The USA by RV Part One
Camping, RV-ing, Trips and Destinations, USA

How to Travel the USA by RV. Part One. American South: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi

We would like to offer you a run-down of our 3-month-long RV trip across the USA by RV. It covers over 3000 miles through 8 States (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico). The first part is dedicated to the American South. The trip starts in Florida and goes through Alabama and Mississippi, totaling about 1000 miles.

the USA by RV. Part One. American South

After finally assembling our RV Camping Rig and testing it at the Flamingo Lake RV Resort in Jacksonville, Florida, we were finally ready for the first big trip. We liked the luxury of relatively spontaneous decisions, so only planned it a leg at a time. One of the conditions was that we didn’t want to kill ourselves with long passages and drove the maximum of 4-5 hours in a day (only once we had to drive 6 hours). Also, it was important for us to stay at our destinations long enough to explore the area. Our first stop was Destin, a small touristy town in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.

The USA by RV: Destin, Florida

Destin is a small, but very popular town on the Gulf of Mexico. It is mostly popular for its sugar-white sands and emerald waters.

Where We Stayed in Destin

For our stay we chose Geronimo RV Resort in Miramar Beach, which is just on the outskirts of Destin. The resort was on the expensive side, but so are all prime tourist destinations. Surely, it was a lot cheaper than any hotel in the vicinity! The walk to the beach took about 10 minutes, but one can also take a short 2-minute drive and stop at the adjacent parking lot.

Geronimo RV Resort

👉 If you can afford to book your trip a long time in advance, the first thing to check is State Parks. As a rule of thumb, State Parks offer campgrounds in beautiful, usually natural settings and have very reasonable prices. For State Park RV campground availability, refer to ReserveAmerica.com. During high seasons, however, State Parks are often booked out. Sometimes you have no choice but to opt for a private campground. When booking a private campground, always check out for weekly rates, sometimes it makes more sense to stay a week!  Some locations are definitely worth it and the ability to take it slow is one of the advantages of traveling with an RV!

What to Do in Destin

USA by RV: Destin

Being one of the most popular beach destinations in the USA, Destin offers all kinds of watersports and fishing trips. Some of them will bite your pocket, but some are pretty reasonable.

There is a shopping promenade called Harbor Walk Village, where you can have a drink, buy souvenirs and watch fishing boats. As for the food, I highly recommend Harbor Docks. You will love it because it is right on the water and offers the highest quality seafood. Don’t forget to try their signature salad with tangerines and roasted almonds!

USA by RV: Destin

But the absolute best (and free!) thing to do in Destin is, without a doubt, to chill at the beach and soak in crystal clear “Bahamian Quality” water. This is what we did pretty much every day… Relaxing times!

The USA by RV: Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama was out next stop. We stayed there only a couple of days to break the trip to Natchez, Mississippi, but still discovered plenty of things to see.

Where We Stayed in Gulf Shores

Since it was basically a stopover, we decided not to stay at expensive parks near the water, but chose a small campground with a neighborhood feel, Gulf Coast RV Park. Situated right in the woods, it was very reasonable and provided us with everything necessary for our stay.

Gulf Coast RV Park

What to Do in Gulf Shores and the Nearby Areas

  • Go to the beach! This activity is always on the top of our list, especially when it comes to the Gulf of Mexico! But to be honest, after Destin we were a bit disappointed by the Gulf Shores public beaches. The city beaches were overcrowded and the water was rather dirty. I don’t know if the water quality had anything to do with the season, but it was just my experience. However, there is one beach that I really enjoyed. From Gulf Shores, you have to cross the bridge to Orange Beach and turn right just after. It is called Alabama Point East. There are two boardwalks, one short and one long. Take the long one and you will be rewarded at the end!
  • Visit Fairhope, Daphne and Spanish Fort. The area around Gulf Shores is full of small towns, full of quaint southern atmosphere. There is a neat small free history museum that tells you about history of Fairhope from Native Americans through the colonial times. For your drive use scenic route of the highway 98 (which is called Main Street most of the way. Don’t mix it up with the regular highway 98!). The scenery is beautiful! The Alligator Boardwalk in Daphne is a cool little stop along the way and yes, you can see an alligator or two!
Alligator Boardwalk
  • Eat oysters. Gulf Shores is famous for local oysters. Since we were about to go inland, we couldn’t miss the chance! There are several restaurant options. We choose the Original Oyster House in Spanish Fort and loved every bite.
The Original Oyster House
  • See the battleship USS Alabama in Mobile. I didn’t realize how much there is to see. It took us the whole day to explore the museums and the military park dedicated to different wars from WWI to Vietnam. Besides the actual enormous ship, you will see lots of planes and climb through a real submarine!
USS Alabama

The USA by RV: Natchez, Mississippi

The next stop was Natchez, Mississippi. The area is packed with history, both Native American and Colonial. I was surprised to learn that during Colonial times Natchez had more millionaires per capita than any other town in the United States!

Where We Stayed in Natchez

This time we were lucky enough to score a spot at the Natchez State Park right in the woods for $16 a night! Birds woke us up in the morning and lightning bugs entertained us at night. Peace and quiet…  The RV spots have full hook-ups and concrete pads.

