Authentic Southern hospitality at its finest - welcome to Louisiana! What an adventure you are about to embark upon. The blend of French, African, French-Canadian and American makes for an experience you won't find anywhere else in the USA. The unique Creole and Cajun culture and traditions permeate everything.......the way of life, food, music and even Mardi Gras.
This itinerary keeps it authentic with overnights in historic B&Bs and Inns and some of the finest plantation homes in the South. Slow-paced and relaxed, it's mandatory to take your time. It's off the highways and main roads where you'll find the most genuine and friendly locals, mouth-watering regionally prepared cuisine and a story like no other.
Then there's that world-famous music emanating from every nook and cranny. Your first experience of a real-life juke joint will be a holiday highlight. Explore the grandiose plantation homes that line the Mississippi River and the misty swamplands teeming with wildlife. Mooch through sleepy Southern towns where little has changed. Then, by way of contrast, end your road trip in the vibrant French Quarter of New Orleans. It doesn't get more authentic than Louisiana!
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Arrive into New Orleans in time for jazz and cocktails on lively Bourbon Street.
Swathed in the romance of pirates, voodoo and Mardi Gras, New Orleans was built in the 1700's and represents more than 300 years of French, Spanish and American culture. A walking tour is a great way to get your bearings and you’ll discover areas of the French Quarter off the tourist track. You'll also want to experience an authentic steamboat paddle-wheeler cruise on the Mississippi River.
Dining options are as delicious as they are diverse.
Cajun, Creole and everything in between. We’ll be happy to suggest a few places as we have a bit of New Orleans insider knowledge! You might also want to take in a cooking class at the local school right in the French Quarter. We'll also suggest all of the tours that should be pre-booked before you travel.
Distance: 80 miles
Drive the Great River Road to Louisiana’s historic capital city Baton Rouge.
Prior to the Civil War, more than half of America's millionaires lived between Natchez and New Orleans on the fertile soil of the Mississippi. Many homes were destroyed during and after the War, but many remain restored to their former glory with sculpted gardens and an incredible history.
The Art Deco capitol building is worth a visit for great views over Baton Rouge. Walking foodie tours are popular and include eateries where you can sample local favourites like shrimp and grits, duck poppers and beignets
Distance: 32 miles
On the outskirts of St Francisville is one of the USA's most haunted mansions, The Myrtles Plantation Home. Built by General David Bradford in 1796, this splendid home offers daily guided tours where you can discover dark secrets about past residents and hear tales about the ghosts that are said to haunt the grounds.
St Francisville is a sleepy town located in the Parish of West Feliciana. It dates back to the early 1800s with many homes, churches, shops and the courthouse listed on the national historic registry. Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to the national bald-cypress tree, the largest tree in North America east of the California Redwoods. Afton Villa Gardens are considered the most picturesque in the state.
Distance: 157 miles
Stretch out the journey with a stop at Frogmore Cotton Plantation & Gins - a modern day working plantation with various tours available. There's no better way to experience the heart of rural Louisiana.
If haunted mansions are more your speed, you can opt for a night at Loyd Hall before continuing to Natchitoches. The home was built in 1820 by William Loyd, a banished member of the Lloyd's of London family. Ask your consultant how to work a stay into your holiday itinerary.
Historic Natchitoches was established in 1714 and named after a local Native American Indian tribe. It is also the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase. This beautifully preserved town is a fine example of the architecture of this period and has 33 blocks for you to explore. The National Historic Downtown District also includes French Creole townhouses, many fine Southern eateries and boutiques.
If you have a sense of deja vu, don't be surprised as Natchitoches was the setting for the movie Steel Magnolias with Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts and Shirley MacLaine. You can view the house where it was set which is now a luxury Bed & Breakfast. Throughout your holiday, you'll often feel in familiar surroundings. This is not surprising considering Louisiana is the third most popular region for filmmaking in the USA. If time allows, take a guided tour of Melrose Plantation and learn about the history of the house and the amazing people who built it. Marie Thérèse Coincoin, a former slave who eventually became a wealthy businesswoman, gave the land to her son, Louis Metoyer, in 1796. Metoyer started building the house in 1832, and it became one of the biggest plantations built by and for freed slaves.
