Beach trips are one of the best vacations for families with kids, and it’s not hard to figure out why! If you close your eyes, I’d bet you can imagine warm sunshine on your skin, the sound of crashing waves nearby, and the scent of salt water in the air—not to mention the sound of kids laughing, splashing, and squealing with excitement.
While my family doesn’t visit the beach every year, it’s a spot we make sure to hit up every 2-3 years, at least. Living in the southern United States, we have a dozen popular beaches within driving distance. The beaches come complete with white sand and a tropical feel, and the towns surrounding them are some of the best places for families with kids. They’ve got everything from popular dining, attractions, and water sports to shopping, nightlife and shows.
What kind of vacationer are you? Do you prefer a quaint, quiet beach town, or do you and your family like more of a party atmosphere? Regardless of which type of beach vacation you’re dreaming about, blogs like this one—a top blog for mom—can make some great recommendations for you.
Many people are surprised to learn that Alabama has a booming beach industry. These two spots are side by side on the gulf coast, and they are wildly popular in the surrounding areas.
Hotels are plentiful, and they come in a variety of budget ranges. If you’re looking for budget friendly, you’ll want to look a bit inland—but don’t worry that you’ll be trading beach time for a lower cost. Lots of these spots are within a few minutes’ walk of the sandy coastline. Other properties are right on the beach. You can also consider renting a beach house or a condominium. We’ve stayed at both hotels and rental homes in this area, and we haven’t been disappointed by either.
You might be wondering what types of activities Alabama beaches have to offer. Besides the obvious water time, there are plenty of excursions you can plan, like dolphin cruises or fishing trips. You can stop by Adventure Island, a popular miniature golf course (here’s a family tidbit—my kids are and always have been obsessed with mini golf!
The Wharf is another popular spot. It’s located in Orange Beach, and they’ve got shopping, dining, and attractions like the Ferris Wheel, the Axe Hole, and an escape room.
If you want to take some time to soak up nature and history, you can always take a short cruise over to Dauphin Island. We’ve made the trip and loved seeing the old forts as well as spotting dolphins as we sailed.
Also situated along the gulf coast, Destin and Santa Rosa beaches are sister destinations. They’re only a short drive east of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
If you’re one of those who prefer a more relaxed and serene beach experience, then I’d recommend Santa Rosa. We’ve taken our kids here twice and loved it both times. We stayed at a condominium just across the street from a public beach, and we couldn’t have been happier with the location. The waters here were calm and the white sand breathtaking.
The area has plenty of biking, local shops, and mom and pop dining. The Donut Hole is a popular spot for families with kids, and there are also places like 98 BBQ or the Local Catch Bar & Grill, for those looking to eat a bit more than dessert.
For those who want quiet but also wouldn’t mind a day of adventure, the drive over to Destin is quick and easy. Here you’ll find movie theaters, arcades, sunset cruises, and more.
Leaving the panhandle area, Sanibel Island and Captiva Island are along the gulf in south Florida, adjacent to Fort Meyers. These beaches have been popular with tourists for decades, but they were badly damaged during a hurricane in 2022. Rebuilding efforts have been going fast and furious since then, and many amazing spots have been able to reopen. It’s a great destination for families drawn to nature. Popular activities include shell collection (the area is famous for this), bird watching, and nature walks.
If your family is interested in shelling, you’ll want to bring a bucket and walk the beaches at low tide.
Regardless of which beach you feel drawn to visit, you’ll want to keep this time management tip in mind—download the free KFV app! You can use it to track great vacation spots for families like yours. You’ll be glad you did when you and your kids find the perfect activity. If you’ve got pets that you’d like to bring along, be sure to do some research ahead of time. Each of these locations offers pet friendly beach spots. And one last important tip—don’t forget your sunscreen!