If the state of Mississippi isn’t road trip territory, I don’t know what is! I’ve had a few places marked on Google for a while, and now it was time to tick them off as part of the epic road trip in Mississipi.
So what is Mississippi known for? Let’s start with its rich music history, the mighty Mississippi river, and delicious mud pies. Oh and throw in some Southern hospitality for good measure.
Bordered by Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee (along with the Gulf of Mexico), there are endless road trip options in and around this state.
Although the capital city of Jackson is the most-visited destination in Mississippi, there are tons of hidden gems (and some not-so-hidden ones) just waiting for you to explore.
This Mississippi road trip takes us all the way from the Gulf Coast to the city of Tupelo. It includes the popular Natchez Trace Parkway and the white sandy beaches of Gulfport.
Curious to know more? Let’s get started!
Road Trip in Mississippi – Overview
Here is the road trip I did, and that I recommend you do too, as it offers a mix of adventure, landscapes and seascapes, and culture with Elvis’ birthplace at the end.
- Gulfport – Coastal Mississippi
- Natchez and its Antebellum Homes
- Natchez Trace Parkway
- Tupelo – The Birthplace of Elvis
Alternative Mississippi Road Trip
If the road trip above isn’t enough for you, then the itinerary below might be a good alternative.
- Start in Memphis, Tennessee
- Natchez Trace Parkway
- End in Gulfport
Best Time for a Road Trip in Mississippi
The best time for a road trip in Mississippi is during the spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) months. During these seasons, the weather is typically mild and comfortable, perfect for exploring and enjoying outdoor activities.
Summer months (June to August) can be quite hot and humid, which might be less comfortable for extended outdoor excursions. Winters are generally mild, but some attractions might have reduced hours or even be closed.
Also, consider visiting during local festivals for a unique Mississippi experience. Festivals like the Natchez Balloon Festival in October add special flair to your road trip.
How Long to Plan for a Mississippi Road Trip?
The ideal length for a Mississippi road trip can vary depending on what you want to see and do, but generally, planning for 7 to 10 days is a great idea.
This timeframe gives you enough flexibility to explore key attractions like the Gulf Coast, Natchez, and Tupelo while also enjoying leisurely drives along scenic routes like the Natchez Trace Parkway.
If you’re focusing on a specific region, like the Blues Trail or the Gulf Coast, you might be able to cover your highlights in a shorter time, say 3 to 5 days.
How Much to Plan for a Mississippi Road Trip?
Planning a budget for a Mississippi road trip depends on several factors, including your travel style, accommodation preferences, and the activities you plan to do.
In terms of accommodation, budget hotels or inns might cost $70-$100 per night, while mid-range hotels could be $100-$200. Luxury or unique accommodations like historic inns could go higher.
Casual dining and local eateries might cost around $20 to $30 per meal. If you include a few fine dining experiences or specialty restaurants, budget more.
Lastly, factor in car rental costs if you’re not using your own. Daily rental rates vary but expect around $30-$60 per day, plus fuel and insurance costs. Mississippi’s fuel prices are generally lower than the national average but budget for $2-$3 per gallon.
Mississippi Road Trip Itinerary
Let’s now talk about the itinerary I personally did, starting from coastal Mississippi in Gulfport.
The first part of this Mississippi road trip we explore the city of Gulfport. You can get here by flying into Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport.
It’s the state’s second-largest city and is known for its variety of eateries, recreational activities, and popular attractions.
This bustling city is located along the coastline so offers plenty of coastal excursions and adventures. Not to mention, there’s a fantastic entertainment district in this city, so there’s something for everyone!
Whether you’re looking to relax, explore the Gulf of Mexico by boat, or win some cash at a casino, you’re in luck.
Here are some of my top things to do in Gulfport, MS.
There are tons of fantastic things to do in Gulfport, but I’d recommend heading out on an afternoon charter fishing trip. These will see you explore the Mississippi Sound.
Now, Captain Ronnie Daniels is a licensed captain with plenty of fishing experience (20 years of it in fact). He is the most knowledgeable around and you’re in for a real treat with him!
Ask Ronnie about his TV series and see if you can take your catch to Shaggy’s to cook it for lunch or dinner. You can’t get fresher fish than that!
If you’re a keen birdwatcher then no Mississippi road trip is complete without this experience. Here, you’ll get to witness a variety of birdlife, many of which are endangered, and learn about the protected Least Terns,.
Although you won’t be able to get close to the colony (the area is protected), you’ll be able to observe them through a spotting scope.
Visit the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies
If you’re a fan of marine life, the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport is a must-visit! It’s a place where fun meets learning and adventure.
Here, you can get up close with adorable dolphins, watch playful otters, and learn about the amazing marine creatures that call the ocean home.
It’s perfect for families or anyone who loves animals and wants to know more about ocean conservation. So, get ready for an unforgettable experience filled with smiles and new discoveries!
Eat at Shaggy’s Pass Harbor
The great thing about Shaggy’s Restaurant is that they’ll clean and cook your fresh catch (as mentioned above). It doesn’t get much better than that.
