Destin, Florida

The 11 Best Gulf Coast Beach Towns

The Gulf Coast runs along the four US States of Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, offering beaches galore for the nation. These Gulf Coast towns are equipped with some of the country's best beaches, complete with a myriad of water-fun opportunities and entertainment options to diversify one’s get away from the steel of the cities. It is no wonder the most popular beaches of the Gulf Coast are set on the islands and in the state of Florida, that knows a thing or two about water-side fun. The other three states offer a quainter and historically-rich setting for a culturally diversified and less crowded vacation.

Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi Lighthouse at Biloxi, Mississippi.
Biloxi Lighthouse at Biloxi, Mississippi. 

Known for its world-class casinos, great golfing, and beaches with warm, calm waters and ocean-front hotels, Biloxi is a popular beach town resort. Its main event of the year, the Mardi Gras celebration, offers the festivities to continue onto the beaches upon the night’s descent. The South Beach Biloxi Hotel & Suites set directly on the sandy beach is famous for its location and the Miami South Beach-style decor, although the prices also correlate with the middle-upper class. For more adventures, one can sign up for a short ferry ship journey to the Ship Island, departing from the town's Gulfport.

Dauphin Island, Alabama

Aerial view of Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island, Alabama
Aerial view of Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island, Alabama. 

A jewel of a town that is perfect for explorations, Dauphin Island is easily accessible from Mobile in a 45-min drive and by boat or ferry from the mainland. The pet-friendly Dauphin Island Public Beach with crystal clear waters is proximate to the many trails, parks, and historical exhibits of the town. There is also the Audubon Bird Sanctuary and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab for more fun interacting with animals. Fort Gaines is a must for another adventurous exploration, being a historic site from the Civil War days where one will get unparalleled panoramic views of the bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Destin, Florida

Aerial view of the beautiful city skyline of Destin, Florida.
Aerial view of the beautiful city skyline of Destin, Florida.

Set in the northwest of Florida, Destin is a beach town with white sands and emerald waters, with the enormous fish population attracting thousands of anglers that make up a large chunk of the annual visitors. The town has well-adapted to the fleet of tourists with its Big Kahuna’s Waterpark that comes with plenty of restaurants and shopping options and a well-developed entertainment scene at the beaches. One of the most popular hotels, the Henderson Park Inn comprises an upscale boutique place with luxurious rooms, all-inclusive amenities, and views overlooking the beach and the Gulf of Mexico.

Galveston, Texas

Pleasure Pier in Galveston, Texas
View of the Pleasure Pier amusement park with COVID-19 regulation signs in Galveston Island, Texas. Editorial credit: Mark Taylor Cunningham /

With the first Europeans arriving way back in 1528, this must-visit beach getaway features warm waters washing up the 27-mile sandy shoreline of beaches. With fantastic weather year-round, one can come at their convenience to enjoy plenty of water-related activities, along with exploring the town’s deep history. For a dose of entertainment, one should head straight to the historic downtown, offering a wide choice of restaurants, museums, and sites. Schlitterbahn is a fun-filled waterpark, while the Moody Gardens provide for a relaxing day out within beautiful greenery, a rainforest pyramid, and an aquarium. The Pleasure Pier is also a must-visit, while the annual festivals include the Mardi Gras and ArtWalk. 

Grand Isle, Louisiana

Brown Pelicans at Grand Isle State park, Grand Isle, Louisiana
Brown pelicans are standing on the fish dock at Grand Isle State Park, Grand Isle, Louisiana. Editorial credit: Wirestock Creators /

Having suffered severe damage from Hurricane Katrina, as did the rest of the Gulf Coast, Grand Isle made a strong comeback by rebuilding itself to become a grand tourist attraction, with casinos and the Gulf Islands Waterpark. Set in close vicinity to the state's bustling hubs of Baton Rouge and New Orleans, it is also home to the namesake state park, the only one with a beach setting in the state. Its unspoiled natural beauty is complete with a tranquil atmosphere, where one can feel truly at peace. The pier is great for an afternoon of fishing and visiting one of the incredible local restaurants serving seafood. The 26 miles of beautiful sandy beaches eagerly await each visitor with lots of water fun opportunities, where one can also take a ferry to visit the nearby Ship Island with more beaches and the historic Fort Massachusetts to explore.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Aerial view of Gulf Shores, Alabama
Aerial view of Gulf Shores, Alabama. 

