Exploring the BEST Beaches Near New Orleans: Sun, Sand & Jazz

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Ever found yourself mesmerized by the soulful allure of New Orleans, dreaming of jazz notes floating in the air and the rich flavors of Creole food? Thanks to my recent trip to NOLA, that is now me. But alongside my love for exciting city life is a deep-seated craving for sandy toes and the soothing rhythm of waves – after all, many of our favorite vacations include time at the ocean!

For my next visit to New Orleans, I’m planning on hitting two birds with one stone: combining the lively spirit of New Orleans with the tranquil beaches near New Orleans.

I’m a firm believer that the most memorable trips offer a taste of everything. Just like our frequent combo trips with a visit to Disney World and then a few days at Vero Beach, a visit to New Orleans, paired with excursions to its adjacent shores, promises just that. It’s about embracing the buzz of the city and then letting the calm of the coast wash over you. Just

Ready to discover how a trip to New Orleans can seamlessly transition into a blissful beach getaway? Let’s dive in. I’m here to guide you to the peaceful beach retreats near New Orleans, ensuring you get the perfect mix of urban exploration and coastal relaxation.

Welcome to New Orleans downtown sign surrounded by trees

Top Beaches Near New Orleans

1. Grand Isle, Louisiana

Grand Isle, LA is just a 2.5-hour drive from New Orleans. It’s the only inhabited barrier island in Louisiana and has seven miles of public beaches beautifully situated against the backdrop of the Gulf of Mexico. Whether you enjoy swimming, sandcastle building, shell combing, or just enjoying the sun and surf, Grand Isle would be a great choice as a beach to visit before or after your New Orleans vacation.

In addition to fun for beachgoers, Grand Isle is also a paradise for seafood enthusiasts and nature lovers (that’s me!). The island’s local seafood cuisine, featuring fresh catches from the Gulf, promises amazing dishes featuring succulent shrimp and flavorful crab. Plus, its reputation for world-class fishing and birding habitats adds to its charm, offering pristine views and a rich ecological diversity.

☀️For the ultimate Grand Isle experience, The Blue Dolphin Inn & Cottages stands out as the best place to stay, offering cozy accommodations right by the beach.

2. Fontainebleau State Park, Louisiana

If you just want a day trip to the “beach” from New Orleans, then you don’t need to drive all the way to the ocean. Instead, consider the lakefront beach at Fontainebleau State Park. It’s super close to New Orleans – just an hour away by car, so definitely the closest beach to New Orleans. Sitting on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain, this park spans 2,800 acres and is a sweet escape for anyone looking to swap city noise for some quiet beach vibes.

The old railroad tracks running through the park have been turned into the Tammany Trace, thanks to the Rails to Trails program. Now, it’s a top-notch path for biking, walking, or even rollerblading that snakes through some great scenery. So, if you’re up for a beach day with a side of history and some active fun, Fontainebleau State Park is where it’s at.

rainy day at the beach, shows the waves from the ocean on the sand

3. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay St. Louis Beach in Mississippi is just a short drive from New Orleans, about 58 miles to the northeast, making it a perfect spot for a day trip or a cozy weekend. This little town has it all: laid-back beach vibe, little slice of history, and a plenty of good seafood.

Bay St. Louis even has a casino, so if you are feeling lucky after a day at the beach, head over to play some slots. There are vintage shops and antiques and even a little science museum. So, if you’re up for a beach trip with a side of shopping, history, gambling, and some seriously good eats, Bay St. Louis is your spot.

🌟 A cottage like this one, offers the perfect blend of comfort and charm, making it an ideal base for exploring the unique attractions, tasty dining, and relaxed beach vibes of this coastal gem.

4. Ship Island, Mississippi

If your family likes easy adventures that are just a little bit different from your usual beach day, consider combining a visit to Ship Island, Mississippi with your New Orleans getaway. About 12 miles off the Mississippi coast and roughly an hour and a half drive from New Orleans to the ferry dock, this barrier island invites you for a day trip filled with exploration and relaxation.

The journey starts with a ferry ride, turning the trip into an adventure before you even step foot on the island – most kids love boat rides like this, and it makes it feel like an “extra” activity too.

Once you land on Ship Island, you’ll feel like you are in an entirely different world. The beaches here are pristine, offering miles of soft, sandy shores that are perfect for sunbathing, building sandcastles, or just taking a leisurely stroll. Ship Island is also a hotspot for wildlife with a variety of birds and marine life that call this place home. Plus there is Fort Massachusetts, the historic fort right on the island, adding a touch of history to your beach day.

Insider tip: Ship Island is close to Biloxi, so consider a three-day weekend in Biloxi with a day trip to Ship Island and then 3 nights in New Orleans – this would be a fantastic combo!

beautiful day at the beach, picture shows sand, ocean and blue skies with puffy white clouds

5. Holly Beach, Louisiana

Holly Beach in Louisiana, affectionately dubbed the “Cajun Riviera,” is your laid-back, no-fuss beach destination. Situated along the Gulf of Mexico, it’s a solid three-hour drive from New Orleans, but well worth the trek for its chill vibes and scenic views. This spot is all about kicking back, Louisiana-style, with a rustic charm that’s hard to find anywhere else.

