If you’re dreaming of taking a vacation to a white sand beach, look no further! The Gulf shoreline that runs along the southern coast on the edge of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida boasts magical beaches. In this guide, we’re going to share the best Gulf Coast beaches.
While Florida gulf beaches are known for their emerald waters, Mississippi is home to sugar-white sands. And, most of the beaches along the Gulf Coast offer a mix of both. From family-friendly beaches to peaceful getaways, there’s something for everyone along this stunning shoreline.
Let’s get to it and take a look at the loveliest beaches along the gulf.
1. Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria Island is a barrier island just below St. Petersburg, Florida. This gorgeous, walkable island has a small-town vibe and is home to 7 miles of white sand beaches and crystal clear water.
At the southern tip of the island, you can find the popular Bradenton Beach. Other top spots include Manatee and Coquina Beach.
Anna Maria Island attracts visitors looking for beautiful beaches and scenery, delicious seafood restaurants, and a relaxed atmosphere. It’s also a favorite for pet owners as it’s a very dog-friendly area.
The best time to visit is between April and June before it gets too hot and crowded. Winters and summers are usually the busiest, and prices can increase for travelers.
What to do on Anna Maria Island:
- Hiking and birdwatching at the Leffis Key Preserve
- Shopping on Historic Bridge Street
- Walking along the Bradenton Beach City Pier
2. Biloxi Beach, Mississippi
Biloxi Beach is a 26-mile-long beach along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. This long beachfront draws beachgoers to its sandy shoreline, casinos, and top-rated seafood restaurants.
The beach offers plenty of space to spread out and sunbathe. It’s also great for swimming and fishing.
Next to Biloxi Beach is Deer Island Coastal Preserve, a unique area with diverse wildlife to explore, scenic golf courts, and fun water activities.
We recommend visiting Biloxi Beach between November and April to avoid crowds, experience pleasantly mild weather, and have access to affordable accommodation rates.
Things to enjoy at Biloxi Beach:
- Hanging out on the expansive shoreline
- Visiting the 19th-century Biloxi Lighthouse
- Gambling at the casino
- Exploring the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art
- Visiting the Coastal Mardi Gras Museum
3. Bonita Beach, Florida
Bonita Beach is a beachfront park with a long stretch of coastline that offers a unique mix of sand and shells. The surrounding area provides other secluded pristine beaches with clear water and scenic landscapes.
Fishers, golfers, sunbathers, and swimmers most enjoy Bonita Beach.
Bonita Beach Park is one of the best Florida Gulf Coast beaches because there are several public beach access points offering plenty of space for a more private experience. On the beach, you can enjoy various water activities, watching for dolphins, and playing beach volleyball.
Many people find this to be a great day trip destination from Fort Meyers. With that said, there are also plenty of accommodations and activities close to the beach, making it an excellent vacation destination.
Bonita Beach is a favorite year-round destination, with temperatures at their warmest from May through September.
Some of the most fun Bonita Beach activities are:
- Walking the boardwalk to Lovers Key State Park
- Exploring the Barefoot Beach Preserve
- Visiting the Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
- Gambling at the Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Track
- Camping and canoeing at Koreshan State Park
- Visiting the botanical gardens at the Everglades Wonder Gardens
4. Cape San Blas Beach, Florida
Cape San Blas is one of the best Florida panhandle beaches because it offers a secluded feel with a special Florida charm. Its almost daily sunshine and sugar sand beaches draw in beachgoers year-round.
The beach is on the St. Joseph Peninsula, a wildlife haven that’s home to the amazing St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Cape San Blas Beach is a fun place to go fishing, kayaking, swimming, and paddleboarding. San Flea is an excellent shop for beach chairs and water sports equipment rentals.
Pet owners especially love that the beach is dog-friendly as long as pets are leashed at all times.
Popular things to do at and near Cape San Blas beach include:
- Horseback riding on the beach
- Visiting the lighthouse
- Kayaking or stand up paddleboarding
- Catching fish
- Watching sea turtles hatch
- Eating scallops
5. Clearwater Beach, Florida
Clearwater Beach has been rated one of the best Gulf Coast beaches due to calm, shallow waters, amazing year-round weather, and exciting water adventures. It’s also located close to Tampa and is very easy to get to.
Once you arrive at Clearwater Beach, 30miles of pristine soft sand and sparkling clear water await you. There’s also an incredible pier, Pier 60, which boasts fishing, shopping, fine dining, and other entertainment opportunities.
Like most Florida gulf beaches, Clearwater Beach is amazing all year. This busiest time is during the summer months, from May to September. Fortunately, there are plenty of vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts nearby.
