Destin, Florida features stunning beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. It’s quite an attraction for vacationers who are looking for something else to do in Florida besides visiting Orlando or Miami.
You’d love to take a road trip to Destin from New Orleans. How do you get there?
To reach Destin from New Orleans, you’ll drive through southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and then the northeast points of Florida until you reach Destin. The drive takes about four hours without heavy traffic and is doable in an afternoon.
If you’re eager to plan your road trip to Destin, this article will tell you everything you need to know. I’ll elaborate further on the route above, discuss your drivetime, and recommend attractions for keeping the whole family entertained.
Let’s jump right in!
The best route from New Orleans to Destin
Your kids never do well on long car rides, which is why a road trip from New Orleans to Destin is perfect for you. The route is drivable in a single day so even the most tantrum-prone kids should keep it together.
Your drive will take you out of Louisiana with brief stops in Mississippi, Alabama, and then Florida before finally getting to Destin.
Even better is that it’s practically a straight shot east, so let’s go over your route now.
New Orleans to Honey Island Swamp
You won’t leave the familiarity of Louisiana right away.
From your home in New Orleans, your first stop is Honey Island Swamp in St. Tammany Parish.
You’ll arrive at the swamp in roughly 54 minutes if your drive isn’t interrupted by too much traffic.
So what is Honey Island Swamp? Perhaps you’ve never visited St. Tammany Parish before.
Honey Island Swamp is a stretch of marshland that is named after the prevalence of honeybees that used to live in the area.
Lots of creatures call Honey Island Swamp home, including paddlefish, largemouth bass, alligator gar, great blue heron, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, barred owls, brown pelicans, and American minks.
You may also spot muskrats, raccoons, opossums, bobcats, Louisiana black bears, red foxes, coypus, speckled kingsnakes, Western cottonmouths, red-eared sliders, and American alligators.
More of interest to you is how Honey Island Swamp is a great route for an assortment of travel destinations.
The 70,000-acre swamp has the West Pearl River to the west, the Pearl River to the east, Lake Borgne to the south, and U.S. 11 to the north.
Honey Island Swamp to Biloxi
From Honey Island South, you’ll drive north and say farewell to Louisiana.
Your vacation will feel like it’s getting underway as you drive to Biloxi, Mississippi. You should get there in about an hour unless you run into a lot of traffic.
Biloxi sits on the Gulf of Mexico. This popular Mississippi city has a rich variety of entertainment.
For the outdoorspeople, Deer Island features loggerhead turtles and pelicans.
History buffs shouldn’t miss the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library, the Beauvoir estate, or the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum.
Biloxi Beach, the Biloxi Lighthouse, and casinos are other attractions.
Biloxi to Mobile
Just don’t get too comfy, as you won’t stay in Mississippi for too long.
The next stop on your route to Destin is Mobile, Alabama.
From Biloxi to Mobile, you’ll drive slightly northeast for roughly 54 minutes. If you don’t get stuck in traffic, this drive is as easy as pie.
The port city of Mobile on the Gulf Coast is a rich cultural spot.
You and the family might visit the Mobile Museum of Art, pass by the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (which dates back to 1850), or spend a few hours at the Mobile Carnival Museum.
Over at Battleship Memorial Park, you can witness the USS Alabama battleship from World War II.
» MORE: Can You Drive to Dauphin Island?
Mobile to Pensacola
When you get the kids back into the car, you’ll drive from Alabama to Florida.
In about 54 minutes (without traffic) by driving slightly southeast, you’ll arrive in Pensacola.
Pensacola is the most western point of the Florida Panhandle. It’s the home of art and aviation museums, lighthouses, historical forts, state parks with gorgeous beaches, nature preserves, peaceful bays, and so much more.
Pensacola to Destin
Now that you’re in Florida, you can easily make your way to Destin from Pensacola by driving east for about an hour.
Congratulations, you’ve made it!
How long does it take to drive to Destin from New Orleans?
I usually recommend stopovers for long road trips by car, but I didn’t here. That’s because your route isn’t especially long.
