Explore the beauty of the Gulf Coast of the USA at one of these incredible beaches
Whether you are looking for a bright and busy location or seeking out peaceful bays and breathtaking sites, Gulf Coast beaches have it all.
Spanning through Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama and Florida, the Gulf Coast boasts some of the best family-friendly beaches in the USA with the purest white sands and endless sunshine can be found hugging the Gulf of Mexico.
This post is part of our beach vacation series and Discover the USA
You may also want to check out:
- The Best Family Beaches in Florida
- Our Favourite Family Beaches on the US East Coast
- Incredible California Beaches for Family Vacations
Best Areas to Vacation on the Gulf Coast
Choosing just one ‘best’ location to vacation along the Gulf Coast is near impossible as each area has something unique to offer.
If you are looking for a city beach experience with high-rise condos, party crowds, shopping opportunities and luxury resorts, you should focus on beaches along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Biloxi, Mississippi, also offers a plethora of casino resorts situated right on the beach.
If you prefer a quieter, laid-back, and secluded beach experience, check out the beaches on Bonita Springs and Anna Maria Island, or how about the Emerald Coast along the Florida Panhandle? To access lots of water sports and kid-friendly activities, check out one of our family favorites, Fort Myers Beach, Florida.
Here are all our favorite family-friendly locations, which we’ll describe in more detail below.
Best Time to Visit Gulf Coast Beaches
The beaches of the Gulf Coast offer a splendid experience regardless of the time you choose to visit. However, deciding when to visit depends largely on the type of experience you are looking to have -and your budget.
You might be interested in taking your own watercraft out to the sea or enjoying simple beach activities like lounging in the sun, picnicking and building sandcastles. No matter what you choose to do at the beach, every season has lots of fun activities to offer.
Summer: The Gulf Coast is typically warm and sunny in the summer. Temperatures are usually in the 80s, and there is lots of humidity. Summer months are perfect for water sports, swimming and tanning. The months between June and November are prone to hurricanes, so be sure to check the forecast when making plans.
Fall: The Gulf Coast is cooler in fall. It is the best time to go on boating excursions and sightseeing. It is also prone to lots of unexpected rain, so be sure to choose a vacation location with lots of indoor activities.
Spring: Spring weather in the Gulf Coast is a beautiful blend of warm and cool. This is when lots of festivals and concerts are held. Be sure to book your accommodations ahead as activities are picking up and things are beginning to get busy again.
Winter: Most people would not think of going to the beach during winter. However, the winter months still have a lot to offer to beach lovers on the Gulf Coast. If you are looking to enjoy peaceful nature with fewer crowds and cheaper accommodation and amenities, winter is the best time.
You might not get to see any snow, but the weather gets pretty cold. We won’t lie though, it’s our favourite time to enjoy the beaches crowd-free, rugged up in a cosy sweater and watching the crashing waves.
Best Gulf Coast Beaches for Families
- Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama
- Mustang Island, Texas
- Seaside, Florida
- Lowdermilk Beach Park, Naples, Florida
- Galveston Island, Texas
- Barefoot Beach County Preserve, Bonita Springs, Florida
- Marco Island, Florida
- Biloxi Beach, Mississippi
- St. Pete Beach, Florida
- Siesta Key Beach, Florida
- Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana
- Surfside Beach, Texas
- Navarre Beach, Florida
- Clearwater Beach, Florida
- Captiva Island, Florida
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama
Alabama’s Gulf Coast is filled with lots of sunshine and unspoiled natural beauty. With over 32 miles of crystal-white sand, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach offer some of the most beautiful beaches on the Gulf Coast. An easy drive from New Orleans, Nashville and Atlanta it’s no wonder this is a favorite in the Deep South.
The sand here is made of smooth quartz grains that were washed down from the Appalachian Mountains. Known for their rich culture and history, these beaches offer lots of family-friendly activities. Be sure to bask in the stunning glow of the jaw-dropping sunsets while playing in the brilliant turquoise waters of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Mustang Island, Texas
Located near Corpus Christi, Mustang Island is a beautiful barrier island park that remains one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast. This island’s coastline stretches over five miles and covers about eighteen miles of shoreline.
With well-kept campsites, restaurants and boutiques as well as tons of fun family activities, Mustang Island offers one of the best family vacation experiences and is certainly one of the best beaches in Texas. When visiting Mustang Island, make plans to fish in the bay, participate in bird watching, go kayaking and swimming or just hang out on the beach while the kids build sandcastles.
