The Gulf Coast Beaches Are Shockingly Beautiful

Growing up on the east coast, I’ve spent my fair share of time at beach that I’d call beautiful. New Jersey has some of the widest beaches of pristine fine sand. New England’s beaches have a rocky mystic to them with the surrounding pine forest. Not to mention having been up the west coast, through the world renowned cliffside beaches of California, Oregon, and Washington. I’ll be honest, never in my life did I think I would spend much time on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. And even more, I never thought that I would say that the Gulf Coast has some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to in the United States. To add to that, Texas might have some of the best beaches of all! 

On our first big road trip in our self-built camper van, Hoagie, we embarked on a 7,000 mile journey across the United States from Utah to New Jersey. We drove down the east coast to Florida, followed by a long time spent in the gulf coast before heading home across Texas back to Utah. On that trip we made stops at countless beaches along the Atlantic  Ocean in the Outer Banks and Florida. Later on in the trip, as we slowly made our way westward, we started to spend a lot of time along the gulf. The first stop at Sanibel Island, FL, changed my perspective on the Gulf Coast forever, and it was only the beginning. 

The Texas beaches, though far from the Atlantic Ocean, were the most impressive ones we visited on our entire trip. I really did not think beach towns existed like this anymore. Galveston, TX had expansive beaches with restaurants and homes lining the coast. The beer at Galveston Brewing was fantastic, and a great stop for drinks as we camped right on the beach in the State Park. Even better, were the laidback beaches outside of Corpus Christi, on Padre Island. Each day, we’d walk up and down the beaches after work, where our dog Gregor could roam around, avoiding the many trucks that could also drive onto the beach. We’d comb the beach for shells until the sun would set over the bayside, lighting up the clouds over the Gulf. After the beach, on our way back to our AirBnb, we could stop at one of the 3 beach bars all within walking distance. These places, filled with locals every night, were no-frills, just a great place to listen to music, catch the sunset, and drink good drinks. That is, unless you order a Mai Thai, because I guess they didn’t know that one.

A huge shock was Dauphin Island, Alabama. I would never have guessed that Alabama had a barrier island with miles of white sand beaches. Though it was less than stellar weather while we spent our few days there, I had pictured Alabama to be only a place of swamps. Instead, we could wander up and down the empty beaches in search of shells, while the small waves rolled into the shallow shores and broke along the beach. With the gorgeous beach homes on stilts, you would’ve guessed this place to be out of North Carolina. Throughout the town, even though it was the offseason, the small restaurants and bars were still open, like the pizza shop right next to the beach that we stopped in on Friday night. But the best part of our time here, was working from the empty beach parking lot for the day, so every time we had a break from work, we could walk out, through the dunes, and onto the beach. 

Florida, being the massive state it is, has an endless sprawl of beach towns, each with their own appeal. With stops in Naples, Fort Meyers Beach, Crystal River, and ultimately in Pensacola Beach, we had such a blast. Whether it was getting to see my parents in Naples and seeing the massive development, or partying the weekend away in Fort Meyers Beach with Courtney’s friends for her birthday, Florida has something for everyone. Fort Meyers Beach, though ravaged by Hurricane Ian, has made the town very resourceful to keep tourism coming to town. Bars, hotels, and homes have been wiped away, so instead, tents, food trucks, and huts have been erected and the party is kept alive. And after a weekend of celebration, Fort Meyers Beach was a fantastic place to visit, especially with how idilic the palm trees stood along the beach, showcasing it as a tropical paradise. 

If the developed beach towns are not your speed, head up to Fort Pickens Area of Gulf Island National Seashore for what I would call a vast, empty beach wilderness. The beaches here are completely empty, with rolling sand dunes, and somehow have massive waves that I never knew the Gulf of Mexico to have. Maybe because it was January, but we were able to score fantastic camping, work from the empty beach parking lots, and even spent a day working around the Fort Pickens area that we got to explore during a lunch break.

Needless to say, the Gulf Coast coast beaches we went to were amazing. But I saved the best for last. A beach we can’t wait to go back, but that’s mostly because you could camp for free on a 60 mile stretch of beach on the souther Texas coast. I’m talking about the Padre Island National Seashore. A place just 15 miles from the beach we stayed at in Corpus Christi, and an absolutely pristine shoreline. And at the end, is a strech of coast that anyone can park and camp on for free! We sadly only spent one night, parked in between a few other RVs that were likely spending a few days on the beach, soaking in the sun, smelling the salt air every morning, and falling to sleep with the sound of crashing waves. We can’t wait to go back, especially once we get StarLink to be able to work from that place!

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