A beach vacation doesn’t get much better than one spent on Florida’s Gulf Coast. From the panhandle of Florida and down the state’s western boundary lies the Gulf of Mexico and its gorgeous beaches. Along with this coastline are numerous beach towns that extend all the way down to the Florida Keys. In this southern location, the Gulf Coast offers mild temperatures in the fall, spring, and winter months with cool breezes to break the warmth of the summer months. Many of the towns that dot the coast offer condos and single-family homes on the beach and more modest vacation rentals a few blocks from the beach. Take a look at our ten favorite Gulf Coast vacation rental locations in Florida.

1. Panama City Beach

white sand beach
Source: Flickr / dconvertini

If your family loves being in the center of everything, then Panama City Beach has it all. Spend your days splashing in the water, building sandcastles on the beach, and soaking up the sun. In the evening, hit Miracle Strip Amusement Park to let the kids shout with glee as they ride on the carnival style rides, and don’t forget the funnel cakes. For some shopping, find all your favorite stores and places to eat at Pier Park.

2. St. George Island

seashore
Source: Flickr / patchattack

If it’s the island life for you and your family, check out peaceful St. George Island. You won’t find high-rise condominiums along the 26-mile island so find a beach cottage or luxury home. Pass the days in a haze of fishing, biking, boating, looking for the unique seashells, and exploring the local state park. The park features protected marshlands, making it a haven for birdwatchers. Take your binoculars to get a closer look at the birds and their habitat.

3. Destin

people at the beach
Source: Flickr / Karl Kyhl

Destin provides your family with an upscale beach vacation in an area that loves families. The white sandy beaches contrast beautifully with the emerald green waters of the Gulf. Spend your days on the beach or out on a boat. This vacation destination is well-known for its fishing, and locals call it the “World’s luckiest fishing village.” If you have some golf lovers in your family, send them out on the greens at one of the local golf courses.

4. Mexico Beach

blue sky over the pier
Source: Flickr / Karsun Designs

In the town of Mexico Beach, you and your family will find pristine beaches and protected sand dunes. Enjoy days on the beach, snorkeling, fishing, boating, and looking for rare seashells to take home as a souvenir. On the City Pier, the kids can take a chance at fishing, and you can take the catch of the day back to your vacation rental to make a fresh, healthy dinner for your family.

5. Cape San Blas

wild grasses
Source: Flickr / Steve Conger

Escape the crowds, and enjoy a leisurely pace of life when you choose one of the single-family vacation rentals on this small island. Spend your days under an umbrella on the beach in St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, where you can also go snorkeling. On this island are a couple of mom and pop restaurants where you can indulge in a seafood dinner that’s so fresh, you’ll wonder if they’re fishing out of the back.

6. Fort Walton Beach

beach view
Source: Flickr / dconvertini

Choose a condo at one of the many family-friendly resorts that line Fort Walton Beach. Here, you and your family find yourself in the middle of great beach activities including boating, fishing, kayaking, jet skiing, and sandcastle building. Take the kids to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park to see a show put on by trained dolphins while the golfer in your family hits the links at one of the local golf clubs. Enjoy plenty of options when it comes to shopping and dining in the area.

7. St. Pete Beach

sandy beach
Source: Flickr / Matt Wade

While away the days on the pristine white beaches in St. Pete Beach, and watch as the kids splash in the surf and bury their dad in the sand. For a little shopping, stop by The Pier, a five-story shopping center with all of your favorite shops and restaurants. With an average of 361 days of sunshine, St. Pete Beach lets you spend your days outside biking, fishing, kayaking, and boating in the Gulf.

8. Siesta Key

people walking at the bay
Source: Flickr / Ben Clark

Stretching across 8 miles, Siesta Key offers the low-key vacation that your family spends all year dreaming about. Rent bikes to spend an afternoon riding around the island. Stop at some of the quirky little shops in the main area, or enjoy a fresh seafood meal at one of the locally owned restaurants.

9. Naples

lighted shade
Source: Flickr / Pablo Tano

Enjoy the hustle and bustle of the downtown area of Naples with its quirky shops and a large variety of dining options, or spend your days on the white sandy beaches. Try your hand at fishing off the pier, or carry binoculars to get a closer look at the dolphins that frolic in the warm waters of the Gulf in this area.

10. Sanibel Island

beach shells
Source: Flickr / Jeremy T. Hetzel

If island life is the life for you, then check out the vacation rental options on Sanibel Island. The beaches on the island have so many seashells that the term “Sanibel Stoop” covers the act of bending down to pick up a new one. On the island, there’s a lighthouse from the 1880s. Enjoy all the traditional beach activities, including boating, swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and biking.