Of course, if the fish don’t bite on your fishing trip you’ll still have a wealth of options to choose from. This includes fresh seafood, tasty burgers, pasta dishes, and sandwiches.
Where to Stay in Gulfport
I recommend spending the night in Gulfport before continuing your road trip in Mississippi, and these are the best hotels in town.
Luxury: Centennial Hotel at Centennial Plaza
The Grand Centennial Hotel is a luxurious option for sure, with a wide variety of rooms to choose from. Each one is modern, spacious, and features plenty of amenities.
Boasting a lazy river, swim-up bar, outdoor pool, and on-site restaurant, this hotel has everything you could need. There’s even a boutique arcade if you’re after some fun!
Mid-Range: Best Western Seaway Inn
This Gulfport hotel is only 3 miles from Gulfport-Biloxi Airport and offers free airport rides. It has an outdoor pool in a tropical courtyard and big rooms with free Wi-Fi.
Every room comes with a microwave, fridge, coffee maker, flat-screen TV with HBO, and a desk. There’s an outdoor hot tub, barbecue picnic area, 24-hour business center, and laundry.
Enjoy daily breakfast to wake up off the right foot and then enjoy the swimming pool!
Budget: Super 8 by Wyndham Gulfport
This motel has great prices in Gulfport and you can enjoy a continental breakfast daily and relax in the outdoor pool.
Every room has free Wi-Fi, cable TV with HBO, a microwave, and a fridge, plus a work desk. Overall, a great place to stay in town on a budget.
Next stop on our Mississippi road trip is the charming city of Natchez. Steeped in history, Natchez sits perched on the bluffs above the Mississippi River, offering stunning views and a glimpse into the past.
As you stroll through the city, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time with its well-preserved antebellum homes and historic streets.
Don’t miss the chance to tour some of these grand mansions, like the famous Stanton Hall or Longwood.
But Natchez’s history has a darker side too, reflected in its past as a slave market. That’s right, Natchez was once the capital of Mississippi, and that’s why the slave market was popular.
You can stop and see the Forks of the Road Slave Market, where there’s a sign explaining the history of that market.
Before leaving, don’t forget to pay a visit to Natchez National Historical Park, you’ll get an in-depth look at both the opulence and the hardships of the 19th century. The park offers a poignant, educational experience that brings to light the complex history of the region.
Where to Stay in Natchez
You could easily spend a full day around Natchez, and I recommend staying for the night before heading to the Natchez Trace Parkway the day after. Here are excellent accommodation options.
Luxury: The Guest House Historic Mansion
The Guest House Historic Mansion in downtown Natchez offers free WiFi everywhere. Here, you can enjoy a free breakfast every day.
Each room at this cozy bed and breakfast has air conditioning, a flat-screen TV, and a private bathroom with a bath. There are also free toiletries and a hairdryer for extra comfort.
Mid-Range: Concord Quarters
Concord Quarters in Natchez offers cozy rooms with a balcony and views of the inner courtyard. This bed and breakfast provides air-conditioned rooms, free private parking, and free WiFi.
Each room has a seating area, flat-screen TV, cable channels, and a private bathroom with a hairdryer, bath, and shower. Some rooms have garden views and a coffee machine, which is great in the morning.
Budget: Excellent Inn & Suites
Each guest room at Excellent Inn and Suites includes a microwave and small refrigerator, along with cable TV. Guests are welcomed with a 24-hour reception and can use a business center.
There are also laundry facilities for extra convenience. The inn is close to attractions and they offer free breakfast each morning!
Natchez Trace Parkway
The Natchez Trace Parkway is a recreational road that stretches for 444 miles (715 km). This scenic drive follows the ‘Old Natchez Trace’, which was once a travel corridor used by everyone from American Indians to future presidents.
The Natchez Trace Parkway links the city of Natchez with Nashville, and will take you through three different states; Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. Along the way, you’ll get to admire 10,000 years of history!
As this road is open all year round, it doesn’t matter when you plan your Mississippi road trip either. Here are some ways to explore the Natchez Trace.
For the best experience, I’d recommend cycling this route with Bicycle Revolution. Now, you’ve got the option of cycling on the road or using a multi-use path. No matter which one you choose, make sure you keep yourself visible.
There’s also a huge rehabilitation project currently underway (as of Sep 2023), so you’ll find that there are some closures and detours.
If you’re short of time, then driving the Natchez Trace Parkway is your best option. Just allow for some stops along the way, with highlights including the Mount Locust Historic House, Cypress Swamp, and Jackson Falls.
Just be aware that traffic in this area can be heavy and wildlife do like to hang around by the parkway (especially deer).
Eat at Sombra Mexican Kitchen
Honestly, who doesn’t enjoy delicious Mexican food? Whether you’re after enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, or tacos, Sombra Mexican Kitchen is the best place to be. Don’t forget about their tasty nachos either!
And what better drink to pair Mexican food with, than a delicious margarita? No matter what you fancy, this place is sure to have something to your liking.