It takes approximately three hours, and 59 minutes to drive from New Orleans to Destin.
With such a short trip, you should have several hours in between stops to enjoy some memorable family time and not have to worry about when you’ll arrive in Destin.
Keeping that in mind, I do recommend that you add a bit of extra time to your route for traffic, which is all but inevitable.
You can do your part by avoiding early-morning and late-afternoon rush hours, but other congestion might not be as easy to dodge.
Even if it takes a bit longer than four hours to get into Destin, there should still be no need for an overnight stop until you reach this part of Florida.
Family attractions on the road to Destin
If you’re eager for family fun on the entirety of your drive to Destin and not only once you reach this part of Florida, I’ve got plenty of attractions, sights, and destinations to explore!
- Biloxi Lighthouse
Near the Gulf of Mexico’s Mississippi Sound, you’ll find the Biloxi Lighthouse.
Built of sturdy cast-iron and completed in 1848, it’s one of the first lighthouses to feature that construction.
The lighthouse is also known for its female keepers, who manage this lighthouse in greater numbers compared to other lighthouses throughout the United States.
The 65-foot lighthouse does welcome tourists for public tours where you can ascend to its tallest point.
- Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum
Since 1986, the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum has been a premier place for experiencing Biloxi’s heritage and history of maritime operations.
The museum has only six exhibits, and they are as follows:
- Environmental Gallery
- Joe Moran Art Exhibit Gallery
- Commercial Fishing Gallery
- Biloxi Seafood Factory Gallery
- Wooden Boat Gallery
- Grand Hall – Nydia Exhibit
There’s certainly something fun to learn here for the whole family.
The Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum is open seven days a week except December to February, when it’s closed on Sundays.
- Deer Island
Right off Biloxi’s coast is Deer Island, a 400-acre island that houses 10 endangered animal and plant species.
In temperate weather, you and the family can enjoy paddleboarding, canoeing, and boating here.
- Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art
The nonprofit Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art is named after the “Mad Potter of Biloxi” himself, George E. Ohr, and mayor Jeremiah Joseph O’Keefe III’s wife Annette O’Keefe, a prime donor to the museum.
Most of the exhibits rotate in and out of the museum, but a few exhibits are permanent installations.
Those include Peter Olson: Year of the Plague, I am the Potter Who Was: George Edgar Ohr, and City Within a City: African American Culture in Biloxi.
- Biloxi Fire Museum
If you only have a bit of time in Biloxi, then make a beeline for the Biloxi Fire Museum.
This small museum, which the locals call the West End Hose Co. #3, has stood since 1937.
The firehouse showcases exhibits detailing the history of firefighting in Biloxi as well as fire equipment from long ago.
- Exploreum Science Center & Poach Band of Creek Indians
The Exploreum Science Center is sure to bring out the kid in all of you!
This science museum features an IMAX theater for showing educational films, hands-on and interactive activities, and a variety of exhibits that will certainly make the kids’ day.
The museum is open on Tuesdays through Saturdays but is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Get here early, as the Exploreum closes by 4 p.m.
- Meaher State Park
The 1,327-acre Meaher State Park in Spanish Fort near Mobile will grant you and the children a much-needed chance to reconnect with nature.
The state park is between the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and Mobile Bay, and that bay’s estuary encircles Meaher.
Campgrounds are available if you’re interested in overnight parking. You can utilize sewer and water hookups and electrical connections.
The park offers fishing areas with saltwater and freshwater fish, two boardwalks, and walking trails.
- Mobile Botanical Gardens
Established in 1974, the Mobile Botanical Gardens in the Spring Hill area boasts more than 100 acres of greenery for you and the family to leisurely stroll through.
Go on a walking tour of these locations:
- The ReBloom Garden
- Millie McConnell Rhododendron Garden
- Founders Fragrance and Texture
- John Allen Smith Japanese Maple Garden
- The Sybil Burnett Herb Garden
- Piff Plaza and Fountain
- Pollinator Garden
- Kosaku Sawada Winter Garden
- The Tea Maze
- The Katherine Shropshire Nature Trail
- Aromi Hybrid Azalea Garden
The children will also enjoy the koi pond in the Fragrance and Texture Garden.
