Favorite US Gulf Coast Spring Break Destinations

Our favorite US Gulf Coast Spring Break destinations are great for families, college students, adventure lovers, and others. We organize our best Gulf Coast Spring Break choices by destination, for families, and for nature lovers. Enjoy!

Favorite College Spring Break Gulf Coast Destinations

Some of the most popular spring break destinations for college students are some of our favorite Gulf Coast beaches. Keep these top US Gulf Coast destinations in mind as you plan your spring break trips.

Depending on your preference, you will either want to join the party or avoid these spring break places,.

Key West, Florida

Key West sunset over the water
enjoy beautiful Key West sunsets

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 if you are looking for wild funness, Duval Street will be packed and lively after the sun goes down.

And visitors appreciate driving 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: Sombrero Beach

Siesta Key, Florida

Siesta Key FL sunset drum circle
Siesta Key FL sunset drum circle

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. Siesta Key beaches are spacious and gorgeous, the nightly drum circle is one of the most fun Gulf Coast sunset celebrations, and many restaurants and bars are a short walk away.

For Siesta Key suggestions, see things to do in Sarasota.

South Padre Island, Texas

Wanna Wanna Inn tiki bar on South Padre Island
Wanna Wanna is a popular SPI spot

South Padre Island is a top spring break destination for college students, especially from 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 serving 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 Gulf Coast beach spring break.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

enjoy the beach in Gulf Shores Alabama spring break trip
enjoy the beach in Gulf Shores Alabama spring break trip

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 nearby Orange Beach are still favorite Gulf Coast spring break destinations.

Destin, Florida

a prime Spring Break spot on the US Gulf Coast in Destin Florida

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.

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.

See our choices for Destin Florida Condo Rentals

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 favorite New Orleans day trips.

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 sunset
see magical sunsets at Indian Rocks Beach on your US Gulf Coast Spring Break vacation

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.

Plus several IRB restaurants serve amazing blackened grouper sandwiches.

Anna Maria Island, Florida

softest US Gulf Coast sand is on Anna Maria Island beach
Anna Maria Island is one of the best Gulf Coast beaches

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.

See some of our favorite AMI restaurants for blackened grouper, desserts, and Anna Maria Island sunsets.

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 Resort for a various sized vacation rentals, phenomenal activities, and magnificent US Gulf Coast sunsets.

30A beach towns, Florida Panhandle

Inlet Beach FL

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

8 Great Spots to Visit in the Florida Keys.
Sombrero Beach, Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are popular family spring break spots. I know, because we took our kids to Key West one spring break and ran into some of their school friends and some 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.

For an adult Spring Break getaway in the Florida Keys, I suggest the gorgeous Casa Morada relaxed luxury resort in Islamorada. They have a private island that you must experience!

Coastal Mississippi

Biloxi Shrimping Trip on The Secret Coast
Biloxi Shrimping Trip on The Secret Coast

In addition to USA’s largest manmade beach, Coastal Mississippi has a lot to offer for a family-friendly US Gulf Coast Spring Break vacation. 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 spectacular and Biloxi, Pass Christian, or Ocean Springs in Coastal Mississippi are relatively inexpensive Gulf Coast spring break destinations to consider.

Try some of our favorite Mississippi Gulf Coast Restaurants.

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.

beautiful sea shells on US Gulf Coast Spring Break spots
US Gulf Coast Spring Break destinations for sea shell lovers

Other Florida Panhandle Destinations

While Destin and Panama City Beach are overrun by 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.

Marco Island

Shell Point mangrove tunnel kayak Trail in Rookery Bay
Shell Point kayak Trail in Rookery Bay

As part of the Ten Thousands Islands, Marco Island is right in the middle of phenomenal nature opportunities. Countless opportunities to kayak or boat await on waterways among the islands, in the Everglades, and into the Gulf of Mexico.

Head to Goodland, Ochopee, or Chokoloskee for many of these Everglades adventures. And if you enjoy seafood, three of our Best Florida Grouper Sandwiches are here.

Punta Gorda

Jutting into Charlotte Harbor, Punta Gorda is a peninsula that is almost 50% undeveloped with plenty of 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 Gulf Coast Seafood Trail.

Be sure you head out to Babcock Ranch for swamp buggy tour, fun for the whole family.

Caspersen Beach

giant shark tooth on Caspersen Beach
giant shark teeth on Caspersen Beach. Photo credit: TurtlesTravel

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 shark tooth.

Venice Beach has some of our favorite Gulf coast sunsets.

Nearby Oscar Scherer State Park is a fantastic Sarasota day trip featuring a lot of hiking, paddling, and biking opportunities.

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. Visit the iconic and secret Beer Can Island. Just ask a local!

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?

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