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Ideas for a Deep South roadtrip (focus on food and nature)

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Nov 23rd, 2011, 04:42 AM
  #1
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Ideas for a Deep South roadtrip (focus on food and nature)

Hi,
We are a married couple in our early 30s planning a 3 week roadtrip to the South. Right now the idea is to fly NYC-New Orleans and go from there. We'd like to take it easy during the trip, stopping for 2-4 days or longer in various locations and avoiding long drives. We are also hoping to focus on the quieter, off-the-beaten-track places in the south. Tiny villages with a diner that serves the best barbecue in the world (do those exist anyway?), quiet lakeside cabins and forests/mountains where one can spend a day hiking, quaint villages which don't see hordes of tourists.
We're considering ending the trip with a few days of swimming in the Florida Keys. But maybe that's too ambitious in terms of distances.

We are not big fans of crowds, country music, Elvis, or Civil War memorabilia. That said, I guess there are some "must see" Southern places which should be on the list.

I've read through the other threads here and, so far, we are thinking (sort of in order of appearance):

New Orleans,
Dauphin Island, AL
Gulf Shores park, AL
Mobile, AL
Atlanta, GA
Savannah, GA
Charleston, NC
Jacksonville, FL
Orlando
Miami/Keys

Which essential places are we leaving out? What's not really necessary? Any suggestions would be very appreciated!
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 05:18 AM
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You have a great plan and a lot of miles in your program already. However, if you are interested in mountains, forests, and lakeside cabins you need to go Northeast from Atlanta. If you travel I-85 towards Greenville, then I-26 N to Route 74 and drive to Ashville, this is the most scenic section of the Carolina mountains. The area has lakes and cabins. Ashville is an excellent city. When you return SE, you are in the heart of the Carolina barbecue region.

Take care that your three weeks are not all windshield time. I recommend fewer miles and stops with more time to enjoy your destinations.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 05:21 AM
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Was born in the Big Easy live on the Gulf Coast AL/FL border

avoid peak summer season chock a block shoulder seasons best

For me fly into neworleansonline.com carrentals.com out of MSY

classic.mapquest.com directions distances my route

to Baton/Rouge Lafayette for best Cajun Prejauns my fav

Natchez www.scenictrace.com to Nasheville/Chatanooga/Smokies

down to Atlanta Callaway Gardens down to seasidefl.com

sandestin.com Pensacola orangebeach.com wolf-bay-lodge.com

great sweet shrimp Sonny's for BBQ Mobile Boloxi(casinos)

back in to neworleansonline.com

Keys a bridge too far away for me in the time you have

Happy Travels!
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 05:23 AM
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kpauls.com my fav in NO blackened redfish that will

melt in you mouth...
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 06:12 AM
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I'm not an expert on the south but I've travelled there several times over the years. I agree that you are trying to cover too many miles in 3 weeks. I visited my daughter several times when she was an undergrad at Emory, and we really enjoyed Atlanta. It has several very different neighborhoods, & fun & interesting sites that usually are not overly crowded, except for the aquarium. Also visited friends who have a cabin on Trey Mountain in Helen, GA. That's a nice area,too, with lakes & mountains & forests. Savannah & Charleston are beautiful small cities. I like vacations with a mix of cities & small towns & countryside. Both of my daughters (who are very well traveled) have been to Asheville, NC, & they say it is one of the most beautiful places they have seen.

Because the Florida Keys are so far away from your other destinations, would you consider the Outer Banks in NC for beach time?
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 06:26 AM
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"Which essential places are we leaving out? What's not really necessary?" Skip Jacksonville and substitute St. Augustine.

"Keys a bridge too far away for me in the time you have" Agree. It's too far, out of the way.

