Known for its sugar-white sands and crystal blue waters, the Gulf Coast is a favorite beach destination among all types of travelers. And because the Gulf Coast stretches from eastern Texas to western Florida, there is no shortage of destinations to explore. Make sure these Gulf Coast beach towns are at the top of your list for your next family beach trip.
For a positively memorable family Gulf Coast getaway, consider a vacation rental as your accommodation. You’ll enjoy more space to comfortably fit the whole gang (find a pet-friendly home and bring along your furry family members, too!), plus essential amenities like a full kitchen, laundry, and perhaps even a porch or a pool! Many of these locations on our list offer a number of oceanfront rentals available to book right on TripAdvisor, so you can stay steps from the sand, making for extra-convenient beach access.
At TripAdvisor, we use the wisdom of our traveler community to help you unleash the full potential of every trip. Our suggestions on where to go, what to do, and how to experience the world are backed by strong traveler reviews and opinions. We aim to bring you a variety of travel inspiration no matter your travel style or tastes. Without further ado, from the shores of Texas to the island keys of Florida and everywhere in between—find your next family getaway in one of these stunning Gulf Coast beach towns!
Look no further than Destin as a fantastic choice for kids and adults alike. This city on Florida’s Emerald Coast is full of activities that the whole family will love, from dolphin watching cruises to entertaining magic shows that will have everyone in awe. Add in great beaches and some of the best fishing on the Gulf, and you have the ingredients for the perfect family getaway.
“If you want that perfect ‘day at the beach’ Henderson Beach is a great place to go. We live here in the area and when we go to the beach this is where we go. Plenty of parking, bathrooms, outdoor showers, handicap ramps and a covered picnic area are great benefits well worth a couple bucks to get in. Traveler tip: bring mask & snorkel, especially for the kids (you can get cheap ones at Walmart or any of the beach stores). The water is amazingly clear and even though there is no reef, if you have a mask you’ll see a surprising number of fish and other critters including live Sand Dollars. Kids love it.” — TripAdvisor Review of Henderson Beach State Park
Famous for its white beaches and bathtub-temperature waters, Gulf Shores is a postcard-worthy Gulf Coast beach town—and it’s a hit with families, too. In addition to its beaches and scenic trails, kids love to check out the animals at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and ride go-karts at the Track.
“What a beautiful park!! This is a definite must on your trip to Gulf Shores. The wooden boardwalks are such a nice addition. Take the time and go for a walk. You will be happy you did!”—TripAdvisor Review of Gulf State Park
As you’re beachcombing, fishing, and birding at peaceful Surfside Beach, you won’t believe you’re just an hour from the bustle of Houston. This laid-back Gulf Coast beach town makes a great day trip from Houston that the kids will love, but it’s even more relaxing when you spend the night so you can watch the sunset and the sunrise over the gentle Gulf of Mexico waves.
“Great little beach town in Texas. Great swimming beach with gradual drop and lots of shallows for kids. Great for boogie boarding and just general beach fun. Drive on beach, goes for miles. Back bay is great for fishing, kayaking and bird watching.” — TripAdvisor Review of Surfside Beach
When you’re in Rockport, you’ll quickly realize that Rockport Beach is the place to go. This family-friendly spot is known for its clean beaches and can’t-beat location near the center of town. Other top contenders for Rockport attractions include the Fulton Mansion State Historic Site and Goose Island State Park, known as a natural habitat for the rare whooping cranes that fly among the old live oaks.
As if the ocean weren’t enough, Gulfport has an exhilarating water park that is sure to thrill. You can most certainly look for marine life in the wild on a sailing charter, but don’t sweat it if you don’t see anything—you’re sure to see dolphins, rays and more at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. And, be sure to check out this Gulf beach town’s signature quirky highlights: the Friendship Oak and World’s “Largest Rocker.”
“We had an amazing time. The kids were able to steer the boat and loved it. I would definitely recommend this cruise and will be sure to go again next time we’re in Gulfport!”—TripAdvisor Review of North Star Sailing Charters
The only developed island in Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands Archipelago, Marco Island is an ideal Gulf beach town for families looking to relax. A visit to Tigertail Beach or a boat trip on the calm Gulf waters are a great place to start! You can’t beat the games (or location) of Mackle Park, a public area with ping pong tables, a basketball court, shuffleboard, and more right in the center of town. Or, if you’re in the mood for some pampering, head straight for a spa.
The Gulf Island National Seashore is an unbeatable draw in Ocean Springs—a scenic Gulf Coast beach town where you can fish, picnic, our just enjoy the area’s natural beauty on a walking trail. If you want to beat the heat, head inside to the Walter Anderson Museum of Art to learn about the eclectic past of Ocean Springs’ most famous artist.
If you’re looking for a family vacation that gets you away from it all, Fort Morgan is your best bet. This quiet Gulf Coast beach town is a peaceful getaway from the bustle of daily life. Stroll down miles of sandy shores and relax in warm, gentle waves ideal for little ones. Don’t miss the Fort Morgan State Historic Site—you’ll get a glimpse of history the whole family will enjoy!
Port Aransas is a paradise for nature lovers on the Gulf Coast. Whether you’re checking out dolphins while riding the Port Aransas Ferry System or scouting for roseate spoonbills at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, you’ll find plenty to keep you and your kids entertained away from any screens. Time your visit around the Texas SandFest for a truly unforgettable Gulf coast family vacation.
Sunny weather and perfect beaches will make you wish your Clearwater vacation never comes to an end. Between sailing across the crystal waters, looking at wildlife, and playing in the sand, you and your family won’t run out of things to do. Traveling without kids? Then hop on a brewery tour to check out all the best local watering holes.
“White sand, playful surf, kids cannot get enough. Trust me: the kids will want to stay and play all day! This is your dream beach—white sand, great body surfing waves and endless coast!”—TripAdvisor Review of Clearwater Beach
Grand Isle stretches out into the Gulf of Mexico on a narrow strip of land at the southern tip of Louisiana, giving you exactly the type of peace and quiet that you want on your Gulf Coast vacation. Fishing is definitely a top activity for Grand Isle visitors—even if you’re new to the sport, you can hire a charter to take you out and teach you the basics. Grand Isle State Park is the best place to see wildlife and play in the waves.
With 12 miles of white-sand beaches and luxury golf courses to boot, it comes as no surprise that Longboat Key is a top Gulf Coast beach town. The postcard-perfect sands at Coquina Beach are ideal for building sandcastles, and hassle-free charter services give you a great way to get out on the water at the utmost convenience.
“Coquina Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. I was there with friends for the Farmers’ Market and we enjoyed a walk on the beach. The sand was beautiful and soft.”—TripAdvisor Review of Coquina Beach
There is no shortage of kid-friendly activities in Orange Beach, making this Gulf Coast beach town a top choice among families. Hit the rides on Adventure Island and then take a spin on the Wharf Ferris Wheel for a day full of fun, or take the little ones to play at Orange Beach Waterfront Park.
“This was a fantastic place to do the kinds of things kids love: arcade, go-karts, bumper boats, laser tag… My son loved climbing the palm trees. Staff was very friendly.” — TripAdvisor Review of Adventure Island