There are common, recognizable charms to the historic port cities in the southeastern US: period architecture, cobblestone streets, gas lanterns, mossy oaks, nautical influences, horse drawn carriages, famous parks & squares and colorful cottages to name a few. The region’s warm weather and many days of sunshine make these cities a year round destination. Out of a long list of options, five must-see cities emerge.
5 Must-See Historic Waterfront Cities in the Southeast:
- New Orleans, Louisiana
- Key West, Florida
- St Augustine, Florida
- Savannah, Georgia
- Charleston, South Carolina
New Orleans, LA
New Orleans is the most famous southeastern charmer. Set on the Mississippi River, its southern, French and Caribbean influences have produced excellent architecture, food and music. Its old town is called the French Quarter, and includes many blocks of distinctive brick architecture with embellished iron grating. The cuisine is creole/cajun and blends the creole spice with rich French sauces.
Creole jazz is played in its streets – a unique type of jazz that includes the typical improvisation coupled with a more relaxed feel. Beignets, or French doughnuts, are famous at Cafe du Monde, also known for its chicory coffee. Bourbon Street is a legendary party street where second story bar goers throw beads to passers by on the street below. New Orleans’ main claim to fame is the annual Mardi Gras celebration, and you can visit Mardi Gras World to see larger than life floats from past events. Also visit the St Louis Cemetery and the Garden District mansions, where Anne Rice once lived.
Expedia New Orleans Travel Video:
Key West, FL
Key West is the furthest island out in the Florida Keys. It has a tropical, historic feel with Duval Street resembling its larger cousin Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The daily event in Key West is the sunset celebration, held at waterfront Mallory Square. Vendors and street performers return every night with some like the famous Cat Man becoming local legends. While casual Florida seafood is dominant, there is also a strong Cuban influence since the island nation is only 90 miles away. Jimmy Buffett and Caribbean steel drums echo in the streets and water sports are popular here. Famous residents were Ernest Hemingway, John Audubon and Harry Truman. The largest festival is Fantasy Fest on Halloween and body painting costumes are a local tradition. Also notable is the annual Ernest Hemingway lookalike contest, held at Sloppy Joes.
Key West Tourism Video:
St Augustine, FL
Originated 450 years ago, St Augustine is the oldest city in the United States. It’s old town is called the Spanish Quarter which retains many of the original buildings from the first Spanish settlement. Also here is the “fountain of youth” and the Castillo de San Marcos, a historic fort. The old buildings now house local shops and restaurants and tourists wander through the narrow streets. Another notable area is Flagler College, characteristic for its unusual architecture and embellished red roofs. A good time to visit this city is in December and January when the buildings are lit up in their holiday best.
St Augustine Tourism Video:
Set along its namesake river, Savannah is a historic city marked by its mossy oak squares, a historic riverfront and its distinctive bridge. Founded in 1733, the streets are lined with colorful city mansions situated around squares which are more like mini parks. Chippewa Square is the site of a famous Forest Gump park bench scene. Forsyth is its most famous park, with the central fountain and mossy oak lined paths. The City Market is a newer development of shops and restaurants set near the Savannah River. A few streets over is River Street on the Savannah riverfront, and many of the notable bars are located on this cobblestone road. Just outside the city is the hauntingly beautiful Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil.”
Savannah Tourism Video:
Charleston is a large oceanfront city with memorable colorful mansions and palm tree lined boulevards. Settled in 1670, it has a large waterfront area with the famous pineapple fountain. Walk along East Bay Street toward Battery Park to see excellent examples of Charleston architecture on the right with water views of the Arthur Ravenal Bridge and Fort Sumpter on the left. Continue into the park to see military memorabilia. Charleston is regularly voted one of the best places to visit in the US. Trendy boutiques, cafes and breweries invite shoppers to explore this beautiful city.
Charleston Tourism Video: