Let’s just get this out of the way: We did not coin the term Redneck Riviera and we mean no offense in using it. We say it with respect and appreciation for rednecks everywhere. Despite the humble and belying moniker, Redneck Riviera Beaches are arguably the top beach destinations in the continental United States.
The beaches run from Dauphin Island, Alabama to Panama City, Florida — a white, sandy shore traipsing 150 paradisiacal miles. Major stopovers along this supernal stretch are: Dauphin Island, Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Pensacola, Navarre, Fort Waldon, Destin, Miramar, the 30-A Highway, and Panama City.
We have labored for months — painstakingly — upon these beaches to bring you word of what we’ve come to know.
Cause if we don’t know this, then we don’t know anything at all: The following are the 20 Best Redneck Riviera Beaches, or we are complete and total liars. We hope you enjoy.
This is our favorite beach in the continental USA and therefore the best of the Redneck Riviera Beaches. The underwater topography in the area around Destin keeps the Tennessee quartzite sand free of shells. And furthermore, the water is impossibly turquoise. The only downside is the beach is private. Camping on the Gulf ($125/night), has a heroic beachfront plot for RV owners.
This might be the other best beach in the continental United States. The sand and water are as good as it gets and the coastline rambles like a Grateful Dead medley. If you’re willing to walk a little ways you can have some heavenly real estate all to yourself. We prefer this State Park to the other Florida panhandle parks because of the 30A location, expansive setting, and ease of approach to the sand.
Henderson Beach State Park is a public use beach in the middle of the Destin strip. At $6 a carload this is an incredible value for a world-class beach. While it lakes the upscale, private feel of somewhere like Miramar, the beach and water quality are the same. The sand and water get no better at any of the other Redneck Riviera Beaches.
There are a handful of wonderful Redneck Riviera Beaches around the town of Orange Beach, Alabama, and our favorite of the group was Cotton Bayou Beach. The setting is superior here, with easy access from the parking lot and all the fixings of a top-rated beach town within minutes.
St. Andrews in Panama City is widely considered one of the best beaches in the USA. The breakwater creates a calm bay at one end of the beach — perfect for snorkeling and fishing — and the rest of the shore is active with rolling waves. The beach is two-tiered with an elevated sandy bluff. If you come all the way to Panama City, this is the place to be.
If you’ve ever wondered who has the better beaches — Florida or Alabama — stop wondering, y’all. Check out our article, The Redneck Riviera Review: Florida Vs. Alabama, where we break it all down.
The three-miles of quartz-white sand and aquamarine waters in Topsail Hill Preserve State park are as good as anywhere else on the coast (and less crowded). The downside is you have to walk 20 minutes, wait for a tram, or ride your bike down a giant hill (and back up), to get to the beach. Its worth it, but its a pain in the butt, honestly. Great place to park your RV — plan far in advance.
The sand gets no whiter, the ocean bluer, the families richer, the town more sublime… Seaside, Florida is having it all. How-ev-er, this “public” beach no longer allows the public — you must rent housing in the vicinity to visit the beach. They even fenced it off and hired frat boys to check hotel keys. For those of you who rented a $600/nightly room across the street, you’re still paying $160 for chairs and an umbrella. If you bring your own they’ll show you to your “area” down the beach. If you can swing it, swing it.
Fort Walton is eight miles west of Destin. At the edge of Ft. Walton is a public beach/restaurant complex called Okaloosa Island. Home to 3 miles of sugar sand and emerald green water, this is the most active beach in the Destin area. Great for boogie boarding and even better for checking out co-eds.
Gulf State Park is on the short list of best state parks in the USA and definitely one of the best things to do in Orange Beach, Alabama. The park includes 6,000 acres of Alabama Gulf Coast and is home to nine unique ecosystems. There are three lakes for fishing, and miles of hiking and biking trails. And best of all, there are Redneck Riviera Beaches!
