Empty street with neon signs advertising the music venues on either side
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Road Trips

Road Trip from New Orleans to Memphis

By Dianne Titos | Published on 16 May 2022

If you are a traveler who appreciates the final destination as well as the journey, a road trip from New Orleans to Memphis might be just up your alley. This monumental adventure through the American South will surely leave you with lasting memories.

The 497-mile road trip from New Orleans to Memphis takes 8 hours to drive. Depending on the route attractions include Whitey, Oak Valley, Laura and Myrtles Plantations, Mississippi River, Fontainebleau State Park, Baton Rouge, Vicksburg and Jackson.

There are so many things to see and do on this epic road trip, so read on to find out the find out the best route, places to visit and the ideal times to travel.

Two red metal bridges crossing wide, calm river with high rise buildings on the far bank
Wave goodbye to New Orleans and follow the Mississippi north towards Memphis on this epic trip.
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How far is Memphis from New Orleans and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of the two great routes between New Orleans and Memphis
RouteDistanceDriving Time
The Western Route497 miles8 hours
The Eastern Route461 miles7 hours 20 minutes

The road trip from New Orleans to Memphis takes about 8 hours of driving and covers 497 miles. The drive is fairly simple as it mostly follows highways, yet extremely memorable with many opportunities for detours and stops.

While crossing from Louisiana to Mississippi you will have plenty of chances to acquaint yourself with the long and complicated history of the American South. The most scenic route leads you towards the famous Great River Road Route, through Baton Rouge and Jackson.

There is an alternative route that offers plenty of other attractions and detours that you might enjoy. This Eastern Route will take you towards the Alabama border, and through De Soto National Forest, Hattiesburg as well as Tupelo.

Fortunately, because of the short span of the drive on either route, you won't have to stare into taillights. Instead, you could admire the scenic landscapes along the way and make as many stops as you like to fully appreciate the experience.

Large guitar outside brick building in front of blue sky
This route is a music lover's dream - be sure to pass by Sun Studios in Memphis, the birthplace of rock & roll.
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Best road trip route from New Orleans to Memphis

There are two fantastic routes you can follow on the road trip from New Orleans to Memphis. The Western Route covers 497 miles and takes close to 8 hours of driving. The route takes you through Baton Rouge and Jackson Mississippi and runs along the Great River Road Route.

The alternative route is slightly shorter, taking just more than 7 hours of driving and covering 461 miles. This Eastern Route will give you the opportunity to explore lush national forests, charming lakes and exciting cities like Tupelo, Elvis Presley's hometown.

Both options are a great way to ensure a pleasant and exciting road trip on your way to the “Home of the Blues”. Both options do not differ all too much when it comes to length and duration, so consider taking one on your way to Memphis and the other one, on your way back.

Drive west on your way out of New Orleans, following Interstate 10 (I-10) as you keep Lake Pontchartrain on your right. The Interstate runs perpendicular to the famous Great River Road Route, so there are plenty of detour options before you arrive at Baton Rouge.

You have the option to visit some of the famous plantations such as the Oak Valley, Whitey and Laura Plantations on this famous route. If you wish to take this detour, turn left onto LA-641 from I-10. Following LA-18 will take you to these sightseeing options.

Follow the same way back onto I-10 and enter Baton Rouge to spend some time admiring some of the local sights here. When you are ready to continue your journey, follow I-110 out of the city and take Exit 8C to merge onto US-61 towards around Homochitto National Forest.

Drive past Natchez and drive past Port Gibson, where you will have the chance to detour to Vicksburg. If you chose to make a quick stop there, you could visit some of the historical monuments and museums prized by the locals.

Louisiana Old State Capitol Building, Baton Rouge, next to river, illuminated at sunset
Admire the state capitol buildings in Baton Rouge.
Berkomaster/Shutterstock.com

Once you have taken enough time to explore around, follow Interstate 20 (I-20) to Jackson in Mississippi where you could spend the night. When you are feeling rested, drive north on Interstate 55 (I-55).

Follow the route past Sardis Lake and Holly Springs National Forest until you reach your final destination, Memphis, just after a short while.

The Eastern Route

While exiting New Orleans, take I-10 East around Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge and in-between Lake Pontchartrain and Lake Borgne. After you drive on the Interstate 10 Twin Span Bridge, keep following I-10 to detour to INFINITY Science Center.

Alternatively, you could visit Fontainebleau State Park before you leave the area. Take the I-12 W exit on the left towards Hammond and continue onto Interstate 12 (I-12). Take Exit 74 and turn left onto LA-434. Turn right onto Highway 190 W to reach the park.

If not making any detours, take the I-59 N exit on the left towards Hattiesburg after you drive on the bridge, and continue onto Interstate 59 (I-59) while crossing from Louisiana to Mississippi.

Just before you enter Hattiesburg you can choose to detour to De Soto National Forest for a while. If so, take Exit 29 and turn right onto MS-26 E. Turn left after entering Wiggins and take a slight right onto MS-29 to reach the forest for a leisurely stroll.