USA by RV: Nachez State Park

What to Do in Natchez and the Nearby Areas

  • Walk around Fort Rosalie. It was founded in 1716 and lead to the oldest permanent settlement on the lower Mississippi River – the City of Natchez. The fort is especially famous for the Natchez attack on the French, where the Indians managed to seize the fort. Besides interesting history, there is a neat trail, where you can read info boards about flora and fauna of the Mississippi basin. 
Natchez, Mississippi
Natchez, Mississippi
Fort Rosalie
  • Visit an Antebellum mansion. There are still several huge antebellum mansions in Natchez (antebellum means “before the Civil War”) and they are preserved in all their glory. Nowadays they are transformed into house-museums and the grounds have been turned into parks. Volunteers will greet you at the door and tell you stories about families who lived there. There are nearly 300 mansions, but these are especially popular with tourists: Rosalie Mansion, Melrose Plantation, Longwood, Stanton Hall, Auburn House and Choctaw Hall.
The Auburn House
The Auburn House
The Auburn House
The famous spiral staircase of the Auburn House
  • Drive the Natchez Trace. It is an old road that American Indians used for their transportation centuries ago. Now it is converted into a beautiful 444-mile-long immaculate parkway, called the Natchez Trace (it runs through Mississippi, Alabama and all the way to Tennessee!) It is possible to drive the Natchez Trace in its entirety with the RV. There are free RV stops with no hookups along the road. But for us it was out of the way, so we rode just a small part of this scenic road and walked some short wooded trails.
  • Learn about the Natchez Indians at the Grand Village of The Natchez. They lived here from about 700 AD till the French invasion in the early 18th century. One of the legacies they left are enormous earth mounds, on which they installed temples to the Sun and houses of their leaders (the supreme chief was called the Great Sun). The tradition of building the mounds was “inherited” by the Natchez from the earlier people (who did it as early as 3500 years ago!). No one knows their name, so the researchers simply call them the Mound Builders. What I found the most interesting is that their construction techniques and their beliefs very much resemble Maya and other Mesoamerican tribes.
The Grand Village of the Natchez
The Mound Builders
  • Climb the Emerald Mound. The Emerald Mound is the icing on the cake when it comes to the Natchez. The mound is the second largest in the USA and covers 8 acres! It’s pretty much unexcavated and you can easily climb to the top. It’s a lot of green!
Emerald Mound
  • Eat some good Southern comfort food. Mississippi is probably the best place for that! On the day you drive the Natchez Trace, treat yourself to the best fried chicken you’ll ever have! You’ll find it at the Old Country Store! Indeed, it’s a store, converted into this cool country-style restaurant. The owner Arthur Davis, or Mister D., will not only cook his famous fried chicken, which recipe has not been altered in a zillion years, but he might also sing you a song! And of course, all the traditional fixings come with it. The meal is “all you can eat” and it costs $15.99, including ice teas, soft drinks and the sweetest watermelon. The experience couldn’t be any more authentic!
Old Country Store on the Natchez Trace
Old Country Store on the Natchez Trace
  • Sample local wines at the Old South Winery
  • Explore Windsor Ruins. Windsor Ruins is a historic site of the Windsor Plantation, destroyed by fire in 1890. They say Mark Twain himself watched the Mississippi River from the roof of the building!
  • Learn about the Civil War in Vicksburg Military Park. The park is very well organized! It’s a huge piece of land that covers most of the parts where the last siege of the city took place. There is a one-way road for cars that you can follow and stop in different places of interest, information boards and monuments. Every state that participated in this siege has its own memorial.
Vicksburg Military Park

The USA by RV: Clarksdale, Mississippi

Due to hurricane Laura that was about to hit these parts of the country, we had to make a slight detour 100 miles south east to Maggee, Mississippi, where we waited out the storm. I hope you don’t have to do it and go straight to Clarksdale!

Where We Stayed in Clarksdale

The easiest place to stay in Clarksdale was the Coahoma County Expo Center RV Park , which cost us $20 a night on a honor system. There are no reservations, so you just get there and choose your spot. There were not many spots with full hook-ups available, but we were lucky. If full hook-up spots are all taken, on the other side of the road there are always plenty of open ones with water and electric, but no sewer. It is very basic, but conveniently located right in the heart of the city.

What to Do in Clarksdale

Clarksdale is called the blues capital of the world for a reason. Yes, right here in downtown Clarksdale you will find the famous crossroads of highways 49 and 61, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for blues playing skills. It doesn’t look anymore quite like it used to look then… But just in case, while making a picture, we made sure we didn’t shake hands with anyone! 🙂

Clarksdale Crossroads

Clarksdale is full of blues bars, from the world famous (Ground Zero, owned by Morgan Freeman) to small local dives. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, most of them were closed.  Maybe you will be luckier! However, we did manage to find live music in Clarksdale. There is a cool hotel just on the outskirts of the town called the Shack Up Inn. It’s made out of shacks, which are really funky on the outside, but inside they have all the modern comforts and amenities. The shacks surround spacious courtyard, where concerts are frequently held. Everybody just brings their drinks and their own chairs and hang out outside. Easy for social distancing! The whole vibe of this place is really authentic and needless to say, the music is awesome.

the USA by RV: Clarksdale, Mississippi
Ghalia Volt singing the blues in Clarksdale, Mississippi!

👉 Blues Lovers: check out the Mississippi Blues Trail for all kinds of stories, locations, historical markers and blues itineraries, dedicated to Delta Blues.

The culmination of our stay in Clarksdale was Delta Blues Museum, which, luckily, was open for tourists. It is located right across the road from the Ground Zero Blues Bar. All in all, a couple of days were enough and soon we with our trip across the USA by RV to our next destination: Hot Springs, Arkansas!

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