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Vic's travels: http://my.flightmemory.com/vogilvie
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 06:27 AM
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One more suggestion: if you decide to visit both Asheville & the Outer Banks, it's about an 8-hour drive from one end of NC to the other (I think). You could stop mid-way in Chapel Hill & Carborro. Both are small towns, very pretty, & Carborro is more artsy. My other daughter went to grad school at UNC so we visited her several times & enjoyed the area. If you like wineries, the Haw River Winery Trail is nearby, too. We visited several wineries, one of which is in Mebane.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 07:08 AM
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First, charleston is in SC. You need days there to eat "right".
I HIGHLY recommend a trip through Birmingham Al (on your way to Atlanta, if you must) and eat at Frank Stitt's Highlands Grill. Truly SPECIAL.
The Outer Banks is a LONG LONG way from Asheville. And the Keys are a LONG way from a lot of places!
I think you have a bit too much even for 3 weeks.
Recommend you get Guy Fieri's Diners Driveins and Dives for ideas of cute places.
ALSO John T. Edge's book Southern Belly for super ideas of OLD places. He is the executive of the Southern Folkways, an organization to preserve southern food.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 07:29 AM
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While you're on the gulf coast, I recommend a visit to Apalachicola. Quaint historic town with a nice vibe. Wonderful seafood, no crowds. The Historic Gibson Inn is one place to stay, there are several B&Bs in the area, or you could stay on St. George Island (a Florida beach with no high rises and no commercialism).
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 07:33 AM
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Didn't read anything above that I don't agree with.
Since you are renting a car anyway, You should get a cheap flight to Atlanta and rent and return the car there.
Anything south of Miami is probably too far to go.
For an adventure on the way home to NYC you could ride the Amtrak Crescent from Atlanta to Washington DC to NYC.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 08:06 AM
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I realize the Outer Banks is far from Asheville. I only suggested it if they do decide to go to Asheville, then they could go to Outer Banks before heading south to Charleston & Savannah, & then eliminate the Keys. All depends on their route & if they visit Asheville.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 08:29 AM
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I agree with the above poster who recommended Apalachicola Florida. It's a quaint little town to walk around but I would recommend that you stay on the ocean. This b&b would be about 20 min from Apalachicola in Indian Pass. It has been recommended here before and would be on your way to New Orleans: http://www.turtlebeachinn.com/ While staying there drive nearby and visit Cape San Blas...beautiful, beautiful beaches and a State Park on the peninsula. If interested in this area, I can recommend places to eat.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 10:16 AM
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Guys, thanks so much for all the suggestions.
We're eliminating Florida and I'm making a list of all the foodie recommendations you noted. Also, adding in the new towns you wrote about.
A follow up question -
Do you think it makes more sense to fly into Atlanta, rent a car there and then make a loop encompassing most of the places mentioned above ex-Florida (ie NC, down the coast to Savannah, then Alabama, Louisiana, and up again to Atlanta) OR to fly into New Orleans, rent a car and then head to Alabama, Georgia etc ending up in Atlanta (we want to visit friends there) and returning the car there?
Also, Dauphin Island and Gulf Shores park... worth a visit or not so much?
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 10:22 AM
  #14
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PS: I think we're gonna add Apalachicola to the itinerary given high ratings and Asheville sounds very very tempting... so much space to cover and not enough time!
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 10:49 AM
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What time of year is this going to take place?
Personally I would divide your actual time (about 19 days) and look at a map and see what is going to maximize your trip stops. The Outer Banks took a HUGE hit with the hurricane. It is hard to get there by ferry, plus the actual distance to cover. I don't know how things are really progressing with services there.
Asheville is a cute town. It is basically a bit north of the other many places you have listed. I would keep the loop south of Atlanta, even with eliminating Florida. Along the southeast coast--Charleston to Savannah--there is quite a lot. Along the gulf coast there is quite a lot. NOLA deserves several days, as does Charleston. Subract those days, and then see what you have. Just a thought.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 11:08 AM
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How about a beach in the panhandle of Florida? I don't know much about Gulf Shores AL.
I suggested flying to Atlanta because of the cheap flights. It should cost less to rent a car there if you consider that you might pay a one way rental fee if you rent in NO and return elsewhere.
You can easily drive from Atlanta to New Orleans in 2 days at a leisurely pace.
A night in one or the recently rebuilt casino/hotels in Biloxi would be nice even if you don't gamble.
You can see the OBX on a future shorter trip from NYC.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 11:41 AM
  #17
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We're going this December(in a week)... very last minute planning.
We're basically hoping to avoid booking all lodging in advance and just stay in motels along the way.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 11:47 AM
  #18
cd
 
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A drive from Atlanta to Cape San Blas/Indian Pass/Apalachicola Florida is only about 7hrs and you can enjoy the ocean/beach for a day or two. You can then take 30a to 98 going thru Port St Joe and on to Panama City This is a nice drive along the ocean, you can then drive on to Pensacola and more beach if you so desire. On to New Orleans about a 10hr drive from Indian Pass to NO.
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Nov 23rd, 2011, 03:32 PM
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So you haven't made reservations yet? Brave souls. Do you have a GPS/Ipad? Could be very helpful.
So beach time except for nice walking isn't going to be an activity.
YOu can drive from Atlanta to NOLA in a day pretty easily too, depending on what the time "pressures" are.
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Nov 27th, 2011, 08:20 AM
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Seems like the backroads and byways of South Louisiana fit your description perfectly -- you can fly into Neworleans.com and spend a few nights (it is possible to avoid the crowds/Bourbon Street b.s., catch some great live music, eat-eat-eat), then rent a car and drive to Cajun country for a taste of that quaint/local/authentic flavor you're looking for. The area around Lafayette and Breaux Bridge are excellent for exploring, and FILLED with exactly the kind of off-the-beaten-path food stops/culture you're looking for. Just a few recommendations to whet your appetite:

Cafe des Amis, Breaux Bridge (don't miss the gateau sirop cake)
Cochon Lafayette (new outpost of the New Orleans restaurant)
Best Stop in Scott, LA (for boudin)
A-Bears in Houma, LA (peanut butter pie)
Sportsman's Paradise in Chauvin/Cocodrie for the BEST seafood gumbo and friend speckled trout you'll ever have. The owner, Ms. Connie Townsend, is lovely!

Depending on the time of year you're here, you'll likely run into one of the countless food or music festivals.

The beauty of South Louisiana is that you'll NEVER run into the 'tourist hordes'. The people who do explore the area don't travel on buses or in packs -- they're independent travelers to like to strike out on their own and are comfortable finding their way around a new place. Another bonus: the culture (food, people, music, history, arts) is one of the most unique and unusual in our country. And, depending on who you ask, it's also a slowly disappearing culture -- the state of the coastline and wetlands and other factors are impacting the culture and, again, depending on who you ask, it might not be around for forever to experience.

Just my two cents...your list seems to cover a lot of major metro areas in the South, but to get the experience you're looking for, you've gotta get out of the city and into the 'sticks' to find it.
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