Pack your sunscreen, your favorite swimsuit, a good read and your best floppy hat because we’re going to the beach! Lucky for Birmingham residents who are already thinking about summer vacation or spring break, there are many drivable beaches from Birmingham, Alabama for your next family vacation. After doing some research myself and taking it to the public for advice, I compiled this list of the best drivable beaches from Birmingham. So sit back, relax, and imagine all those coastal sounds and feels while we dive in!
I’m already daydreaming and can actually taste that salty water while writing this post. With this cold winter season lasting way too long for my liking in Birmingham, I find myself craving all things fun in the hot summer sun. And for me, nothing screams summer like a trip to the beach. So, without further ado, here are our recommended beach destinations, beginning right here in Alabama!
Only a four-hour drive from Birmingham, Dauphin Island is located three miles south of Mobile Bay, and is a cozy family friendly spot for beach lovers looking for a more intimate beach getaway. The island stretches 14 miles long and can be accessed by ferry ride.
Orange Beach and Gulf Shores
Known for their white sandy beaches and turquoise waters, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are among the most popular beaches in Alabama. The two sister beaches are only a four-hour drive from Birmingham and stretch 32 miles along Alabama’s Gulf Coast. With restaurants galore, tons of local activities, and pristine lodging options for all economic backgrounds, this area is destined to be a fun family-friendly beach getaway for all.
Located just west of Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan is a four-and-a-half hour drive from Birmingham. Famous for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay, this National Historic Landmark is a great place to visit for both beach lovers and history buffs!
And now for our Florida Beach picks:
One of the shortest drives from Birmingham is the Florida panhandle’s westernmost city of Pensacola. The emerald green gulf of Mexico waters and crystal clear coastal bay areas stretch over 50 miles and are a popular attraction for beach lovers looking for an all in one relaxed beach town with a busy metropolitan scene. Pensacola is also proudly home to the famous Blue Angels and has a strong and proud military heritage.
If you’re looking for a beach that’s a hub for rest and relaxation, look no further than Navarre, Florida. Found just east of Pensacola, Navarre is a compact community whose beaches stretch for 12 miles with beautiful views of the pristine, white shore line. Navarre prides itself on offering visitors a beach of solitude and simplicity with inviting clear waters. Have a passenger who prefers adventure over down time? No problem for Navarre! There are several opportunities to explore the town including fishing adventures, wildlife refuges, aquariums, delicious restaurants, shopping, golfing, and more. Navarre is a great four-hour getaway from Birmingham that has something for everyone.
Whether you’re a family looking for fun beach activities, a foodie looking for good restaurants, or a shopaholic on the quest for the best outlets down south, Miramar Beach in South Walton, Florida, has you covered! This vibrant and popular vacation destination is only four hours from Birmingham and has something for everyone. Featuring scenic beach roads, a slew of restaurants, surf shops, beachfront resorts and condos, along with sweeping views of the Gulf of Mexico, Miramar Beach is a great place to base yourself if you are looking for a more laid-back family vacation.
Known as the largest city between Pensacola and Tallahassee, Panama City is a beach vacation destination loved by many. To access the 27-mile stretch of white sandy beaches, Birmingham natives only have to drive four and a half hours. Once you arrive, be prepared to have a ton of activities to choose from. Panama City Beach is home to two state parks and a plethora of beach accesses. It is also a popular spot for fisherman, scuba divers, and lovers of other water activities like parasailing, jet skiing, and snorkeling. The nightlife in Panama City is always hopping with multiple restaurants, from casual family-friendly spots to fine dining experiences.
Often referred to as the “world’s luckiest fishing village,” Destin is another popular beach spot only four hours from Birmingham. This family-friendly beach town has something for everyone, including beautiful state parks to explore, a plethora of retail therapy options, lots of fun restaurants, and miles and miles of beautiful beaches to soak up that summer sun. Visitors also enjoy exploring the quaint beach towns surrounding Destin that are great for vacation lodging or short day trips.
