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Guide to the 12 Best and Closest Beaches near New Orleans

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Living so close to the Gulf of Mexico, you would think New Orleans is surrounded by the best beaches with easy access to the water. Well – I hate to tell you you might be wrong.

Even though people who live in and around New Orleans love taking annual road trips to the beach, there isn’t a public beach anywhere close by with access to the ocean.

Do not worry! We are here to tell you the closest beach, the best beach, and where you think you should go next if you dream of shallow waters and a sandy beach.

Why should you trust me? I’ve lived here my whole life and frequented these beautiful beaches. Now, whether you were trying to add a day trip or wanted to add another few days to your new Oregon trip, Let’s talk about all of the famous and not-so-popular beaches closest to New Orleans. 

Louisiana Beaches

Even though New Orleans is not technically that close to the Gulf of Mexico – there are still plenty of beaches in Louisiana that you can drive to and have fun at. Some of these breaches may be more unconventional because they will not give you that Bluewater you are looking for, but they will allow you to get sand under your toes.

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12 closest beaches to new orleans

1. Coconut Beach

Experience the ultimate blend of sun, sand, and sports at Coconut Beach Sand Sports Complex, a specially crafted haven for beach volleyball enthusiasts. 

On the outskirts of Kenner, this man-made beach has 22 beach volleyball courts, an inviting bar, and an on-site grill, creating the perfect setting for a day of fun and fitness. You might not be able to dip your toes in the water, but it is a great place to place a few rounds of Beach Volleyball.

This was one of my favorite places to go while growing up! It was in a different location pre-Katrina, but the new location is the largest sand volleyball complex in the United States!

coconut beach

2. Fountainbleu State Park

Across Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, Fontainebleau State Park offers a serene beachfront, making it a sought-after spot for day excursions. During the Spring or Fall (while the weather is excellent), consider extending your stay by booking a cabin or campsite.

Explore the park’s natural beauty through its well-maintained nature trails, or let your little ones enjoy the playground equipped with a refreshing splash pad. There is a slight fee to use the park at $3 per person, with exemptions for seniors and children aged three and under.

3. Grand Isle

Time for a road trip! Located in Southeast Louisiana, Grand Isle is one of the beaches closest to New Orleans in Louisiana. Renowned for its proximity to the Gulf Coast, this barrier island is fun for beach lovers and a paradise for birdwatching, fishing, and camping enthusiasts. They do not call this state a Sportsman’s Paradise for nothing!

Grand Isle State Park, an island highlight, boasts seven miles of public beaches. The state park, featuring campsites and RV hookups, has also resumed operations after a temporary closure from the 2021 hurricane.

​Unlike other coastal towns that you will find in Mississippi and Alabama, the sand is not your typical white sand, nor is the water clear. This barrier Island has one road in and one out and is close to where the mouth of the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico. 

grand isle

​4. Holly Beach

Welcome to the Cajun Riviera! Just four houses away from New Orleans, you do not want to make this a weekend trip, but stay a night or two for a lovely long weekend. 

Holly Beach is about 50 miles from Lake Charles and is a popular beach destination for beach enthusiasts. It is the ideal getaway for shell collectors, bird watchers, and more. 

No hotels are nearby, so this beach may not get crowded, but it is best to have an RV or rental to stay overnight. The State of Louisiana does do water testing in this area, and sometimes, there is a bacteria warning for the water. 

Mississippi Beaches

Whenever I want a quick road trip, I go to Mississippi! There are so many coastal towns with sandy shores and fun things to do in Mississippi that you need to add it to your bucket list for beaches!

5. Bay St. Louis

Because so many people have second homes in Bay St. Louis – it stands out as a convenient beach choice for residents of New Orleans. The beach offers amenities like a public bathroom with showers and a complimentary parking lot directly on the shoreline. 

Visitors can bring their picnic or explore numerous dining establishments along the beachfront or downtown. Noteworthy choices include The Blind Tiger and Mockingbird Cafe, providing diverse culinary experiences.

Since it is just a hop, skip, and jump away, many New Orleans-owned companies have additional locations in Bay St. Louis, including Creole Creamery, Fleurty Girl, and PJs Coffee. 

6. Gulfport & Biloxi

Gulfport and Biloxi are short drives from New Orleans. These two destinations aren’t just a fun, leisurely day trip destination but the perfect spot for a long weekend. 

Enjoy free parking and dining options along Beach Boulevard (Highway 90), and personalize your beach experience with chairs, umbrellas, and kites. 

Beyond the beach, Gulfport shares its shoreline with Biloxi, the second-largest city in Mississippi, offering more than sun and surf. Explore family-friendly options like the Mississippi Coast Model Railroad Museum, Lynn Meadows Discovery Center For Children, Chandeleur Island Brewing Company, and my favorite – Gulfport Premium Outlets. Adults can check out the Biloxi casinos for a fun day of gambling. 


7. Ship Island

One of my favorite high school memories was our Fourth of July trip to Ship Island! Just far enough to squeeze in an all-day trip!

This island escape provides an affordable travel option, with Ship Island Excursions offering a one-hour ferry ride from the mainland to the Gulf of Mexico’s sandy shores. Departing from Gulfport Harbor, the Ship Island ferry ensures a swift journey to this barrier island, with tickets available for purchase in advance or at the ticket office.

