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The 10 best New Orleans beaches

Go east along the Gulf Coast and you'll find sun, sand, and adventure at the best New Orleans beaches

Written by
Gerrish Lopez
Contributors
Adriana Lopez
&
Krista Diamond
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There’s a reason that NOLA is sometimes referred to as “the Northernmost Caribbean city,” and that’s due to its tropical climate and breezy, laid-back attitude. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the best New Orleans beaches (not in the city itself, but located within a three-hour radius) aren't just nearby, but they happen to be some of the most beautiful throughout the Gulf Coast.

We know what you're thinking: if you're in NOLA, why leave? Sure, the city has amazing restaurants, vibrant festivals, and enough jazz music alone to keep anyone smitten. But if you’re looking for relaxation, or a way to move the NOLA-style party to the coast, these beaches offer white sand, crashing waves, and plenty of sun. You can also enjoy boating, fishing, and fresh seafood straight from the Gulf—in some cases, you can even tack on a night at the casino or a major concert.

Sure, you’ll never run out of things to do in NOLA, but an escape to the beach is a welcome break even in the dead of winter (note: if you’re going during hurricane season, keep an eye on the weather). Here, we’ve selected the best New Orleans beaches that are well worth the drive.

RECOMMENDED: to the best things to do in New Orleans

Best New Orleans beaches, ranked

Every New Orleanian knows the thrill of seeing the bright, colorful Pensacola sign just after the Waffle House and right before crossing the bridge over to the beach. Just three hours away from the city, Pensacola Beach’s clear blue waters rival those on Highway 30A and even Miami. Not surprisingly, it’s a huge tourist destination in the South, and yet it's a little more peaceful than the larger beach towns like Destin (also in Florida). There’s plenty to do here: long strips of beach, delectable meals at restaurants, and family-friendly entertainment galore.

Between the condominium buildings, resorts, and the bevvy of beachside bars, tourism plays a major role in the Gulf Shores’ economy—for travelers, this means there’s plenty to do in this Alabama beach town. Hit the water and charter a boat for a sunset cruise (or perhaps dolphin watching, fishing, and water sports) or stick to land and visit one of Gulf Shores’ top-rated golf resorts. Visiting with the family? Stop at the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo and Waterville USA amusement and water park. In the springtime, Hangout Fest (a music festival that takes place right on the beach) takes over, so keep an eye out for the annual event.

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Biloxi, Mississippi is just under an hour and a half away from New Orleans, and about 30 minutes past Pass Christian. The waters are not pristine and clear as Florida's, but Biloxi has plenty of resort life and action. If you’re up for a livelier weekend, stay at the Beau Rivage Casino or the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for a bit of a different vibe. Both resorts offer live entertainment, pool scenes, casinos and, of course, buffets.

Orange Beach is the last stop before crossing over to Florida, so make sure to visit the Flora-Bama Lounge on the Florida-Alabama state line. The beachfront bar and grill has been called a “cultural landmark” of the Gulf Coast, but it’s definitely a rite of passage for New Orleanians who visit frequently—what began as a spring break destination has now become an escape during family vacations. If you don’t indulge in the obligatory Bushwacker, did you even go?

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Gulfport shares the beach with Biloxi, but the second-largest city in Mississippi offers a lot of other things to do besides lounging by the pool and setting up shop by the slot machines. Expect a lot of family-friendly options to round out the beach activities: a walk through the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum, the Lynn Meadows Discovery Center For Children, Chandeleur Island Brewing Companyand Gulfport Premium Outlets. It’s only about an hour and a half from New Orleans but seems like a world away, especially when if you're in dire need of a weekend out of town. 

Are you even a New Orleanian if you haven’t driven to Pass Christian at some point in high school, stayed at a friend’s family beach house, or spent an Easter weekend on the shore? The water isn’t the clearest (ahem, or clear at all), but it’s the quintessential southern beach town—the houses along the coast are magnificent, and the town is simply adorable. Need some accommodations? The Hotel Whisky, located in the “downtown” area, is a charming boutique destination with a steakhouse underneath, a handful of shops, and a quaint coffee shop that's just across the street from the beach. This place is just an hour away from New Orleans’ city limits, and it's a sure-bet for anyone looking for a quick getaway.

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Just two hours away from New Orleans, Dauphin Island is a barrier island located three miles south of Mobile Bay. Accessible by ferry or a bridge that connects with the Alabama mainland, the entire island is 14 miles long with only about 1,300 residents. As you can imagine, it’s a rather quaint vacation spot. Beyond the long stretches of public beach—with clear water and powdery sand—you'll also find ocean adventures at the Dauphin Island Marina, an aquarium and estuarium, and a preserved archeological site called Indian Shell Mound Park.

Ship Island, which is actually two separate islands, is a gem that sits 11 miles off the coast of Gulfport, Mississippi (note: it’s only accessible by boat and ferry). Visit West Ship Island for better beaches and an old fort that’s open for exploring; it’s one of the few barrier islands in the United States that has been left undeveloped, which means it’s still in its natural state.

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In addition to nature trails, picnicking, and camping, this Northshore state park has a sandy little beach that families have enjoyed for decades. The water is calm and shallow, which makes it a great spot for all ages, and there’s a water park with a splash pad where kids can cool off. When you need a little beach time but don't want to drive far, Fontainebleau is the spot.

If you just need to feel the sand between your toes, there's always beach volleyball. Coconut Beach Sand Sports Complex is a man-made attraction developed exclusively for beach volleyball fans. There are 22 courts, a bar, and a grill on premises in addition to organized volleyball leagues and tournaments. The best part? It’s located in nearby Kenner, which means after getting a tan and a full body workout, you can make it back to the city in just 15 minutes.

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