Where do you start when planning a Deep South road trip itinerary? There’s so much to see and to do in the Southern States. That’s the problem I’ve been having because we are in the process of planning a Southern USA road trip. We have driven through some of the Southern USA like Florida and our recent Louisiana road trip post-Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Long before I met him, my husband did a Southern States road trip with his best friend. From what I gather, it involved a lot of beer and pizza. Our family-friendly Deep South USA would be quite different! I’ve reached out to some travel blogger friends for other (better?) ideas on Deep South tours.
Tips and Ideas for a Roadtrip of the Southern States in the USA
I’m sure all the fabulous and diverse things to do on a Deep South Tour is why Lonely Planet has chosen the American southern states as one of their top regions to visit in 2018. Other regions on the Lonely Planet Top 10 regions list for 2108 are Alaska, the Slovenian Alps, Languedoc-Roussillon in France, Bahia in Brazil, Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, the Kii Peninsula in Japan, the Aeolian Islands of the coast of Sicily, Northern Ireland and Lahaul and Spiti in India.
Ideas for A Southern USA Road Trip
Who better to ask for advice on creating a Deep South road trip itinerary than travel bloggers who have been there? Below are the recommendations on places to visit on a Deep South tour and travel tips for a southern states road trip from 13 fellow travel bloggers.
Map South East USA
The Southastern USA on a Deep South Road Trip
The southeastern USA has many great locations to make up a Deep South road trip itinerary to suit your interests. Whether your interest lies in history, food, music or simply beautiful beach resorts, the Deep South has so many options that you will be spoilt for choice. We can definitely vouch for the beauty of the Outer Banks with its wild horses
and the fascinating Wright Brothers National Memorial
where the Wright Brothers flew the first plane.
The Deep South is unlike any other part of the U.S. – and that’s exactly why we loved our Deep South road trip through it. One of our favorite stops along the way was Birmingham, Alabama, a surprisingly hip and hipster town
that was the site of many important (and tragic) events in America’s past.
There’s so much to learn about in Birmingham, and the Vulcan Museum and the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) are both absolute must-sees. The Vulcan Museum is home to the world’s largest cast-iron statue, and the exhibits next door illustrate the city’s founding and its rise as a major geopolitical center of the South. The BCRI is the most comprehensive museum on the Civil Rights Movement, covering everything from desegregation to the Civil Rights Act, as well as present-day immigration and human rights issues around the world.
Birmingham is also underrated as a foodie destination, and every meal we had there was delicious. Head to Crestline Bagels in the suburb of Mountain Brook for the perfect bagel, downtown’s Brick and Tin for gourmet sandwiches, and Delta Blues Hot Tamales in Five Points South for a local twist on Mexican cuisine (with great vegetarian options).
– by Jen Ambrose and Ryan Victor of Passions and Places and
Street art in Birmingham Alabama seen on a Southern USA road trip (photo credit: Jen Ambrose and Ryan Victor)
A Civil Rights Focus For a Southern USA Road Trip
Three things you will find in the Southern states of the USA — delicious southern cooking, destinations with a deep yet troubled history, and the birthplace of the many musical genres that have impacted American music.
On this Deep South Road Trip itinerary, start in Atlanta, the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and home to the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
From Atlanta, head down to Montgomery, Alabama and visit the Rosa Parks Museum and Freedom Rides Museum to learn about the monumental impact the bus boycott and Freedom Rides had on the Civil Rights movement in the U.S.
It is then a short one and one-half hour drive to Birmingham, Alabama, where you can learn about the civil rights struggle in Alabama at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, visit the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and sample from Birmingham’s burgeoning food scene.
Finish off your road trip in Memphis, tracing the arc of MLK, Jr.’s life from beginning to tragic end with a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, the site where he was assassinated.
Of course, the Memphis music scene is hopping with the blues clubs on famous Beale Street, Gibson guitar factory tours, Elvis’ Graceland, the Memphis Blues Hall of Fame, and historic STAX Museum of American Soul Music.
Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta Georgia (Photo credit: Tamara Gruber)
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina is known for its colorful buildings, warm weather and delicious Southern cooking – and of course, a high level of Southern charm! During my whirlwind visit to Charleston, I tried to pack in as much as possible, and I was not disappointed by this sweet Southern gem.
On the strong recommendation of a local friend, I went to Poe’s Tavern
for lunch and had the best shrimp salad sandwich of my entire life! Poe’s is located just two blocks up from the beach, so it’s the perfect spot to eat before or after visiting the ocean. Their seafood is so fresh and the atmosphere has a fun, bustling local haunt kind of vibe out on Sullivan’s Island
. I highly recommend checking Poe’s Tavern out while you’re in town!
A great spot for wandering and snapping some Instagram-worthy photos is Rainbow Row, which is a series of thirteen beautiful, colorful historic houses in downtown Charleston.
Fun Fact! – Rainbow Row is actually the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States.
Charleston is so walkable and picturesque that I’d recommend continuing your stroll by taking a free walking tour
to learn more about the history of the city!
Charleston, South Carolina on a Deep South Road Trip (Photo credit: Sierra Dehmler)
Memphis, Tennessee is one of the jewels of the American South. Located along the Mississippi River, it has a long history as an important river port. Today, many of the riverfront warehouses are empty, but the city retains much of its charm.
Memphis is best known for two things: music and food. This combination has attracted tourists to the city in flocks, and led to redevelopment of the downtown area with the influx of tourism dollars.
You will want to stay downtown, as most of what you’ll want to see will then be within a fairly easy walk of your hotel. If able, stay at the historic Peabody Hotel and watch the morning march of the ducks into its lobby fountain. Just arrive early as seating is hard to come by.
Most tourists will visit Beale Street and its countless clubs with live music. Beale Street is crowded and loud, and most of the clubs have cover charges, but just walking along the street at night will expose you to the Memphis Blues!
For the best in the Memphis music scene, visit Sun Studio, the famous recording studio that launched countless careers including the city’s most famous former resident: Elvis Presley. The tour of the studio lasts about an hour, and will be one of your Memphis highlights! There is even a free shuttle for tour-takers from Sun Studio to Elvis’ Graceland mansion, a wonderful (but very expensive) look into the life of The King.
If all of this music makes you hungry, stop by Rendezvous
for the original Memphis BBQ. The restaurant is largely unchanged over the past several decades, and that’s a good thing. Your waiter will know more about the city than the average person in the tourism office. For more, check out my interview with John Vergos, the owner of Rendezvous
Finally, one can’t leave Memphis without spending a few hours at the National Civil Rights Museum. Built into the facade of the Lorraine Motel – where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated on April 4, 1968 – the museum is a living tribute to the American civil rights struggle, a struggle that continues today. By midday the line for the museum can be long, so plan accordingly.
No matter what you choose to do, Memphis is an incredible city, definitely worth a visit.
The Southeastern United States
As someone who was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, the news that the Southeast had been chosen as one of the world’s emerging travel hotspots provoked one question from me: What took them so long?
In terms of natural beauty, the region has it in spades, from the mountains of Appalachia and national forests such as Chattahoochee and Pisgah to islands such as the Outer Banks (NC), Golden Isles (GA), and Hilton Head (SC).
If it’s culture you seek, the Southeast is the birthplace of the blues, country, jazz, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. There’s fantastic food, from the low country cuisine of the coastal regions to the soul food that traces its roots back to Africa.
If it’s hip cities you’re into, the region has more than its fair share, from Asheville and Charleston to Nashville and Mobile. And then there’s my hometown, Atlanta, which has grown from the city Sherman burned to a bustling metropolis rich with international flavor.
Whether you’re into Civil War history or the Civil Rights movement, the Southeast has a uniquely diverse array of offerings that will appeal to travelers of every style. So much so that, in recent years, a significant portion of our visitors seem inclined to stay!
– Bret Love & Mary Gabbett at Green Global Travel and on social media at
Sunset in Outer Banks, North Carolina (Photo credit: Bret Love)
Visit Florida for Sun and Fun on your Deep South Road Trip
There’s so much more to Florida than the ever popular Orlando theme parks. We have been to some of the more popular places like Orlando, Miami and Key West but there seems to be so much more to explore in just this one state!
Gainesville is an awesome place to visit for its diversity. As a college town where the University of Florida is located, there are a ton of very unique bars, and many that are cheap as dirt (the benefits of a college town!) Some even let you bring your dogs, which is fun whether you have a pup or not – I mean, who doesn’t love having a beer and petting a cute dog at the same time?
There are some cool walks to do as well, on one of which you can spot gators. Just don’t get too close, and they won’t attack. I swear, they’re tame! (Don’t bring your dogs for that walk, though, as they do want to eat your dog, just not you!)
