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The 20 Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast

Alys Beach, South Walton, Florida

For some people, living along the Gulf Coast and enjoying the benefits and natural adventures of coastal life is a dream come true. The Gulf Coast refers to the combined coastlines of Western Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana – the states that have shorelines somewhere along the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf Coast represents a rich cultural tapestry– reflected in the area’s music, festivals, and food, which includes delicious Gulf shrimp, oysters, and a host of fish species. The Gulf Coast’s regional culinary scene varies from Creole and Cajun flavors to Mexican and southwestern influences from Gulf Coast coastal locations that belong to the Lone Star State.

The Gulf Coast is known for Southern hospitality – characterized by warm, welcoming friendliness that offers a laid-back vibe, beautiful white-sand beaches, and warm, turquoise waters. The most popular places to live on the Gulf Coast offer the best in sun, sand, water sports, and a chance to relax.

Our Methodology

To compare Gulf Coast living options, we analyzed recent data from websites that provide information and topical data regarding events, attractions, accommodations, and other travel-related details for each state, as well as commercial websites designed to help house/condo seekers find a property to meet their needs -

  • Travel Websites –
    • Google Maps

There are important differences among the various locations along the sprawling 1,600 Gulf of Mexico coastline miles, with some areas considered better places to live than others. So, if you’re thinking of moving to the Gulf Coast, check out just the various options within our list of the 20 best places to live along the Gulf Coast.

The 20 Best Places to Live on the Gulf Coast

Living on the Gulf Coast offers communities – from cities to small beach towns, that span five different states. These are the best places to live on the Gulf Coast -

20. South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island has stunning, pristine sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico’s warm waters, with the unique ability to offer both amazing sunrise and sunset photo ops. For those who want a beachy lifestyle, South Padre Island offers a mild climate for year-round living, often a great draw for those who seek a relaxed life in retirement, living among natural beauty. The barrier island off the southern tip of Texas near Mexico offers a variety of outdoor activities, including water sports, fishing, bird watching, and nature exploration. For the cost-conscious, South Padre may provide some affordable coastal living options, with a lively nightlife and a tropical flair.

19. Galveston, Texas

Galveston, which is a historic city along the Gulf Coast, is an island city just south of Houston, often known for its vibrant artist scene and Victorian architecture. Many parts of this Gulf Coast city, made famous in a Glen Campbell song released in 1969, have the feel of a traditional seaside town. Galveston offers its residents and visitors more than 32 miles of beautiful Gulf Coast beaches. Furthermore, Galveston, situated along the Gulf Coast, is one of the most affordable places to live.

18. Orange Beach, Alabama

Of all the states that abut the Gulf Coast, Alabama’s 53-mile coastline is the shortest. Orange Beach refers to a popular resort town and is famous for its beautiful, white-sand beaches. Orange Beach has gorgeous beaches, concerts, family-friendly activities, water sports, and deep-sea fishing charters, but also The Wharf - a premier entertainment complex with shops, restaurants, a marina, a Ferris wheel, and an amphitheater. There are diverse job opportunities in Orange Beach, so the unemployment rate is low.

17. Fairhope, Alabama

Another Alabama Gulf Coast location is Fairhope, which is a coastal town on Mobile Bay with a population of approximately 23,859 (2022). Its quaint downtown streets are pedestrian-friendly, creating a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere, while the city’s Municipal Pier is popular for its boardwalk, fishing, and expansive and far-reaching views of Mobile Bay. The community is known for its artist's appeal despite some pricey real estate options.

16. Corpus Christi, Texas

There are many positive aspects of the  Gulf Coast tourist destination that make it a good option for those who want to live along the Gulf Coast with a preference for the perks offered by an urban lifestyle but easy access to nearby beach islands (i.e., Padre or Mustang Island). Corpus Christi is a large city with 317,536 (2024)residents, offering employment opportunities across a wide range of industries that, include leisure and entertainment sectors. Corpus Christi also offers a variety of seafood dishes served by local chefs in waterfront eateries.

15. Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Fort Myers Beach is a resort town located along Florida’s Gulf Coast, known for its stunning sunset photo opportunities available across the Gulf of Mexico waters. Fort Myers Beach is situated on Estero Island, and it is approximately 40 minutes to reach its sister city, Fort Myers, which is located on the mainland. Those who live in Fort Myers Beach can enjoy a typical coastal lifestyle, with white, pristine beaches, while benefiting from their proximity to Times Square - a popular shopping, entertainment, and dining hub. The area, which has a vibrant and festive appeal, hosts the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival and the American Sand Sculpting Championship.

14. Tampa, Florida

Tampa and Tampa Bay, along with many Florida locations, have become hugely popular destinations – especially for those moving from colder, more northern points. Tampa, which is an important economic hub/port with a rich history, is home to more than three million people who have the opportunity to combine urban living with the benefits of a coastal lifestyle. The city offers a vibrant, hip lifestyle or relaxed vibe – depending on where you live and your lifestyle objectives. The city is home to numerous festivals and professional sports teams, and the Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is a riverwalk that offers public art, playgrounds, concerts, green spaces, and festivals all year.

13. Naples, Florida

US News and World Report ranks Naples, Florida, as one of the best places to live on the Gulf Coast, and for years, this beautiful Gulf Coast town on Florida’s western shores remained a quiet seaside town with a bit of an upscale flair. Naples is a good choice for Gulf Coast living as it has many positive features. Naples is considered a golfers' haven near the beach, with rich and vibrant cultural options that include The Naples Art Association and the Naples Philharmonic. The Naples Pier and Cambier Park offer outdoor recreation and fun.

12. New Orleans, Louisana

New Orleans refers to a city in Louisiana characterized as a melting pot of cultures, blending French, African, Spanish, and Creole influences, and it is one of the most famous places to live on the Gulf Coast. The city's historic neighborhoods – like the French Quarter, offer unique charm and character. New Orleans is surrounded by water, offering boating and fishing opportunities as well as birdwatching. The lively music vibe is highlighted by the fact New Orleans is considered the birthplace of jazz. The city offers various festivals (think Mardi Gras, etc.), culinary delights, and southern charm all of its own.

11. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay St. Louis is a quaint Gulfside town that has lots of nautical character, with lots of 19th-century properties and Creole cottages. There are serene landscapes, including live oak trees and beautiful beaches with warm waters, and many residents and visitors enjoy fishing on the Bay of St. Louis. The town is also known for its art galleries and the annual festivals and events, including the Second Saturday Artwalk, Crab Festiva, and the Bay BridgeFest. Not only is Bay St. Louis a beautiful locale, but it is also one of the most affordable towns along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast.

10. Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Ocean Springs, which is defined by natural beauty, is a town along the Mississippi Gulf coast that has a population of 18,622 people (2022). Its main street is lined with oak trees, and the town oozes small-town charm. The town has a thriving artistic community, as the town hosts many events/festivals throughout the year, including the Petr Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival. Ocean Springs is one of Mississippi’s most affordable locations, as the median home price is $251,331, a bargain when compared to other coastal locations in this state and beyond.

9. Fort Walton Beach, Florida

People who enjoy a quiet lifestyle with a natural environment should consider living on Florida’s Emerald Coast/panhandle in Fort Walton Beach, which has a population of 20,998 (2022) residents. This area of the panhandle is known for its unspoiled beauty, including white and pristine sandy beaches and emerald-green waters. Fort Walton Beach is near Okaloosa Island and offers additional beach access, a fishing pier, and a family-friendly attraction. Fort Walton Beach offers engaging attractions like the Indian Temple Mound Museum and the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park – where visitors swim amongst a vast array of marine creatures.

