By Mollie Schiffer

The Ultimate Road Trip: Gulf Coast

Friday, October 17th, 2014

Pack your car with snacks and bevvies and get ready for a three day, 700 mile road trip along the Gulf Coast.  You’ll be taking the scenic route via route 90 and route 98 from New Orleans, Louisiana all the way to South Walton, Florida.

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Day 1: Louisiana
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Louisiana_Road_TripPhoto by Kevin O’Mara

If you have a few days to spend in New Orleans, have a look at our city guide or check out some family-friendly ideas. Make a quick stop for breakfast and/or coffee at Satsuma Café on your way out of town. Stay in for the Mexican Breakfast Plate, or take the Green Breakfast Sandwich to go. (Or revisit your favorite donut place.)

Louisiana road trip
Photo by Ydlydg 

You can’t leave Louisiana without visiting a swamp. Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours on Lake Martin, outside of Lafayette, offers year-round tours that don’t disturb the ecosystem. See cypress trees, Spanish moss, birds, snakes, and alligators up to 14 feet long. If you’d rather explore on your own, kayak and canoe rentals are available too. Either way, make a reservation!  Not unimportant bonus information: Champagne’s has the only restroom facilities at Lake Martin.

Tobasco Sauce
photo courtesy of Tabasco

Did you know that Tabasco Sauce comes from Louisiana? You can tour the factory to see how they age and bottle the famous pepper sauce, sample different flavors, get some free recipes, and visit the 170 acre Jungle Gardens, designed over a hundred years ago by the son of the Tabasco Sauce inventor.

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Photo courtesy of Nottoway Plantation 

Don’t leave Louisiana without visiting Nottoway Plantation, the largest remaining plantation in the south and completely restored to its antebellum glory, survived the Civil War with only one bullet wound. You can take guided tours of the mansion, show yourself around the grounds, and learn about the history of the plantation and the people who lived there. If you want to drive on, you can buy a hot-Louisiana-lunch-to-go for $2.99, or stay the night in one of the luxurious, pristine mansion rooms.

Road trip Playlist 1:

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Day 2: Mississippi and Alabama
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Silver Slipper
Photo by Corey Balazowich

Before Hurricane Katrina, the Mississippi Gulf Coast was one of the largest casino markets in the US. After the catastrophic destruction of the water-based casinos in the Hurricane, the Mississippi Gaming Commission decided to rebuild the casinos on land. The Silver Slipper Casino was the first casino built on the ground in Mississippi, and pays homage to legacy of the famous Vegas casino of the same name which closed in the 80s. Make a stop and try your luck at the table games or in the high limit salon.

 Lazy Magnolia Brewery
Photo courtesy of Lazy Magnolia

Kids and designated drivers (very important — this is a road trip after all) get in for free to tour the Lazy Magnolia brewery, home of the first beer in the world (probably) to be made with whole roasted pecans. All not-designated-driving tour guests of legal age can try up to six different beers. Tip: if you can make it on the first Friday of the month, join the First Friday Party, where you can enjoy 12 samples, a specialty pint glass, good food, and live music.

Walter Anderson Museum
Photo by Amy Halverson

It’s time for a museum. The Walter Anderson Museum of Art in Ocean Springs is dedicated to the works of Gulf-Coast artist Walter Inglis Anderson and his brothers, and is a great place to learn about the local history and nature. Anderson’s work focuses on the plants, animals, and people of the Gulf Coast and includes paintings, block prints, ceramics, drawings, carvings.  Make sure to visit “The Little Room,” a room from his house covered in murals illustrating a 24 hour day. Anderson lived in this “Little Room” until his last days, but no one saw the work inside until his wife and her sister broke into the room after his death.

 

 

 

 Mobile Carnival Museum
Photo courtesy of the Mobile Carnival Museum

In 1703, the first organized Mardi Gras celebration in what would become the US took place in Mobile, Alabama (which was, at the time, the capital of French Louisiana). Visit the Mobile Carnival Museum to learn about the evolution of Mardi Gras from the 18th Century to the present. Have a look at robes, crowns and scepters of Mardi Gras royalty, costumes from various time periods, and historic photos going back to the 1800s. Take a tour with a docent to get the most out of the museum (you can even call ahead and request a private tour).

After the museum, head down Government Street to the Berney/Fly  Bed and Breakfast to rest up for day three. Drink your Lazy Magnolia Beer on the quintessential southern front porch, or relax in the sub-tropical backyard paradise.

Road trip Playlist 2:

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Day 3: Alabama & Florida
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Gulf Coast Road Trip
Photo by Brad Hammonds

Do you ever think about the connection between athletic competition and artistic expression? Did you even know there was such a thing as “sport art”? In Daphne, Alabama, on the United States Sports Academy campus, you can visit the American Sport Art Museum and find out all about it.  Their collection has more than 1,000 pieces and is believed to be the largest collection of sport art in the US, and possibly the world. Visit the museum any weekday (it’s closed on weekends). Bonus: it’s free!

 Fair Hope Brewing Company
Photo by Ashley Rowe, courtesy of Fairhope Brewing Company

Fairhope is the hometown of Jimmy Buffett and a popular “wintering” spot for artists and intellectuals. Go to the Windmill Market for handmade arts & crafts and live music, and grab lunch ingredients at the Local Grocery (they have tamales!).

Take your lunch with you to the taproom at the Fairhope Brewing Company, the only brewery in the Gulf Coast Region of Alabama and a BYOF establishment. Yes. Bring Your Own Food. The brewery only has official tours on Saturdays, but if you ask nicely, they might give you one anyway. Or let the enthusiastic staff tell you all about the brewery and their process while you sample the different (and cleverly named) brews in the taproom. You can only get this beer in the region, so don’t miss out when you pass through!

National Naval Aviation Museum
Photo by Andy Milford 

Pensacola Florida is home to the National Naval Aviation Museum, the largest naval aviation museum in the world. See more than 150 restored aircrafts and learn about the history of aviation, or try out a flight simulator. If you come at the right time, you can have a front row seat to watch the Blue Angels practice. Bonus: if you don’t want to risk hurting your neck looking up, the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum allows visitors to watch the practice at eye level from the catwalk of the lighthouse.

South Walton County, FL
Grayton Beach, photo courtesy of Visit South Walton

South Walton County Florida is home to 26 miles of white sand beaches with 16 unique beach neighborhoods. Grayton Beach has been called the best beach in the US. The artsy, laid-back beach town with narrow, live-oaked lined streets is a great place to relax at the end of a road trip. Spend the afternoon on the extensive, self-guided nature trail, through sand dunes, the coastal dune lake, pine flatwoods, marsh area and miles of beach, and the evening at the local favorite Red Bar. Tip: if you’re curious about the other beaches in the area, use this tool to find the right beach for you.

 Red Bar
The Red Bar, photo courtesy of Visit South Walton

Road trip Playlist 4:

After three long days of driving, stay the night in luxury in the Watercolor Inn & Resort at the nearby Santa Rosa Beach, or find more hotel options here.

 

Mollie Schiffer
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Mollie is a musician, nightclub owner, vegan baker, and enthusiastic traveler. She is allergic to horses and onions, and loves Thai food and flying in planes.