If you have ever wanted to see the Scenic Gulf Coast, I'd suggest that you take a road trip. Hop in your car and start this scenic drive in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. You will fall in love at every stop between these two towns. The views of the turquoise water and the history that you will learn about will inspire you to plan more road trips. I have compiled several fun things to do along this route, including some experiences that you will want to plan ahead for.
Note: I did receive complimentary admission to some attractions included in this article while on a press trip. All opinions are my own.
You will find that the beaches along this route are among the best in the nation, so sink your toes into the sand at every opportunity you are given. This road trip begins in Mississippi and ends in Florida. Spring and fall are ideal seasons for you to complete this road trip, but it can easily be done at any time of year.
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
This epic coastal road trip begins in the charming town of Bay St. Louis on the Mississippi Coast. My favorite place in Bay St. Louis is Old Town Bay. The shops here are unique. You will find Bay Elements, Bay Life, and other bay-inspired shops that offer antiques, art, home furnishings, and more. A surprise for many who visit Bay St. Louis are the Cajun and Creole flavors that have migrated here from New Orleans. Bay St. Louis is a foodie’s dream come true. Cuz's Old Town Oyster Bar and Grill, located across from the harbor on Beach Boulevard, offers all the seafood fixings you can imagine. From raw oysters to hush puppies, they have you covered.
The Carroll House Bed and Breakfast offers charming cottages and Southern hospitality for a cozy night’s stay in this coastal town. Plan to spend a minimum of 24 hours or a full weekend here, and allow yourself to be immersed in the culture of Bay St. Louis. While in town, explore Bay St. Louis's excellent food culture with additional restaurant-specific recommendations.
Biloxi awaits you as your road trip continues along the Gulf Coast. You will find several restaurants along the water for the perfect lunch with a view. A fun way to learn about the area, while getting out on the water, is to book a tour on a Biloxi Shrimping Trip. If you have ever had questions about shrimping or fishing, this is where you need to ask them. Your guides will literally show you what types of fish are in the bay.
At the end of your day, I would highly suggest dining at the White Pillars Restaurant, where you can order the Gulf Seafood Tower. On this particular road trip, I would suggest staying the night in Bay St. Louis first, then Ocean Springs (your next stop). Stay and play for the day in Biloxi, which is located in between the two towns.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Ocean Springs is an art town unlike any other. The thing that surprised me the most in Ocean Springs was that art was everywhere. The Walter Anderson Museum is one of the best and quirkiest museums I have ever visited. His art is found throughout the town as well as in the museum. Book your lodging at The Roost, a boutique hotel located in the heart of Ocean Springs. When you arrive in your room, look around at the beautiful, quirky art. You’ll find even more Walter Anderson, as Ocean Springs is proud of all of his artwork.
Plan to eat your breakfast at The Greenhouse on Porter. This is an actual greenhouse with a restaurant inside. And you guessed it, art is in the greenhouse, as well. Two full days in Ocean Springs will give you time to experience the charm of the town as well as the beautiful waters of Mississippi's Secret Coast.
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Dauphin Island is home to Alabama's Coastal Connection, one of America's Scenic Byways. Historical sites are a major attraction in this area, as Fort Gaines is open to visitors and worth your time. I would suggest planning to spend two hours in this historic fort. Bird enthusiasts will want to pack their binoculars and spend a day exploring the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary. There are more than 164 acres to explore including marshes, dunes, a lake, a swamp, and a beach. A visit to Dauphin Island would not be complete without a visit to Bellingrath Gardens and Home. As with any garden, I'd suggest visiting several times during the year, as you will always see something different. Plan a good three hours to explore these stunning gardens. Plan to spend a full day here as you travel between Ocean Spring and Gulf Shores.
Beached Cafe is the newest restaurant in town and offers barbecue and cold drinks in a relaxed environment. Spring and fall are exceptional times to visit this area of Alabama. Drive your car onto the Mobile Bay Ferry for a quick ride over to Gulf Shores, Alabama. Have your binoculars and your camera out during the ferry ride. You will see pelicans and, if you look down, you may see jellyfish in the water. At one point during the ferry ride, as you approach the middle of the bay area, you will be able to see Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines at the same time. If the weather is extreme, the ferry will not run. In these cases, you will need to drive around the bay area to make it to Gulf Shores, which will take approximately two hours.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
The ferry lands near Fort Morgan. Depending on the time of day, you may or may not be able to visit the fort on your day of arrival. While in Gulf Shores, you will want to have a bathing suit, sunscreen, bug spray, and binoculars. Book your lodging at The Beach Club, as it is close to many popular natural attractions. It's a short drive to return to explore Fort Morgan.
The Jeff Friend Trail, which runs alongside Alabama's Coastal Connection, is not to be missed. Kayak fishing with Whistlin' Waters is a wonderful way to get out on the water and enjoy the natural surroundings. This is a slow-paced fishing opportunity and worth every minute out on the water. And of course, you will want to spend a few hours on the beach in Gulf Shores. Let the fine sugar sand slide between your toes.
Lulu's Gulf Shores is a great place to grab lunch with a side of bread pudding. The Village Hideaway offers great, convenient, tasty meals on the Beach Club property. Plan to spend several days in this area, which includes your next stop, Orange Beach, where you will find a lot of things to see and do.
For even more inspiration, read up on
Orange Beach, Alabama
A few miles from Gulf Shores is Orange Beach. Book your stay at Turquoise Place for a beautiful view of the gulf. Start your day off with breakfast at BuzzCatz Coffee and Sweets. Enjoy an award-winning biscuit and a hot cup of coffee or tea.
Reserve a spot to make your own glass at the Hot Shop at the Coastal Arts Center. An artist will help you create your own glass creation to take home with you. If you want to get out on the water, book a dolphin tour. There are several dolphin tours to choose from, and they offer fun and educational experiences.
A stay in Orange Beach would not be complete without enjoying the amenities at Turquoise Place. Ginny Lane Bar and Grill offers a tasty dine-in or take-out meal with a view at The Wharf. And, depending on the length of your stay, you can try one or more of the seven best restaurants in Orange Beach.
Most importantly, enjoy the beach itself. The turquoise waters are a hop, skip, and a jump from your suite at Turquoise Place.
Port St. Joe, Florida
Port St. Joe is where you will wrap up this beautiful Gulf Coast road trip. This picturesque coastal town along the Gulf of Mexico is one that will win you over. The fishing is fantastic as is the seafood in the locally-owned restaurants. Peachy’s Beach Eats is also home to some of the best tacos on the beach. In fact, I loved the food here so much that on my next visit, it will be my first stop upon arrival in Port St. Joe. Make note to bring cash with you, as it is the only form of payment Peachy’s accepts.
The St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve offers a lot of information about the history of the area. This preserve is also home to birding and hiking trails that you can easily spend hours on. Cape San Blas offers some of the best beaches in Florida, and they’re near Port St. Joe.
In terms of accommodation, I would recommend choosing a property that fits your needs through Going Coastal Realty and Vacation Rentals. For a beautiful night or two on the beach, book your beach bonfire on the beach through Going Coastal Cabanas and More, and read up on these nine things to do near beautiful Port St. Joe before you go.
Each of the towns along this scenic road trip along the Gulf of Mexico offers something unique. You will find views of the beautiful water, historical sites, and many other experiences to enjoy. Try some new foods along the way and fall in love with the mouth-watering flavors each establishment serves up. Embrace the opportunities around each corner and make memories on your beautiful road trip from Bay St. Louis to Port St. Joe.