8. Biloxi, Mississippi

Biloxi is a coastal resort/casino city in Mississippi with pristine white sand beaches and beautiful waters that ranks among the best places to live on the Gulf Coast. Biloxi, with its historic architecture, was once known as the seafood capital of the world. The city offers the best of both worlds, with enough activities for people who want to stay busy, but it also offers quieter, more relaxed areas for those who want a simple and peaceful daily life. For those who enjoy an active lifestyle all year, there is a championship golf course, a minor league baseball team, and two entertainment districts.

7. Pensacola, Florida

Known for its warm gulf waters and white sand beaches, Pensacola is a popular panhandle destination that is home to 53,876 people (2022). The city has a fascinating history, as it was originally a Spanish settlement, and it has strong links to the history of aviation. The Seville Historic District features a mix of shops, galleries, and restaurants. Pensacola is currently home to the Blue Angels and Navy pilot training, and one of the most popular Pensacola attractions is the National Naval Aviation Museum.

6. Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur is ranked among the best places to live on the Gulf Coast in Texas for those who want to enjoy an active Gulf Coast coastal lifestyle. The city, which has historically been an oil refinery hub, offers various activities for everyone, regardless of their specific interest. The city is home to the manmade island - Pleasure Island, which is an entertainment hub. Port Arthur is also home Sabine Lake’s Sea Rim State, and the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Many individuals who live in this city enjoy water-based adventures, such as boating, fishing, and windsurfing. Port Arthur also provides affordable options in terms of living options, with the median home price of $139,450 (2023).

5. Gulfport, Mississippi

Apartment Therapy says one of the best places to live on the Gulf Coast in Mississippi is Gulfport. Gulfport, which is a deep-water and port city, is the state’s second-largest city, and it is home to 72,236 (2022) residents. Most of the action in Gulfport is along the city’s waterfront district, which is dotted with bars, restaurants, boutiques, and entertainment options. The city also has a picturesque harbor, and a popular activity is sailing to the scenic Ship Island, which is part of the Gulf Island National Seashore off the coasts, or taking The Betsy Ann Riverboat cruise along the Mississippi Sound.

4. St. Petersburg, Florida

St. Petersburg sits along north Tampa Bay, which creates the perfect location for the benefits of coastal living and urban life. This city in the Sunshine State is lined with stunning beaches that offer opportunities for spending time on the gulf or enjoying water-based activities. St. Petersburg is defined by many small, historic neighborhoods that have a small-town feel. However, the city’s center offers lively options day and night. St. Petersburg, FL offers a vibrant arts/culture scene, highlighted by the waterfront’s Dali Museum.

3. Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota has a thriving cultural arts scene, with a city that offers many art galleries, theaters, and performing arts venues. Among the most famous is the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, which showcased the art of Ringling’s estate.  Siesta Key Beach, just offshore in the gulf, often ranks among the top U.S. beaches as it has clear turquoise water and powder white beaches. The city also offers an upscale shopping district known as St. Armands Circle. Check out the Mote Marine Lab and Aquarium as well as the nearby Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Real estate, which is available at all price points -  from modern apartments to historic properties and from mid-century homes with dynamic waterfront views.

2. Marco Island, Florida

Marco Island boasts stunning natural beauty with white sandy beaches, clear turquoise waters, a low crime rate, and picturesque sunsets. Residents have easy access to the Gulf of Mexico and the Ten Thousand Islands, providing diverse opportunities for water-based recreation. Marco Island features several golf courses, fine dining, and many upscale resorts. Because it is located so close to Naples, Marco Island is within reach of the dining, shopping, and entertainment options offered in Naples.

1. Alys Beach, South Walton, Florida

According to Southern Living, of all the places to live on the Gulf Coast, Alys Beach in South Walton, Florida, holds the distinction of taking first place. Its popularity is somewhat new, with a carefully planned urban design characterized by white buildings constructed around courtyards and narrow streets. The affluent area Alys Beach, which is a jewel among Emerald Coast beaches, reflects the residents’ preference for outdoor, year-round living and pricey real estate with a 2023 median average home price of $5.3 million.  Alys Beach’s design has been designed to meet the principles of a green lifestyle, with streets with effective stormwater runoff drains and drought-resistant plants.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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