Small towns and big cities, the communities of the Gulf Coast have one thing in common - the fabulous beaches and warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Relax on the sandy shores, swim in the warm water, and explore the historic, glamorous towns of these Gulf Coast destinations.
A beachy small town with southern "Mayberry" charm, Rockport holds an intense draw for decisive tourists looking for a welcoming arm and plenty of attractions to keep them busy. The town upholds its history and fabulous outdoor experiences with spots like the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge protecting more than 400 species of native Texas birds. For more contained wildlife, head to the Aquarium at Rockport Harbor where for no charge you can tour the tanks of Gulf Coast fish, sea mammals, and more and then head outside to the gorgeous Rockport Beach. When you've had enough of the beach, tour the famous Fulton Mansion, a stunning 1870s French Second Empire construction fully restored to look as beautiful today as it did when it was first built.
Quirky, colorful, and once called the "Paris of the South," Mobile is the Alabama version of New Orleans with a full-on Gulf Coast atmosphere. One of the oldest cities on the Coast, Mobile charms its visitors with tons of attractions and a hip, trendy personality. Check out the historic destinations like the African American Heritage Trail, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, or the GulfQuest National Maritime Museum, the first every museum focusing on the history of the entire Gulf Coast over a fabulous 90,000 square feet. In pure bayou fashion, Mobile's Alligator Alley features tours of the park, feeding sessions, and awe inspiring demonstrations with their resident, rescued alligators who live comfortably in the swampy habitats, cared for by the park keepers. Visit during the Alabama Pecan Festival, the many music festivals, or make your own festival on a spectacular and exciting trip to the colorful city of Mobile.
Emerald Coast, FL
A collection of communities including the cities of Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, and Okaloosa Island, the Emerald Coast stuns visitors with its surprisingly emerald green waters, Caribbean atmosphere and interesting recreational activities. Snorkeling and swimming off one of the twelve beaches are among the top activities for anyone visiting the Emerald Coast with Hendersen Beach State Park and James Lee County Park being among the favorites. Also tour the Harborwalk Village with its exciting tourist attractions, the Emerald Coast Science Centers' 250 interactive exhibits, and the more than 100 live alligators of Gator Beach.
One of the ultimate destinations along the Gulf Coast, Galveston is a stunning historic seaside city with centuries of style. There's something for everyone in Galveston with the interactive diversity of Moody Gardens, the industrial intensity of the Ocean Star Offshore Drilling Rig and Museum, or the military history of the Lone Star Flight Museum or Seawolf Park. Walk through the historic district and explore the grand mansions like the 1895 Moody Mansion or the Gothic 1892 Bishop's Palace. Free tours of the Galveston sea turtles allow you to observe and marvel at the city's wonderful wildlife and of course, you may relax on the popular beaches and let your cares melt away in the Gulf of Mexico. If you're on a budget, you can also find other free tours such as those given by La King's Confectionery, ending with free samples of their delicious candies.
Home to the Ringling circus, gorgeous turquoise waters, and quintessential Florida personality, Sarasota County is making a comeback with tourism in a major way. Culture, art and entertainment, history and outdoor attractions make this Florida coast destination one to beat. Wildlife viewing gets no better than the Mote Laboratory and Aquarium as you can explore beautiful exhibits housing rescued sea turtles and manatees, constantly researching ways to promote marine conservation. You don't want to miss out on Sarasota's finest museum, the Ringling, home to an amazing collection of art and circus artifacts from the eclectic couple who started the Ringling circus. If you enjoy circuses, also see the performances at the Circus Acts Conservatory. Outdoor recreation takes you from the delineated and organized exhibits of Selby Gardens to the wilderness of Myakka River State Park and beyond. Whether you want to relax on the beach, fish in the sea, or explore the town, Sarasota has plenty to keep you occupied and happy.
With a "Mayberry" charm similar to Rockport, Texas, Fairhope takes the cake for being an enchanted seaside village with loads of small town charm. With only 13,000 residents, Fairhope isn't the largest of towns but it has had the honor of boasting famous residents at one time or another including Jimmy Buffett, the writer of Forrest Gump Winston Groom, author Upton Sinclair, and more. Touring the quaint Fairhope Avenue and the cottages along the way, including the privately owned Castle House, is a suggested itinerary addition. While you can't go in the Castle House, you can tour the Weeks Bay Plantation and do some blueberry picking while your there and then explore the wonderfully scenic Weeks Bay and the beach beyond. For a history of the town, visit the lovely Fairhope Museum, explore the town by shopping along Main Street and get your picture taken by the iconic Fairhope Clock.