Nestled between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans offers a unique blend of city amenities within a coastal landscape.
New Orleans is known for its rich culture, one-of-a-kind festivals, and delicious Creole food. But just beyond the busy streets of NOLA, visitors can enjoy all of the outdoor activities the Gulf Coast offers.
Whether you dip your feet in Lake Pontchartrain or take a day trip to the Gulf of Mexico, a Book NOLA vacation home is the perfect home base to explore all the picturesque beaches nearby. Grab your po’boys for the road; we’ve rounded up the best beaches near New Orleans so that you get the most out of your Gulf Coast getaway.
As one of the only Lake Pontchartrain beach access points available to the public, Fontainebleau State Park is the closest beach to NOLA and offers activities for the whole family. The park has a few hiking trails, including the short and sweet Sugarmill Nature Trail (1.1 easy miles), perfect for a family stroll, and a splash pad for kids to enjoy.
Visitors can also go kayaking along the lake from this access point. The state park is only 10 minutes from Downtown Mandeville, where you can enjoy a midday meal at one of its many delicious restaurants. There is a $3 entrance fee per person for adults and children over four years old.
Bay St. Louis is the closest Gulf of Mexico beach near New Orleans, only an hour’s drive away. This low-key beach destination is the perfect family-friendly getaway, boasting shallow waters and wide sandy beaches. On any given day, locals will be building sand castles, sunbathing, or crabbing nearby.
The water in this part of the Gulf is brown and murky, so don’t expect clear waters when you visit! But if you are looking for a quick day trip with low crowds and plenty of kid-friendly activities, Bay St. Louis is your spot.
There is free parking and public restrooms nearby the beach access entrance point.
Just north of New Orleans in Franklinton, LA lies a spring-fed lake and sandy beach named White Sands Lake Day Beach. This popular man-made beach destination is the perfect day trip for the whole family to enjoy, as it has a little something for everyone.
The lake features an Aqua Park packed with fun inflatable water toys such as slides, trampolines, and aqua mats. The sandy beach is lined with cabanas, tiki huts, picnic tables, and even grills to enjoy a full day of relaxing, cooking, and the lake view. If you prefer a more action-packed beach day, you can enjoy a game of beach volleyball or rent a kayak or paddleboard for lake activities.
Admissions at publication were $18/day for adults and $13/day for children. While reservations are not required, we recommend reserving a cabana for the day to ensure you’ll have access to shade, a picnic table, and a grill.
Once you pass over the Bay St. Louis bridge, you will find a long stretch of beach towns along the Mississippi Coast. Perhaps the most popular is Biloxi Beach, known for its beachfront casinos and popular seafood eateries.
You can utilize public beach access points throughout this stretch, including Pass Christian, Gulfport, Biloxi, and Ocean Springs. Each town offers a different coastal vibe. While Pass Christian and Ocean Springs are more low-key and local, Gulfport and Biloxi are popular tourist beach destinations.
The water is murky on the Mississippi Coast, but there is still plenty of fun. There are multiple splash pads, museums, casinos, art galleries, and delicious restaurants along the oceanfront. With free parking at the public beaches, it’s a convenient and affordable day trip option from the Big Easy.
Pro Tip: For an exciting day’s adventure, take a ferry ride to Ship Island off the coast of Biloxi!
Grand Isle gives you the ultimate immersion into Louisiana’s coastal wildlife. It is the perfect spot if you’re looking for a more rugged and natural beach day getaway. An island at the Southeast tip of Louisiana, Grand Isle is known for deep-sea fishing excursions, epic wildlife viewing, and plenty of hiking trails. Grand Isle State Park offers public access to the beachfront destination for a $3 entrance fee.
Grand Isle State Park is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Visitors will spot brown pelicans and seagulls splashing in the water on any given day. If you come to fish, you will be blown away by the 400-foot fishing pier, the longest in Louisiana. And if you prefer a deep-sea fishing adventure, you can book a fishing charter trip for the day.
Dauphin Island is situated right on the border of Alabama and Mississippi. This small, unassuming barrier island near Mobile is packed with family-friendly activities. It offers a more local feel than other popular Alabama beaches, making it perfect for a low-key, easy day at the beach.
History buffs will enjoy access to Fort Gaines, a historical civil war site on Dauphin Island. Admission was $10 for adults and $5 for children at the time of publication.
Dauphin is also home to the Audubon Bird Sanctuary, a 165-acre bird sanctuary along the Gulf Coast. Visitors can enjoy walking the nature trails and bird-watching inside the bird sanctuary.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, neighboring beach towns in Alabama, offer the quintessential beach experience. You’ll often find families from New Orleans vacationing here as it is the closest beach with clearer waters than Mississippi. It is perfect for a day of sunbathing, beach volleyball, building sand castles, and boogie boarding in the ocean.
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach boast miles of beautiful beaches with multiple public access points. There is plenty of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment along the coast as well. If you’re looking for a lively, popular day trip with endless beach amenities, this is the stop for you.
Consistently ranked as one of the best beaches in the country, Pensacola Beach is a well-established tourist destination located in Northwest Florida. Once you cross from Alabama to Florida, you will notice the difference in beach quality from the sand to the water. Pensacola Beach is infamous for its sugar-white sand and beautiful clear waters. As a city with year-round residents, Pensacola is bursting with local eateries, coffee shops, bars, and more.
Pensacola Beach offers plenty of family-friendly activities, from parasailing to beach volleyball to seashell collecting. It might be a little further than New Orleans, but it makes for a beautiful beach spot worth the drive.
Pro Tip: Right past Pensacola Beach, you’ll find Navarre Beach, a more low-key local beach spot boasting the same beautiful sand and waters.
Each beach destination from NOLA offers a unique experience, from the social beaches of Biloxi to the tranquil setting of Dauphin Island. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can get to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country.
No matter your ideal beach day, Book NOLA is ready to host you at one of our incredible vacation homes.