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  • Boardwalk through the marsh along the Creole Nature Trail
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    Festivals, Food and Nature in Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • Seeing the sites via streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana
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    Legendary Fun in New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Early morning light on the over a marina on the Biloxi, Mississippi, coastline
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    Coastal Adventures in Biloxi, Mississippi

  • Always in bloom at the 26-hectare Bellingrath Gardens and Home  in Mobile, Alabama
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    Experience the Beauty of Mobile, Alabama

  • Ordering a Cheeseburger in Paradise at Lulu’s, owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy, in Gulf Shores, Alabama
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    Natural Allure of Gulf Shores, Alabama

Taking in the sights and sounds of Royal Street in New Orleans, Louisiana
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Sights, Sounds and Flavors of the Third Coast

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

Diverse destinations along the Gulf of Mexico

The Gulf Coast, known as the “Third Coast” of the United States, is an area of beautiful white-sand beaches, bountiful fishing, golf and gumbo. Start a road trip in nature- and culture-rich Lakes Charles, Louisiana, and let sights, sounds and flavors guide you to four more destinations along the Gulf of Mexico.

01
Boardwalk through the marsh along the Creole Nature Trail
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Festivals, Food and Nature in Lake Charles, Louisiana

Flying in to Houston International Airport, it’s a 2.5-hour drive to Lake Charles, Louisiana. The “Festival Capital of Louisiana” is home to the state’s second-largest Mardi Gras celebration, while the rest of the calendar is equally packed with merriment – the Black Heritage Festival, Iowa Rabbit Festival, Cajun Music & Food Festival, Contraband Days Pirate Festival and the Southwest Louisiana Christmas Lighting Festival, to name but a few. Lake Charles is a stop on the Creole Nature Trail, a 290-kilometer scenic byway through bayous, marshes, and plenty of alligators and wildlife. Visit the Creole Nature Trail Visitor Center and Adventure Point in nearby Sulphur to learn about the trek through the so-called Louisiana Outback. Culinary adventure awaits around every corner, too; po’ boy sandwiches, gumbo, jambalaya and boudin are all on the list of must-try foods in this corner of the state. For luxury spas, restaurants, golf and more entertainment, Lake Charles’ four dazzling resorts will indulge and entertain your every whim.

332 km
4 hours by car
02
Seeing the sites via streetcar in New Orleans, Louisiana
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Legendary Fun in New Orleans, Louisiana

The culturally diverse home of Mardi Gras is a food, drink and music lover’s dream, thanks to a blend of French, Spanish and Caribbean influences over the past 300 years. Head straight to the French Quarter, where vibrant music, eclectic tastes and bold drinks abound. Take a walk along Bourbon Street and drink a hurricane rum cocktail if you dare. Tantalize your taste buds with mouth-watering beignets and café au laits at Café Du Monde, or order flavorful Creole and Cajun specialties at number of cafes, many of them with outdoor dining so you won’t miss any street festivities, including strolling musicians. Music, especially jazz, is one of this city’s most famous exports, so stop by one of the venerable venues like Preservation Hall or Tipitina’s to hear a sampling of the soulful locals or big-name guests. If you miss Mardi Gras in February, the French Quarter Festival in April showcases some of the area’s best musicians and culinary artists while early May’s Jazz & Heritage Festival celebrates the indigenous music and culture of New Orleans and Louisiana. Take a break from the city at the Audubon Nature Institute, where you can meet penguins or watch alligators feed at the zoo. Board a steamboat cruise or charter a boat and explore big, beautiful Lake Pontchartrain. After all of that excitement, buy some pralines – brown sugar pecan-filled candy – to enjoy as you take coast-hugging Highway 9, to reach Biloxi.

146 km
2 hours by car
03
Early morning light on the over a marina on the Biloxi, Mississippi, coastline
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Coastal Adventures in Biloxi, Mississippi

As you enter Biloxi, notice the waterfront resorts along Beach Boulevard and Bayview Avenue that helped make this hot spot for travelers. In addition to luxurious accommodations, you’ll find fine dining, big-name entertainers, gaming and championship golf courses. All is not new in the city, though; take a 90-minute guided tram tour through the historic town and see landmarks like the Biloxi Lighthouse. For a sampling of U.S. history, stop by the Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library. During your sightseeing, stop in one of the local restaurants, where it's almost certain the menu will include shrimp prepared in a variety of ways, including peel-and-eat, fried, in a po’boy sandwich, baked and stuffed or as an ingredient in famous Biloxi seafood gumbo. The crustacean is one of the area’s biggest exports, and you can learn how the locals earn a living by joining a shrimping tour. If you want to stay on the water, ride a ferry 18 kilometers off Biloxi’s coast to Ship Island, where you can walk through Fort Massachusetts. When you get back on land, it’s time to continue on Highway 90, or take Interstate 10, to zip across the Mississippi-Alabama state line up to Mobile.

101 km
1 hour by car
04
Always in bloom at the 26-hectare Bellingrath Gardens and Home  in Mobile, Alabama
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Experience the Beauty of Mobile, Alabama

During Mardi Gras season, colorful floats and marching jazz bands parade through downtown Mobile, where the celebration originated in 1703, 15 years before the tradition started in New Orleans, but visitors will find many reasons to visit year-round. In the lively and busy port city, on the banks of Mobile Bay leading into the Gulf of Mexico, an abundance of street parties and festivals attract revelers. For a quieter time, stroll through historic districts and relax in meticulously landscaped parks and squares scattered throughout the city. One of the top sites is the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, where you can walk the ship decks or board a World War II submarine. While you’re at the waterfront, stop in one of the restaurants to sample fresh, local seafood. Between mid-February and early June, the crawfish population booms, so sample the local staple at one of several bars on downtown’s Dauphin Street, where people gather to watch televised games at sports bars, dance and sing karaoke. Mobile also takes pride in its Mobile-Tensaw River Delta district and the wildlife living in forests along rivers, bayous and wetlands. Mobile is also known as the “Azalea City.” Experience some of the beauty at Bellingrath Gardens, which showcases flora blooming in the Southern spring. While it’s tempting to linger in Mobile, the final stop in your trip beckons with even more coastal charms.

More information
72 km
1 hour by car
05
Ordering a Cheeseburger in Paradise at Lulu’s, owned by Jimmy Buffett’s sister Lucy, in Gulf Shores, Alabama
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Natural Allure of Gulf Shores, Alabama

Heading south from the highway to Gulf Shores, enjoy exploring 51 kilometers of Alabama coastline by land or by sea. Ocean-lovers should take a dolphin and dinner cruise, where you’re likely to see bottle-nosed dolphins while dining. The more adventurous may choose to go deep-sea diving at the wreckage of the LuLu, a 83-meter cargo ship off the coast of Orange Beach. Get your adrenaline pumping at the Gulf Adventure Center inside Gulf State Park and zipline over the beaches. Parasailing, surfing, swimming, kayaking and skimboarding rentals are also popular recreational options. Back on land, families won’t want to miss the Bon Secour Wildlife National Refuge or Fort Morgan historical site and the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo. Don’t stay so busy that you forget to eat. Seafood, of course, is a staple here and you’ll find a number of restaurants, from casual beach bars to upscale resorts. If you’re a fan of Jimmy Buffett, stop at his sister Lucy Buffet’s waterside restaurant, Lulu’s, before you leave town. It’s time to drive 65 kilometers east to Pensacola International Airport in Florida to start your trip home.

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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California
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