We have visited hundreds of US Gulf Coast restaurants, bakeries, ice cream shops, breweries, and more to uncover the most iconic and coastal-worthy sweet treats for this US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail.
Many US Gulf Coast beaches features splendid sugar sand, the softest and cleanest beach sand in the world. That sweetness and the US Gulf Coast salt air influence and inspire many remarkable and iconic desserts. Some of our US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail choices are iconic and popular, while some are quirky and hidden gem spots.
Our US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail selections are not always the “best” restaurants in the area but we list reasons why you should make a special effort to visit them on your Gulf Coast trips. The places we selected for the US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail do a stellar job of representing their local Gulf Coast area.
The following US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail entries are listed from the tip of the Florida Gulf Coast (Key West) to the southern tip of the Texas Gulf Coast (South Padre). But, of course, you can choose to visit any of the places at any time in any order.
For tips and recommendations about US Gulf Coast road trips see Ultimate US Coastal Scenic Drives Resource Guide and for the absolute top US Gulf Coast restaurants 34+ Best US Gulf Coast Restaurants and Chefs.
US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail
Please read below for a description of each of these US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail stops along with dozens of our other favorite Gulf Coast bakeries and sweet spots.
1. Kermit’s Key West Lime Shoppe (Key West, Florida)
Nearly every restaurant in the Florida Keys serves a version of Key Lime Pie that is better than 95% of the rest of the world. So, create your own key lime pie trail here. Our favorite research project!
But our first choice is to try something a little different.
Visit Kermit’s in Key West for a chocolate covered frozen key lime pie slice on a stick. It is so refreshing and delicious.
2. Sea Salt (Naples Florida)
Perhaps the most fun dessert choice along the US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail is the cotton candy dessert at Sea Salt in Naples. They also serve Norman Love chocolates so you could get away with devouring the entire cloud without sharing.
For more great places to eat in Naples (including a place that serves a burger on a donut bun) click here.
3. Cabbage Key Inn and Restaurant (Cabbage Key, Florida)
You can only visit Cabbage Key by boat and one place to hitch a ride is from South Seas Island Resort. Oh, and bring a couple of dollar bills to decorate the wall or ceiling. Try the amazing seafood or burgers at the restaurant on Cabbage Key but definitely order the key lime pie.
The Cabbage Key key lime pie version pays homage to the original recipe from the 1930s and that makes it remarkable enough to be our choice for most iconic key lime pie.
Other nearby excellent key lime pie versions can be found at:
- Doc Ford’s in Captiva Island
- Fish-Tale in Fort Myers Beach
- Dixie Fish Company in Fort Myers Beach
4. Thomas Donut and Snack Shop (Panama City Beach, FL)
The daily specials at Thomas Donut and Snack Shop in Laguna Beach (west end of Panama City Beach) often sell out early. That is OK with me because the beach in front of the shop is one of my favorite secret spots for excellent US Gulf Coast sunset and sunrise viewing.
After a sunrise beach stroll, head over to Thomas and order an orange juice donut or key lime donut or whatever special selections they have that day. And try their fantastic ice cream (first picture in this article) later in the day or after a sunset stroll.
Other favorite desserts in PCB include:
- key lime pie from Andy’s Flour Power
- praline basket from The Grand Marlin
- eclairs from Sunshine Bakery
For more area info please see Florida Hidden Gems: 16 Secret Spots on Florida Panhandle
5. The Yard (Gulf Shores, AL)
The Yard now has locations around the US but the Gulf Shores location is where this funness and sweet mayhem began. Massive ice cream milkshake sugar bombs at The Yard arrive in pint, quart, or, egad, half gallon mason jars. Their milkshake creations are Instagram favorites.
In nearby Mobile Alabama, visit the extraordinary Noja Restaurant and try their phenomenal dessert of a ginger donut topped with popcorn ice cream.
6. Doe’s Eat Place (Biloxi, MS)
Mississippi Mud Cake from Doe’s Eat Place (in Margaritaville Resort Biloxi) is devastatingly amazing. Especially after one of the best steaks in the US.
But you do not have to order one of Doe’s phenomenal filets to enjoy their incredible dessert. Order a piece of Mississippi Mud Cake by itself and enjoy anywhere on the Margaritaville property or even put your feet in the soft, clean Biloxi beach sugar sand while you ohh and ahh while savoring it.
Other desserts and sweet treats to try in Coastal Mississippi:
- The Creole Creamery in Bay St Louis for New Orleans style ice cream
- The TatoNut Shop in Ocean Springs for delicious donuts made from potato flour
- And whatever the current dessert offerings are at Vestige in Ocean Springs and White Pillars in Biloxi.
See also our guide to Coastal Mississippi restaurants: 71+ Sensational Mississippi Gulf Coast Restaurants in Coastal Mississippi
7. Bread Pudding in Louisiana
Sorry, I really tried but I could NOT single out one US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail place for bread pudding in Louisiana. Seems every restaurant and bakery prepares their own bread pudding version and they are all phenomenal. Help me decide on a single Louisiana bread pudding representative for the US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail. Comment with your favorite.
Some favorites to try:
- 531 Liberty in Houma (caramel apple bread pudding!)
- Spahr’s in Thibodaux
- Bec’s at the Lake in LaPlace
- Blue Dog Cafe in Lafayette
- The Bekery in Lake Charles (cinnamon bread pudding for breakfast!)
Ice cream selections at Scarlett Scoop in Houma are creative and tasty. Their King Cake ice cream (seasonal, of course) is astounding but any small batches are fresh and amazing.
And of course you must try the beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans at least once in your life. New Orleans is probably the best foodie city in the US and there are an overwhelming number of amazing desserts to try there. Let me know your favorite desserts in New Orleans.
See also our other Louisiana travel tips at:
- 8 Great Happy Things to Do in Lafayette Louisiana
- 22 Great Things to Do in Houma: Louisiana Bayou Near New Orleans
- 15 Fun Day Trips From New Orleans LA
8. Rao’s Bakery (Beaumont, Texas)
The first three months of any year are the perfect time to make multiple visits to the six Rao’s Bakery locations in southeast Texas and elsewhere along the US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail. Here at the western end of the Mardi Gras Belt, the bakery selection is festive and sweet.
Judge for yourself which of Rao’s five different Mardi Gras king cakes taste the best (I like the Voodoo version). And while ordering your Mardi Gras king cake from Rao’s (online or in person), make sure you add on a few mini cakes and other sweet treats.
Local foodie superstar Lauren from TheDownLo.com suggests the Mexican Ice Cream and freak shakes from La Real Michochana. The photos remind me of the sweet and glorious offerings at The Yard (above). I will try this place next visit to Beaumont.
Also see our Beaumont tips at 15 Cool Things to Do in Beaumont Texas
9. Painted Marlin Grille (South Padre Island, Texas)
The Painted Marlin Grille is a convenient setting for savoring spectacular US Gulf Coast sunsets. It is also the end of our US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail on the western end.
A perfect way to end your dinner of fresh local seafood (try that tuna appetizer!) is with a slice of Padre Pie. It is a local favorite and is a tropical custard pie (similar to key lime pie) with mango filling. It is so good.
For more SPI restaurants, see South Padre Island Restaurants: Fun Places to Eat in SPI Texas
I cannot decide if Key Lime Pie or Bread Pudding should be the official dessert of US Gulf Coast. What do you think?
Was your favorite Gulf Coast dessert included? Which places would you add to the US Gulf Coast Dessert Trail? Check back as we intend to add more and update this list often.