Grand Isle, Louisiana: Gulf Coast Fun

Grand Isle beaches

Grand Isle, Louisiana holds magic! It reminds me of childhood growing up along the Gulf Coast, even if my sisters and I aren’t entirely positive that we spent time on this particular island as children. We think we went there with our mom’s parents. But honestly, none of us are sure. :) It didn’t matter though, because it still is magical being along the Gulf waters. The smells and the ocean and the food! Noelle here, by the way.

Grand Isle: where all the Buildings are on Stilts

Grand Isle is a narrow barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana Hwy 1 crosses a bridge onto the island, and then you enter Gulf bliss. There’s a bit of a sand dune to cross over and then miles and miles of beach. There are two grocery stores and at least one gas station, that we saw. And there are quite a few restaurants. Now this isn’t the fancy kind of island with beautiful spas and condos. It’s the kind where people live year round, where fishermen leave port early in the morning in search of the day’s catch. And there’s even some kind of refinery at the end of the island, along with a Coast Guard Station. But did I mention the miles and miles of beach?! Pretty awesome.

All of the buildings here are built on stilts, which is the same across most of the Gulf. The island gets hit by a hurricane every three years on average. With some of the larger ones causing a lot of damage, the island stays in a flux of rebuilding. 2005’s hurricanes Katrina and Rita caused significant damage, but it looked to us like business as usual. Louisiana folks are tough, they ride out hurricanes when they can, leave when they need to and rebuild as soon as possible!

We stayed at The Blue Dolphin Inn, in a small two bedroom cottage, again, nothing fancy but it worked. The stained glass windows were pretty awesome. I’d love to learn to do that! We arrived in the late afternoon on a rainy Monday. I’m not sure why everywhere we go, we meet rain, but we did! We checked into the hotel and then went down to Jo-Bob’s Gas & Grill for some take-out dinner. They have fried chicken, po-boys, gumbo, catfish, shrimp, red beans & rice, pretty much everything you want when you’re on the Gulf. I had the fish sandwich with a side of red beans and rice. Too delicious!

Dipping our toes into the Gulf

After dinner we walked across the street to the beach, in the dark, and dipped our toes in the warm water. Okay, Southerners (like my sister Alana) say it was too damn cold to go to the beach. But Steve and I have been in Colorado Springs where a couple days our high temp was ZERO degrees, yep, I said high temp. And my sister Della is from Chicago where she’s an icicle all winter. So we bundled up, crossed the road and played in the water. The air was cold, but the water was warm!

Grand Isle State Park

The next day, we drove into the Grand Isle State Park for exploring. It was even colder in the daylight, but we still dashed out to see the ocean, walk on the beach and explore the fishing piers. We got soaked from the rain, but Steve and I hope to return before the summer heat is in full force. Park entry is only $3 per person for a day pass. There is a good-sized RV park, with laundry and shower facilities. We saw a couple of outdoor sinks for dishes and outdoor showers for returns from the sandy beach. Campers can tent right on the sand to fall asleep to the sounds of waves, peek out at the stars and wake to sunrise over the Gulf. Seems like a pretty good spot to me!

I’d kind of like to get an RV site for Cupcake, but then also rent a beachside tent camp for one night. I love our truck camper, but there’s just something about sleeping in a tent that beckons me. We wandered out to the fishing pier, which is huge! There’s a covered tower, before the walk out to the pier, for bird watching and maybe even seeing dolphins swimming. And of course some area information boards and a concession stand, which I’m sure stays packed in the summer.

Springtime Bird Migration

In the Springtime, thousands of migrating birds come to the island and to nearby Queen Bess Island. The Nature Conservancy hosts nature hikes in the oak-hackberry forest where the birds congregate. The Grand Isle Migratory Bird Festival is held every April since 1997 (but I’m not sure about this year with the dang pandemic). During the three day festival, experienced guides provide tours teaching about the island’s diverse habitats. They show birders how to spot and identify the different bird species. Other tours teach visitors about the native plants, those which birds prefer and those which humans can also eat.

