximum Magic, the longest running magic show on the Gulf Coast.

The Takeaway

With all the fun winter getaways that dot the United States Gulf Coast, there is no reason anyone should complain about winter blues. When life in other parts of the country screeches to a halt, the Gulf Coast, during winter, offers a world of adventure options that will leave snowbirds completely blown away. For the best towns on the Gulf Coast for a winter getaway, consider Bay St. Louis, Mississippi; Seaside Florida; Cape San Blas, Florida; and South Padre Island, Texas.

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