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  1. Default Florida (and New Orleans) road trip

    Hi all,

    I'm planning a road trip to New Orleans then a loop of Florida in April, and I'm just after any advice or ideas about a couple of parts of the trip. I'm there for 17 days and am planning to camp for a good part of the 16 day trip (flying a tent over from the UK), as I did this round New England in Sept and really enjoyed it.

    So far, the plan is:
    Day 1 - Drive a couple of hours out of Orlando heading west
    Day 2 - Drive to Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola and camp for a couple of nights
    Day 3 - Explore the area
    Day 4 - Drive to New Orleans
    Day 5 - Stay in New Orleans
    Day 6 - One more night in New Orleans (may cut this down to two nights)
    Day 7 - Drive up into Alabama, maybe to Montgomery where there looks like there's some interesting civil rights museums/memorials
    Day 8 - Drive towards Jacksonville, FL making our way through some small towns and stopping the night somewhere in between
    Day 9 - Camp at Little Talbot Island
    Day 10 - One more night at Little Talbot Island (may cut down to one night)
    Day 11 - Drive towards Key West, stopping somewhere in between
    Day 12 - Arrive at Key West and camp the night if possible
    Day 13 - Drive to Everglades and camp
    Day 14 - Camp again
    Day 15 - Drive up towards Tampa and possibly stay around there
    Day 16 - Either stay around Tampa, or head to Orlando
    Day 17 - Fly home

    First off - does this look sensible? The main things I'm still not sure about is the journey from New Orleans to Jacksonville - I would like to go through Alabama and Georgia, but would this just add too much time?
    The second thing is the trip from Jacksonville to Key West - any suggestions about where we should stay? And would it be worth cutting Little Talbot Island down to one night?

    Any advice would be very welcome!

    Thanks,
    Luke

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tucson, AZ
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    9,813

    Default A Few Tips to Start

    First of all, I would suggest that your upcoming trip to the South in spring is going to be quite unlike your previous trip to New England in the fall, for a number of reasons including weather, travel distances, bugs, and history. It's not that one would necessarily be better than the other, that's up to your individual taste, but they will be decidedly different.

    Let's start with the weather. To me, a former New Englander, there is nothing to compare with fall in that northeastern corner of the United States. Days are mild and generally sunny. Nights are crisp without getting frigid especially in September before the summer really gives way to fall. Along the Gulf coast in spring (April), on the other hand, it will already be getting up to 75-80ºF (24-27ºC) during the day with 70% humidity. Now that can still feel comfortable especially to someone coming from a gray British winter, but it will be different from what you experienced on your previous trip.

    The next big difference is one of scale. New England is very compact with five of its states ranking among the eight smallest in the country, and the sixth coming in at the twelfth smallest. You can drive from anywhere in New England to anywhere else in New England in less than a day making last minute changes to an itinerary easy. As I'm sure you've noticed while doing your initial planning for your upcoming trip, this is not the case in the South. The two 'end points' of your RoadTrip, Key West and New Orleans, are a solid two days apart by car. So planning out what sites to see and especially where to spend your nights will become much more important.

    The history of the two areas is also different, again not necessarily better or worse, just different. Most of New England was settled early as part of the Great Migration from the Mother Country in the early to mid seventeenth century and was a hotbed of the American Revolution. Most of the South that you'll be seeing wasn't even part of the United States until well after the Revolution. Indeed, Florida (including coastal Alabama and Mississippi) was Spanish and Louisiana was French at the time. Also, somewhat surprisingly, most of the American Civil War was fought well north of the areas you'll be visiting. There are exceptions, but not a lot.

    Finally, bugs. These can be bad in both places, but I suspect they'll be much worse in the humid, coastal, swampy South in spring than they were in New England in the fall. But the 'remedy' is the same. You'll want a bug repellant with the highest concentration of DEET that you can get. This will tend to be a bit greasy and definitely have an odor, but it is absolutely necessary if you plan to camp or even be outdoors a lot. However, my personal favorite is Ole Time Woodsman's Fly Dope which, while it contains NO DEET, sure worked against black flies in the woods of Maine.

    With all that for background, let's get down to a few specifics. You've already got the basics of a good loop trip through the Deep South set up. I don't think that moving your east-bound leg from New Orleans a bit farther north to include central Alabama and parts of Georgia would add too many miles and would let you see a few more historic and scenic sites. I took a RoadTrip through just that area about fifteen years ago which you can read about HERE and HERE to get some ideas.

    Otherwise, on your west-bound leg along the coast to New Orleans, be sure to visit at least one of the pieces of the Gulf Islands National Seashore. Unfortunately, the biggest Civil War battle in this area was the naval engagement in Mobile Bay, so while there are museums and old forts associated with it, there's no 'battleground' per se. Somewhat oddly, one of the biggest battles of the War of 1812 was fought in New Orleans after the peace treaty had already been signed ending that war.