Gulf Shores offers many activities to engage in along the 32 miles of beautiful, white, sandy beaches, including water sports, waterfront dining options, and coastal trails to marvel at the endless panoramic sea views. The town also offers tons of shopping, including the famed Wharf as an open-air center for dining, entertainment, shopping, and a laser light show in the late evening. The Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge and the Gulf State Park with 28 miles of trails offer naturally-preserved beauty for the active, scenic picnicking or a relaxing stroll. Lined with resorts, the Orange Beach offers deep-sea fishing and water fun, with the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, the water park Waterville USA, and casinos also awaiting. 

Mustang Island, Texas

Seagulls and pelicans at Corpus Christi Beach in Mustang Island, Texas.
Seagulls and pelicans at Corpus Christi Beach in Mustang Island, Texas.

While the spanned-out Gulf Coast can get expensive with resorts and boutique hotels, Mustang Island provides a perfect beach-bound getaway for those with a budget in mind. The vacation spot is set near Corpus Christi, boasting over 18 miles of shores and the Mustang Island State Park equipped with 48 campsites with water and electricity. The outdoor activities include kayaking, fishing, swimming, and bird-watching at the beach and a seaside golf course and Port Aransas with highly rated restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries for diversified fun.  

Naples, Florida

The skyline of downtown Naples, Florida at dusk.
The skyline of downtown Naples, Florida, at dusk. 

It is easy to immediately fall in love with Naples' beautiful turquoise waters, the spanned-out art scene, as well as the superb dining and shopping options. The public Vanderbilt Beach has many resorts, shops, and restaurants nearby, while the family-friendly Naples Municipal Beach offers a concession stand and a historic pier for sightseeing, panoramic views, and fishing. One of the most expensive places in the state, it is no wonder that properties like LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort offer high-end stays right out of a movie, with beach butlers, a golf club, spa, and private cabanas. Still, anyone can enjoy the beaches and the excellent locale if visiting off-season from December through February to stay in a wallet-friendly hotel.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

A caboose displays the city's sign of welcome.
A caboose located on the side of Highway-90 proudly displays the city's sign of welcome. Editorial credit: EQRoy /

The truly unspoiled beach destination of Ocean Springs is set in a beautiful natural locale of the Mississippi's Gulf Islands National Seashore. With a cozy town-vibe, the outdoor opportunities are ample but straightforward, such as hiking, kayaking, and fishing. The town itself has over 200 independent shops, galleries, and seemingly endless community events in which tourists are more than welcome to participate. The pristine Front Beach is excellent for tranquil lounging around, while for a more culturally-rich time, the famous Walter Anderson Museum of Art is more than worthy of being scavenged.

Sanibel Island, Florida

Aerial view of Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island.
Aerial view of Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island.

The quaint, naturally unspoiled Sanibel Island is one of the top beach destinations in the state, set picturesquely just off-coast of Fort Myers. The endless searching for the most beautiful shell at Bowman's Beach is a popular pastime, along with fishing at the Lighthouse Beach with a view of the 100-year-old lighthouse. The active will revel in the 25 miles of sidewalks, trails, and bike paths on the streets lined with low-rise buildings and palm trees. The J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge contains manatees, sea turtles, and crocodiles to spectate through an hour and a half-long educational tram tour. One can also summon up their own delicacy at the Cheeburger Cheeburger, a popular local spot for its endless selection of burger toppings.

South Padre Island, Texas

Aerial view of South Padre Island, Texas.
Aerial view of South Padre Island, Texas.

A major destination for spring breakers with non-stop parties on the beach and at many of the resorts, South Padre Island is the only of its kind in Texas, with 34 miles of sandy shores for lounging on. For everyone else, there is leisurely swimming and basking in the sun and kayaking, fishing, and dolphin watching, which is especially popular with families. The free public shuttle in-town, called the Wave, makes everything from shopping and dining to the beaches galore accessible and with no time wasted. The recommended stay comprises the upper-middle-range huge Pearl South Padre with 256 family- and pet-friendly rooms and complete or partial ocean views.

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