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21 Best Gulf Coast Beaches

Pack your sunscreen and sandals and hit a beautiful Gulf Coast beach in Mississippi, Florida or Alabama. We'll tell you about great places to eat, stay and play.

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Photo: RVC Outdoor Destinations

Life Really is Better at the Beach

Kick off your shoes, let your hair down and take a relaxing trip to a beautiful Gulf Coast beach. The water's fine, and when you're ready to get out of the sun, there are great places to dine (think fresh seafood or Cajun-flavored steaks), stay (try a boutique hotel with a beach view) and play (go deep-sea fishing or catch a US Navy Blue Angels air show). Let our list of the 20 best Gulf Coast beaches in Mississippi, Florida and Alabama inspire you.

Before you go, check for possible closures at your destination. Hurricanes have damaged Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva Islands and other areas, but they're working hard to recover and reopen.

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Photo: Coastal Mississippi CVB

Ship Island, Mississippi

You’ll need a boat to get to Ship Island, part of the beautiful Gulf Islands National Seashore and about 11 miles off the Biloxi coast. Check the website for operating hours on the island. Ship Island Excursions runs a seasonal ferry; watch for dolphins as you cross the Mississippi Sound. There’s little commercial development here and no overnight camping, but you can swim in the clear water, look for shells, play in the white sand or walk to the western tip for a free guided tour of historic Fort Massachusetts (there’s no public transportation). Bring a picnic or buy food and sundries from the snack bar. Beach chairs and umbrellas are available to rent. When you're back in town, pop into Triplett-Day Drug Company, an area landmark since 1955, for a creamy milkshake.

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Photo: Tate K. Nations/Visit Mississippi

Gulfport, Mississippi

Take a day trip to gorgeous Gulfport Beach. Parking is free and usually easy to find, and lots of restaurants, casinos and bars are nearby. Catch your dinner from the fishing pier, swim, lounge on 25 miles of soft, white sand or canoe down a water trail.

Book an ocean-view room at The Almanett Hotel & Bistro or stay at the upscale Grand Centennial Hotel; kids love its 950-foot-long lazy river and adults like the swim-up bar. Stay at Island View Casino Resort, named one of the Top 10 Casinos in the US by Yahoo, for live weekend entertainment, table games and slots. Pop into funky Fishbone Alley to see local art and murals and visit the Mississippi Aquarium, home to sharks, bottlenose dolphins and more. Meet a sea lion or snorkel with stingrays at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies. When you're hungry, head to Captain Al’s Steak & Seafood, said to be the home of "The Original Surf and Turf" meal on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Order a cold beer at the Chandeleur Island Brewing Company, one of the stops on the Mississippi Brewery Trail.

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Photo: Coastal Mississippi CVB

Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi is home to eight upscale casino resorts, championship golf courses and a 26-mile stretch of beautiful beaches. The water is clean but has a caramel-tint because it's diluted by other waters draining into the sound from the Pascagoula and Pearl rivers.

Book a fun, educational Biloxi shrimping trip or inquire about sailing on an oyster schooner at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum. Art lovers, visit the award-winning Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art with its contemporary and historic exhibitions. When you’re hungry, visit White Pillars Restaurant, co-owned by James Beard semi-finalist Chef Austin Sumrall, known as the "King of American Seafood." Don't miss the Ground Zero Blues Club, co-owned by actor Morgan Freeman and a world-renowned blues venue.

Rest your weary head at the Hard Rock Resort & Casino, an award-winning resort with spectacular views of the Gulf, 1,500 slot machines, 50 table games, poker and a 1,500-person capacity entertainment venue. The Margaritaville Resort plans to add a Ferris wheel and waterfront roller coaster to its Paradise Pier Fun Park sometime in 2023.

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