    Coming south out of Georgia along the Atlantic Coast, highlights might include Okefenokee Swamp, St. Augustine, and the Kennedy Space Center (be sure to check their launch schedule so you can adjust your itinerary by a few hours or a day if needed).

    Finally, If time gets short towards the end of your trip, you can always cut out the final run to Key West. It's a long way in and a long way out over the same two-lane road (mostly bridges) that can get severely backed up during tourist season. Going just a modest way out along the Overseas Highway (as US-1 is known along the keys) will give you much the same flavor/experience without going all the way to the end.

    AZBuck
    Last edited by AZBuck; 09-04-2019 at 11:55 AM.

  3. Default

    Thanks AZBuck, I'll make more of the journey from Pensacola to New Orleans and just arrive a bit later in the day. I may also not bother going all the way to Key West - I'll see how I do for time.

    I've had experience of some long distance travelling when I went from Boston, to New Orleans then across to San Francisco and LA a few years ago (also wrote about it here), and managed to drive from New Orleans to Dallas in one very long day.

    I've also been in New Orleans in July, so know how bad the humidity can get, which is why I'm looking forward to going back when it's a bit more bearable. I didn't realise the humidity would be quite so high in April, but it sounds like a decent summers day here.

    I really enjoyed the Deep South, and feel like I rushed it a bit last time, although the original plan and reason I booked the flights was to see Florida - somewhere I've never been before, so I'd like to really focus on that after New Orleans and the trip back to the East Coast. I'm sure I'll be back around the Deep South again at some point.

    I'm hoping to avoid really long drives, and if I do have to do one, then I'd like to make a day of it stopping at lots of places, as I'll have a 4 year old with me. She's used to a 5-6 hour drive to see family 4-6 times a year, so is absolutely fine with longer drives (I got stuck in Friday holiday traffic recently so the journey took 7 1/2 hours), but I don't want too many else it wouldn't be fair on her.

    Do you have any suggestions about where to stop on the way down the East Coast? I'd like to go to the space centre, so could potentially stop around there.

    Thanks,
    Luke

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Tucson, AZ
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    9,813

    Default Two Lists to Know About

    Besides the individual advice given on these forums, there are also more general, but equally beneficial, resources. Two that I think would be of great use to you in your planning are a list of spots every couple of hours along the major Interstate Highways that make convenient and interesting places to take short breaks from behind the wheel, and a similar lists of most if not all campgrounds within easy driving distance of the Interstates. The two lists are cross-referenced for your convenience.

    AZBuck

  5. Default

    Very useful links, I'll check them out! I think just trying to find our own unique route may be the way to go

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Default 'Unique'

    Well, for starters, if this is your first trip through this area, then whatever route you choose will be 'unique' for you. You specifically asked about two sections of your trip in your original post. I gave you what I had found to be a very relaxing and enjoyable, and judging from the traffic I encountered - little used, route from New Orleans to Jacksonville through Alabama and Georgia that doesn't really add too many miles to your overall driving. But between Jacksonville and the Florida Keys, you're looking at one of the most tourist-clogged parts of America. There are certainly a few 'hidden' quiet/scenic spots along the Florida Atlantic coast such as National Wildlife Refuges (e.g.: Merritt Island, Pelican Island, Loxahatchee, and others; state parks (e.g.: Washington Oaks Gardens, Savannas Preserve, and others); and few unique locations such as the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve. But the roads along the coast are going to be well-used and either toll (Florida's Turnpike), Interstate (I-95), or very slow almost wall-to-wall beach town (FL-A1A).

    AZBuck

  7. Default

    Forget camping in Key West or anywhere in the Keys without a reservation.

    It will be virtually impossible to find a drop in campsite in the busy April tourist season. The State Parks are booked many months in advance. If you find an opening at a private campground, expect to pay $100 for a tent site.

    As for a hotel? I’m not sure, but the answer might be the same. It won’t be cheap,

  8. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AZBuck View Post
    Besides the individual advice given on these forums, there are also more general, but equally beneficial, resources. Two that I think would be of great use to you in your planning are a list of spots every couple of hours along the major Interstate Highways that make convenient and interesting places to take short breaks from behind the wheel, and a similar lists of most if not all campgrounds within easy driving distance of the Interstates. The two lists are cross-referenced for your convenience.

    AZBuck
    That list of easy to access camp grounds is awesome.

  9. Default

    I'm considering driving from Jacksonville to south Miami in one day, as South Beach has been recommended - is this achievable?
    If I were to stay at Key West (which I'm still considering) I'd stay at Boyd's Campground, which is $87 a night waterside - not too bad compared to the hotel prices!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    5,207

    Default

    Jacksonville to South Miami is about 360 miles, so yes, doable....as long as I-95 cooperates. What day of the week?



    Donna

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