Part of the charm of Holly Beach is its simplicity. It’s one of six beaches you’ll find along the west side of the Creole Nature Trail, making it a prime spot for folks looking to fish, hunt for shells, or just enjoy some bird-watching. The vibe here is so relaxed, even your dog can join in on the fun, making it a great spot for the whole family (furry members included).

What you won’t find at Holly Beach are the crowded shorelines or flashy tourist traps. Instead, you’ll be greeted by the Gulf’s gentle waves, a friendly atmosphere, and plenty of space to spread out your beach towel. Whether you’re planning a family outing, a day trip with friends, or a solo escape to clear your head, Holly Beach offers that perfect mix of tranquility and outdoor fun, all wrapped up in the laid-back charm of the Cajun Riviera.

New Orleans Weekend Getaway

New Orleans Weekend Itinerary

Visit my Etsy store to get a “done-for-you” weekend itinerary for New Orleans with your teens. All the planning is done for you – just print it out and follow along!

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6. Shell Beach, Louisiana

Shell Beach, just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of New Orleans, is your go-to spot for a quick beach fix. Located only about 30 miles southeast, you’re looking at an easy hour’s drive from the city to the peaceful shores of the Gulf Outlet Canal near Lake Borgne. If you want that beach feel without the hassle or the hefty price tag consider a day trip to Shell Beach.

Shell Beach isn’t your typical sandy beach with waves crashing ashore. It’s more of a serene spot for those who love to boat, fish, or just chill in the sun. The area is pretty laid-back, with a scattering of fishing boats and local anglers adding to the charm.

And while there aren’t hotels or big developments crowding the area, that’s exactly what makes Shell Beach ideal for a day trip. You can soak up the sun, have a swim in the inland lagoon formed by Gulf Waters, or just enjoy the beautiful views and quiet atmosphere before you head back to New Orleans for the rest of your getaway.

sand, surf and blue skies

7. Biloxi Beach, Mississippi


Adding a few days in Biloxi Beach to your New Orleans trip is probably the closest ocean experience and a fantastic combo. Just about 90 miles away, which means under a two-hour drive, you can go from the jazz-filled streets of New Orleans to the white sands of Biloxi Beach. Biloxi offers that classic beach getaway vibe with a twist of Southern charm.

The beach itself is a haven for those looking to lounge in the water or amp up the excitement with a jet-ski ride across the waves. And if speed isn’t your thing, there’s always the option of taking a leisurely walk along the boardwalk, soaking in the gorgeous views of the Gulf. The boardwalk is lined with spots to just sit and enjoy the sea breeze, making it a great place to unwind.

If you have your kids along on your New Orleans/beach vacation you’ll be glad to know Biloxi Beach is known for its safer, shallow waters, making it less stressful for parents. Beyond the beach, the city of Biloxi surprises with family-friendly dining that goes way beyond the casino buffets, serving up local flavors that’ll have you feeling like a local in no time.

🏖️ For a terrific beachfront option, check out South Beach Biloxi Hotel & Suites!

8. Dauphin Island, Alabama


Dauphin Island, Alabama, is a bit of a hidden gem and a fantastic option for a beach day or two when you’re visiting New Orleans. Just a stone’s throw from the city, (well, if you could throw a stone about 2.5 hours east), you’ll find yourself on this quaint island that’s all about the slow, Southern way of life. It’s the perfect counterbalance to the vibrant energy of New Orleans, offering an authentic slice of Gulf Coast charm.

This small town vibes big with its marine culture. Plenty of eclectic shops and galleries where local artistry shines, and laid-back restaurants where the day’s catch is always on the menu. Plus, there are miles and miles of beaches, uncrowded and pristine with sugar-white sand. Fishing is top-notch, the history is rich, and it’s known as the “Sunset Capital of Alabama.”

On the west end of Dauphin Island, the beaches are especially breathtaking, with that perfect sugar-white sand setting the scene for a day under the sun. Whether you’re here to soak up the rays, cast a line into the Gulf, or simply enjoy a stroll along the beach at sunset, Dauphin Island offers a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle. So, if you’re plotting a New Orleans trip and craving a beach escape, Dauphin Island is one of my top suggestions!

☀️ Oceanfront apartment with a balcony? Yes, please!

sandy beaches of the gulf coast in Florida

9. Navarre Beach, Florida


Situated in the Pensacola Metro area, Navarre Beach is a straightforward drive from New Orleans, roughly 3 hours to the east, making it an accessible slice of paradise for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the Gulf of Mexico’s turquoise waters after enjoying the vibrant city vibes of New Orleans.

This little town stretches out on the Santa Rosa Barrier Island, a natural beauty that runs from Pensacola Beach through Gulf Islands National Seashore all the way to Navarre. Positioned snugly between the more bustling beaches of Pensacola and Destin, Navarre Beach has carved out its own niche, offering a quieter, more serene beach experience.

