If you’re planning a beach trip in the South, chances are Gulf Shores is on your mind.

If not, then perhaps Florida is the next best thing with affordable beach cities like Destin in the state’s panhandle.

But, let’s tap the brakes a minute. When it comes to the Gulf Coast, many beaches are overlooked.

From the Spring Break party beaches of South Padre Island to the shores of Mississippi, multiple sunny getaways deserve more attention.

One beach city is up for the challenge and rising in popularity. So much so Southern Living recently named it as one of their ‘South’s Best Cities on the Rise’.

While many travelers have their sights set for Gulf Shores, the lovely city of Gulfport one state over is making a name for itself as a cheap vacation destination.

So Long New Orleans! More Direct Flights To Gulfport

As summer gets closer and closer, more travelers are making their annual beach trip plans.

Summertime is not kind to the South unless you live near the coast.

Breeze plane

Between the desert, swamplands, and extreme humidity of such urban areas as Austin, Houston, and New Orleans, if you’re not seeking a beach getaway, you’re definitely seeking air conditioning.

Beach vacations seem to be a cure-all for not only the summer heat, but our everyday stresses as well.

One reason Gulfport is on the rise is because it’s a lot less stressful to reach with the addition of new flights.

Of course, many Southerners will make one heck of a road trip to their beach of choice, and Gulfport should now be strongly considered among the more popular destinations.

Gazebo and palm trees on beach in Gulfport

If road trips aren’t your style, some travelers can now skip flying into New Orleans and fly directly to the Gulfport–Biloxi International Airport (GPT) with Breeze Airways.

Late last year, new flights were launched from Tampa and Las Vegas. Gulfport has a small airport but flying direct always makes life easier.

Travelers can now fly nonstop into Gulfport from these U.S. cities:

  • Dallas
  • Charlotte
  • Houston
  • Atlanta
  • Orlando (seasonal)
  • Minneapolis (seasonal)

Breathing New Life Into Gulfport

Mississippi Gulf Coast welcome sign

Mississippi is embracing the challenge of taking nearby Gulf Shores and Florida head on by pouring in tons of money to make Gulfport a top vacation spot.

Well on their way, but with many more hurdles to climb, the city has received a much-needed makeover, especially downtown.

Tourists should expect to see noticeable improvements in Westside Downtown, along with the Trackside Innovation, Gulfside, and the Aquarium districts.

That being said, tourists should keep an eye on upcoming hotels where Southern Living notes the Gulfport Town Center will soon be booming.

Sunrise over Gulfport, MS

A Highly Underrated Beach State

When visiting certain areas of the Gulf, expectations should be tempered. Beach towns are always fun, but Gulfport is definitely not Cancun.

The Mississippi Coast’s big selling point is a relaxing getaway with fun things to do at a very affordable price point, unlike many other popular summer getaways.

Vacationers should expect to be able to fill their itineraries with hours spent on nice beaches, but you can leave your snorkeling gear at home unless you plan a day trip to Ship Island.

Gazebo and palm trees on beach in Gulfport

That’s right, Mississippi is an island destination and you’d be shocked how nice it is. Besides Gulfport, there is also Biloxi, which shares its name with the city’s airport.

Your best bet for the nicest beaches are Ship Island for the prettiest water and Pass Christian for the most space.

Gulfport and Biloxi are fun cities with nice hotels, casinos, and charming districts, as well as plentiful shopping and delicious eats, especially fresh catches.

How Affordable Are We Talking?

Blue beach chairs in Gulfport

If it’s any consolation, Realtor.com named Gulfport the most affordable beach town in 2023. While this surely relates to housing prices, Gulfport’s affordability transfers over to beachgoers as well.

Along the coast from Gulfport to Biloxi, vacationers can stay in waterfront stays for far less than where hordes of beachgoers invade in the summer.

For example, these 3 top-rated hotels are under $120 per night this summer:

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