After your visit to Hattiesburg, keep following I-59 past Meridian. Take Exit 157B for US-45 towards Tupelo and stay a night in the birthplace of the legend himself – Elvis Presley.

Following Interstate 22 (I-22) will take you through Holly Springs National Forest. Take Exit 12B-A and merge onto I-269. Taking Exit 1B will take you on I-55 for this last stretch of your journey and into your destination, the beautiful city of Memphis.

Long bridge over wide river with banks shown in silhouette and deep sunset light reflected on the water
Memphis is sure to welcome you in style.
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Best places to stop between New Orleans and Memphis

This road trip can be made in just a day but that would mean you would be spending the majority of it driving. Instead, we suggest taking at least three days to enjoy everything this fantastic journey has to offer.

Here are our top favorite stops and accommodations on each route to help you with your decisions.

Reflect on history in Jackson

Steeped in history and culture, Jackson is an obvious choice when it comes to looking for somewhere to stop over along the Western Route. At around 3 hours into your trip from New Orleans, taking a stop in Jackson means a comfortable first day's drive with plenty to see and do as you stretch your legs.

Centrally located in Jackson, The Westin is an exceptionally stylish hotel option, with beautiful views of this bright city.

Situated right across from the Westin, you will find the Mississippi Museum of Art which you can visit for free. This impressive museum is the largest in Mississippi and features many permanent and temporary exhibits you can spend your day exploring.

Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and Museum of Mississippi History share a building, which is very convenient if you want to visit both and learn about the complex history of the region. They are within walking distance of both the accommodation and the Museum of Art.

If you are feeling extra tired after exploring the city, you could grab a robe and head to the hotel's luxurious spa for an exquisite massage. Alternatively, spend an exciting afternoon at the on-site pool or parked on a sun lounger with a cocktail in hand.

Sunset reflected over a still lake
Elvis Presley Lake, named after a true local hero.
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Visit the birthplace of The King in Tupelo

Elvis Presley is a legend that needs no introduction. You will be passing by his hometown if you are following the Eastern Route, which makes Tupelo a perfect overnight stop, especially if you want to get the bulk of the drive to Memphis done on day one. A day in Tupelo will also give you ample opportunity to learn about and experience how the King of Rock & Roll grew up.

While in Tupelo, Holiday Inn & Suites Tupelo North offers unparalleled location and comfort. Located minutes away from Elvis Presley's Birthplace & Museum, this hotel will be the perfect base for your adventures.

You can take a scenic drive in the nearby Natchez Drive Parkway after your visit to the King's home. This historic drive corridor, used by Native Americans, European settlers and future presidents, also offers opportunities of hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.

If you are looking for more adventure in nature, Tombigbee Lake National Park is also a short drive away. However, if you are feeling tired, you can return to the hotel and unwind in the fabulous swimming pool.

The hotel also houses an on-site restaurant where you can enjoy the delicious Italian and American cuisines. Don't forget to check out their breakfast offers before starting the last leg of your journey.

Peek into the soul of Memphis

The Guest House at Graceland is a luxurious resort that shines through from the moment you stand in front of the beautiful marble columns at the entrance. The masterfully designed interior and the attention to detail will leave you awestruck.

This amazing resort boasts an excellent location and if you would like to continue your Rock & Roll adventure, you will find Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion minutes away from the accommodation.

Offering fun and education for guests of all ages, Memphis Zoo is also located close by. You can spend your day at the zoo with polar bears, pandas, lions, hippos, and monkeys in this interactive zoo.

The famous Beale Street Entertainment District is known as one of the most iconic streets in America, located a short distance away from the resort. Located in the heart of downtown Memphis, you will find glamorous nightclubs, restaurants, and fabulous shops here.

In case you want to enjoy a quiet day at the hotel instead of exploring, The Guest House offers a well-kept seasonal outdoor pool with a bar, where you can easily spend the better part of an afternoon as well as two fantastic on-site restaurants.

Beale Street, Memphis, sign illuminated at night
Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of Beale Street when you arrive in Memphis.
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Things to see on a road trip from New Orleans to Memphis

With all the exciting places one might visit on this road trip from New Orleans to Memphis, you would want to invest as much time as possible to visit some of these magnificent sights:

The Western Route

  1. Oak Valley, Whitey, Laura, Houmas House and Gardens, The Myrtles, Destrehan Plantations, New Orleans - These historical monuments along the Great River Road will teach you about the dark and complicated history of the American South.
  2. Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, Laplace - Enjoy a unique and educational journey on an authentic Louisiana swamp tour at Cajun Pride Swamp Tours.
  3. Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area, Laplace – Take a tour around New Orleans's swamps with a knowledgeable and entertaining tour guide at Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area.
  4. Louisiana's Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge - A museum, located in a historic government building, that educates the public on Louisiana's rich history and the democratic process.
  5. USS KIDD Veterans Museum, Baton Rouge - Visit this World War II destroyer ship, which now houses a museum.
  6. Homochitto National Forest, Mississippi - Enjoy biking, hiking, horseback riding and boating in this lush forest famous for its fiery sunsets.
  7. Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg - A beautiful park and a must-see for any history buff.
  8. Bienville National Forest, Lake – Bienville is a magical forest with abundant wildlife, rich history and a multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities.
  9. Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson -Visit the largest art museum in the state and explore its permanent and temporary exhibits.
  10. Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, Jackson -Listen to the stories of the heroic freedom struggle that took place in Mississippi and learn about the state's troubled civil rights history.
  11. Museum of Mississippi History, Jackson -Explore 15,000 years of history and how the shared past of different cultures influenced the present.
  12. Mississippi Petrified Forest, Flora - This forest features a terrific nature trail, museum, campground, and gem-mining area.
  13. Bienville National Forest, Lake – Bienville is a magical forest with abundant wildlife, rich history and a multitude of outdoor recreational opportunities.
  14. Sardis Lake, Mississippi - Enjoy some outdoor activities like fishing, hunting, boating, skiing, hiking, picnicking, and swimming on this gorgeous lake.
  15. Memphis Zoo, Memphis - Spend your day at the zoo with polar bears, pandas, lions, hippos and monkeys in this interactive zoo.
White stone statue of Elvis Presley singing
Follow in the King's footsteps on this trip to Memphis.
Michael Gordon/Shutterstock.com

The Eastern Route

  1. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, New Orleans - Bayou Sauvage is a great place to explore and admire nature while taking some leisurely time for physical activities.
  2. INFINITY Science Center, Pearlington - INFINITY Center is a museum dedicated to fun and learning about engineering, technology, innovative programming.
  3. Mississippi Aquarium, Gulfport - Visit the Mississippi state aquarium and admire a gigantic plethora of magnificent colorful aquatic wildlife.
  4. Davis Bayous Area Gulf Islands National, Ocean Springs - Enjoy a scenic walk near the park's coastline and snap a photo of some of the alligators inhabiting the area from a safe distance.
  5. Fontainebleau State Park, Mandeville - Once a sugar cane plantation, the Fontainebleau State Park is now a delightful tourist destination for bikers, hikers and sunbathers alike.
  6. Global Wildlife Center, Folsom - Enjoy an exciting interactive adventure in one of the largest free-roaming wildlife preserves in the country. Guests and explorers are encouraged to interact with and feed the exotic animals while learning about their nature.
  7. De Soto National Forest, Brooklyn - Those who seek solitude and peace will easily find it at De Soto National Forest among the tea-colored streams, southern pine ridges and lush greenery.
  8. Hattiesburg Zoo, Hattiesburg - Not only will you be able to see plenty of exotic mammals and reptiles at the Hattiesburg Zoo, but you will also find plenty of other exciting attractions suitable for children and adults alike.
  9. Paul B Johnson State Park, Hattiesburg - Enjoy an afternoon in this natural wonderland, marked by majestic long-leaf pines and ancient oaks, by either hiking through the deep forests or camping near the majestic lake.
  10. Elvis Presley Birthplace, Tupelo - Visit the birthplace of the iconic singer Elvis Presley and learn about the upbringing of the “King of Rock & Roll”.
  11. Natchez Drive Parkway, Tupelo - A historic drive corridor used by Native Americans, European settlers, and future presidents that offers opportunities of hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.
  12. Tombigbee National Park, Tupelo -Enjoy fishing, hiking and relaxing in this stunning park.
  13. Holly Springs National Forest, Tupelo - Hike through 155,000 acres of pine forests and lovely sparkling lakes at the Holly Springs National Forest.
  14. Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion, Memphis - Visit the place that the King of Rock & Roll called home.
  15. Beale Street, Memphis - An entertainment district in downtown Memphis that features restaurants, bars, and shops.
Tree with creepers reaches out over bayou waters with pink flowers in the foreground
Explore the bayou when you head north out of New Orleans.
Jayne Chapman/Shutterstock.com

Best time to go on a road trip from New Orleans to Memphis

The best time for a road trip from New Orleans to Memphis is spring as well as fall. Both seasons are a breath of fresh air, compared to the long scorching summer with temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezing winter months that see 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

The tourism in Memphis peaks around June and July, so you shouldn't worry all too much about big crowds through other seasons.

The weather from April to May is fantastic, and spring is considered to be the best period to visit Memphis. Temperatures hover in the mid-60s and low-70s, which provides guests with the opportunity of partaking in the city's most popular events and festivals.

Historic building illuminated at night with bronze state in the foreground
You'll take in stunning sights whatever time of year you travel.
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If you are visiting these months, you should check out the Beale Street Music Festival, one of the longest-running music festivals in Memphis that is known to feature legendary musicians and bands.

Fall is also considered a pleasant season for a trip to Memphis since the opportunities for deals and discounts on bookings start coming up. Make sure to check weather and road warnings as the cooler seasons approach.

Summers in Memphis are extremely hot and if you are planning for an excursion during the summer break, make sure you drink a lot of water and stay in the shade when you have the chance.