What truly sets Navarre Beach apart, besides its peaceful ambiance, is the incredible sugar-white sand you’ll find along its shores. This isn’t just any sand; it’s made of finely ground quartz that journeyed from the Appalachian Mountains all the way here, giving the beaches their distinctive soft, snowy-white appearance.

🏖️ SpringHill Suites is a terrific option for a stay in Navarre Beach and it even includes a free breakfast and a lovely pool.

10. Gulfport, Mississippi

Gulfport Beach in Mississippi is one of my favorite choices for adding on a few days at the beach to your New Orleans trip. At only about an hour and a half drive from New Orleans you’ll be quickly swapping out the lively streets and jazz tunes of the Big Easy for the tranquil, white sands of Gulfport without having to deal with the crazy crowds you might find at more well-known beach destinations.

This coastal gem along the U.S. Gulf Coast has got it all if you’re into beach and boating activities. Whether you’re up for some sailing, fishing, parasailing, or jet skiing, Gulfport has it. The water here is inviting almost all year round, with temperatures staying comfortable — low of 68°F from November through April, peaking at a warm 84°F during the summer months. Even in winter, the Gulf of Mexico hovers around a cool 60°F, making it pretty ideal if you’ve got a winter New Orleans/ beach trip planned.

You can wade out into the water quite a bit before you need to actually swim, or just sit back and enjoy the gentle waves. So, if you’re making a trip down to New Orleans and fancy a few beach days without the fuss, Gulfport Beach is your go-to for some easy-going, sandy fun.

🌴 This adorable little cottage within walking distance of the beach would be the perfect place to stay in Gulfport!

lake beach with sand, water and blue skies

Beach Day Essentials

When you are heading from New Orleans to the beach you’ve got consider a few extra items you wouldn’t normally pack for a city vacation. So make sure you have these items in your bag, even for trips to the nearest beaches to New Orleans. Whether you’re lounging on the white sands of Gulfport or catching the sunset on Dauphin Island, being well-prepared will make your beach day all the more enjoyable.

First up, sunscreen is a must. The Gulf Coast sun can be unforgiving, and nothing ruins a beach day faster than a sunburn. Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF30. A good hat and UV-blocking sunglasses will also go a long way in keeping you comfortable and protected from the sun.

Next, hydration is key. Pack plenty of water to keep you and your crew hydrated throughout the day. While it’s tempting to crack open a cold beer or sip a cocktail, remember that alcohol can dehydrate you, so balance it out with lots of water. My rule is always one to one – one water for each adult beverage I drink. A collapsible cooler is great for keeping your drinks and snacks chilled.

Don’t forget your beach towel or a lightweight blanket for lounging on the sand. A beach chair can also be a game-changer for comfort. If you plan on spending the whole day at the beach, a beach umbrella or a pop-up tent can provide much-needed shade and relief from the sun. We’ve been known to purchase inexpensive chairs or umbrellas at a local grocery store and then pass them off to another family at the end of our visit. Well worth it!

view of Bourbon Street in New Orleans from a second story balcony

Making the Most of Your New Orleans Beach Vacation

Safety First: Always keep an eye on weather conditions and heed any warnings about strong currents or jellyfish. If you’re traveling with your kids, establish a meeting point in case you get separated. And remember, the sun is stronger by the water, so reapply sunscreen regularly, seek shade during peak sun hours, and stay hydrated.

Respect for Nature: The beaches are beautiful, so let’s keep them that way. Stick to marked paths to protect dune ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Dispose of trash properly, and even consider a quick beach clean-up as part of your visit. It’s a small gesture that makes a big difference. If you’re enjoying activities like fishing, ensure you’re following local regulations to keep the marine environment healthy and thriving.

Finding Your Perfect Spot: Whether you’re after tranquility or a place where the kids can go wild, do a little research before you head out. Early mornings are usually quieter, perfect for those seeking peace or wanting to capture the sunrise. For family fun, look for beaches with lifeguards, playgrounds, or other amenities. Sometimes, the best spots are a little off the beaten path, so don’t be afraid to explore.

Incorporating Local Flavor: Keep the New Orleans vibe alive, even on the beach. Create a beach playlist with local artists to enjoy as you soak up the sun. Pack a picnic with Creole and Cajun flavors, or seek out local seafood restaurants near the beach for lunch or dinner.

Conclusion: Best Beaches Near NOLA

Wrapping up your New Orleans adventure with a beach escapade is sure to create a fantastic vacation for you. From the soulful vibes of the city to the soothing waves of the Gulf Coast, blending urban exploration with beach relaxation offers the best of both worlds. Whether you’re soaking up the sun on Grand Isle, catching a ferry to Ship Island, or relaxing on the quieter shores of Holly Beach, these coastal gems near New Orleans provide the perfect backdrop for making memories.

So, next time you’re jazzed up about New Orleans, don’t forget to pack your beach gear. There’s a whole world of sandy shores and Gulf breezes just waiting to complement your city adventure. I know it’s the perfect vacation combination for me! Here’s to sandy toes, sunset views, and all the beachside bliss that lies just a short drive from New Orleans.

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