11 of The Best Gulf Coast Beaches to Enjoy!
The Gulf Coast of Mexico, with its diverse range of beaches, is a paradise for beach lovers. From the calm waters of Texas to the pristine beaches of Florida, the Gulf Coast is a haven for tourists seeking the perfect combination of sun, sand, and sea. However, with so many options, choosing the best beach for your vacation can be a daunting task. Here’s a comprehensive guide to some of the best Gulf Coast beaches.
Table of Contents
- 1. Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, Florida
- The Panhandle’s Pride
- A Fishing Paradise
- More than Just a Beach
- 2. Bay St. Louis Beach, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
- The Hidden Gem
- Explore and Indulge
- 3. Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi, Texas
- The World’s Longest Barrier Island
- A Haven for Nature Lovers
- 4. Siesta Key Beaches, Siesta Key, Florida
- A Tropical Paradise
- More than Just Sun and Sand
- 5. Orange Beach, Alabama
- Subtropical Getaway
- An Adventure Hub
- 6. Shell Island, Panama City Beach, Florida
- An Island Paradise
- Wildlife Galore
- 7. St. Pete Beach, St. Pete Beach, Florida
- Sunshine City’s Pride
- Activities Aplenty
- 8. Madeira Beach, Florida
- A Perfect Blend
- A Gastronomical Delight
- 9. Honeymoon Island, Florida
- A Unique Beach Experience
- 10. Anna Maria Island/Longboat Key, Florida
- A Book Lover’s Paradise
- 11. Fort Walton Beach, Florida
- The Overlooked Treasure
- Additional Information about the best Gulf Coast beaches:
1. Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, Florida
The Panhandle’s Pride
Welcome to the Panhandle, the long, narrow strip of Florida bordered by Alabama, Georgia, and the Gulf of Mexico. The region boasts of some of the best beaches west coast Florida has to offer.
A Fishing Paradise
In the heart of this region lies Destin, known for its prime golfing opportunities, bustling spring break culture, and Henderson Beach State Park. Destin is often referred to as “the world’s luckiest fishing village” due to its location near the edge of the Continental Shelf. It’s a favorite spot for fishing enthusiasts who can catch blackfin tuna, grouper, amberjack, and king mackerel in abundance.
More than Just a Beach
At Henderson Beach State Park, nature trails wind through the white dunes and the coastal scrub habitat, providing a refuge for wildlife under the pine and oak canopies. Beyond fishing, the calm emerald green waters offer opportunities for snorkeling, kiteboarding, and paddleboarding. Keep an eye out for the dolphin pods that take advantage of the abundant fish found offshore.
2. Bay St. Louis Beach, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
The Hidden Gem
Bay St. Louis, often overshadowed by the more popular Biloxi, is a tranquil seaside city known for its clean, dog-friendly beaches. The white sand Gulf Coast is famous for, makes it an ideal spot for camping out for the entire afternoon.
Explore and Indulge
Paddle the Grassy Point Blueway in a kayak to appreciate the stunning namesake bay. After a day in the sun, explore the charming shops and restaurants in Old Town Bay St. Louis. Treat yourself to a cone of lavender-honey ice cream from Creole Creamery or fresh seafood at the Thorny Oyster.
3. Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi, Texas
The World’s Longest Barrier Island
The protected stretch of Padre Island National Seashore offers 66 miles of undeveloped coastline and is one of the last intact coastal prairie habitats in the United States. Moreover, it borders the Laguna Madre, one of the few hypersaline lagoons worldwide.
A Haven for Nature Lovers
Windsurf the lagoon, lounge on pristine beaches, swim in the calm, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or discover the area’s unique environment. Home to tidal mud flats, over 380 different species of birds, and sea turtles, this is among the best beaches on the west coast of Florida for nature enthusiasts.
4. Siesta Key Beaches, Siesta Key, Florida
A Tropical Paradise
Siesta Key is known for its 99-percent pure quartz sand, which is always cool to the touch. This is a major advantage for vacationers in the Sunshine State, where summer temperatures average around 90 degrees.
More than Just Sun and Sand
Beyond its Edenic shoreline, Siesta Key is known for its fun atmosphere and activities. Go sailing, fishing, or sightseeing out on the water, or hit the oyster bar or Daiquiri Deck at Siesta Key Village.
5. Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach, popular with spring breakers and families alike, is characterized by its strip of white quartz sand and aquamarine waters. It’s an ideal spot for boating, jet skiing, kayaking, and sailing.
An Adventure Hub
You can swim and dive beneath the glassy waters, spot playful dolphins on a sunset cruise, or paddle along the Back Bay Blueway to witness the sugary sand and cypress swamps Alabama Gulf Coast is famous for.
