It was the Thanksgiving weekend, which meant a really long weekend and hence time for a long holiday. We planned a road trip this time – driving from Atlanta all the way to New Orleans, covering over 1200 miles in four days as we drove through 5 states – Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
As usual, the drive started as early as 0630 hrs with our 1st halt at Starbucks for breakfast somewhere near Georgia – Alabama border. After refuelling ourselves as well the vehicle, we crossed into Alabama and soon into Florida by noon. Post a delicious seafood lunch at Perdido Key Beach, we visited the Big Lagoon State Park on the northern shoreline that separates the mainland from Perdido Key and the Gulf of Mexico. This state park is also one of the gateways to The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail – a network of 510 premier wildlife viewing sites across the Florida state.
Even though it was noon time, we encountered good number of birds here – Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Ospreys, Bald Eagle, variety of Terns & Gulls, Buffleheads, Snowy & Great Egrets, Herons, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Mockingbirds and the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Highlight was a classic sight of Osprey picking up a fish from the lagoon waters!
After spending a good 2 hours at the park, we drove back into Alabama and halted at the Orange Beach for sunset. We had moved from Eastern Time Zone to Central Time Zone, which meant the sunset was an hour early, at 4:45 PM to be precise. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset and checked into our hotel – Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott. One thing we had not accounted for was most of the restaurants were closed on Thanksgiving, we did manage to dine at an Italian place we found open, although it was a disaster as they couldn’t handle huge crowd coming in.
Day two started at leisure with a heavy breakfast buffet at the hotel and soon we were on our way to Fort Morgan – a historic bastion fort that is at the tip of Mobile Point at the western end of State Route 180 in Alabama. We spend a good hour or so exploring the fort and another hour doing some birding on the adjacent shore line before we headed back to Orange beach for lunch.
This time we had decided to have lunch at one of the best seafood restaurants at Orange Beach – Bubba’s Seafood House, and it surely did not disappoint, be it the delicious food or the amazing ambience. If you are around here, do give it a try – highly recommended.
Next halt was around one & half hours away – the buzzing Pensacola beach in Florida via the famous U.S. Route 399. We arrived there just in time for the sunset and surely it was a treat to watch. After soaking ourselves in the amazing sunset, we spent some time exploring the streets around Pensacola and started our return journey.
As we reached back to our hotel in Alabama, we decided to explore some streets around where we had seen some festive lights. It was just a mile or two from the hotel so we drove there and came across some beautiful festive decorative lights. Even the street lights were decorated beautifully… truly ‘Sweet Home’ Alabama 🙂
Day three was a long day that started at around 0830 hrs as we drove towards Mississippi. We did take a quick halt at the Alabama Birding Trail to do some birding. After spending around 30 minutes, we resumed out journey and entered Mississippi after couple of hours. Our place of visit in Mississippi was the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge – home to the critically endangered Mississippi Sandhill Cranes (only over 100 left) that are seen only around this region. We spent couple of hours exploring the region, couldn’t sight the cranes but the place was tranquility at its best – a must visit if you are around and love nature.
Next and final state was Louisiana! After driving for around 30 minutes, we stopped again – this time at the border of Louisiana. Almost every-time you cross state borders in US, there are these resting areas which are equipped with restrooms, vending machines and also what are the some of the famous places one could visit in the state. By far this rest area in Louisiana was one of the best.
We had our lunch on the way and continued our journey as we finally entered New Orleans and headed straight to French Quarters – one of the highlights of the place. The roads are really small and crowded here which meant finding parking was a task. As we were short on time, we eventually parked in a premium parking space. We spend around 3 hours at this place, exploring the streets in French Quarters which was a very different and unique experience, 1st time for us. If one enjoys crowded streets buzzing with artists and stuff, this place is surely a must visit. We finally started our long return journey post sunset. Here are some of the street photography images we captured at New Orleans.
The final day was nothing but a long 7 hour drive back to Atlanta, Georgia – with most of the people returning back from holidays, the highways were completely packed with vehicles, add to it couple of traffic jams were in we were crawling at 5 to 10 miles per hour! Finally we reached back home by 5:30 PM.
This was one of the longest Road trips we’ve been on yet and we surely enjoyed it to the fullest – the amazing Sunset at Pensacola, beautiful State Parks & Birding Trails, lip-smacking Seafood at Orange beach, buzzing Streets of New Orleans, festive Lights at ‘Sweet Home’ Alabama or even the long country side drives, we loved it all! As always, ending it with one my favourite images from the trip 🙂
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– Rudraksha & Shraddha