As part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and under the protection of the U.S. Park Service, Ship Island offers pristine white-sand beaches ideal for swimming, birdwatching, and seashell collecting. The Civil War-era Fort Massachusetts, open for seasonal tours, adds historical charm to the island.

While some food is available on the ferry and the island, many visitors bring coolers with supplies.

8. Ocean Springs

Ocean Springs, a vibrant community on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, seamlessly blends artistry with coastal charm. It’s a delightful destination, boasting a fantastic white sandy public beach and a walkable downtown brimming with shopping and dining choices.

Front Beach, offering ample space, features convenient public parking options. Adjacent to Fort Maurepas City Park, visitors can enjoy the beach and amenities like a playground, splash pad, and bathrooms. Little Children’s Park, a nearby favorite, boasts swings and a zipline for family fun.

The heart of downtown Ocean Springs unfolds along Washington Avenue and Government Street. Culinary highlights include Tatonut Donut Shop, Phoenicia Gourmet, and Vestige for fine dining. For a unique experience, The Greenhouse stands out as a quirky coffee shop in an actual greenhouse. 

A short drive from Interstate 10, The Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint is a popular casual dining spot, rounding out the diverse culinary offerings in this charming coastal town.

ocean spring

Alabama Beaches

Sweet Home Alabama! Even though I’ve lived in Louisiana my whole life, I spent four years attending college in Mobile, Alabama. Luckily, the closest beach options were some of the best in the state! Alabama is known for its family-friendly beach options. 

9. Dauphin Island

While Mobile, Alabama, might not immediately come to mind as a beach destination, it is home to Dauphin Island, a barrier island just three miles from Mobile Bay. 

This tranquil beach spot is only a two-and-a-half-hour drive from New Orleans; Dauphin Island offers a more relaxed atmosphere than other beaches. Perfect for crabbing and fishing enthusiasts, the island is also a haven for birdwatchers and history buffs, being designated as a bird sanctuary and housing the historic Fort Gaines.

Dauphin Island, a serene island community south of Mobile, is preferred for those seeking to rent a beach house and unwind in a peaceful setting. 

Public beaches and laid-back restaurants provide a leisurely getaway for day-trippers, with a $10 daily parking fee for beach access.

dauphin island

10. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach 

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are two of the last beaches in Alabama before heading to Florida. These beaches feature condos and hotels on one end and the beautiful Gulf State Park on the other. 

​There are miles of public beaches, making this accessible to many guests, but if you drive all the way here, you might as well book 2-3 nights to enjoy the beach. 

Luckily – Gulf Shores and Orange Beach have plenty of things to do and places to eat while you are in town – just in case some people want to avoid hanging out at the beach.

Stop by the Flora-Bama, a Florida/Alabama state line bar, and order yourself a Bushwacker. 

orange beach 1

Florida Beaches

Florida’s large beaches make it a popular tourist destination for many families. With some of the top beaches in the country, Spring Breakers, Family Vacations, and everything in between happen on Florida beaches. And for good reason! The blue waters and white sand make this the perfect place to rest and relax. 

11. Pensacola Beach

Pensacola stands out as one of the nearest Florida beaches to New Orleans, boasting pristine sugar-white sand and clear waters. This established tourist destination offers many options, including hotels, restaurants, shopping, boat rentals, and diverse activities for friends, families, and dogs at the beloved Pensacola Dog Beach. 

Nestled on Santa Rosa Island, this coastal community is renowned for its emerald-green waters and inviting sands. Its crystal-clear azure waters rival those of Miami and Highway 30A beaches. Remarkably, it’s just a 3-hour drive from New Orleans, providing an excellent alternative to other renowned Florida beaches.

pensacola 1

12. Destin

Destin – on a busy day, one can say that it feels like Mardi Gras on the beach! The water is beautiful, the sand is white, and there is so much to do in this town! 

Destin thrives as a bustling beach destination, teeming with numerous hotels, restaurants, and shops for visitors to explore.

Among the sought-after attractions are Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park, Henderson Beach State Park, and mini and regular golf options. 

Considered one of Destin’s top destinations by tourism officials, Crab Island is a popular spot. This sandbar draws boaters seeking to revel in emerald green waters, navigate floating obstacle courses, and enjoy drinks from floating bars. Whether renting a boat or opting for the shuttle, Crab Island promises a unique and vibrant experience.


​Closest Beaches to New Orleans

We could go on and on about the beach in Florida; it just depends on if you are looking for an easy day trip or a week-long vacation, but after driving for about four and a half hours, that is when I’m ready for my vacation to start. From Holly Beach to Destin and everything in between, you are bound to find your ideal spot. 

Now, if it were up to me, I would pick a vacation in Orange Beach, Pensacola, or Destin. Even a short trip at the beach, just 2-3 days, can feel like a long enough vacation to rejuvenate the soul! 

Let me know in the comments or message me on Instagram which beach is your favorite. Are you willing to drive more than 5 hours from New Orleans to the breach?

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Monday 12th of February 2024

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Tuesday 13th of February 2024

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