Our favorites activities at Clearwater Beach include:
- Visiting the Clearwater Marine Aquarium
- Walking along Pier 60
- Water activities like parasailing, jet skiing, fishing, and snorkeling
6. Fort Myers Beach, Florida
Fort Myers Beach is situated on the small barrier island of Estero Island in Southwestern Florida. The beachfront is nearly 7-miles long, showing off pristine waters and beautiful soft sand. You may even spot dolphins playing in the ocean if you’re lucky.
Visitors appreciate finding many attractions near the main beach and on the boardwalk, including resorts, hotels, restaurants, and amusements. We recommend staying at one of the beachfront accommodations for the ultimate beach vacation experience.
If you’re looking for a place to bring your pet, Fort Myers Beach is a great place for it. Leashed pets are welcome to play at the beach, and the expansive shoreline is perfect for walking your dog.
The best time to visit Fort Myers Beach is between March and May for nice weather and fewer crowds. Fort Myers is a year-round destination that’s almost always warm, with the exception of December through March getting a little cooler. Fort Myer’s peak season is from June through September.
Some of the best activities in Fort Myers Beach are:
- Exploring archeological sites at the Mound House
- Spotting wildlife at the Matanzas Pass Preserve
- Shopping at Times Square
7. Grand Isle Beach, Louisiana
If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and relax, this Grand Isle Beach is for you. It sits off the shore of southern Louisiana on a long, thin barrier island. This little island offers a small-town vibe and a fantastic Louisiana beach off the beaten path.
State parks and nature reserves surround Grand Isle Beach, so it’s brimming with wildlife and scenic activities. You can almost always enjoy outstanding fishing and birdwatching opportunities. Grand Isle is also home to some of the best local seafood.
Leashed pets are also welcome at Grand Isle Beach.
We think the best time of year to visit Grand Isle Beach is during the shoulder seasons from March to May and September to November. The weather is warmest from June to September, and travelers flock to Grand Isle during this time.
Some of the best Grand Isle Beach activities include:
- Hiking in Grand Isle State Park
- Fishing off the Grand Isle State Park Fishing Pier
8. Gulfport Beach Recreation Area, Mississippi
Gulfport Beach Recreation Area is one of the most eventful Gulf Coast beaches. You can always find something to do with various festivals and events throughout the year, including fishing rodeos, classic car shows, and speedboat races.
But, of course, the best part is the fantastic turquoise ocean. Gulfport Beach Recreation area is a convenient waterfront area with a beach, picnic tables, and sand sports. You can also find dining and shopping nearby.
We especially love this beach because of its infamous dolphin cruises that take you out to discover dolphins playing in the water. You can also bring your own pets to hang out on the beach.
The best time to visit Gulfport is from May to October. The busiest season is when the temperatures reach their peak during the summer months.
Some exciting Gulfport activities are:
- Hanging out on the beach
- Dolphin tours
- Playing at the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center Children’s Museum
- Seeing animals at the Mississippi Aquarium
- Visiting the casinos
9. Marco Island Beach, Florida
Marco Island Beach, also referred to as Marco Beach, is one of the best Florida gulf coast beaches with something for everyone.
It’s located between Everglades City and Naples with easy access to many activities. From a stunning beachfront and fun water adventures to championship golf courses and hiking areas, it’s the perfect place for a family holiday.
You’ll find blue waters at the beach that make snorkeling and other water activities a treat. The soft white sand is also perfect for relaxing and strolling along the shore.
The nearby Otter Mound Preserve is also a great place to change things up if you also enjoy exploring nature trails. Other excellent beaches to visit nearby are Tigertail Beach Park and Residents’ Beach.
The best time to visit is late spring to early summer when the weather isn’t too hot yet, and the beaches have fewer crowds.
Some notable things to do in the area include:
- Checking out Marco Island Historical Musem
- Visiting Marco Island Center for the Arts
- Exploring the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
10. Miramar Beach, Florida
Miramar Beach is one of the best Gulf Coast beaches to visit if you’re hoping to have an exciting vacation. It’s located in the popular Destin, Florida, where you can find miles of shoreline and endless activities.
While Destin Beach itself is a more frequented beach, Miramar Beach is a little further away and much quieter. It’s the perfect place to kick back, relax, sunbathe, and swim.
Nearby, you can find tons of vacation rentals and hotels. There are also many delicious restaurants, and the Destin Boardwalk offers stunning views and is lined with eateries and shops.
