If you are traveling to New Orleans in the United States in the near future, be sure to plan a day trip from New Orleans to explore the surrounding Louisiana countryside. Take an unforgettable Swamp tour and visit one of the beautiful historic plantations.
New Orleans is a vibrant city with a lot to experience, but the surrounding area is also worth a visit. This can offer the perfect change from the busy city.
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The Deep South
Since I can remember, I have been intrigued by the South of the United States. Besides its beautiful nature, this region also has a rich history. That history wasn’t always the most peaceful. Just think of the European colonization where the indigenous population had to make way for Spaniards, English, French, Irish and Scots. To the slavery regime where the African-American population was exploited for many years on the numerous plantations. Not to mention the ku ku klux Klan who caused so much pain, terror and fear.
It is precisely this history and melting pot of cultures that caused the South to develop its own unique culture, completely different from the other American States.
Planning a day trip from New Orleans
Before we left on our day trip from New Orleans, we already had a good idea of what we wanted to experience. We chose for a combination between nature and culture. That is why we opted for a Swap Tour at Cajun Encounters and a visit to the Oak Alley Plantation. These are both great things to do in Louisiana with kids, friends or as a couple.
The day before our trip we booked our tickets for the swamp tour online. After researching a few tour operators online, we chose Canjun Encounters Tour Company. When we checked the prices, we saw that the excursion with transport from New Orleans was much more expensive than without transport. So naturally we chose to go with our own car. Lucky for us there were still a few open spots. But it’s better to reserve a bit in advance. We paid a total of about 60 USD for 2 adults.
We were also able to book other tours on the website of Canjun encounters tour company. A plantation tour at the most beautiful historic plantations caught our eye. However, this excursion was very expensive and didn’t allow us to combine a swamp tour with a visit to Oak Alley Plantation on the same day.
That’s why we decided to visit Oak Alley Plantation on our own, without buying tickets in advance. We checked the opening hours on the website. And saw that if we left immediately after the Swamp Tour, we could still make it to Oak Alley Plantation before closing time. But there are many other plantations that you can visit as well and even plantations where you can stay overnight.
Choosing to go with our own car wasn’t only cheaper, but also allowed us to combine these two sights in one day.
Both locations are approximately an hour’s drive from New Orleans, but on the opposite side. So to navigate from Cajun encounters to Oak Alley, you will return past New Orleans. The travel time of this route is approximately 1h45 minutes. If you want to combine these two trips, It’s best to choose the earliest swamp tour so that you have enough time to discover Oak Alley Plantation. Combining these trips into one day trip from New Orleans requires a little bit of time management skills.
Swamp tour with Canjun Encounters
Honney Lake Swamp
After a good breakfast in the Hotel Indigo New Orleans Garden district we left for Cajun Encounters. For both of us an activity we were really looking forward to. But after the disappointment of our airboat trip in the Everglades, I didn’t cherish too much hope.
We drove about an hour from our hotel to destination of Cajun Encounters at Honney Lake swamp. We arrived in the middle of nowhere at a deserted bridge. The setting reminded me a bit of a typical thriller or horror film. But this didn’t scare me at all, on the contrary I was super excited to go up on the swamp.
As described in our e-ticket, we registered inside the cabin. We quickly bought some refreshing drinks here. It was super hot that day and it was full of mosquitoes outside. Tip: don’t forget mosquito repellent on this excursion!
In the meantime we received a colored bracelet and were asked to sit outside per color. Our guide Luka was going to meet us there. It reminded me a bit of a school trip, but everything went very smooth and was well organized. So I really can’t complain.
The swamp tour
Luka guided us to the boat, where we took a seat with the others to start an unknown adventure. Right away on the water, Luka started to share his knowledge about this region with a great passion. He could tell everything you needed to know about the local fauna and flora. He showed us the most beautiful spots on the swamp, helped us spot wildlife and steered the boat so that everyone could see everything and take the perfect shots.
What I remembered the most about this Swamp Tour was when Luka shared his personal experiences about Hurricane Katrina. Everyone became silent for a moment. The many traces left on the swamp itself could only show us a very small fragment of what the local population had gone through then. But even that tiny part was more than enough to realize how rough it had been.
There are still some houses with FEMA marks. When Hurricane Katrina hit, everything was flooded. People fled upstairs until they had to retreat in the attic. Often in a hurry they didn’t think about bringing an axe to make a hole in the roof. So, many people died in the attic because of the heat and no way out. Houses were checked and signed after with a FEMA mark.
During the two hours on the swamp I have never been bored a minute. No question remained unanswered. Luka could tell something about the mating season of the turtle to the most poisonous plant species and did this in a very natural and personal way. I certainly thought this trip was worth the money even till the last penny. Even the tip for our guide Luka was well deserved!
Oak Alley Plantation
The countryside Louisiana
Right after the Swamp Tour we immediately took the car towards Oak Alley Plantation. As the name suggests, it has the most beautiful and impressive oak lanes.
On the way we passed the various parishes of Louisiana and we drove through the countryside. It was very nice to see that side of Louisiana too. We also spotted some historic plantation houses, but unfortunately we couldn’t stop here. Afterward I didn’t regret this, because for me Oak Alley Plantation was the most impressive historical plantation of all of them.
The large, white plantation house dates from 1837 and the surrounding domain served as a sugar cane plantation. Today, Oak Alley Plantation is a historic land mark that is used as an (open-air) museum and houses various exhibitions.
Discover Oak Alley Plantation
Arriving upon Oak Alley Plantation we bought a ticket at the entrance worth 25 USD per person. We still had 2 hours until closing time, so we decided to start at the exhibitions as we could still discover the domain after closing time.
We first explored the huts behind the giant villa. These used to be the residence of the slaves. In every cabin you could see who had lived and in what circumstances. You could also see what their duties were and how their daily life looked. Because their story was made very personal, I felt more involved and it was easier to empathize.
Inside the large plantation house there were guided tours in small groups approximately every 10 minutes. Since we were one of the last, we got a private tour. Here the emphasis was mainly on how the daily life in the villa looked like. The guide always considered two versions. One through the eyes of the masters and on the other from the perspective of the slaves. At times it was very confronting to hear the different stories side by side.
After that we decided to explore the domain and take some pictures. There certainly was no shortage of beautiful photo spots. The massive, giant oak trees and the beautiful white villa made a magical, fairy-tale setting despite the dark history.
Visiting Oak Alley Plantation on our own was perfectly possible. Moreover, I would really recommen it. The various exhibitions offered sufficient explanations and it was included in the entrence fee. A guide part of an organized excursion could perhaps tell you more into detail, but we especially enjoyed wandering around the domain freely without a time limit.
If you don’t like putting together a day trip yourself, check out Getyourguide’s offer below with both cultural and adventurous tours to discover surrounding area of New Orleans.
The perfect day trip
Touring on Honey lake swamp and visiting the Oak Alley plantation in one day is perfectly possible. It is the ideal day trip for people like us. Travelers who aren’t able to stay in New Orleans for a longer time but that still want to explore the surrounding area and enjoy local nature and authentic culture.
Be sure to check out my blog about amazing things to do in New Orleans as well.
Which activity has your preference the cultural visit to the plantation or the adventureous swamp tour? Let me know in the comments below.
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