Gainesville is filled with surprises, and awesome places to eat. Ever tried a falafel burger? You got it. As it’s a bit of a trendy place, there are loads of vegan and vegetarian restaurants, as well as something for the meat eaters out there – rest assured.
Overall, Gainesville is incredibly diverse, plus it’s a small city so it’s easy to walk around even if you don’t have a car. I highly recommend visiting!
Up close and personal with Alligators in Gainesville, Florida (Photo credit: Danielle Ditzian)
Beautiful Southwest Florida is as much a geographic region as it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Florida. Located in the sub-tropical southwest “paradise coast” of Florida, the region lies at the edge of the Florida Everglades giving visitors unparalleled nature and eco tourism opportunities.
The main cities of Naples, Marco Island, Bonita Springs, and Fort Myers all offer great shopping, dining, and cultural activities centered around the Arts, and are surrounded by the small, still quaint fishing towns that offer a glimpse into the slower pace of Floridays gone past.
Island towns like Sanibel and Captiva islands, Pine Island, and Matlacha, are easy day trips from wherever you stay and perfect for paddling the calm bays and backwaters, browsing art galleries and eating fresh shrimp tacos for lunch.
It’s just a short drive to Miami for those needing more action, and a fun 3-hour boat ride to check out Key West for the day. But the biggest draw for visitors to southwest Florida is some of the best beaches in the country, with Caribbean-style turquoise water, soft white sand, and some of the best shelling in the world.
A live shell found on the beach in Naples, Florida will go back to the sea.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida
My family loves visiting the islands of Sanibel and Captiva on the West coast of Florida. They offer some of the Sunshine State’s most sublime scenery. Miles of white sand beaches, acres of wildlife refuge, and a low-key vibe make this part of Florida a true island oasis.
Both Sanibel and Captiva have long been known as the best spots in the world to go shelling, but Sanibel in particular has a huge abundance of shells due to its unusual east-west orientation, allowing the shells to roll in and stay put. People come from far and wide to go shelling on Sanibel.
Sanibel is also the home to the “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, offering a ton of wildlife spotting, making the island a nature-lovers paradise. There is town life as well, but for the really funky part of the islands, head over the bridge to Captiva, where swirls of bright colours great you with quirky stores and bungalow-style restaurants and cafes.
Captiva is fun and unique, with places like the wacky Bubble Room, which celebrates Christmas all-year round, and known for their delicious cakes. Sunset Beach cocktails can be had at famed Mucky Duck, a Captiva institution. Best of all, though, is just hanging at one of the islands’ many beautiful beaches, and feeling completely removed from the hustle and bustle.
– by Corey Cook at Fifi and Hop and on social media at
A Captiva Florida sunset (Photo credit: Corey Cook)
One of the most famous ecosystems in the southeast US is the Florida Everglades, as it contains the largest subtropical wetland in the country. Over 1.5 million acres has been designated as Everglades National Park, and is home to more than 70 threatened or endangered species.
The Everglades has such a unique ecology that it’s also received several international recognitions, including International Biosphere Reserve, Wetland of International Importance, and World Heritage Site (this place is special, y’all!).
Since the Everglades is so shallow, with sawgrass marsh as its primary feature, motorboats can’t operate in most areas. So the most novel – and fun! – way to explore it is by airboat. Airboating is a great eco-friendly option, since there’s no submerged propeller to damage underwater plants and wildlife (that gets extra points from this sustainability-minded traveler). It’s also loud, windy, and fast!
To get a little taste of what the Everglades has to offer, I recommend a tour with Everglades the River of Grass Adventures. Just an hour’s drive from Fort Lauderdale and a cost of $50 for a
one-hour tour, it’s easily accessible and well-priced. The guides are super knowledgeable on ecology of the area, and there’s a good chance you’ll have some close encounters with local wildlife. Fingers crossed for an alligator sighting!
– by Mary Beth Charles at MBSees.com
and on social media at
American Alligator Swimming through the Everglades (Image credit: Mary Beth Charles)
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge – Georgia and Florida
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is as much fun to visit as it is to say (oh-kuh’-fuh-noh’-kee). Residing along the Georgia and Florida border in the Southeast United States, this renowned swamp covers 438,000 acres. The look and feel of this swamp is almost prehistoric, as alligators inhabit the waterways and Spanish moss hangs from the trees.
