With fall setting in around much of the U.S., some travelers may be searching for warmer climes. October is a great month to visit the beaches of Florida, Alabama, Texas, and southern California if you're looking to escape the oncoming chill of winter. And with hurricane season largely over, it's a risk-free time to book in the Gulf South.
Dauphin Island, AL
This Alabama barrier island flies under the radar, especially this time of year. It's typically a retreat for sand-seekers from nearby Mobile and the occasional college student skipping class in town. The island's seafood restaurants, fishing camps and quaint rentals will charm, and the clear Gulf water will make you glad you chose Dauphin Island. Check out Fort Gaines, a National Historic Landmark, on the island's eastern tip.
Gulf Shores, AL
Just a ferry ride away from the #1 pick, Gulf Shores is more built-up than its neighboring Dauphin Island. Here you'll find colorful vacation rentals on the beach and on the island's network of canals, which are perfect for kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. Fort Morgan, on the western tip, guarded the entrance to Mobile Bay during the Civil War and is open to visitors.
The Florida panhandle is chock-full of beautiful beaches, but Destin is an easy pick for one of the best beach vacations in October. There's excellent beach combing here, and the blue-green waves are perfect for your boogie board. Consider taking advantage of the many deep sea fishing excursions available, too.
St. Augustine, FL
Founded by the Spanish in 1565, this Florida city is the oldest permanent settlement in the U.S. It's filled with historical buildings, cobblestone streets and quaint shops, not to mention its superb beaches. If you're interested in the history of the town, the visitor's center screens films of St. Augustine history.
Naples, Florida is big with snowbirds flocking south to escape the harsh Midwestern winter, but October is still fairly free of these throngs. You'll have your pick of vacation rentals and easy access to the boutiques and upscale restaurants in the town's center.
Clearwater Beach, FL
Situated between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, Clearwater easily makes the list for the best beach vacations in October. The weather is balmy and the opportunities for fun abound: parasailing, beach volleyball, fishing, dolphin watching cruises, and access to Tampa's outstanding aquarium.
Florida Keys, FL
The 100-mile stretch of mangroves, coral reefs, and beaches from Key Largo to Key West is perfect for an October visit. The threat of hurricanes is gone and it's easy to find ways to keep busy with opportunities for scuba diving, fishing, and touring historic Key West. Consider a cruise to Dry Tortugas National Park ; bring your snorkel if you go.
South Padre Island, TX
This south Texas beach is admittedly a little tough to get to, but it's worth the haul. The pristine beach is just a few miles from Mexico and has a Caribbean feel. When you're ready to get off the beach, check out South Padre Island's shops, great restaurants, and thriving nightlife.
Port Aransas, TX
The ferry ride to Port Aransas should put you in mind of a vacation if navigating the sprawl of Corpus Christi, Texas has thrown you off. Shops, restaurants, and the seclusion of Mustang Beach are some highlights.
Coronado Beach, CA
Spitting distance from San Diego, this beach is an excellent place to surf and enjoy the ridiculously nice So-Cal fall. Check out the leash-free dog beach if you've brought your best friend. You're also close to San Diego's famous zoo and the restaurants and nightlife of the historic Gaslamp Quarter.