The glittering waters of the Gulf of Mexico lap the shores of the American South, from Florida’s southwestern tip over to Louisiana’s bayou country and beyond. For millions of Southerners, the region is synonymous with spring break and summer vacation. Our guide to the Gulf offers some of our favorite ways to enjoy a getaway to this picturesque shoreline. Find your perfect Gulf town, choose from the coolest accommodations (private island, anyone?), and pull up a chair at the bars locals swear by. There’s even a field guide of sorts for spotting colorful residents and sighting visiting celebs. So dive right in, and find the corner of the Gulf you want to explore.

By Jennifer Bradley Franklin  |  Illustrated by Anna Simmons


Awesome Resorts in the Gulf of Mexico

Check in at one of these full-service establishments, among the most storied in the Gulf, from the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi to the legendary Loews Don CeSar (aka: the Pink Palace).

Shell Game on Sanibel Island

The Gulf Coast beaches are considered the best in North America for shelling, and nowhere is this more evident than along South Florida’s Lee Island Coast, a fifty-mile stretch of white, sandy coastline studded with more than 100 barrier islands.



Weight in pounds of the largest tarpon on record, caught and released by a local angler in 2013 off Anna Maria Island, Florida. Sixty miles south, Boca Grande, the “Tarpon Capital of the World,” welcomes sport fishermen looking to land their own prize catch during a series of spring tournaments.


Number of eggs that will be used to create a Giant Omelette of Friendship in coastal Abbeville, Louisiana, this fall. It’s a nod to Louisiana’s French roots: Napoleon famously requested a giant omelette be made for his troops in Bessieres, France.


Number of rare dune lakes (composed of both fresh and salt water) along Scenic Highway 30A in Florida’s South Walton County. The only other instances of the phenomenon occur in Madagascar, Australia, New Zealand, and


As in 100 Men Hall. A stop on the legendary chitlin’ circuit, a network of mostly Southern black nightclubs, the Bay St. Louis venue has welcomed greats such as Big Joe Turner, Etta James, and Fats Domino. Today, the historic 1922 club—which still hosts live shows—is part of the Mississippi Blues Trail.