New Orleans & Mississippi Gulf Coast Road Trip
In the summer 2021, I decided to take a Gulf Coast road trip to get to know my home region of New Orleans, and include Mississippi, and Florida.
North AmericaUnited States7 days / June 2021
Highs & Lows
Eating my way through New Orleans
None to be found on this trip!
Even though I’ve lived in Louisiana for many years now, I had not taken the time to truly explore the Gulf Coast region.
This itinerary starts in a city I know and love well, New Orleans. I spent a long weekend enjoying, eating and drinking everything the city had to offer. After a fun-filled, but very busy weekend, I was ready to relax and unwind on the coast. My next stop was the idyllic small coastal town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Finally, I finished the week soaking in the sun (and tasting some yummy seafood!) on Florida’s Emerald Coast in Navarre Beach.
Even living within 2 hours of the city, I never tire of visiting New Orleans for a weekend. The multitude of amazing bars and restaurants is ever growing, so there is always something new to try.
I started my day with some cafe au lait and pastries from Sucre. Walking into the patisserie, I was greeted by a case filled with a rainbow of colorful, glittering pastries and sweets. It’s always so hard to choose just one–I usually pick out a few options and have them boxed up to save for later.
After breakfast, it’s time to explore! New Orleans is a super walkable city. Just walking through the city, admiring the historic architecture, is a great way to pass the time. No visit to New Orleans is complete without spending some time in the famous French Quarter. Being so popular, the area also tends to bring large crowds, especially in the afternoons and evenings. If you’d like to explore the French Quarter when it’s a little quieter, visiting early in the morning is usually much more peaceful.
Having worked up an appetite from my morning stroll, I took the streetcar uptown for some lunch. Seafood is always a good idea in New Orleans. Craving some oysters, I headed to Superior Seafood. The oysters here are the biggest I have ever seen, some of them the size of a man’s hand! The raw oysters here were perfectly fresh, leaving you with just a hint of the briny, salty flavor of the Gulf. I also had an order of fried oysters. I’m not usually a fan of fried seafood, but when in New Orleans, I had to try it. The fried oysters at Superior still kept that fresh flavor, with just enough breading to add a touch of crunch without being overpowering.
I spent the remainder of my afternoon with a little retail therapy in the Garden District. Magazine Street in Uptown is lined with an array of beautiful boutiques and funky vintage stores. My favorite was the Magazine Antique Mall. This place is a maze of cool vintage knick knacks. You can easily spend a couple hours just browsing.
If you get a little thirsty walking through up town, just pop into a nearby bar and grab a beer or cocktail to go. My favorite spot is The Bulldog–they’ve got a huge selection of local brews on tap.
In the evening, I was ready to relax and enjoy some live music in the city famous for jazz. Frenchman St. is the place to be for live bands and is a popular spot for the local crowd as well. Popular venues in the area include: DBA New Orleans, the Spotted Cat, Apple Barrel, and Cafe Negril.
A true hidden gem, Ocean Springs, Mississippi was the perfect spot to relax after a busy long weekend in New Orleans. I stayed at the Beatnik, a collection of luxurious cabins tucked away down a quiet, oak lined street in downtown Ocean Springs. This tranquil oasis is a destination in itself. I happily spent an afternoon lounging by the pool, listening to the birds sing and the trees sway in the wind.
The town was also home to the famous artist Walter Anderson, who spent months out on the barrier islands painting wildlife. His whimsical paintings capture the natural beauty of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I enjoyed admiring his unique and colorful work one on the rainy afternoon I visited.
A trip to the coast is not complete without a day at the beach. The proximity to the mouth of the Mississippi, where the great river unleashes tons of sediment each day, causes the water in most of Mississippi’s beaches to have a murky brown color. However, the nearby barrier islands just off the coast, have much clearer water. Most of these islands are only accessible by private boat, however Ship Island which is part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore can easily be reached by ferry. The highlight of my day was seeing the dolphins swimming next to the ferry en route to the island!
The Ship Island ferry operates from March-October. Round trip tickets cost $41 for adults and $35 for children. The ferry departs Gulfport at 9 am and 12pm, and returns from Ship Island at 2:30 pm and 5:00pm.
Getting off the ferry, there was a 1 mile walk to the other side of the island where the beach is located. Be sure to pack light, as it is a bit of a trek! Beach umbrellas and chairs are available to rent on the island. There is a small snack shop on the island, but I packed a picnic for my day by the beach.
I ended my trip along the Gulf Coast in Navarre Beach, Florida. Nestled between Pensacola and Destin, Navarre is a quiet, tranquil community perfect if you seek some solitude. The 12 miles of white, powder-sugar sand beaches are the main attraction here. You won’t find much else, so enjoy the rest and rejuvenation.
This stretch of Florida’s Gulf coast is known as the Emerald Coast for its aqua colored water. The water is very calm, I easily floated the day away in the gentle waves.
Navarre is a mainly residential area. There are a few restaurants around, but I enjoyed picking up some fresh fish and shrimp from the seafood market in town and having a quiet dinner in my condo. The Navarre Seafood Market will steam seafood to order as well. I stopped by for a steamed seafood lunch and picked up some fresh seafood to cook for dinner.
I ended each blissful day at the beach, glass of wine in hand, watching the sunset from my balcony.
Q & A
Anything go wrong during the trip?
We had some rain during the trip. I'd recommend checking the weather report and waiting until the day before or the morning of to book ferry tickets for Ship Island. That way you won't get rained out on your beach day!
How was the food?
The Greenhouse on Porter was a unique spot to grab breakfast in Ocean Springs. They have a daily selection of sweet and savory biscuits and you can dine inside the greenhouse!
What tips would you give a friend?
Here are some great day trips from New Orleans if you'd like to explore outside the city: Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve: Located just 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans, it is easily accessible by taxi or rideshare. Entrance to the park is free. It is a great place to experience nature in southern Louisiana. You can see an abundance of plant and animal life including alligators and snakes. Give snakes their space on walkways. Alligators typically remain in the water, unbothered by visitors. If visiting in the warmer months, be sure to wear plenty of insect repellent. Whitney Plantation: Plantations in the south hold such a dark history, and unfortunately the grandeur of the buildings often overshadows the trauma that continues to this day as a result of slavery and the plantation economy. For this reason, I have never felt comfortable visiting plantations before. The Whitney Plantation, however, puts the entire focus of their tours on the experience of enslaved people and the impact that the entire system has had on society....Read More
I live in southern Louisiana, so this was an easy road trip for me, with the farthest destination only a 6 hour drive away. If you are not located nearby, you can easily start your trip by flying into New Orleans. I recommend waiting until the day you plan to drive to Mississippi to pick up your rental car. Having a car in New Orleans is a bit of a hassle. Parking is difficult to find and expensive. It’s best to use public transportation or rideshare to get around the city. Navarre Beach, the final destination in this itinerary, is located nearby both Pensacola International Airport and Destin Fort Walton Beach Airport. Either airport would be a convenient place to drop off your rental car and fly home....Read More
Rideshares have gotten considerably more expensive recently in New Orleans. The streetcar is a great, affordable alternative to try. You can download the RTA Go Mobile App to track the street car route and pay the fare.