If you are a wildlife lover, be sure to bring your binoculars and camera. Besides the thousands of alligators in the swamp you might also see black bears, otters water moccasins and a whole host of interesting birds, including the osprey, sandhill crane and anhinga.
You can explore Okefenokee Swamp at your leisure from your car or the wilderness walkways, or take one of the many tours offered by the Park Service. You can even take a train tour aboard “The Lady Suwanee” along the Okefenokee Railroad.
I very highly recommend getting out of your car and taking the Adventure Walk to the Observation Tower. This boardwalk sits low – nearly on top of the swamp so wildlife viewing is fantastic. The Observation Tower is 90 feet high and allows wonderful panoramic views of the swamp.
– by Cherri Megasko at Bucket List Travel Club and on social media at
Twin alligators at Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on the Florida-Georgia border (Photo credit: Cherri Megasko)
Florida For a Southern States Road Trip
When you think of Florida, you probably think of Disney and gators, but there is so much more to it than that. It’s home to the oldest city in the US (St Augustine), one of the least visited national parks in the country, natural springs with crystal clear water, and some of the best cave diving in the world. And if none of that interests you, it’s got the Kennedy Space Center, beaches galore, some of the best state parks, and one of the most stylish cities in the country.
I love visiting Florida, because just driving three hours can feel like an entirely new place. There’s something for everyone whether you’re a city slicker or a beach bum, there’s a place for you.
I love the colorful shops in Cocoa Beach, boating around Port Orange, relaxing at the Anastasia Island State Park, and exploring the springs.
In Gainesville check out The Flying Biscuit for brunch and CYM for a delicious coffee.
If you’re in St. Augustine, head to Kookaburra for a unique coffee experience and an awesome dinner at The Floridian after wandering the old city.
Florida is an awesome place to visit because it is such a diverse state.
Florida Lighthouse (Photo credit: Megan Johnson)
Louisiana and Texas for a Deep South USA Road Trip
We have just returned from a Louisiana road trip that started in with Mardi Gras in New Orleans and ended in Houston. I’ve not yet had time to write the articles for this Louisiana road trip which included visiting plantation country and cajun country. In the meantime, here are two other perspectives on visiting Louisiana and Texas.
New Orleans, Louisiana
United States is a huge country with plenty of diversity, amongst which the southern states holds its own. The weather is warm, the food is spicy, the people are known for their “southern” hospitality and there are some unique rituals and festivals that are not observed anywhere else in the country.
New Orleans, the major city of Louisiana, stands out on its own because of the French colonialism hangover. The creole-cajun food where African (much like other southern states, Louisiana too had African slaves employed on plantations and cotton fields) and French traditions meet, the strains of Jazz music and the crowd puller Mardi Gras are all nods to its checkered past.
There are so many reasons to visit New Orleans, be it to witness the frenzy of Mardi Gras or the liveliness of New Orleans Jazz fest or to taste the amazing diversity in southern food.
However, the one thing that you should not miss is the French quarter neighborhood or Vieux Carre, the oldest district of the city and built by the French in 1718. The architecture is distinctly European with slatted windows, beautiful courtyards and fountains. It is a bustling neighborhood with bars, pubs, restaurants and local boutique shops. Bourbon street is the liveliest street which becomes the epicenter of drunken revelry during Mardi Gras while Canal street is where you get to see some of the best parades at that time.
French Quarter is home to the famous Jackson Square, formerly known as the Place d’Armes and later renamed after Andrew Jackson, the hero of the battle of New Orleans. Close by is the iconic Cafe du Monde serving beignets and coffee 24/7 (cash only please).
The French Quarter is a must visit if you are in NOLA and you can further enhance your experience by joining one of the many walking tours offered in the neighborhood.
New Orleans, Louisiana (Photo credit: Paroma Chakravarty)
Austin, the state capital of Texas, is a great place to visit and rightly deserves to be included in the Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions to visit in 2018.
Known predominantly for it’s eclectic music scene and the University of Texas at Austin, Austin also has enough parks and lakes to keep every outdoor enthusiast happy and are great for hiking, biking, swimming and kayaking.
It also has a blossoming food scene and currently serves up some of the best BBQ and Taco’s in the whole of the South! Add in an outdoor gallery and 2 annual music festivals, and you’ve got a city with something for everyone.
If you are planning a weekend in Austin, this guide has everything you need to know from things to do, where to stay and what to eat!
– by Vicki Garside at Make Time To See The World and on social media at
Austin Texas (photo credit: Vicki Garside)
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