Seaside on the panhandle is a wonderful contrast to nearby Panama City for families looking for a more relaxed beach getaway. Known for its picturesque cottages and emerald waters (hence the very apt nickname of the Emerald Coast!) life here is easy going. Summer brings nightly entertainment to Central Square and farmers markets on the weekend for a classic relaxing beach break.
If that’s not enough, nearby you’ll find Seagrove Beach, a small mile and a half beach that screams tranquillity along with Point Washington State Forest, popular for cycling and hiking.
Lowdermilk Beach Park, Naples, Florida
Located in central Naples, Lowdermilk Park is one of the best family beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast. With plenty of parking, an expansive shoreline for kids to run around, a duck pond, and a bubbling concession stand and snack bar, it is undoubtedly one of the choice Gulf Coast beaches for a family vacation.
A visit to Lowdermilk Beach Park is one of the best things to do in Naples, Florida. Here you can find stand-up paddleboard and kayak rentals for those looking to explore more water adventures. There are about eight thatched-roof palapas available for free at the beach. These palapas are wide enough to provide shade for the entire family and are available at no cost.
If you are able to get to the beach early, you may even get to enjoy watching turtles and dolphins swim off the coast.
Galveston Island, Texas
Sitting just an hour away from Houston, Galveston offers one of the best beach towns in Texas for a weekend getaway. East Beach on Galveston Island is famed for its party atmosphere in the summer, but there are plenty of things to do in Galveston for families, too.
Besides exploring the famous Seawall and enjoying the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier, there are many water-based and nature activities to enjoy on Galveston Island. Kids will want to check out Schlitterbahn Waterpark, one of the best places for families to visit in Texas, and make time for the Moody Park pyramids for unique nature experiences on the Gulf Coast.
Barefoot Beach County Preserve, Bonita Springs, Florida
While Naples is known for its beautiful turquoise waters and pristine white sand, Barefoot Beach is primarily known for being one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Located in Bonita Springs, this beach has a one-mile nature trail that runs through the dunes. There, you can relax and watch nesting turtles.
With its unbelievably soft white sand and clear, shallow waters, this beautiful beach is quiet and more secluded than other beaches on the Gulf Coast. It is one of the best family beaches on the Gulf Coast for those looking to enjoy a fun and quiet family time. For some off-sand adventure, be sure to rent canoes and kayaks and go mangrove paddling on the islands.
NB Please note the current closure of Barefoot Beach due to damage from Hurricane Ian, re-opening expected in early 2024
Marco Island, Florida
Sitting pretty towards the south of Naples, Marco Island is home to several stunning beaches. If you are looking for the best beaches on the Gulf Coast for families and retirees, head on to Marco Island. This small haven offers playgrounds for kids, concessions and restrooms as well as boardwalks.
When visiting, be sure to get on a Jet Ski and ride the waves or join the Dolphin Explorer crew on a boat tour to explore and catalogue dolphins in the area. Keep an eye out for manatees swimming around the mangroves as well.
Biloxi Beach, Mississippi
Whilst perhaps best famed for its coastal casinos, you might be surprised by how family-friendly Biloxi can be. The Mississipi coastline is narrow at just 80 miles, but they pack in what they can and Biloxi takes advantage of the pristine sandy white beaches.
Families can look forward to several fun attractions including the INFINITY Science Center, exploring Ship Island and the Mississipi Aquarium, not to mention visiting the famous Biloxi Lighthouse. A favorite not to miss is a Pascagoula river tour, here you can enjoy bird watching, kayak rentals, a nature play garden and observation decks.
St. Pete Beach, Florida
Looking for a great place to soak up some sun and get a tan? The entire St. Petersburg beach area gets about 361 days of sunshine each year! Talk about an unending summer. Plan to have your family beach vacation here and experience the thrilling see-through kayaking experience.
You get to see dolphins and manatees while enjoying the exhilarating water adventure. There are lots of other fun off-water activities for families to enjoy. One of them is taking a trip to the Dali Museum or a walk on the St. Pete Pier.
Siesta Key Beach, Florida
Plan your next family beach vacation at Siesta Key Beach, and you will understand why it is one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast – in fact, it’s been voted best beach in the USA by Trip Advisor readers three times!
With its soft, pristine white sand, a large picnic area, and gazebos that provide shelter for the entire family, you and your kids are sure to have a splendid time at Siesta Key Beach. If you are looking at staying on one of the best islands or keys in Florida, you’ve found it.
There are several playgrounds nearby where your kids can enjoy some off-beach fun time. Other fun off-beach activities on Siesta Key include going on a Marie Selby Botanical Gardens tour and exploring the vast species of wildlife at the Mote Marine Aquarium.
