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10 Most Scenic Road Trips to Take on the Gulf Coast

The Gulf Coast of the United States is renowned for its stunning coastal landscapes, pristine beaches, and vibrant culture. A road trip along the Gulf Coast is ideal for soaking in the region’s beauty and experiencing the unique charm of Florida’s white sandy beaches or the wildlife in the bayous of Louisiana. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and prepare to be amazed by the breathtaking views and cultural delights that await you on these Gulf Coast road trips.

Highway 30A, Florida: The Emerald Coast Drive

Aerial 98 Scenic Gulf Drive, Regional Access to Miramar Beach, full public parking, white sandy shoreline near multiple story condominium, apartment, vacation rental neighborhood. Walton, Florida
Aerial 98 Scenic Gulf Drive, Regional Access to Miramar Beach, Florida.

Start your journey from the beautiful beaches of Fort Walton Beach or Destin. You’ll then continue on the Emerald Coast of Florida, where Highway 30A meanders for 24 miles through a series of picturesque beach towns. Catch white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and a well-balanced blend of architecture and natural beauty as you head towards Panama Beach, stopping by Santa Rosa Beach, Grayton Beach, and Seaside.

Take your time, and consider extending the adventure by spending a night in Panama City. For the last part of this journey, continue east, exiting Highway 30a and joining Highway 98 to drive to Port St. Joe. Be sure to visit the antique shops and relax on the pristine beaches of St. George Island.

Lake Village to the Gulf Coast: The Mississippi Run

The Natchez–Vidalia Bridge over the Mississippi River seen from the Under The Hill district in Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi
The Natchez–Vidalia Bridge over the Mississippi River in Natchez, Adams County, Mississippi.

Buckle up for a two to three-day, approximate 340-mile road trip alongside the great Mississippi River. Start in Lake Village, Arkansas, where you will have a chance to collect yourself in the blissful tranquility of Lake Chicot State Park. Head south and stop at Vicksburg, birthplace of many legendary blues musicians, for some bluesy charm. Continue south on Highway 61 and spend a night at Natchez for stunning river views. Once satisfied, you can follow the flow of the river along Louisiana Highway 15 South towards Baton Rouge, passing by several wildlife refuges.

While at Baton Rouge, be sure to indulge in Louisiana’s specialty, Creole cuisine! Fill up on foods like gumbo, jambalaya, and crawfish étouffée. Finally, head towards New Orleans and relax on the Gulf Coast, where the Mississippi finishes. Enjoy a thriving music scene and some of the best riverfront walks and views.

New Orleans to Tallahassee

Tallahassee, USA Capital city miccosukee street scenic canopy road with nobody in Florida during day with southern live oak trees
Tallahassee, scenic canopy road in Florida.

This two to three-day, 387-mile trip will soak your senses with beautiful views of the Gulf Coast, followed by incredible verdant views on the Canopy Roads of Tallahassee. Begin in New Orleans, where you can discover the iconic architecture and historic buildings of the French Quarter. Then, venture east towards Mobile and check out the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. You may also want to stop and smell the flowers at the Mobile Botanical Gardens. Relax with the views of the Gulf Coast before arriving in Tallahassee for its unique Canopy Roads.

Alabama’s Coastal Byway Adventure

Orange Beach is a Tourist Destination and Beach Town in Far Eastern Alabama on the Florida Border
Overlooking the road in Orange Beach, Alabama.

This 92-mile Gulf Coast road trip will bring you an abundance of coastal charm, beautiful beaches, and activities to keep you entertained! Begin in Destin, Florida, and head towards Pensacola, where you can spend a day exploring Fort Pickens and Fort Barrancas. Then, enjoy the beachy views as you drive to Orange Beach, Alabama, where you can stretch your legs and limbs with watersports and relax with some waterfront dining. Your next destination is Gulf Shores, renowned for its sandy beaches and Gulf State Park. Finally, relish in nature’s gifts with birdwatching and nature walks at Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge.

