If you’re looking for a memorable beach vacation, you don’t have to travel far from home. The Gulf Coast is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the United States, and a road trip along the coast is a great way to explore the area. From pristine white sand beaches to historic seaside towns, the Gulf Coast has something for everyone.
In this guide, we’ll explore some of the top Gulf Coast beaches, including types of beach, the best time to visit, and the most popular things to do. We’ll also highlight SIXT pick-up and drop-off locations close to each beach, making it easy to plan your road trip whether you’re starting in Miami and heading west, or kicking things of in Texas. So pack your bags, load up the car, and let’s hit the road to discover some unexplored gems along the Gulf Coast.
1. Galveston Island State Park Beach, Texas:
Galveston Island State Park Beach in Texas is a must-visit destination for nature lovers. Located on the eastern end of Galveston Island, this beach offers visitors a beautiful stretch of shoreline to explore. The park is open year-round, making it an ideal destination for a Gulf Coast road trip. Visitors can enjoy swimming, fishing, bird watching, and hiking along the beach and nature trails.
If you want to take a break from the beach, explore the historic downtown Strand district, where you’ll find unique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. You can also visit Moody Gardens, which features attractions such as an aquarium, a rainforest exhibit, and a 3D theater. Don’t forget to tour the Victorian-era Bishop’s Palace, one of Galveston’s most historic and impressive landmarks. SIXT’s Houston IAH International Airport location is the perfect location to pick up and drop off your rental car for some fun at Galveston Island State Park Beach.
2. Rockport Beach, Texas:
Rockport Beach, located on the Texas Gulf Coast, is a great destination for beachgoers and nature enthusiasts alike. Known for its clean beaches that are maintained by the Clean Beaches Coalition (CBC), this beach is perfect for swimming and sunbathing. The beach is open year-round, but it is most popular during the summer months.
When you’re not soaking up the sun on the beach, take a stroll through the Rockport Center for the Arts, which showcases the works of local artists. The nearby Texas Maritime Museum, features exhibits and artifacts highlighting the state’s maritime history. Interested in birdwatching? Head over to the nearby Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, where you can spot a variety of migratory birds.
IFor an effortless car rental experience, look no further than SIXT near Rockport Beach! San Antonio International Airport and Houston IAH International Airport locations are both excellent pick-up and drop-off points for your SIXT rental.
3. Port Aransas Beach, Texas:
Port Aransas Beach is one of the most beautiful and popular Gulf Coast beaches in Texas. Its warm waters and 18-miles of beach make it a perfect destination for swimming, and fishing. The beach is open year-round, but the best time to visit is from March to May, when the weather is ideal.
While you’re there, take a dolphin-watching cruise to spot the playful sea creatures in their natural habitat. You can also explore the nearby Port Aransas Nature Preserve, which offers a glimpse of the local flora and fauna. Explore the town’s history and culture by visiting the Port Aransas Museum.
San Antonio International Airport is a great place to pick up and drop off your SIXT rental car for a smooth start and end to your beach getaway.
4. South Padre Island, Texas:
South Padre Island, located at the southern tip of Texas, is a true paradise for beach lovers. The island boasts over 30 miles of pristine white sand beaches. South Padre Island is most popular during the summer months, but visitors can enjoy the beach and outdoor activities year-round. For an adventure-filled day, head over to the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, which features over 25 water rides and attractions.
You can also visit Sea Turtle, Inc., a conservation center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles. The center also features exhibits and educational programs about these fascinating creatures. For bird enthusiasts, the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center offers a chance to spot a variety of birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat.Grab yourself a SIXT car rental from San Antonio International Airport to start your South Padre Island adventure in style! With SIXT, you can enjoy an effortless car rental experience and get the most out of your beach vacation.
5. Holly Beach, Louisiana:
Holly Beach, located in southwestern Louisiana, is a quiet and laid-back Gulf Coast beach destination that offers a break from the hustle and bustle of more crowded beaches. The beach features soft sand, clear waters, and gentle waves, perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. The area is also popular for crabbing, shrimping, and fishing.
Visitors can enjoy the nearby Sabine National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to a variety of wildlife, including alligators, waterfowl, and migratory birds. Holly Beach is open year-round, but the best time to visit is during the warmer months from March to October.
Houston IAH International Airport is a great starting point for your beach getaway. Pick up your SIXT rental car and explore the best of what Holly Beach has to offer.