Nearby Crescent Beach can be a little quieter if you’re not a fan of the big crowds at Siesta Key Beach, or at the southern tip of the 8-mile long Siesta Key, Turtle Beach is a favorite for seashell hunting. It’s no wonder it consistently comes up as one of the best things to do in Florida for families.
Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana
If you are looking to visit any of the best Gulf Coast beaches where you can enjoy birding and fishing, Grand Isle Park is your best pick. You and your family can either enjoy going on a deep-sea fishing trip or just splash around in the beautiful waves.
Since Grand Isle is the home of some of the freshest and best seafood, lovers of seafood will enjoy dining at the local restaurants after a long day of fishing and enjoying the salty sea breeze. Be sure to check out different species of butterflies at the Grand Isle Butterfly Dome with your kids. You can also pump up the adventure with a trip to nearby Elmer’s Island.
Where to stay: All along the Grand Isle coastline is dotted with amazing vacation rental homes – this one on VRBO is immedaitely adjacent to the State Park, perfect for a big family group
Surfside Beach, Texas
Spend the day crabbing at the crabbing pier or going deep-sea fishing at one of the best family beaches on the Gulf Coast of Texas. With tons of fun on-water and off-water activities fit for visitors of all ages, this is an excellent destination for a family vacation.
Come prepared to spend the night on the beach under the vast, clear skies and over a beachfront campfire. You can also rent a kayak or boat and go splashing through the waves. If your kids would like to enjoy some off-beach fun, take them to the Jetty Park playground or go horseback riding in the surf.
Where to stay: No big hotel chains, it’s one of those perfect places to rent yourself a holiday home right on the waters front
Navarre Beach, Florida
Located on the Florida Panhandle, Navarre Beach is a quiet, serene beach that is free of tourists and one of the best family beaches on the Gulf Coast. It is home to the longest pier in Florida, and your family is sure to enjoy taking walks on the Navarre Beach Pier.
You can enjoy beautiful views of the Gulf Coast from the pier and watch pink jellyfish and dolphins swim around in the clear waters below. You can spend your day playing on the beautiful beach sand and splashing around in the shallow part of the beach. However, there are tons of other exciting things to do outside the beach.
Clearwater Beach, Florida
For a thrilling, bubbly family beach vacation, head on to Clearwater Beach. Known as one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast – and the closest Gulf Coast beach to Disney World & Orlando – Clearwater Beach is filled with families and kids splashing around in the water, playing volleyball, building sandcastles and enjoying the luscious white sand.
At Clearwater Beach, you’re also not far from Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, one of the best natural springs in Florida and one of the deepest, where families can enjoy kayaking, tubing and giant slides at Buccaneer Bay.
Combined with waterfront entertainment such as the Clearwater Aquarium and the option to take dolphin cruises and fishing trips, it’s one of our favorite family destinations on the Gulf Coast.
Clearwater is only 2 hours from Orlando – making it easy to combine the best of the beaches and theme parks in one family vacation!
Captiva Island, Florida
Home to two beautiful beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Captiva Island elegantly stretches up to 11 square miles. Captiva Beach is best known for its stunning sunsets and romantic ambience. We advise that you visit there for a couple’s getaway.
If you choose to spend the day at Turner Beach, be sure to check out the popular Mucky Duck, an English pub-themed restaurant. Note that Turner Beach is not safe for swimming because of its high currents. When traveling with kids, it is best to stick to Captiva Beach, where it is safer for the kids to play in the water.
Where to stay: No big chain hotels here, just superb beachside condos to rent for the perfect Gulf Coast family vacation
The Gulf Coast hold so much potential for a sensational family vacation in the sun. From wild waves to calm inlets, you’ll find it all for families on the Gulf Coast.
More for your family beach vacation
Before you go, don’t forget to check out the beach vacation planning section of our website. Here you can find;
- Our Ultimate Beach Packing List – essentials for every beach trip + a downloadable beach packing checklist
- Tips for your baby’s very first trip to the beach – top tips from sun safety to controlling the sand & items you’ll want to pack
- Best pop up beach tents – from baby beach tents to something big enough to fit the family, why you might want to invest in one of these for a big day at the beach
- The best beach toys for summer– the essentials we always keep in our beach bag
- Boogie boards suitable for kids – you’ll definitely want one of these if you’re heading to any of the beaches with big waves
- Will your kids need beach shoes? A look at different styles of water shoes and when you might need them at the beach
- Perfect gifts for Mamas who love the beach – a gift guide for unique beach gifts ladies in your life will love
If you love your beach vacations, don’t miss our bumper guide to the best beach destinations around the world for a family vacation.
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