Overlooking Port Aransas, Texas.

The Most Picturesque Small Towns on the Gulf Coast

The Gulf Coast is a massive region of coastal land, touching five states in the southern United States.

Since the region runs through so much of the country, you will find all kinds of unique regional stops along the way.

You could be chilling on a gorgeous beach one day and hanging out with wild animals the next. Or maybe you will check out hidden treasures full of history or groove at fun local parties.

These towns let you kick back and sunbathe outside or go on an adventure, whatever feels good that day.

Read on to find out what makes these the most picturesque small towns on the Gulf Coast.

Long Beach, Mississippi

Long Beach along the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi.
Long Beach along the Gulf of Mexico in Mississippi.

With its nearly 15,000 people, this town feels like a cozy small village but has all the amenities of a coastal resort.

In Long Beach, the most famous landmark has to be the Friendship Oak. This centuries-old Southern live oak stretches its massive branches over the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park.

Stroll down to the Long Beach Harbor, a lively location well-loved by local fishermen and boat lovers. Here, you will find a fishing pier, a marina, and a beautiful walking path to enjoy the view.

Located directly by the sea, Harbor View Café gives amazing sights of the Gulf of Mexico. Popular for delicious seafood and traditional Southern meals, this spot is a hit with both locals and visitors.

Dauphin Island, Alabama

Welcome to Dauphin Island sign in Alabama.
Welcome to Dauphin Island sign in Alabama.

Located on a laid-back barrier island, this picturesque town has everything you need in a coastal town. It has swimming, it has great beachcombing, and it has all sorts of wildlife to see while you are there.

Dauphin Island sits right on the entrance of Mobile Bay in Alabama and has important ecological spots to see nearby.

One of those is the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, a massive spot covering 137 acres. All sorts of birds stop in on their migratory path moving across the Gulf of Mexico

For a nice picnic out in the warm Alabama sun, Magnolia Park is a quiet, calming spot filled with lovely magnolia trees and groomed pathways perfect for strolls.

There is also significant history near the town worth exploring. The Indian Shell Mound Park is known for old shell mounds created by Native Americans more than 1,000 years ago. Visitors can walk through a subtropical forest to see them up close and personal.

Fairhope, Alabama

Aerial view of Fairhope, Alabama.
Overlooking Fairhope, Alabama.

Back in 1894, Fairhope was formed around the concept of a single-tax community. Since then, it has turned into a buzzing artsy stop, known for its friendly vibes.

Visitors should stroll to Fairhope Pier, a community staple for meetups. This wharf juts a whopping 1,448 feet into Mobile Bay and has stroll-friendly paths, space for boats to dock at the marina, and plenty of room to host lively community parties.

Now if you find yourself wandering through town, make sure to see Fairhope Avenue, as it acts as the main street of town. The area gets decorated depending on the season, like during the holidays when the trees are all lit up with Christmas lights.

Right near Fairhope, the Weeks Bay Reserve is a research reserve perfect for both animals and nature enthusiasts. It has walkways by the sea that let you see a fantastic variety of ecosystems in the region.

Port Aransas, Texas

Port Aransas, Texas, Sunrise.
Port Aransas, Texas, sunrise.

While often underrated, a Gulf Coast tour isn't complete without seeing the unforgettable scenery of Texas. Port Aransas, or "Port A" for short, is a pretty beach town on Mustang Island, near the Texan coast.

Only 15 minutes south of town, the Mustang Island State Park has 3,954 acres of beaches, paths for hiking paths, and spots for bird watching. The park is a quiet getaway for everyone wanting to see the natural wonders of the Texas Gulf Coast.

Right by town, the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, will give you amazing chances to watch local birds up close. It has a boardwalk that swings right into the marshes, so you can see iconic birds like the roseate spoonbill and great blue heron.

As well, the waters near the town are well-known for their dolphin tours. These tours let you see dolphins playing in their own natural world. These tours are a favorite among visitors and are a memorable experience on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay of St. Louis, Mississippi on Main Street.
Bay of St. Louis, Mississippi, on Main Street. Image credit clayton harrison via Shutterstock

Down in the historical streets of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, you can soak in its alluring arts scene alongside the Spanish moss-covered oak trees.

The heart of Bay St. Louis is the Historic Old Town, full of picturesque streets with art shops, little stores, and eateries.

It is well regarded for its aged brick buildings from the 1800s, including homes and structures that have been fixed up and kept standing strong over the years.

If you want to go swimming instead of walking city streets, nearby Bay St. Louis Beach is a great option, and has peaceful views of the Gulf of Mexico.

After that, discover the unique ecosystems of the south by exploring the nearby Jourdan River and the Bayou La Croix Coastal Preserve. Both places are great for hiking, watching birds, and seeing scores of fascinating plants and animals.

Seaside, Florida

Historic square shopping area in Seaside, Florida.
Historic square shopping area in Seaside, Florida. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock

You probably have not seen many towns like Seaside. The town's pastel-colored houses and white picket fences are hard to forget.

Stroll into Central Square when you are in Seaside, as the location is the popular spot for meet-ups in town. Want a taste of local life? Come check out the farmers' markets or live concerts while in the square.

The Seaside Interfaith Chapel stands out as a must-see landmark in town. It was designed by Scott Merrill, and has a beautiful, bold white facade. It welcomes people of all faiths to come and worship.

Grayton Beach State Park, not far from town, offers a chance to see the wonder of Florida's panhandle. You can find paths for walking and biking, coastal dune lakes, and chances for kayaking.

Looking to spend some time outside? Point Washington State Forest is just miles from Seaside and covers more than 15,000 acres with a wide spectrum of ecosystems to see.

Grand Isle, Louisiana

Drone aerial photo of houses in Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Overlooking houses in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Grand Isle has a certain Louisiana charm, with its distinct Cajun traditions.

This town by the sea is famous for its lovely beaches, and where spending the whole day enjoying the sun and going for swims is a common activity.

If fishing is more your thing, this picturesque destination is perfect for that too. It is also home to the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, which is the oldest fishing competition in the United States. The area comes alive with Cajun music, traditional dancing, and tasty local dishes, adding to its seaside appeal.

Or, if you would rather not sunbathe or fish, perhaps you would enjoy going outside to birdwatch? Grand Isle has that too. Birdwatchers flock here during migration seasons to see a variety of species. The Grand Isle Birding Trail is a great place to join in.

The town is also known for its unique cultural personality, hosting events such as the Grand Isle Migratory Bird Celebration. This event happens every April and celebrates the migration of birds across the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf Coast is a lively and wonderous area that gives you a mix of cool cultural moments and picturesque seaside sights. You will find all sorts of attractive small towns full of fun things to see and do, amazing beaches, and places packed with heritage.

No matter what you enjoy—chilling out, exploring the outdoors, or getting to know local ways of life—the towns along the Gulf Coast are a great place for all kinds of experiences.

So, rub on the sunscreen, throw on a hat, and explore the beauty of the Gulf Coast.

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