6. Shell Island, Panama City Beach, Florida
An Island Paradise
Shell Island, accessible only by boat, feels like your private island. The seven miles of wild coast bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrew Bay is mostly undeveloped, making it ideal for swimming, snorkeling, sunbathing, and beachcombing.
Keep an eye out for the island’s namesake shells as well as the ample wildlife like deer, ghost crabs, and sea turtles that call it home.
7. St. Pete Beach, St. Pete Beach, Florida
Sunshine City’s Pride
St. Pete Beach is famous for frequent sunshine, clear Gulf waters, and its 1928, Moorish-Mediterranean “Pink Palace” by the sea. It’s a chill resort city on a barrier island off the coast of St. Petersburg, Florida, and is popular with families and couples looking for a friendly, quiet getaway.
Walking along the sugar sand shore, swimming, spotting manatees, and celebrating the sunset in front of the Paradise Grille are all popular beach activities here.
8. Madeira Beach, Florida
A Perfect Blend
Madeira Beach combines the perks of a Gulf Coast beach (white sand, calm and clear water) with major beach destination pleasures like dive bar style restaurants, touristy boardwalks, and an overall lively feel.
A Gastronomical Delight
For dining, check out Mad Beach Brewing in St. John’s Pass. They have a huge variety of craft beers on tap and a full food menu to satisfy your beer-buzz cravings.
9. Honeymoon Island, Florida
A Unique Beach Experience
Honeymoon Island, a state park, is a bit busy, mostly due to its narrow size. However, its charm lies in its location. Being in a state park means that much of the natural landscape has been preserved, lending a slightly wild and unkempt look to it all.
10. Anna Maria Island/Longboat Key, Florida
A Book Lover’s Paradise
Anna Maria Island has clear turquoise water, small beach town charm, good spots for food and ice cream, and a few piers overlooking the bay. If you like a beach that’s bypassed touristy boardwalks and airbrush t-shirt shops and instead holds firm in its quaint charm, then you’ll likely fall in love with Anna Maria Island.
11. Fort Walton Beach, Florida
The Overlooked Treasure
North Florida’s Fort Walton Beach often gets overlooked for the more well-known Gulf Coast beaches further south, but its pristine sands, emerald waters and nearby golf courses and family-friendly attractions are a favorite for regular visitors in the know.
Additional Information about the best Gulf Coast beaches:
What is the prettiest beach on the Gulf Coast? The prettiest beach on the Gulf Coast can be subjective as it largely depends on what one is looking for in a beach. However, many consider Siesta Key, with its pure quartz sand and blue-green waters, to be one of the prettiest.
Where is the clearest water on the Gulf Coast? St. Pete Beach is known for its clear Gulf waters, making it a favorite among many beachgoers.
Where is the best place to vacation on the Gulf? The best place to vacation on the Gulf depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation. Destin is ideal for fishing enthusiasts, while Orange Beach is great for water sports. For a quiet, relaxing getaway, consider Anna Maria Island or Longboat Key.
Are beaches better on the Gulf side or Atlantic side of Florida? Gulf side beaches are known for their calm, warm waters and soft, white sand. Beaches on the Atlantic side have larger waves, making them great for surfing. Both sides have their unique charms, and the best one depends on your personal preference.
What is the #1 most beautiful beach in the world? The title of the most beautiful beach in the world often varies depending on who you ask. Grace Bay in Turks and Caicos, Whitehaven Beach in Australia, and Baia do Sancho in Brazil are often mentioned in these discussions.
Where is the bluest water on the Gulf Coast? The bluest water on the Gulf Coast can be found at St. Pete Beach, known for its frequent sunshine and clear Gulf waters.
Is Siesta Key or Destin better? Both Siesta Key and Destin have their unique charms. Siesta Key is known for its quartz sand and fun atmosphere, while Destin is famous for its prime fishing opportunities and the Henderson Beach State Park.
Is Destin or Orange Beach better? Destin is known for its fishing, while Orange Beach is popular for water sports. Both have beautiful beaches and a range of activities, so the better location depends on your personal preferences.
Is Pensacola Beach or Destin better? Pensacola Beach is loved for its historic forts and preserved wetlands, while Destin is a favorite spot for fishing enthusiasts. Both are beautiful in their own right, and the better one would depend on your interests.
What are the best months to go to the Gulf Coast? The best months to visit the Gulf Coast are April through May and September through October, when the weather is warm but not too hot, and the tourist crowds are thinner.
Where are the best beaches on the Gulf side of Florida? Some of the best beaches on the Gulf side of Florida include Siesta Key, St. Pete Beach, and Destin.
Is Perdido Key beach pretty? Yes, Perdido Key beach is known for its beautiful white sand and clear water. It’s a great place for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing.