A few weeks ago, my mother and I decided to rent a car and drive from New Orleans to Grand Isle, Louisiana.
I’ve always had a thing for driving to the farthest end of something. After spending three days touring around New Orleans, we studied our maps to see if there was anything interesting before continuing on our planned route further east. Grand Isle caught our eye, and the two hour drive wasn’t a difficult decision to make.
Once we left the city, we were quickly introduced to the high-soaring interstates that crossed the Louisiana bayous, the scattered treeline reaching far below us. The drive itself ended up taking a little over two hours total, with many more bridges crossing our way.
After passing through the (accurately-named) town of Cut Off, we reached the toll bridge that took us to the barrier islands. At nearly eight miles, the Louisiana Highway 1 bridge is one of the largest in the world. But it didn’t feel like it (especially after crossing Lake Pontchartrain the next morning!). Like the bayou interstates crossed earlier, the bridge soared high in the sky, the ships looming below and the barrier islands connecting between. Far ahead, we could see the distant profile of oil rigs. By then, we truly felt as though we were separated from the mainland. We crossed the bridge to Grand Isle on Superbowl Sunday – meaning there were very few other vehicles joining us on our journey. It felt like we were in a sci-fi movie.
Aside from the miles-long bridge, the town of Grand Isle is a civil engineer’s dream. The entire town is on stilts. Like, the entire town. Churches, gas stations, schools, and residential houses alike. It’s no surprise, as the town is unfortunately hit with hurricanes every couple seasons or so. But it certainly gives the town a charm like no other. At least, that certainly was the impression laid upon a couple of curious and very land-locked midwesterners.
Grand Isle may not be what initially comes to mind when thinking of winter getaway destinations. It became very clear that fishing is the main attraction that brings locals and outsiders alike to the barrier islands. That night, we stayed at the Blue Dolphin Inn overlooking the beach. It was clearly in the off-season, as we only noticed one other truck parked below us. But on the plus side, we got nearly the entire beach to ourselves. And when we stopped at Grand Isle State Park, we had the entire park to ourselves too!
Grand Isle State Park is located all the way at the far end of the island. The first thing we noticed when we pulled in through the entrance was the magnificent pier that jutted out into the Gulf of Mexico. Nearby flags warned of possibly dangerous wildlife lurking in the bushes (we made sure to stay on the designated paths) and incoming tides. The beach itself was amazing though, and absolutely worth a visit.
All and all, Grand Isle was a very special place. It would be interesting to see what it is like in the busy summertime, or during one of their many fishing tournaments, when more restaurants are open and the air is filled with excitement. Regardless, Grand Isle was an interesting and exciting start to our southern road trip!