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  • Exploring Royal Street in the New Orleans French Quarter
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    New Orleans, Louisiana: Get the Party Started

  • A parade float during Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama
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    Mobile, Alabama: Southern Charm with a Coastal Vibe

  • Kayaking the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in Alabama
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    Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Alabama: Into the Wild

  • Boutique shopping in Fairhope, Alabama
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    Fairhope, Alabama: Pretty as a Picture

  • Thrill rides for all ages at OWA Amusement Park in Foley, Alabama
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    Foley, Alabama: Outlet Shops and Thrill-ride Drops

  • The white-sand beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
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    Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Posing with the Alabama Welcome Sign on a road trip
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Gulf Coast USA: From New Orleans to Alabama’s Historic Sights and Coastal Towns

By Zaida Rios

  • Route distance:
    716.00 km
  • Suggested Time:
    5 days

Cruising along the U.S. Gulf Coast has all the makings of a perfect road trip: sunny skies, beaches, shopping, dining and culture.

Best of all, it’s all within close proximity so there’s no rush or long drives. Start the fun in unforgettable New Orleans then travel east into the equally fun-loving Mobile area. Along the way, be sure to make stops in quaint Fairhope and the shopping haven of Foley. End your coastal road trip at the lovely white-sand beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.

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Exploring Royal Street in the New Orleans French Quarter
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New Orleans, Louisiana: Get the Party Started

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International (MSY) is accessible from many major destinations. Pick up a rental and head into one of the most historic cities in the South. Although its reputation centers on its festivals and nightlife, New Orleans has something for every interest. Explore the compact French Quarter on foot to see its quintessential landmarks: photo-worthy St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square and shopping plus dining at the French Market. Must-see museums include the Cabildo, the Presbytère, the 1850 House and the Jazz Museum. Board the St. Charles Streetcar – the oldest continuously operating streetcar in the USA – and snap pictures of historic districts, stately mansions and oak-lined avenues. Food fanatics of all persuasions will find it impossible to even scratch the surface of what the Crescent City has to offer. Hearty gumbos, spicy jambalaya, seafood-stuffed po’ boys, massive muffaletta sandwiches, sweet pralines and warm beignets are just some of the essential local flavors. When the sun goes down, live music and craft cocktails lure party-goers to the streets. Be sure to rest up for the drive eastward to Mobile. Opt to take the Causeway over Lake Pontchartrain. It’s the longest continuous bridge over water in the world and it adds just a few minutes to your drive.

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232 km
2 hours by car
02
A parade float during Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama
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Mobile, Alabama: Southern Charm with a Coastal Vibe

You might be surprised to know that Mobile – not New Orleans – is where Mardi Gras in America started in 1703. Mobile’s annual celebration lasts for two-and-a-half weeks before Ash Wednesday, so it’s perfectly acceptable to hit the party in New Orleans and Mobile – no judgement! Cultural influences from Mobile’s former French, British and Spanish occupants can be seen throughout the seven National Register Historic Districts. Tour the meticulously furnished 1860 Richards DAR House Museum, the circa-1833 Historic Oakleigh House or the hauntingly beautiful Magnolia Cemetery. For the hungry traveler, Mobile’s food scene won’t disappoint. Whether it’s Southern soul food, fresh-from-the-boat Gulf seafood or tender barbecue, you’re sure to delight in it here. Try Wintzell’s Oyster House for a casual atmosphere, or go upscale with steak and seafood at Dauphin’s – the views of Mobile can’t be beat. Dauphin Street is great for after-hours drinks and dancing. Get up early for a trip into America’s Amazon: the Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

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13 km
0.5 hours by car
03
Kayaking the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in Alabama
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Mobile-Tensaw Delta, Alabama: Into the Wild

Much to everyone’s amazement, you don’t have to leave the city’s vicinity to feel like you’re a world away. The Mobile-Tensaw Delta is one of the most biologically diverse areas of North America with an astounding range of flora and fauna. With more than 300 species of birds, it’s a bird-watcher’s paradise. Kayakers and canoers can paddle the 300+ kilometer Bartram Canoe Trail, while fishing fans can angle for bass, trout and catfish. Rentals, guided kayak tours and eco tours on a pontoon boat are all offered through Delta Safaris at 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center. The delta is a perfect half-day outing before driving to Fairhope, just 30 minutes south.

42 km
0.5 hours by car
04
Boutique shopping in Fairhope, Alabama
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Fairhope, Alabama: Pretty as a Picture

Some might call Fairhope “sleepy.” Perhaps, it is, but in the best possible way. Southern Living called it the Best Small Town in the South in 2016, and you’ll certainly be charmed by this coastal haven. There are hiking, biking and equestrian trails at Historical Blakely State Park, the site of Alabama’s largest Civil War battle. Stroll down Fairhope Avenue, lined with charming shops and boutiques, galleries, cafés and antique stores. It’s the ideal place to pick up a unique souvenir and stop for a bite to eat. Follow Fairhope Avenue to the waterside to watch the sunset on the pier. Splurge on an overnight stay at the the AAA Four Diamond-rated Grand Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection, in the neighboring town of Point Clear. With a luxurious spa, two golf courses, upscale dining and bay views, it’s no wonder it was named the 2015 top resort in Alabama by Travel + Leisure. Relaxed and ready? Good. Time to head on to Foley.

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34 km
0.5 hours by car
05
Thrill rides for all ages at OWA Amusement Park in Foley, Alabama
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Foley, Alabama: Outlet Shops and Thrill-ride Drops

Just a short drive from Mobile Bay, the small town of Foley offers a few quaint attractions – a clever model train exhibit, an old train-depot-turned-museum and tranquil outdoors activities at Graham Creek Nature Preserve – but Foley is a shopper’s paradise, especially for those who love a good bargain. Find deals and discounts galore at Tanger Outlets, featuring name brands such as Nike, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Under Armour and Coach. If you’re a thrift-store fan, explore the locally owned shops along Foley’s Bargain Hunter’s Thrift Trail. Need to pick up the speed? You’ll find it at OWA Amusement Park, where the rides range from kid-friendly amusements to thrill rides like Rollin’ Thunder, a roller coaster of twists, turns, loops and inversions. You can easily make it to Gulf Shores in the evening to finish out your coastal Alabama tour.

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19 km
0.5 hours by car
06
The white-sand beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
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Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Alabama’s beaches are some of the best in the USA. Just 20 minutes way, you’ll be greeted by sugar white sand beaches and the soothing warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf Shores and nearby Orange Beach are twin resort destinations with plenty of sun and fun throughout the year. Go fishing, hiking, biking, kayaking or swimming at Gulf State Park. To stay overnight here, you can camp or rent cabins near the park’s lake or stay on the beach at The Lodge at Gulf State Park.

Visit in May for a weekend of live music on the beach at the Hangout Music Festival. Socialize with locals and other travelers at a beachfront restaurant with some just-caught seafood and a tropical drink. Traveling with kids? Don’t miss LuLu’s, where the food is served with live music, a ropes course and an arcade right on-site. After sunset, head to the Pink Pony Pub for drinks and nightlife. Tanned and rested, you’ll be ready for your return flight home from New Orleans International.