6. Holly Beach, Louisiana:
Holly Beach, located in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, is a hidden gem for those planning a Gulf Coast road trip. Known as the “Cajun Riviera,” Holly Beach offers a unique blend of southern hospitality, Cajun culture, and stunning natural beauty. Visitors can enjoy miles of pristine, beaches, beautiful waters, and breathtaking sunsets. Holly Beach is also a popular destination for fishing and crabbing, offering a chance to catch a wide variety of seafood. The area is known for its relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, making it an ideal spot for a peaceful and tranquil beach vacation. With an array of seafood restaurants, bars, and cafes, visitors can indulge in delicious local cuisine and experience the vibrant Louisiana culture. Holly Beach is a must-visit for anyone looking to escape the crowds and experience the true charm of the Gulf Coast.
Travel the Gulf Coast on your own terms with a SIXT car rental from Houston IAH International Airport. Then, head to Holly Beach for the perfect beach getaway.
7. Biloxi Beach, Mississippi:
Biloxi Beach, located on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, is a vibrant and exciting beach destination. The beach features 26-miles of soft white sand and calm, relaxing waters.
Take a tour of the Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum, which showcases the history and culture of the Gulf Coast’s maritime and seafood industries. You can also visit Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home, and Presidential Library, which features exhibits and artifacts highlighting the life and times of the Confederate President.
For those looking for some excitement, Biloxi is also home to several casinos, where you can try your luck at the slot machines or table games.
Start your Gulf Coast road trip at Atlanta International Airport with a car rental from SIXT.
8. Gulfport Beach, Mississippi:
Gulfport Beach, also known as Long Beach, is a family-friendly destination that offers plenty of activities for visitors of all ages. The beach is known for its peaceful waters and calm breezes, perfect for swimming and kite-flying. The beach is open year-round and is a great destination for a Gulf Coast road trip any time of the year.
Explore the Mississippi Aquarium, which showcases a variety of marine life, including sharks, stingrays, and sea turtles. You can also visit the nearby Institute for Marine Mammal Studies, where you can learn about the conservation efforts being made to protect dolphins and other marine mammals. Families can also enjoy the Gulf Islands Waterpark, which features water slides, lazy rivers, and other attractions.
SIXT’s locations at Atlanta Buckhead and Atlanta International Airport offer car rentals that make it easy to explore the best of what Gulfport Beach has to offer. So, plan your next Gulf Coast getaway and head to Gulfport Beach for a fun-filled vacation.
9. Dauphin Island Public Beach, Alabama:
Dauphin Island Public Beach is a beautiful Gulf Coast destination located on the southern tip of Alabama. The beach features 17-miles of soft white sand and calm water, making it a great swimming, seashell collecting, and fishing destination.
Be sure to tour Fort Gaines, a historic Civil War fort that played a significant role in the Battle of Mobile Bay. You can also explore the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium, which features exhibits and programs about the local marine life and ecosystems. If you’re an avid birdwatcher, the Audubon Bird Sanctuary is a must-see spot. Here, you can have the chance to observe various kinds of migratory birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat.
Grab a rental from SIXT’s Atlanta Buckhead or Atlanta International Airport location and drop down to Dauphin Island Public Beach.
10. Gulf Shores Public Beach, Alabama:
Gulf Shores Public Beach is a popular Gulf Coast destination located in southern Alabama. The beach features pristine sand and water that are routinely monitored for cleanliness, making it an ideal swimming destination.
Visit the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo, which features a variety of animals, including tigers, kangaroos, and lemurs. You can also explore the Gulf State Park, which offers over 6,000 acres of hiking trails, bike paths, and nature trails. Families can also enjoy Waterville USA, a water and amusement park that features water slides, wave pools, and other attractions.
Ready to start your Gulf Coast road trip? Book a car rental from SIXT’s Atlanta Buckhead location or Tampa International Airport and head to Gulf Shores Public Beach for an unforgettable beach vacation.
11. Pensacola Beach, Florida:
Pensacola Beach, located on the Gulf Coast of Florida, is a stunning beach destination that offers clear emerald waters and sugar-white sand. The beach is open year-round, making it an ideal destination for a Gulf Coast road trip.
Be sure to visit the National Naval Aviation Museum, which features over 150 restored aircraft, as well as exhibits and interactive displays highlighting the history of aviation. You can also visit historic Fort Pickens, which played a critical role in the American Civil War and was used as a military base until 1947. A stroll along the Pensacola Beach Pier is also a must-do activity, offering stunning views of the beach and Gulf of Mexico.
Get the keys to your dream adventure and book a car rental from SIXT’s Atlanta Buckhead or Tampa International Airport. Then, drive until you reach Gulf Shores Public Beach for an unforgettable beach vacation.