Distance: 75 miles
If you want to take the scenic route to Shreveport, there are two interesting stops you can make. The first is the Bonnie & Clyde Ambush Museum in Gibsland. Witness the place where America's most notorious gangsters came to their bitter end. The next stop is Germantown Colony Museum in Minden. Learn about a small group of settlers that made their way into the isolated wilderness of north Louisiana in 1835 to establish a pure Christian community, their own "kingdom of heaven." It endured for 40 years and descendants of the colony still live nearby.
Shreveport sits on the Louisiana/Texas border on the Red River. A popular excursion is the Back Stage Music Tour of the historic Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. Learn the stories and hear the songs of the many stars who have graced their stage such as Elvis Presley. Shreveport is also home to the USA's largest park dedicated to roses at American Rose Center. This delightful park features 20,000 rosebushes and a variety of companion plants, sculptures and fountains.
Traditional Cajun and Creole cuisine, soul food, ‘country cooking’ and Texas-style barbecue are all on the menu tonight and many of the local restaurants have live music at the weekends.
Distance: 189 miles
En route to Lake Charles be sure to stop in charming Southern town of Leesville, and check out the super eerie Gothic jail at Deridder. Built in 1914, it was the first jail in America to have windows, it's supposedly haunted and is now a stop on Louisiana's Myths & Legends Byway.
Lake Charles has a little bit of everything that defines Louisiana’s inimitable character. Cajun and Creole cuisine, unparalleled, fresh Louisiana seafood and marshlands filled with birds and wildlife along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. One Lake Charles must do - a visit to downtown's Charpentier District. On the National Register of Historic Places, it covers more than 40 blocks of turn-of-the-century buildings. The styles are mixed and you'll see everything from turrets to towers, gables, leaded glass and gingerbread accents on the porches and railings. The district is named for the carpenters who artistically designed as they built leaving behind an impressive body of work and signature Lake Charles style.
Another Lake Charles must-do is the Mardi Gras Museum which houses the largest collection of costumes in the south and showcases the history of this colourful event.
Distance: 75 milesLafayette continues the theme of authentic food, music and history. Dine in Cajun cafes and mix with the locals in the lively dance halls. Vermilionville, a living museum and folk life park, will give you a fascinating insight into how the hardy Cajuns and Creoles lived. Lafayette is also known as the centre of Cajun culture and nearly half its population still speaks Cajun French. Visitors can participate in any number of local activities such as cooking schools, dance classes, Cajun Cowboy cattle drives and music festivals.
Lafayette is the perfect base to explore Atchafalaya Swamp, the largest wetland and swamp in the United States. An abundance of wildlife and at least 300 species of birds including thousands of wintering ducks and coots and the largest wintering population of American woodcock in North America can be found in this basin. Over 50,000 egrets, ibises and herons nest here as well as the largest nesting concentration of bald eagles in the south central United States. The American alligator, along with 65 other species of reptiles and amphibians, can also be found as well as over 90 species of fish, crawfish, crabs and shrimp. Needless to say, a swamp tour here is an experience you'll never forget.
Distance: 90 miles
In the late 1800s, Mark Twain noted on his adventures down the mighty Mississippi that there were so many plantations and dwellings along the river that it looked like a spacious street. Towering mansions lay nestled in large patches of moss-draped oak trees. Slaves worked the sugarcane fields, while planters - from as far away as Europe - brought materials and furnishings in by steamboat. Planters often competed with each other to see who could build the grandest home along the Mississippi.
Still today you can catch a glimpse of what Twain once saw by travelling along The Great River Road. Around seventy miles long, it is located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans and boasts some of Louisiana's most famous and recognisable plantation houses.
Vacherie is home to the impressive Oak Alley Plantation. Known as the Grand Dame of the Great River Road the setting is truly spectacular. This mansion is influenced by Georgian style, but you'll see other plantation homes based on English Manors, Spanish, Creole and West Indies, as well as, the elaborate Steamboat Gothic. Other plantation homes worth visiting along this route include Nottoway, Houmas House, Laura, Ormond, Whitney, St Joseph, Destrehan and Felicity.
Distance: 60 miles
Beignets and cafe au lait this morning and one more mooch around the French Quarter before your afternoon flight back to the UK.
Want to extend your holiday? Keep exploring the Deep South or what about a cruise?
All Bon Voyage holidays are tailor-made, so call our team of experts to discuss your ideal Southern getaway.