Summer in the US is the time where most families head to the beach. These are my picks for the 2008 beach season. This list is based on personal experience, family friendly offerings, sand quality, and overall good times. Feel free to comment on the destinations included or add your own picks for Gulf Coast beach destinations.
5. Galveston Island, TX
Galveston is on the list because it is home to Moody Gardens and a new Schlitterbahn Waterpark. The boardwalk along the beach is a great place for families who like walking along the beach without getting all the sand in your shoes. Also, there is a lot of pirate history, with Galveston Island being home to Campeche, a settlement once inhabited by Jean Laffite and his crew.
4. Gulf Shores, AL and Orange Beach
These two are really separate, but when many people around where I live say they are going to Gulf Shores, they could be going to Orange Beach instead. The two are side by side and offer shopping for Mamas at nearby Foley, an abundance of golf courses for the dads, and so many family friendly activities. The beaches are really nice and clean with many restaurants overlooking the Gulf. I spend time there one summer with my family when the kids were very small. We were able to find an affordable 2 bedroom condo on the beach through Brett Robinson Rentals. Be careful though, as the Gulf Shores area has become a bit pricey.
3. Panama City Beach, FL
I know what you are thinking, isn’t this a Spring Break destination? Yes, it used to be and I almost fondly remember a high school trip there where we stayed at The Chateau. You remember that old place don’t you? We used to call it the S—hole. Anyways, I returned one summer with family in tow. It has definitely changed to a family friendly destination. Beware of the evening traffic along The Strip. It is perfect if you are a family with teenagers, as many activities include parasailing and those bungie drop things. If you have younger children, there are plenty of go-cart tracks and waterslides.
2. Destin, FL
Destin, Sandestin, and the northwest coast of Florida offer some of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. This place has the shopping, the golf, the activities, and even the spas. One thing that sets it above other beaches is the relaxation factor. Be sure though that when you book your lodging, make sure it is ON the beach, not near the beach. Many condos here are located across the highway from the beach. This isn’t the best when you have little ones. Destin does offer some fantastic seafood. I remember many childhood summers at the buffet! The sand here is so fine, it actually barks when you walk.
1. The Florida Keys
The Florida Keys is one of those places in the US that makes you feel as if you are on a tropical island somewhere. The Keys offers a variety of atmospheres, from Key West, which is a beach version of The French Quarter, to Islamorada, which is laid back and slow. If you don’t have the money to actually stay at the legendary Little Palm Island, you can still visit this hideaway for lunch. The same goes for Sunset Key. There are so many Keys to choose from with a variety of activities for families of all backgrounds.
Families can swim with the dolphins, visit a butterfly museum, learn about pirates at an interactive attraction, and see how turtles are taken care of at The Turtle Hospital. Families can’t go wrong when visiting The Keys.
So these are a few of the many favorite family travel beach destinations along the US Gulf Coast. Remember that a vacation is a time for travel, relationship renewal, and most importantly, fun. Be spontaneous and make the most of your time together this summer.