12. Navarre Beach, Florida:
Navarre Beach, located in Santa Rosa County, Florida, is a beautiful Gulf Coast beach destination that offers a peaceful escape from the crowds. From taking an invigorating dip in the ocean to soaking up some sun and searching for unique treasures along the shoreline, there’s something for everyone here.
Discover the Navarre Beach Marine Science Station, which offers hands-on exhibits and educational programs about the local marine life and ecosystems. Walking along the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier is also highly recommended. Visitors can also relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the nearby Gulf Islands National Seashore, which features miles of undeveloped beaches, hiking trails, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Take a road trip across Florida’s Gulf Coast and book a car rental from SIXT’s Tampa International Airport.
13. Destin Beach, Florida:
Destin Beach, located in the Florida Panhandle, is a popular Gulf Coast beach destination known for its emerald-green waters.
Explore the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, which offers a variety of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. You can also visit the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, which features exhibits and shows featuring dolphins, sea lions, and other marine life. For fishing enthusiasts, the nearby fishing village — often referred to as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” — is a must-visit destination, offering some of the best fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Embark on an unforgettable road trip across Florida’s picturesque Gulf Coast by easily renting a car from SIXT at Atlanta International Airport.
14. Panama City Beach, Florida:
Panama City Beach is open year-round, making it an ideal destination for a Gulf Coast road trip. Be sure to discover Pier Park, a shopping and entertainment complex that features over 124 stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues. You can also visit St. Andrews State Park, which offers over 1,200 acres of natural beauty, including hiking trails, beaches, and wildlife viewing opportunities.
For families, the nearby Shipwreck Island Waterpark is a must-visit destination, offering water slides, lazy rivers, and other attractions.
To make exploring the locales near Panama City Beach effortless, be sure to check out SIXT’s convenient pick-up/drop-off location at Atlanta International Airport . You’ll be visiting multiple beautiful beaches in no time!
15. Clearwater Beach, Florida:
Clearwater Beach, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is a popular beach destination that features crystal clear waters and soft white sand. The beach has also been named America’s No. 1 Beach multiple times through the years..
Enjoy a dolphin-watching tour or sunset cruise, offering the perfect way to experience the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico. You can also visit the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which was home to Winter the Dolphin, made famous in the movie Dolphin Tale. Visitors can see and learn about the marine life in the area and even take part in an animal encounter.
Exploring the shops and restaurants at Pier 60 is also a popular activity, featuring over 100 vendors selling crafts, jewelry, and clothing, as well as a variety of food options.
For car rental services, you can check out SIXT pick-up/drop-off locations close to Clearwater Beach in nearby Tampa, or Orlando, if you’re planning on making the trip in-land.
Gulf Coast Beaches FAQs
What is the prettiest beach on the Gulf Coast?
The Gulf Coast is home to a variety of beautiful beaches, each with its own unique charm and appeal. While beauty is subjective and varies from person to person, some of the most stunning beaches on the Gulf Coast include Clearwater Beach in Florida, Gulf Shores Beach in Alabama, and South Padre Island in Texas. Clearwater Beach boasts crystal-clear water, soft white sand, and stunning sunsets. Gulf Shores Beach features turquoise waters and white sand, perfect for swimming and sunbathing. South Padre Island is a tropical paradise with miles of pristine beaches, offering a laid-back atmosphere and a variety of outdoor activities.
Which Gulf beach has the clearest water?
The Gulf Coast is known for its clear, emerald-green waters that are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. While many Gulf Coast beaches have clear water, some of the clearest water can be found at Destin Beach in Florida. The clear water at Destin Beach is due to its unique geology, which includes white quartz sand that reflects sunlight and gives the water a beautiful emerald-green hue. Other Gulf Coast beaches with clear water include Clearwater Beach in Florida, Gulf Shores Beach in Alabama, and South Padre Island in Texas. Visitors can enjoy swimming and other water activities in these pristine, clear waters.
What is the least crowded beach on the Gulf?
While many Gulf Coast beaches are popular tourist destinations, there are still some hidden gems that offer a more secluded and peaceful experience. One of the least crowded beaches on the Gulf is Holly Beach in Louisiana. This quiet beach is perfect for those seeking a laid-back, relaxing vacation without the crowds of other Gulf Coast beaches. Another option is Grand Isle State Park Beach in Louisiana, which offers secluded beaches and opportunities for birdwatching and fishing. For those looking for a Florida Gulf Coast beach, Navarre Beach is a great option. This uncrowded beach features a serene atmosphere, pristine sand, and clear water. While these beaches may not offer the amenities and crowds of more popular Gulf Coast destinations, they offer a unique and peaceful experience for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle.