Three Day Road Trip from New Orleans, LA to Panema City, FL

If you followed my previous article, then you know that in late January this year, my mother and I decided to go for a mini road trip to Grand Isle, LA after spending a long weekend in New Orleans. Armed with three full days before our flight took off and a tank full of gas, we had four hundred and fifty miles of land to cover and not a single activity or accommodation planned ahead of time. Here’s what happened.

Day One

We started off the day by crossing off a long-time bucket list item of mine – crossing the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. The Causeway is nearly 24 miles long, and is the longest bridge in the United States. We crossed many bridges throughout our trip, but one thing we quickly noticed that made The Causeway stand out was the many, many crossovers stationed throughout the bridge. Though the signs (and all other internet sources) informed us that they were for emergency stopping only, a chatty gas station attendant told us they were for travelers suffering from bridge-induced anxiety attacks (Of course once you start, you’re kind of in it for the long run! So it made sense to us).

Once we crossed over the bridge and stopped for gas from a southern company I was unfamiliar with, we began making the trek through Biloxi. For a time, we had debated whether or not to stop at the Jefferson Davis house for a quick break and history lesson. But upon further review of the many confederate flags that decorated the lawn, we made the better choice to go to the Waffle House across the street instead. 

It only took another hour to cross the Mississippi border into Alabama, and another few hours until we would reach Mobile. After much consideration and some assistance from Google Maps, we decided to take yet another long-ass bridge. This one being the Dauphin Island Parkway. 

From there, it was a twenty minute drive across the island until we reached Fort Gaines (fun fact, this was where the phrase: “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” originated from). We were the last one at the fort for the day, where we watched the sunset over the waves with oil rigs looming in the background like some kind of Mad Max film. 

We decided to spend the night on the other side of the island at the Gulf Breeze Motel, located facing the northside. Although we missed the chance at a beach view, it was just across the street from the public beach and only a short walk from a host of cute restaurants and gift shops. 

Day Two

We got going early this morning in order to catch the first ferry from Dauphin Island to Mobile Point. Being the off season, the Mobile Bay Ferry only ran a couple of times per day and only carried a handful of vehicles. But even regardless, we saved ourselves hours rather than driving all the way around through Mobile. 

Once we reached the other side, we drove along the coast until we reached Gulf Islands National Seashore. I’ve been to my fair share of beaches – but Gulf Islands National and Santa Rosa Island are by far some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. You know why? Because there was no one there. We had the whole place more or less completely to ourselves, with small parking lots scattered throughout the area. Though we were planning on spending only a half hour or so there, we ended up spending a majority of the day wading through the tides and bird watching. 

When it was finally time to leave, we made it to our final rest stop for the night – Destin, Florida, at the Sea Oats Motel. Although the other places we stayed at were wonderful, Sea Oats had everything you could need. A beachfront view and access, restaurants within (beach) walking distance. 

And, most importantly of all, being as it was late-January-slash-early-February, there was only one or two other guests in the entire building.  

Source: The National Park Service

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