Here are our favorite US Gulf Coast Spring Break destinations for families, college students, adventure lovers, and others. Most of these Gulf Coast Spring Break destinations can fit into several categories but we include them in the list that makes the most sense.
Favorite College Spring Break Gulf Coast Destinations
Some of the most popular spring break destinations for college students are along the US Gulf Coast. Keep these top US Gulf Coast destinations in mind as you plan your spring break trips. You will either want to join the party or avoid these spring break places.
South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island is a top spring break destination for college students, especially from the Texas and middle of the country universities. Most of the snow bird winter Texans have left SPI by Spring Break, leaving the island to the youngsters. Galveston and Corpus Christi are a little further up the Texas Gulf Coast and are attractive options for college spring break.
Panama City Beach, Florida
Panama City Beach Florida has a marathon (26 miles) worth of beachfront which serves as one of the most popular USA spring break destinations for college students. With a convenient Florida Panhandle destination, PCB is the first choice for many students from East coast and midwest universities looking for a fun spring break on the coast.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores Alabama spring break is a milestone for thousands of US south college students. Although not as large as Florida Panhandle destinations, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is still a favorite Gulf Coast spring break destination.
Destin, along with Panama City Beach, are the most popular Florida Panhandle spring break spots for college students. The Destin beaches are lined with high-rise condos and college student parties are the norm. Hundreds of boats and floating watercraft of all sizes navigate to nearby Crab Island everyday. See our choices for Destin Florida Rentals: 15+ Fun Florida Panhandle Rentals.
Our favorite secret place in Destin is the outstanding Mexican food at Burritacos. It is located next to the gas station convenience store on highway 98 and Opa-Locka Lane.
New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is a relatively cheap spring break destination that is popular with many college students. With a location between Gulf Shores and Galveston, New Orleans attracts upper midwest college students who want to drive the shortest distance. See also our 15 Fun Day Trips From New Orleans LA
Key West, Florida
Key West has historically been a favorite spring break destination for college students, families, and snow birds. For everyone really. For the college crowd, Key West is generally less raucous than other Gulf Coast spring break spots. But Duval Street will be packed and lively after the sun goes down if you are looking for the action.
And visitors seem to appreciate the drive to the end of US Gulf Coast, one of the most scenic drives in Florida. The Florida Keys is also a splendid spring break destination for nature lovers (see below).
Read about our absolute favorite beach in the Florida Keys: 8 Great Reasons Sombrero Beach is Florida Keys Best Beach
Siesta Key, Florida
A recent addition to the popular spring break destinations list is Siesta Key, thanks to the popularity of the MTV reality show of the same name. The beaches of Siesta Key are spacious and gorgeous, the nightly drum circle is one of the most fun Gulf Coast sunset celebrations, and the bars and restaurants are a short walk away.
For Siesta Key suggestions, see things to do in Sarasota.
Top Gulf Coast Spring Break Spots for Families
Most US Gulf Coast destinations are wonderful for Spring Break trips. However, if you are traveling with children and teens you will probably want to avoid spring break destinations that are popular with college students.
Here are our suggestions of best US Gulf Coast Spring Break destinations for families.
Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Indian Rocks Beach is a residential area just south of very popular Clearwater Beach. Families looking for a quieter and less crowded spring break destination will love Indian Rocks Beach.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria Island is similar to IRB but more upscale and with softer and whiter beach sand. AMI has some of our favorite US Gulf Coast beaches and thankfully they are not lined with a solid line of high-rise buildings. But the rental house paradigm in Anna Maria Island is risky; you might have a nice quiet vacation or there could loud groups right next to you. And with connecting duplexes becoming more prevalent, the risk increases.
Captiva Island / Sanibel Island, Florida
Sanibel Island and Captiva Island are phenomenal Florida Gulf Coast areas just west of Fort Myers Beach. The shelling capital of the world is excellent for families, couples, and even multi-gen spring break getaways. Head to the end of Captiva Island and South Seas Island Resort for a various sized vacation rentals, phenomenal activities, and magnificent sunsets.
30A beach towns, Florida Panhandle
Some of the Best Florida Panhandle Beaches are along scenic highway 30A between Seaside and Rosemary Beach—also including Aly’s Beach, Seagrove, and Watercolor. They are popular upscale spring break destinations for families. because the communities restrict access to their beach areas to only guests.
For public beach access, we love Inlet Beach, at the east end of 30A where it meets highway 98.
The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are popular family spring break spots. I know, because we took our kids there and ran into some of their school friends and our neighbors. From sunset sailings to the Mallory Square sunset celebrations to fun coastal attractions, there are a lot of places to visit along the 105 mile Florida Keys.
In addition to USA’s largest man made beach, Coastal Mississippi has a lot to offer for a family-friendly US Gulf Coast Spring Break vacation. The brand-new Mississippi Aquarium is a highlight but also put the Infinity Science Center, Biloxi Shrimping Trip, and a lot of beach time on your agenda. The beach sand, sunsets, and seafood here are second to none and Coastal Mississippi is a relatively inexpensive spring break destination to consider.
Top Spring Break Destinations on US Gulf Coast for Nature Lovers
In addition to the already suggested Gulf Coast Spring Break destinations, consider these especially if you want to add some nature and adventure to your vacation.
Other Florida Panhandle Destinations
While Destin and Panama City Beach are overrun by the college students, other Florida Panhandle Spring Break destinations are worth looking at. Pensacola Beaches, and especially Fort Pickens and Perdido Beach are gorgeous. Navarre Beach features the huge Santa Rosa Sound, which is great for exploring on boat tours, kayaks, or JetSki. Cape San Blas, St. George Island, and Alligator Point are US Gulf Coast favorites to the east end that we consider hidden gem Gulf Coast beaches.
As part of the Ten Thousands Islands, Marco Island is right in the middle of phenomenal nature opportunities. Countless opportunities to kayak or boat on waterways among the islands, in the Everglades, and into the Gulf of Mexico await. Head to Goodland, Ochopee, or Chokoloskee for many of these Everglades adventures. And if you enjoy seafood, three of our 13 Best Grouper Sandwiches in Florida are here.
For more information see 8 Great Things to Do in Marco Island
Jutting into Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda is a peninsula that is almost 50% undeveloped with state parks and preserve lands. Look for wonderful sunset sails, boating opportunities (there are so many canals), and the iconic Peace River Seafood—one of the restaurants on the US Gulf Coast Seafood Trail. Make sure you head out to Babcock Ranch for swamp buggy tour, fun for the whole family.
For a one of a kind Spring Break souvenir that your children will talk about forever, how about a giant shark tooth? Head to Caspersen Beach in South Sarasota to try your luck in finding shark teeth. Most visitors that try will find at least one. Head to nearby Venice Beach for amazing sunset views.
Other Top US Gulf Coast Spring Break Destinations
While we have covered dozens of Gulf Coast destinations for Spring Break trips, here are a few others to consider that may not fit the above categories.
Gulfport, Florida is a few miles from downtown St. Pete and has an artsy and totally laid back beach town vibe. Pass-a-Grille is a lovely, tiny beach town at the southern end of the St. Pete Beach peninsula, just a mile from The Don Cesar resort. Longboat Key is just south of Anna Maria Island and LBK fans love their beaches more than any other; also try to visit Beer Can Island.
Many of our favorite Louisiana towns are wonderful to visit for Spring Break and are nice day trips from New Orleans. These include Lafayette, Houma, Lake Charles, and the Louisiana Northshore (Mandevellie, Covington, Abita).
What is your favorite US Gulf Coast Spring Break destination?