Road Trip from Houston to Orlando

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The Houston to Orlando drive is a picturesque, three-day trip along the Gulf Coast. You’ll enjoy tons of opportunities to marvel at the natural beauty of the South, including Panama City and Beaumont, and visit plenty of historic sites, such as the Oakleigh Historic Complex. We’ve also included some suggestions for award-winning BBQ joints.
Before you go, make sure you’re prepared in case things go cattywampus. Flat tires, lockouts, and dead batteries are a hassle, but if you become a member of the roadside assistance program with Jerry, you won’t have to worry about annoying interruptions. (Psst—Jerry can also save you money on car insurance).
Ready to discover a Southern thoroughfare like no other? Here are the best stops for your road trip from Houston, Texas to Orlando, Florida.

Day 1—Houston to New Orleans

The first leg of this road trip is packed full of delicious food, but we’ve thrown in some awesome historic and nature sites for you as well. Make sure you have some cash handy, just in case a roadside vendor doesn’t accept cards (trust us, you don’t want to miss out on any of the amazing food).
Before you hit the road, keep in mind that In this part of the world, when the weather is nice, it’s really nice—but when it’s bad, it’s catastrophic. Check reports ahead of time to be sure it’s safe to travel.
Travel time: 6 hours nonstop.
Where to stop: Port Arthur, TX, Beaumont, TX, Lake Charles, LA, and Baton Rouge, LA.
Where to eat: While there’s no shortage of good food along your route, Lafayette offers incredible options for Cajun and Creole food. Try a po’ boy sandwich for lunch at Old Tyme Grocery. Save room for a big dinner in New Orleans (GW Fins in the French Quarter is a great choice).
Where to sleep: Old No. 77 Hotel in New Orleans has a long and fascinating history, and there are art exhibits onsite. Hotel Provincial is a bit more expensive, but it’s also more centrally located and it has a gorgeous pool.
What to do: One option is to take the exit for Port Arthur and head to Sea Rim State Park, which is just an hour and a half from Houston. Walk the beach and take in the majesty of the Gulf before driving to Sabine Pass on your way back to the highway. Here you can explore a significant Civil War battleground site.
If that’s too far from the highway, take a short pitstop in Beaumont to see the world-class botanical gardens or explore the Art Museum of Southeast Texas. Hidden an hour and a half east in Lake Charles is the engaging Mardi Gras Museum with vibrant costumes on display year-round.
One more stop before you reach NoLa is Bluebonnet Swamp Nature Center in Baton Rouge, a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with nature.
Key Takeaway This part of the world is full of incredible food—so forget about counting calories and just enjoy the vibrant flavors!
Shops of all colors line a crowded street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana.
New Orleans, Louisiana

Day 2—New Orleans to Panama City

This stretch is perfect for following your instincts—you can’t go wrong! With gorgeous beaches, natural recreation areas, and delectable food around every corner, try to relax and enjoy this part of your adventure.
Travel time: An easy 5-hour drive (nonstop).
Where to stop: Biloxi, MS, Mobile, AL, Pensacola Beach or Gulf Shores beaches in AL.
Where to eat: Start by filling your tummy with coffee and beignets at the famous Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Once you pass Gulfport, you’re in the heart of BBQ country. Try Murky Waters or carry on to the town of Biloxi for some seafood. It’s worth veering 15 minutes off your route to Foley, AL to experience Lambert’s Cafe and its "throwed rolls."
Where to sleep: Panama City is beautiful but crowded. For an extra special stay, splurge on accommodation at The Pearl in Rosemary Beach. This hotel is the height of luxury and you’ll enjoy a quiet, world-class experience on one of the best beaches on the Gulf.
What to do: Three hours from New Orleans is Pensacola Beach, home to pristine beaches. Pullover for a jaunt on the beach and a refreshing dip in the bay. Keep your eyes peeled for small BBQ joints on the side of the road—in this area, it’s a bad idea not to sample the food at a roadside shack.
The United States still bears painful scars from centuries of slavery and this area contains many plantations which are open to the public for tours. Oakleigh Historic Complex is on your route in Mobile and presents a good opportunity for visitors to confront America’s history of violence, atrocities, and racial injustice.
The view from beneath a raised dock in Pensacola Beach, Florida. The ocean water is blue and clear.
Pensacola Beach, Florida
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Day 3—Panama City to Orlando

Take advantage of this final stretch of your road trip to seek out parks and unique recreational activities that won’t be as available once you arrive in Orlando.
Travel time: 5 ½ hours nonstop.
Where to stop: Tallahassee, Five Points, Gainesville, Williston.
Where to eat: Kool Beanz Cafe in Tallahassee is the perfect place to fuel up for your final stretch. Don’t be fooled by the name—they offer delicious vegan and vegetarian options made with local ingredients. Marion Street Bistro and Brewhouse in the Five Points area of Lake City offers classic brewpub meals, Southern style.
In Gainesville, try Prum’s Kitchen for Cambodian food that is famous amongst locals. In Orlando, head to Q’Kenan Restaurant for affordable, delicious Venezuelan food that is far away from the crowds at chain restaurants.
Where to sleep: If you’re hitting the theme parks, Universal’s Endless Summer Resort can’t be beat for amenities and quick access to the parks. If you prefer to stay downtown, try the Grand Bohemian Hotel.
What to do: It’s worth spending an hour or two in Panama City before you head out, as there are lots of quaint seaside amusement parks in the area. Shell Island Beach is only accessible by boat, but it’s worth the trip if you like to snorkel.
The Tallahassee Museum offers 52 lakeside acres with exhibits and activities to suit all tastes. One final stop is Devil’s Den Prehistoric Spring in Williston, just two hours from Orlando. Refresh yourself in this stunning subterranean pool before embracing the sunshine at your final destination.
Key Takeaway Aim for a mix of sunny outdoor adventures and shaded indoor (or underground) activities.
A glass dome and seating area amidst tall buildings in Klemen Plaza, Tallahassee
Tallahassee, Florida
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Why you need roadside assistance

The Gulf is known for its stunning beauty, as well as its dramatic (and sometimes dangerous) weather patterns. But it doesn’t take a tornado to ruin a road trip—a flat tire can be catastrophic, too!
Roadside assistance is a smart way to ensure that you have protection. From Uber credits to towing assistance, fuel delivery to lockout support, a roadside assistance membership with Jerry offers help when you need it.
You’ll pay just $10 for peace of mind. No more worrying about getting stranded, running out of gas, or popping a tire in a torrential downpour—just you and the road (and Jerry, if you need us). When you put it that way, it sounds like a bargain, right?
"Easiest and most convenient way to purchase insurance. Thanks, Jerry!" - Satisfied Jerry user


Is it dangerous to drive along the Gulf?

The roads are well-maintained. You do need to be mindful of changing weather patterns, as tropical storms can lead to unsafe driving conditions. Mississippi also has a high percentage of uninsured drivers, so make sure you have UI/UIM coverage before you head out.

What’s the beach along my route?

We don’t want to start a fight… but the best beaches along this route are in Panama City. Alas, you’ll have to make up your own mind! Luckily, nearly every beach in the Gulf is pretty spectacular in its own way.
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