Located right next to Destin, Fort Walton beach offers all of the beautiful attractions that Destin does but with a slightly less populated fuss. This destination is known for its emerald green waters and small town feel that packs a big punch for visitors from all over. The city is rich in history and has a variety of attractions to explore, including museums, parks, golf courses, aquariums, and more.
The Beaches of 30A
Between Destin and Panama City lie the beaches of 30A. Only a short four hour drive from Birmingham, Highway 30A is a collection of quaint beach towns that line the sugary white coast of Florida. Some like to retreat here for a quieter getaway than the busier areas of Panama City and Destin allow. Others prefer to visit for a fun-filled day trip away from the hustle and bustle of the larger beach towns. Because 30A beaches are more intimate, visitors won’t find large condos with chain restaurants and well known shops. Instead, 30A’s 20 mile stretch is filled with local food trucks, small businesses, and restaurants perfect for every foodie. Some of my favorite stops along 30A include the following:
- Santa Rosa
Perdido Key is a barrier island that is tucked away along the far eastern shore of Alabama and the far western shore of Florida. Its name is Spanish for “lost island,” and visitors of this secluded paradise would say that it’s a lost island definitely worth discovering. One could argue that Perdido Key is the best of both worlds in that it offers beautiful views of the emerald green gulf waters on its southern border with unique wetlands, wildlife, and estuaries on the northern border. There are several affordable family-friendly lodging options to choose from, and the bay area prides itself on being dog friendly! If you are looking for a quieter coastal town with a splash of quaint southern charm, Perdido Key is the place for you!
Port St. Joe
Deemed “a small town with a big heart” by local residents, Port St. Joe is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for more of a restful beach experience. This five-hour destination from Birmingham used to be a bustling fishing port along north Florida’s coast and still prides itself on being one of the best off-shore fishing ports on the gulf. In addition to the serene beach access, Port St. Joe also offers several parks, play grounds, walking trails, and a historic downtown district to explore. Port St. Joe is a wonderful place to visit for beach goers looking for a small town vibe where they instantly feel like locals.
St. George Island
St. George Island is a tranquil 28-mile Florida barrier island located five and a half hours from Birmingham. This destination is protected by low-density zoning and very strict business codes, which makes it more secluded than the others mentioned above. So, visitors won’t find any high rises or chain stores around town. But not to worry, there are plenty of quaint cottages and lodging options to choose from when visiting. Another perk to this quiet beach community is that it’s pet friendly, making it a dog lovers paradise, too!
Worth The Longer Drive
If you are wanting a beach experience but looking to get away from Alabama and Florida, look no further than Tybee Island. Located near Savannah, Georgia, Tybee Island is a small coastal community that is currently one of the top rated beaches in the US! If family time spent relaxing on the white sandy beach while enjoying crystal clear water is your jam, go for it! Are you more into jet ski rides, dolphin cruises, fishing, and ecological tours? Tybee Island has you covered, too! If you and your family are willing to drive a little farther from Birmingham, Tybee Island won’t disappoint.
Hilton Head (6 hours)
Known as “America’s Favorite Island,” Hilton Head offers 12 miles of pristine beaches and everything you need for the ultimate retreat. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy easy days relaxing in the sun and surfing on some of the best beaches in the country. Trust me when I say that the longer six-hour stretch from Birmingham is definitely worth it to experience everything that Hilton Head has to offer. It’s a favorite destination among so many of my friends here in Alabama, and after researching everything it has to offer I can definitely see why.
Hilton Head prides itself on being a Lowcountry destination with the ultimate southern charm. One thing that makes Hilton Head unique is that humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy the beaches year round. Every year, between May and October, the island welcomes loggerhead turtles to the beaches where they build hundreds of nests and lay eggs. In true Lowcountry fashion, the community works together to help these turtle visitors nest in safety and make sure the hatchlings can make the trek from the warm beaches to their new ocean home.