The Gulf Coast is renowned worldwide for having breathtaking beaches and thrilling attractions. Its snow-white sand and emerald water make it the perfect place for families to have fun in the sun. So naturally, you might wonder which beaches you should visit.
Here are our picks for the best Gulf Coast beaches for family vacations:
- Siesta Key, Florida
- Panama City Beach, Florida
- Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana
- St. Pete Beach, Florida
- Orange Beach, Alabama
- Destin, Florida
- Mustang Island, Texas
Below, this article dives into what makes these beaches outstanding—and why you should book your stay ASAP!
1. Siesta Key, Florida
With family-friendly attractions and clear blue water, it’s no surprise that Siesta Key is a top vacation destination. It was even named the #1 beach in the U.S. by Trip Advisor in 2020!
The sands at Siesta Key are 99% quartz, giving the beaches a beautiful sugar-white appearance. As a result, it’s the perfect place for family photos and enjoying the sunset.
Siesta Key also offers tons of fun things to do. Animals lovers can easily spend a day wandering the impressive Mote Marine Aquarium. Meanwhile, Siesta Key Village offers plenty of boutique shopping and excellent galleries.
The busiest time of year at Siesta Key is from February to April. So if you like to avoid the bustle, book a trip in the summer or fall.
2. Panama City Beach, Florida
Now, I know what you’re thinking—isn’t Panama City Beach for spring breakers? But as it turns out, this gulf coast retreat is also a prime location for a family getaway.
Panama City is all about having a blast.
You can find all sorts of high-octane thrills on the beach, such as jet ski rentals and parasailing. And for kids, there’s mini-golf, laser tag, and even waterparks.
Along its 27 miles of pristine beaches, you can enjoy inviting turquoise water full of wildlife. It’s the perfect place to do some scuba diving or seashell hunting.
Plus, with 320 days of sunshine a year, you’re almost guaranteed nothing but beautiful weather.
However, this city’s charm isn’t limited to fun in the sun. Panama City is also famous for its thriving nightlife, being home to several excellent bars that feature live music.
3. Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana
Florida often gets all the credit when it comes to beautiful shorelines. However, Louisiana’s Grand Isle State Park is easily one of the most stunning destinations on the Gulf Coast.
You can find this tiny island just south of New Orleans. So, visitors can spend their days on the beach and nights roaming Bourbon Street.
But despite being near the city, Grand Isle State Park is remarkably serene. It’s also surrounded by water on all sides, meaning the beach is never far away.
So if you desire a quiet family vacation secluded by nature, this is the beach for you.
Sadly, Grand Isle State Park is temporarily closed due to damage from Hurricane Ida. However, there are plans to reopen as soon as some vital repairs are complete.
4. St. Pete Beach, Florida
When it comes to soaking up some sun, you can’t beat St. Pete Beach in Florida.
This scenic shoreline is surprisingly tranquil when considering its location. That being said, it’s certainly not lacking in fantastic beachside attractions.
Both kids and parents will love seeing manatees and dolphins on clear-bottom kayak tours. Not to mention that the main street, Corey Avenue, features numerous fun shops and mouth-watering seafood.
The nearby Salvador Dalí Museum holds many of the late painter’s stunning surreal works. Meaning art enthusiasts have an excellent reason to visit too!
Furthermore, this serene shore stays warm and pleasant virtually year-round. So there’s never a bad time to visit.
Accommodations range from five-star luxury hotels to quaint bed and breakfasts. Regardless of what you’re looking for, you can find it in St. Pete Beach.
5. Orange Beach, Alabama
If you’re seeking the ultimate family beach adventure, look no further than Alabama’s Orange Beach. Renowned as the watersports hub of the Gulf Coast, this gorgeous beach delivers endless fun.
The shores of Orange Beach possess striking emerald green water. And despite being a hot tourist spot, the beaches are pristine and well-kept.
Your family’s thrill-seekers can jet ski and kayak along the scenic coast. Or you could charter a boat and go deep-sea fishing together.
But the list of attractions doesn’t stop there.
Orange Beach is also home to amusement parks, cruises, and a couple of excellent museums. You can even visit the nearby and highly-acclaimed Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo!
So no matter what, this destination has something for everyone in your family.
6. Destin, Florida
Delicious food, great fishing, breathtaking shores—Destin, Florida has it all!
Located in the heart of the emerald coast, the beaches in Destin are nothing short of stunning. The water is bafflingly clear, and the sands pristine despite how busy it can get.
The deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico are closer to here than any other beach in America. As a result, Destin is a prime destination for deep-sea fishing.
In fact, its nickname is the world’s luckiest fishing village!
However, this pleasant beach retreat has lots to offer beyond catching ocean critters. The Destin Harbor Boardwalk holds memorable attractions for all ages. And along the main street, you can find everything from golf courses to amusement parks.
7. Mustang Island, Texas
Mustang Island is the perfect beach escape for a family that loves the outdoors. Along with a beautiful state park, it also features excellent camping opportunities.
Along its 18 miles of scenic shoreline, you can spot everything from sea turtles to endangered aplomado falcons. And thanks to the abundant wildlife, Mustang Island offers excellent bird watching and fishing.
Mustang Island has plenty to explore nearby as well.
Corpus Christi’s Texas State Aquarium is the perfect place to take the kids. And Port Aransas, which lies on the island, offers excellent waterfront dining and unique gift shops.
Port Aransas also holds the world-famous SandFest sculpture contest every April. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity to see stunning art while you soak up some sun.