We spent a few weeks driving the states of Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. The highlight destinations were New Orleans in Louisiana and Daphne, Fairhope and Gulf Shores in Alabama. We also finished the trip with a few days in Texas via central Louisiana.
The Deep South is not the first destination you think of when visiting the USA, but due to a family wedding, we made the 12hr flight from our home in Auckland New Zealand to Houston Texas.
Our first stop in Houston was very hot, it was July after all. We found Houston to be one of the most boring cities we have ever been too. Perhaps it is due to the hot weather, or their obsession with driving but the city centre was dead. We were glad to have only spent one night here. Being vegetarian in Houston was also a challenge, but that was to be expected. I am sure there are interesting things to do in Houston but with the urban sprawl it is not a traveller-friendly city and it made me despair for the climate…
Actually, most of the South made me despair, you will find compared to New Zealand a lack of self-awareness for plastic consumption on top of their love for massive cars and unfriendly walking environments.
Eco tip: Pack reusable coffee cups and cutlery. You will find most hotels will serve breakfast with disposal plastic plates and utensils. We also usually buy a 1-gallon jug of water and refill it at local supermarkets along the way.
We did find the public transport from the Airport and around the CBD to be excellent and very cheap. From the airport to Downtown Houston it was only USD $1.25 each, I think it is the cheapest airport transfer we have ever had.
The next day we got a bus to New Orleans, the Mega Bus was only $25 USD which was a more affordable and eco-friendly option. Parking in New Orleans was expensive and we didn’t need a vehicle at this point in the trip. Due to the I10 being the main interstate in the region, it was a long straight boring bus trip over the swamps. The bus hardly turned a corner in 6 hrs.
We arrived in New Orleans in quite late in the evening and quickly got an Uber to our hostel, Atlas House. It was in the Lower Garden District which we found to be a trendy suburb with great bars and restaurants as well as a tram link into the French Quarter. Our favourite bar was Barrel Proof. We also went to a great Mexican restaurant called La Carreta.
New Orleans was very stormy and wet when we visited in July, but there is plenty of bars, restaurants and nightlife to keep ourselves busy indoors. The weather made visiting some of the famous cemeteries and parks more of a challenge due to the lightning strikes and some of the heaviest rain I have ever experienced. Some of our favourite places were;
- Spirits on Bourbon a duelling piano bar
- Carousel Bar and Lounge at the Hotel Monteleone
- The Spotted Cat Music Club which has the best Jazz music
- Dat Dog perfect for a vegan hotdog
- Aldofo’s for Italian cajun fusion cuisine
One of the highlights of my time in New Orleans was the Flambeaux Bicycle Tour of the French Quarter. It was a lot of fun and a great way to experience the city.
Most bars in New Orleans will serve you your drinks in plastic. This is because you can grab your drink and take it with you, quite useful… hence, my boozy bike slushy.. yum!
New Orleans has great Public Transport and is very walkable. The city also shut Bourbon Street to cars at night which is awesome.
From New Orleans, we picked up our rental car. We went with Thrifty car rental which in hindsight we wouldn’t recommend. They had a cheaper one-way higher fee than most companies, but the actual price was about 2x higher than the online quoted price and we had to pay extra to have an additional driver. Our last road trip to the USA we used Budget and we had a much better experience.
Unfortunately, you really need a car when visiting this area of the United States. Public transport seemed non-existent and walking in some places was very difficult and dangerous.
Daphne was easy to get to due to that straight I10 interstate. We stopped off in a small town called Ocean Springs in Mississippi, we had a great coffee at Bright Eyed Brew Co and amazing doughnuts at Tato-Nut Donut Shop.
We had rented an Air BnB in Daphne, it was very cute and was close to Fairhope and Spanish Fort. Daphne and Fairhope are located just across the bay from the main city of Mobile.
Daphne is a quiet but pretty little town with a cute diner East Shore Cafe. It was an ideal location to explore the surrounding areas. There isn’t anything to do in Daphne but we enjoyed wandering the streets and admiring the ‘all American’ homes.
Fairhope is one of the prettiest towns we have been too in the USA. There are lots of boutique shops as well as nice cafes and restaurants. The best coffee was at Refuge Coffee, we went almost every day. There is a great pier where you will get nice views of Mobile Bay.
Spanish Fort is where my brother lives. It is about a 15min drive from Daphne and is where you will find a good supermarket (Publix) and a large shopping mall. We note that it is almost impossible to walk around here so a car is a necessity. A great place we would recommend is The Fort Container Park. It has an excellent community spirit and is a great place for families and friends to get together and enjoy the many food and drink options.
Magnolia Springs should be on your list to visit if you are in the area. It is a cute settlement surrounded by beautiful Magnolia trees. We had a lovely lunch at Jesse’s Restaurant. Although nothing on their menu was vegetarian their sandwiches could easily be changed and the food was very yum.
Gulf Shores is a beach holiday destination on the Gulf of Mexico. There are perfect white sand beaches surrounded by high-rise buildings and countless shops including outlets. There were warnings about flesh-eating bacteria in the ocean water, so best to check before you swim. Gulf Shores was very busy as it was summer holidays, however, the beach is massive so there was plenty of space and there is a great boardwalk.
Mobile is the largest city in the region and is worth a look. The architecture is similar to New Orleans but is much cleaner. Nova Espresso had excellent coffee and we had a tasty lunch at the very cute Cheese Cottage.
No trip to the South is complete without a trip to one of the many Waffle Houses. The Waffle House is a speciality of the South and is where you can find a cheap Waffle and surprisingly a pretty good cup of coffee. You can’t miss seeing them as there seemed to be one every few kilometres along the I10.
After a week in Alabama, we continued on to Galveston and Austin Texas. For more on Austin check out Quick trip – Austin Texas
We really enjoyed our time in the Southern States and thanks to my brother we had awesome tips on where to go and where to find great coffee.
Eco tip: We get carbon guilt when we fly, and to help we live a low carbon lifestyle when at home. We also generally try and use Ekos, a New Zealand based company to carbon offset our flights or purchase our offset via Air New Zealand when booking.
Also, want to know a fun tip? Being vegetarian for a year will offset 1 round trip of flying!