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> Drive from Atlanta to New Orleans
post Dec 28 2009, 11:00 AM
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Hi everyone. My boyfriend and I are looking at going on a week long cruise from New Orleans at the start of November 2010. We live in England so are looking at direct flights to Atlanta and then thought about spending a few days driving down stopping and seeing as much as possible on the way. We have also considered the Crescent route that Amtrak runs but think we would enjoy more freedom in a car.

We are looking at several different routes but ar eat a very early stage of planning. When we have been to the states before we have just booked flights, a hotel at beginning and end then stopped off and stayed in different towns along the way. We would like to do something similar this time.

We like to go to nature reserves, wildlife watch, taking part in and watching many different sports, visiting cities as well as seeing the country. We also love the sea and beachess however this will be part of the cruise so not a definate need on our drive.

My favourite route so far is south out of Atlanta maybe Tallulah Gorge, down to the coast and Florida, then across the Panhandle to Mobile perhaps Dauphan Island, through Biloxi perhaps to Baton Rhouge ending up in New Orleans for a couple of days before the cruise.

Would this be possible in 4/5 days? with plenty of stopping in between.
Also is the weather warm enough to be outside without coats etc?
Is there a better route or any more suggestions.

Thank you very much I look forward to any advice you can give,
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post Jan 1 2010, 11:41 AM
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I have made the drive from Atlanta to New Orleans (and back) on two separate occasions. It's about eight hours each way on the interstates, so more than reasonable for 4/5 days.

You have a few options as far as your route.

The "fastest" route is:

Atlanta south on I-65 through Montgomery to Mobile
Mobile west on I-10 through Biloxi to New Orleans

A little over seven hours according to GoogleMaps, but it has always taken me an average of eight after stopping for gas and snacks.


Atlanta west on I-20 to Birmingham
Birmingham south on I-65 through Montgomery to Mobile
Mobile west on I-10 through Biloxi to New Orleans


Atlanta west on I-20 through Birmingham and Tuscaloosa to Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson south on I-55 to New Orleans

Nearly nine hours according to GoogleMaps. Only traveled this part of Mississippi at night, so I can't speak much about it.


Of course, with 4-5 days you can afford to get off the interstates a bit. This being so, I would suggest the 2nd course.

Atlanta west on I-20 to Birmingham
Birmingham south on I-65 through Montogmery to Mobile
Mobile west on I-10 through Biloxi to New Orleans

A few reasons why..

Alabama in general is a crucial part of American history (whether it be civil war or civil rights era). There is more than enough cultural/historical material to occupy your time between Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.
Along with this goes a brand of American cuisine, Soul Food, that is not always the healthiest option, but definitely acceptable while on Holiday.

As far as recommending any particular establishment.. do your best NOT to go with something you found in a Google search. It's a bit of a gamble, but ask a local - they always know! If you're there on a Sunday, you can just follow the crowds after church..

Haven't actually been to the nature reserves in the area, but I-20 runs through Talladega National Forest and a detour on I-65 will take you to Conecuh National Forest or Blackwater River State Forest (in Florida) on your way to Pensacola (then continuing west toward Mobile).

Even if you stick to the interstate, the gulf region offers some surprising eye candy - even for someone that lived all their life in a different part of the deep south (South Carolina).

Concerning weather: A t-shirt and pants will get you through most days (would be a safe bet to carry a light jacket on your person). Though it isn't unheard of for it to be in the high 80s (F) one day and low 40s the next.

I wouldn't plan on too much time in Pensacola. My impression was that it's a spring break destination for people that can't get to Tampa. Also, a hurricane hit it pretty hard a few years back, though it may have recovered by now.
However, there is a pretty stellar public beach there. I'm not sure of the name, but it should be pretty obvious when you get there. The beach is clean and the water is clear (though probably not as warm as you'd like it to be this time of year).

Mobile, I think, is rather diverse as cities in the Bible Belt go. Somewhere between New Orleans and Charleston.. it has a nice feel. Didn't have the budget at the time to really sink my teeth into anything (and New Orleans is the crown jewel anyway), but neighborhoods of massive plantation homes with streets lined by giant oaks and spanish moss minutes from the river delta - takes you to another time.

I don't know much about Biloxi, post-Katrina, except that gambling is still alive and well, with river boats that take you offshore and give you the chance to lose your hat! Just as you should in Birmingham, Montgomery, Athens, Asheville, Savannah, Charleston, Columbia, etc... ask a local where to eat! More often than not, presentation is sacrificed for flavor - be brave!

Then, you have New Orleans.. a place I don't feel very qualified to comment on. There are so many restaurants, so many neighborhoods, you can't go wrong. I have been there post-Katrina and the city center and French Quarter were more or less the same.
Ride the trolley (which can take you most of the way to a nice walk around New Orleans City Park).
Go to the St. Louis cemetery.
Eat, eat, eat..

My final words of advice as far as an overall plan are..

When you're closing in on New Orleans, make a detour for the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. It's the longest causeway in the US (or something like that), but more importantly, it's just a really cool way to come into the city.

The Southern mentality is a blessing and a curse. You can have a great experience hopping from locations you found on a Google search, but the local papers and people will point you in the direction of unforgettable experiences. Leave politics and nutrition at the door and you are set for a memorable AND authentic taste of the southland.

Hope this helps..
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