Fort Myers to Port St. Joe: From Fort to Beach

Beautiful First street in old town Fort Myers
Looking down First Street in old town, Fort Myers, Florida. Image credit Gabriele Maltinti via Shutterstock

You can start this three to four-day, 440-mile drive along the Gulf Coast at Fort Myers, Florida, where you can discover its unique history. It is a chance to walk into the winter estates of famous inventors Thomas Edison and Henry Ford! Head north towards Tampa and spend a day there, where you can enjoy a diverse dining scene. Whether it is Cuban, Spanish, or Italian that you are craving, there are plenty of options to keep you satisfied. Then, cruise along the Gulf Coast towards Port St. Joe with mesmerizing views of the water, and enjoy night stays at places like Cedar Key Island and Crawfordville.

The Texas Coastal Wildlife Tour

Pair of whooping cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas
Pair of whooping cranes at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas.

This two to three-day, approximate 221-mile road trip begins at the Padre Island National Seashore. Kicking off this wildlife tour, the Padre Island National Seashore provides 66 miles of protected land. You will then travel to Corpus Christi, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge (where you might be lucky enough to catch the last wildlife flock of whooping cranes), and finally finish the journey at Freeport. Be sure to stop by the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge and Justin Hurst Wildlife Management Area on the way to Freeport, for more chances to view wildlife!

Davis Mountains to Galveston Coast

Galveston Island along the seawall from the air
Overlooking the road along the shore on Galveston Island, Texas.

Blend an unforgettable mix of mountains, desert, and coastal landscapes on this two to three-day, over 650-mile road trip. After exploring Davis Mountains State Park, known for wonderful hikes and sweeping mountain scenery, head towards San Antonio, where you can rest after a long drive. Along the way, catch the fascinating vistas of stark deserts. Arriving in San Antonio, tour the iconic Alamo fortress, where you can learn about Texas’ fight for independence. Continue east towards Houston, where you can interact with NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Now, head to Galveston Coast, where you can relax on the blissful beaches of the Galveston Island State Park. After, you can enjoy Texas’ stunning coastal views as you head to Port Arthur.

Lafayette to Beaumont

An aerial view of Beaumont, Texas
Overlooking Beaumont, Texas.

Start this one to two-day, 160-mile trip with a blast of Cajun culture in Lafayette, Louisiana. Then, head along the coast towards Creole, stopping by Avery Island, home of the Tabasco sauce factory. Continue towards Port Arthur and experience the wildlife in the beauty of Sabine Lake, and the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge. Finally, return to the city life of Beaumont, Texas, and drop by the Texas Energy Museum or enjoy a relaxing stroll along the Neches Riverwalk.

Big Bend Scenic Byway, Florida

Apalachicola is a small Coastal Community on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida's Panhandle
Apalachicola on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida’s panhandle.

You’ll be bending your back trying to catch all the beauty of Florida’s Big Bend Scenic Byway during this 207-mile trip along the Gulf Coast. This road one to two-day trip starts in Tallahassee, where you can enjoy the sites of Florida’s capital city. Heading south, stop by the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Continue southwards towards Apalachicola, where you can spend the day, visit the John Gorrie Museum State Park, and learn about the inventor of air conditioning and refrigeration. As you continue west towards the pleasant Mexico Beach, soak in the gorgeous beauty of the Gulf Coast before arriving at the final destination, Niceville. Do not miss the crystal-clear waters of the natural springs by Econfina Creek!

Grand Isle to Cameron, Louisiana: The Creole Nature Trail

Drone aerial photo of houses in Grand Isle, Louisiana
Overlooking Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Your two to three-day, 290-mile road trip takes you to Louisiana’s Creole Nature Trail, which begins on Grand Isle and concludes in Cameron. You can spend some days at Houma and Lafayette. Be sure to stop by Lafayette’s Vermillionville Historic Village. Allow the Gulf Coast to take your breath away as you make stops at estuaries and extensive wildlife habitats, including Pointe Aux Chenes Wildlife Management Area, Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge, and the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge. Participate in the unique experiences of birdwatching, alligator-watching, and sunset-watching over the bayous on this special Gulf Coast experience.

The Gulf Coast is a treasure trove of scenic road trip opportunities, each offering its own blend of natural beauty, history, and coastal charm. Given its diverse attractions, it will be hard to run out of things to experience with the pristine beaches, cultural heritage, and wildlife encounters.


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