Picnicking areas are onsite. If you stop by on a Wednesday or Friday, you can purchase a Georgia Roussos boxed lunch with one entrée, rolls and butter, two sides, a drink, and a dessert.
- Mobile Carnival Museum
Recounting more than 300 years of Mardi Gras and Carnival history, the Mobile Carnival Museum in downtown Mobile is in the Bernstein-Bush mansion, which itself is historic.
The museum details a rich part of Mobile’s history with original posters and artwork, tableau designs, jewels and outfits worn by Carnival queens, and jester costumes.
- Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
The Pensacola Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is a two-in-one attraction.
The lighthouse itself has been open since 1859. The brick structure holds up remarkably well to this day and is open to visitors like you and your family to explore.
The onsite maritime museum will teach you many more fascinating facts about this beloved piece of Pensacola history!
- Splash City Adventures
The kids will adore you for taking them to Splash City Adventures, a water park in the area.
The park includes a Junior Activity Pool with a dump bucket and two ropes courses for the little ones, Shark Attack and Flash Flood tube slides, and 10 more water slides.
Two kiddie pools, both of which are interactive, are on the grounds with mini slides perfect for the young’uns.
You and the family can also lounge in the 750-foot lazy river!
- Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park
The beautiful Vince J. Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park is a great place to spend an afternoon or even an hour before you reach Destin.
This Pensacola park in the historic downtown area is 38,000 square feet and features festival rounds, a playground, an amphitheater, and event space.
The park welcomes visitors to stroll, watch boats, go fishing, or just sit and enjoy.
- Pensacola Bay
On the Gulf of Mexico is Pensacola Bay in Santa Rosa and Escambia Counties.
Swimming is permitted but the bay doesn’t have lifeguards, so swim at your own risk.
- Uncle Sandy’s Macaw Bird Park Parrot Rescue & Sanctuary
You can’t leave Pensacola before visiting Uncle Sandy’s!
This macaw rescue and sanctuary is a nonprofit that welcomes public visitors to see and even interact with all the exotic birds (there are more than just parrots!).
Uncle Sandy’s is open on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until 4 p.m. but is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
What to do when you arrive in Destin
Now that you’ve made it to Destin, the real vacation begins!
Are you wondering how you can fill your itinerary here? Trust me when I say there is no shortage of fun activities for families in Destin.
Here are my favorites.
Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park
If you had to skip Splash City Adventures to get to Destin in a timely manner, then take your kids to the Big Kahuna’s Water & Adventure Park.
The kiddos will have a blast riding slides and wading in pools and rivers. Kiddie rides include Buccaneer Cove and more.
Once you and the kids are dried off, head on over to the onsite Adventure Park for a 54-hole game of tropical mini golf.
This park does operate seasonally despite the lovely Florida weather.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
In nearby Okaloosa Island, the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park is sure to delight the entire family.
The marine park, first opened in 1955, offers dolphin, ray, and shark shows as well as dolphin encounters.
If you and the kids are hungry after all that fun, the Dive-in Eatery on the grounds of the adventure park serves fresh chicken tenders, hot dogs, soft pretzels, nachos, sandwiches, burgers, popcorn, and ice cream.
Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone
Another can’t-miss family fun center in the area is Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone, an indoor attraction perfect for those rainy Florida days.
The kids can race on a grand prix track, experience the thrills of VR, compete in Bumper Wars bumper boats, play T-Rex Island Adventure Golf, see a 4D movie, try the Tree Top Challenge, play at the Redemption Arcade, or enjoy some laser tag.
The alligator park Gator Beach sure is a unique Destin attraction, that’s for certain!
You and the kids can see gators for free and even feed some gators if you wish to pay extra for food. Gator Beach even offers live alligator handling with photos for your brave little ones.
Taking a road trip from New Orleans to Destin is an easy enough drive that you can accomplish in about five hours without heavy traffic.
With so many wonderful sights on the drive, I would recommend taking your time to and from Destin so you can explore as many attractions as you and your children wish!