The best time to visit Destin and Miramar Island Beach is during spring, from March to May. This is the shoulder season, and you can find pleasant weather and fewer crowds. The summer season brings in many tourists.
Some of the best things to do in Destin include:
- Sunbathing, swimming, and surfing at the beach
- Eating lots of seafood
- Splashing at the Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park
11. Mustang Island State Park, Texas
Mustang Island State Park is a jaw-dropping beach destination just outside of Corpus Christi in Texas. The park boasts 5-miles of beachfront with soft sandy beaches and gem-toned ocean waves.
This island is named after the wild horses that once roamed this region. Today, you’ll still find houses riding along the beach.
At the beach, visitors enjoy building sandcastles, swimming, and surfing. The park also has a 20-mile paddling trail that follows the western shoreline of Corpus Christi Bay’s island. The trail is a great place to go shallow-water fishing and see coastal birds.
Mustang Island Stae Park is an excellent option if you’re looking for a beach to bring your pet to. Leashed pets are welcome at all times.
The park is open daily from 8 AM to 5 PM. Entrance for adults is $5 and free for children under 12. For those who wish to stay longer and explore the entire park, campsites are also available.
We recommend visiting Mustang Island during the shoulder season when temperatures are warm, and beaches have fewer crowds. Shoulder seasons are in spring, from March to May, and autumn, from September to November.
Some other fun things to do around Mustang Island are:
- Viewing wildlife at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
- Climbing the observations tower at Roberts Point Park
12. Ocean Springs Beach, Mississippi
If you’re looking for small beach town vibes, you’ll love Ocean Springs Beach! It’s a charming, artistic town with gorgeous beaches along the Gulf Coast.
It’s the perfect beach getaway, offering white sand beaches, and is close to the action of art festivals, local artisan shops, lush scenery, and fun watersports.
Although Ocean Springs is popular, it offers a peaceful atmosphere. Beachgoers enjoy sunbathing, swimming, fishing, and birdwatching. It’s also a fantastic beach to bring your leashed pets to. If you can stick around for sunset, you’re in for a treat with breathtaking scenery.
Ocean Springs is one of the most frequented Gulf beaches during summer and also offers pleasant weather year-round. With that said, we prefer visiting in the fall when it’s less crowded and provides a bit of seclusion.
Some of the best things to do in Ocean Springs include:
- Seeing art at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art
- Learning about history at the Ocean Springs Museum
- Exploring the Davis Bayous Area Gulf Islands National Seashore
13. Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach is one of the best Gulf Coast beaches on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. This scenic beach destination has two waterfronts, one facing the Gulf of Mexico and the other facing Wolf Bay.
The two waterfronts make Orange Beach a perfect spot for various activities, including water sports, fishing, and sunbathing.
Orange Beach is named after the orange orchards that grow around the region. This Gulf Coast beach is a must-visit for photographers, anglers, foodies, and anyone who loves the beach. Best of all, it’s conveniently located a short 1.5-hour car ride from the Mobile Regional Airport.
Families especially love visiting Orange Beach. There are tons of activities to enjoy, from snorkeling and building sandcastles at the beach to spending time at amusement parks and eating at delicious restaurants.
Orange Beach is also a popular spot for friend groups and honeymooners looking to hang out at pretty beaches with soft white sand and clear waters. Activities like dolphin-spotting boat tours, stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, and jet skiing are just a few of the fun things you can experience.
Like many other Gulf Coast destinations, the best time to visit Orange Beach and the nearby Gulf Shores in Alabama is during the shoulder seasons, March to May and September to November. This is when you can experience nice weather, fewer crowds, and reasonable rates. With that said, many people head to the Orange Beach area during the summer, from June to September.
Other top things to see and do in Orange Beach are:
- Shopping at The Wharf
- Riding go-carts at the amusement park, Adventure Island
- Visiting the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo
- Ziplining on Alabama’s longest zipline course
14. Pensacola Beach, Florida
Pensacola Beach is one of the many noteworthy beaches in Navarre, Florida. It’s in a resort community on Santa Rosa, a Gulf Coast barrier island, and was recently named one of the 15 top beaches in the United States.
With other amazing beaches nearby, like Opal Beach, it makes for a great destination if you’re looking to beach hop. With that said, Pensacola Beach is one of our favorites because it’s easy to spend a fun beach day here.
You can find miles of white sandy shoreline, refreshing clear water, and lifeguards on duty at the beach. The long pier is also a fun place to fish and watch the sunset.
The best time to visit Pensacola Beach is during spring and fall. Between March to May and September to November, temperatures are warm, while there aren’t the large crowds you’ll find during summer.