If you run a stretch of shore 35 miles in a straight line you shouldn’t expect to find many differences from one beach to the next. Therefore, judging beaches is kind of stupid. Yet nonetheless, here we are, judging beaches. The vibe and location are better than most of the Redneck Riviera Beaches, but the sand and water color will always lag behind Destin-Miramar-30-A.
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We found this active beach with boat-wake waves to be one of the best Redneck Riviera Beaches. There’s a lot of beauty in these surrounding areas, especially the Perdido Pass Bridge (in the background) views of Robinson Island and Terry Cove. The Gulf restaurant is across the pass — be sure to eat there!
The beach at Pensacola Beach is a tourist-heavy shore we don’t necessarily love. However, we do enjoy the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which runs west of Pensacola Beach to Fort Pickens and east of Pensacola Beach to the town of Navarre Beach. Same great sand and surf with a smaller crowd (and not a tacky restaurant in sight).
The 30A beaches have no shortage of fancy towns with posh housing and overpriced stuff. Rosemary Beach is the major installation on the southern end of the 30A strip, with twice the residents of Seaside. Like Seaside, Rosemary Beach disallows plebes from darkening its shores and requires the confiscatory tribute of $170/day for a chair/umbrella. Not our kind of place, but undeniably exquisite.
Pensacola Beach is a beautiful place to relax and get yourself wet. While incredibly popular, it is a crowded tourist beach, (similar to Okaloosa Island without the central location). We’ve been here a couple of times. The sand and water are great. Parking is plentiful. Lots to eat in the area. Redneck Riviera Beaches are the gifts that keep on giving.
Ed Walline is another Redneck Riviera Beach option in a long stretch of options; better than most, but not the best. I’ll tell you what though: We would sit on this beach 100 times before we would pay $170 to sit on a beach in Seaside or Rosemary Beach. Unless we were rich (but we’re not, dang it).
The Redneck Riviera has a crazy, drunken uncle further down the state. Check out the 10 Best things to Do in Key West before you get back to more important things.
If your family is looking for a childhood memory, all it takes is lodging near the shore and a double-scoop of bubblegum ice cream. For the annual vacation made easy, simply follow the Five Standard S’s: Sand, Sherbet, Shrimp, Sunset, Sleep. Blue Mountain Beach is the hidden gem on the Redneck Riviera Beaches.
Norriego Point is a sandy beach prominence (map) that helps form the mouth of Destin Harbor. A row of small bays protected by jetties on the east side are the perfect place for families to swim and watch the ships go by. Large birds nest in the dune that runs down the center of the point. If you want to stay in town AND avoid the crowds, this might be the best of the Redneck Riviera Beaches.
If you want to stay near Pensacola Beach but not necessarily in the town of Pensacola Beach, Navarre Beach is the next town over (17 miles east). The drive between the two towns runs along a quiet stretch of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. We’ve met people who love this place more than anywhere on earth. More power to them — Redneck Riviera Beaches have something for everyone.
Panama City has almost 500K residents making it the most populated of the Redneck Riviera Beach cities. Here you will find 27-miles of white sand, condominiums, tourist attractions, outdoor shopping malls, waterparks, and a tourist vibe. The water is dazzling, but the beach gets worked over and feels busy.
The exact opposite of Panama City Beach, Johnson Beach National Seashore is miles of sand without commerce or people. If you want to avoid the crowds this is where you go, as long as you can stomach the $15 per car entrance fee. At the very end of Perdido Key are the remnants of Fort McRee.
There is no wrong choice here; some are better informed than others, but every Redneck Riviera Beach has it’s trade-offs. The better the beach, the more likely there will be a massive hoard, which means you’ll need to arrive earlier in the day for parking and real estate on the sand.
If you want smaller crowds, go to the coast of Alabama. If you want the best sand and water you’ll ever see, brave the crowds (and higher costs) and head for Destin, Miramar, or the 30-A towns. We feel that Pensacola and Panama City are settling for less than you deserve. No offense if those are you digs.
For us, we choose Miramar most every time. One time we stayed in Orange Beach, Alabama for a couple of weeks and absolutely loved it. Those are our recommendations.
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
If you want more information about what to do in any of these places, here you go!
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