Summertime Fish Tournament

Every July since 1928, the islands hosts the Grand Isle International Tarpon Rodeo. Well that’s every year till 2020, anyway. There aren’t 2021 dates listed for the rodeo this year, but locals are hopeful that it’ll take place. Dang Covid-19! Competitors come from all over Louisiana and neighboring states trying to win the big prizes. 2019 had 254 anglers taking part in the rodeo. They caught everything from catfish and redfish to speckled trout and bluefish. In the big game division, anglers tag and release marlin, sailfish and tuna. The waters around Grand Isle are home to about 280 different fish species, making fishing off this island accessible to all levels of experience. Maybe even Steve and I could catch a fish here!

Grand Isle State Park fishing pier
State Park boardwalk

There are around 30 charter fishing companies, several marinas , bait shops and even kayak rentals. And if you don’t have any luck yourself, you can stop into one of the seafood shops to take home some fish, shrimp and crabs to cook for dinner. We stopped by Dean Blanchard Seafood, but unfortunately we picked a day when they were closed.

Time to head back to Alana’s house

Not to worry though, as we headed back to the mainland, we stopped off at Mee-Maw’s Cajun Cuisine for lunch. They were set up for social distanced eating with only a portion of their tables in use. The staff wore masks the entire time and we felt comfortable eating inside. This stop marks only our second or third time to eat inside a restaurant since March of 2020. It’s a little weird. Anyway, the lunch was delicious, but I’m getting a bit tired of fried food, so I’m looking forward to returning to the Pacific NW for a couple weeks. We also stopped at a gas station and then helped ourselves to some boiled peanuts. So yummy!

I’ll be visiting kids and grands while Steve drives back to Colorado Springs. I’ll meet him there after my visit and we’ll pack up his Dad from Independent Living for his move to Assisted Living. We really thought he’d be able to live out his life in his current apartment. But the isolation of Covid and being separated from Steve’s mom (in an Alzheimer’s center) has really taken a toll on him. It’s been a hard year for everyone.

At any rate, I hope our little side trip to Grand Isle entertained you for a minute. And that it informs you some if you’re in the area. Definitely visit the island if you’re in Louisiana. I can’t wait to go back when it’s not raining and we can actually enjoy the beach a little more. It’s a beautiful area with so much to see and do. Dropping a fishing line off the pier, while drinking a cold beer sounds like a heavenly way to spend an afternoon!

Grand Isle beaches
Grand Isle Louisiana



    My first trip to Grand Isle was when I was 8 months old. We (Mom & Dad, 7 kids and some Grandparents) went every summer for many years and now go every few years. Family comes from Southern California and Hawaii to vacation there. My family has been going for generations! It is a wonderful place to visit.

    • mcgarveysan

      What a great family tradition! I’m sure you could re-write this article for me! It’s a beautiful place and I’m so glad you shared your memories with me.

  2. Adam

    Really enjoyed taking the time to read through and get a sense of your experiences, guys! I wonder if by the time you’ve finished travelling the country and seeing all the places you’ve wanted to see, that you might pick a favorite place and go stay there. Or, perhaps you will realize, you like the variety and could not pick a favorite place – and just keep travelling around?

    • mcgarveysan

      Hi Adam, I think at the end of the exploring, we’ll end up close to our kids/grands again. But probably on the East side of the mountain range, so we can be in sunshine. We’ve seen some amazing places, some of which we wish we could have stayed longer. Some we may go back to. Right now it seems we’re on a yo-yo, as we go for a little bit, start to explore and then head back to Colorado Springs and Steve’s parents. I feel blessed to be able to help care for them. But we’re also ready for longer stretches where we can just go further around the country and stay places longer. Where’s your favorite place that we really shouldn’t miss?

  3. Big Dummy

    Beautiful picture of the boardwalk

    • mcgarveysan

      Thanks Mark! The boardwalk was huge. My sisters and I actually jogged (loped) to the end of it. Partly because it was so big, it encouraged running. And partly because we were cold and “wanted to get there faster!”


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