Some of the best things to do while visiting Pensacola Beach include:
- Spending the day at the beach
- Hiking the Eco-Trail
- Shopping at the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk
- Seeing animals at the Gulf Breeze Zoo
15. Stewart Beach, Texas
Stewart Beach is one of the best beaches in Galveston for a family getaway. This picturesque beach is just an hour from Houston and offers many amentities and beach activities, with something for everyone.
The beach really is a great spot for all kinds of beachgoers. They even offer beach wheelchairs for easy accessibility. Leashed pets are welcome, too.
At Stweart Beach, you can play beach volleyball, build sandcastles, and play in the ocean. It also offers one of the best sunsets in the area. There’s also a playground, pavilion, and concessions. Families especially appreciate having lifeguards on duty.
Stewart Beach can get somewhat crowded during the summer. We recommend visiting during spring or fall for nice weather and fewer crowds.
Note: The beach is only open from Memorial Day through a bit past Labor Day. You can check hours here.
Some of the top-rated activities on Galveston Island include:
- Visiting the Moody Gardens amusement park
- Walking the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
- Taking a tour of a historic mansion at 1892 Bishop’s Palace
- Exploring nature at Galveston Island State Park
Have a few more questions about Gulf Coast beaches? We’re happy to answer them!
What is considered the Gulf Coast?
The United States’ Gulf Coast is the southern coastline that runs along the states with a shoreline that meets the Gulf of Mexico. These states are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Gulf Coast beaches are known for their emerald green water and soft white sands. However, each beach is unique in its own way and offers a unique experience. Some destinations offer exciting beach activities, while others provide a serene getaway.
The Gulf coastline spans over 1,600 miles, so choosing just one perfect spot can be challenging. We hope our list above helped you out!
What is the prettiest beach on the Gulf Coast?
We’d say Pensacola Beach in Florida if we had to pick just one. Between the stunning blue water, sugary white sands, magical sunset scenery, and how clean it’s kept, it’s a go-to for the prettiest beaches on the Gulf Coast.
Which Gulf Coast beach is best for families?
We think Stewart Beach in Texas is the most family-friendly. Family Vacation Critic even named it one of the “10 best beaches for families.” Along with hanging at the ocean, there are tons of activities to enjoy, including a playground, volleyball, and cornhole.
There are also many amenities that offer extra convenience for a beach day with your family. At Stewart Beach, you can find showers, restrooms, chair & umbrella rentals, and a snack bar. There are lifeguards on duty, too. If you need a beach wheelchair, you can also get one at no cost at the beach.
What’s the most peaceful Gulf Coast beach?
We think Grand Isle Beach in Lousiana is the most peaceful Gulf Coast beach. This remote beach is situated on the Gulf of Mexico off the beaten path. It’s surrounded by state parks and nature reserves, so it offers a natural atmosphere – perfect for those looking to get away from the hustle.
We especially love this tranquil beach for sunbathing and fishing. It’s also an amazing place to bring your pets.
Where’s the best resort on the Gulf Coast?
Sandpearl Resort, in Clearwater Beach, is an incredibly high-rated Gulf Coast resort. This upscale resort is located off the coast of Florida and offers an unmatched vacation experience. In 2021, it was even named one of the best 500 properties in the world by Travel + Leisure.
Guest can enjoy waterfront rooms, a gorgeous pool, and a luxury spa. You can also appreciate the beautiful blue beach and tons of activities without even leaving the resort’s backyard. They also offer various programs to their guests, including wine tastings, dolphin tours, and art festivals.
What’s the most affordable Gulf Coast destination?
If you’re looking to take a beach vacation on a budget, we highly recommend checking out Ocean Springs Beach, Mississippi. It’s one of the most affordable beach destinations on the Gulf Coast and offers an unforgettable experience.
Ocean Springs Beach is located in a small city that offers relaxed beach vibes. Though small in size, it’s large in activities. Visitors can enjoy beach activities, local events, and excellent dining.
Although many beachgoers visit during summer, its tranquility remains. It’s easy to have a fun vacation at Ocean Springs Beach while getting to relax and not break the bank.
Enjoy Gulf Coast Beaches!
With countless amazing beaches along the Gulf Coast, this list could go on forever! Spanning Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Texas, the Gulf Coast is a United States treasure of beautiful coastline.
Choose from secluded beaches surrounded by lush wildlife or long stretches of bustling beaches. They all offer white sands and pristine water. With so many options, there’s something for everyone!
This area is unmatched for vacations, as there are so many things to see and do. We hope we’ve inspired you to take your next beach vacation. Enjoy!