Where to Stay in Ridgeland
If you plan to spend the night in Ridgeland for a quick break from driving, then the hotels below are great options.
This pet-friendly hotel is the perfect choice if you’re basing yourself in Ridgeland. Not only does AC Hotel by Marriott focus on sustainability but it offers plenty of facilities including a fitness centre, restaurant, and free WiFi.
The rooms at this hotel are super spacious and you’ll have the option to include breakfast with your stay.
This hotel in Ridgeland, Mississippi, is right off Interstate 55, only 3 minutes from North Park Mall. It offers free Wi-Fi, an outdoor pool, and a gym.
The rooms at Wingate by Wyndham Jackson Ridgeland have warm decor, cable TV, a microwave, fridge, and a sofa bed. There’s a 24-hour front desk, a business center, and coin-operated laundry facilities.
Around a 3-hour drive from the capital of Jackson, you’ll come across the city of Tupelo. It’s the largest city in Northeast Mississippi and is most famous for being the home to Elvis Presley, yep, the iconic ‘King of Rock & Roll’.
Tupelo is also known for its live music, history, culture, and fantastic cuisine. In fact, there are over 200 restaurants to choose from so you certainly won’t go hungry.
As well as being home to the Natchez Trace Parkway, you’ll find a wide variety of other attractions on offer.
Here are some of the best things to do in Tupelo!
Depending on the time of year, you should visit Gumtree Art & Wine Festival. This market usually takes place in spring (May) and is currently in its 51st year (as of 2023).
The festival runs for 2 days and is full of visual and performing arts. You’ll be offered the chance to talk with artists and purchase pieces, along with indulging in wines and spirits. What more could you ask for?
Covering an area of 210 acres and home to over 260 animals, Tupelo Buffalo Park is another great place to include on your Mississippi road trip!
The large herd of American Bison here must be a highlight, but there are plenty of other species to see. This includes giraffes, monkeys, kangaroos, ostriches, and highland cows.
Exploring Elvis’ Birthplace (the museum, church and childhood home) is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Tupelo! If the name didn’t give it away, this is where Elvis was born, so is a must-visit for any music fan.
Today, this place is now a museum where you’ll get to learn all about Elvis’ early life. His childhood church has even been moved to this site and has a re-enactment of a ceremony and choir performance from that time period, so there’s a lot to see!
There are some fantastic murals to be found in Downtown Tupelo. For the Elvis fans out there, you’ll want to visit the Jailhouse Rock Mural, the 1950s Elvis Mural, and the Icehouse Elvis Mural.
Of course, there are plenty of others to see as well. For the best experience, allow some time to take yourself on a self-guided mural walking tour.
Another quirky attraction in the city of Tupelo is the Elvis Guitar Trail! Even if you’re not a musician or fan of the ‘King of Rock & Roll’, you’ll still appreciate the 25 Elvis-themed guitars that are found throughout Downtown.
These guitars are a funky photo opportunity, so hunt down your favourite ones and snap some awesome photographs. They are all placed in an area of significance in the Elvis Presley story.
Don’t miss: The Tupelo Hardware Store, where Elvis bought his first guitar. This is still a functioning hardware store today, but let the staff tell you the story about Elvis’s visit. Check it out in the video below!
Elvis Tupelo Driving Tour
Lastly, there’s the Elvis Tupelo Driving Tour which you can do self-guided. If you’ve got a car, you can visit many of the places Elvis visited in his younger days. This includes Johnnie’s Drive-In, Mud Creek Swimming Hole, and Lyric Theatre.
If you can’t drive, you can also do a self-guided tour by bicycle. Just make sure you allow more time.
Enjoy Your Time at Jobos Restaurant and Crave
Jobos Restaurant & Bar is one of the city’s trendiest eateries and you’ll find it within Hotel Tupelo. This place is especially known for its surf and turf!
There’s also Crave, a charming coffee shop which is a great place to grab breakfast. Aside from the delicious coffee, there’s also a selection of tasty breakfast items and pastries to choose from.
Where to Stay in Tupelo
There are so many things to do in Tupelo and I highly recommend spending the night here. Here’s a selection of hotels in town.
You’ll be staying in Downtown Tupelo if you opt for this hotel (always a bonus). Hotel Tupelo is the only boutique hotel in Mississippi and boasts 79 guest rooms.
This place has an on-site Restaurant and bar and fitness centre, while also offering complimentary bikes so you’ll have no problems getting around the city! It’s also dog-friendly.
This hotel in Tupelo, Mississippi, is close to Elvis Presley’s Birthplace and Tupelo National Battlefield. Guests get a free continental breakfast every day and free high-speed internet.
Rooms at the Red Roof Inn Tupelo have a coffee maker, work desk, and cable TV with movies. There’s also a fitness room, outdoor pool, and laundry service – Everything you need for a great stay!
Conclusion – Road Trip in Mississippi
I really hope you’ve enjoyed learning about my favourite spots on our Mississippi Road Trip, if you have any suggestions or recommendations, please drop them in the comments below.