The music, the culture, the cuisine: it’s all a part of the New Orleans experience. But you can’t really experience it all without getting outside the “big easy.” New Orleans day trips let visitors explore historic plantations and mysterious swamps along the bayou. Check out our 9 Best Day Trips from New Orleans to jump start your adventure.
New Orleans Day Trips Under One Hour Away
1. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (our shortest day trip – 15 mins)
You don’t have to go far to find coastal hardwood forests and beautiful marshes. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge is actually located within the New Orleans city limits, just 15 minutes from the French Quarter. At 24,000 acres, it is the largest urban wildlife refuge in the United States.
Hike along the wooden boardwalks as you try to spot alligators and waterfowl. View the swamp from eye level as you explore by kayak or small boat. You’ll want to bring your camera along to capture the colorful aquatic flowers and chinaberry trees.
Looking for things to do within New Orleans? Check out our Top 10 Things To Do in New Orleans.
2. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park-Barataria Preserve (30 min drive)
The beauty of Louisiana is in the bayous, and this national park is a great way to experience it. A few tour companies offer swamp tours from here. But the best way to explore is to walk along one of the boardwalk trails.
Every Wednesday-Sunday at 10am, the park offers guided walks through the swamps for free. If you would rather explore on your own, the kids might like trying Barataria Bingo! You can also stop by the visitor center to earn a badge from the Junior Ranger program.
3. Abita Springs (40 min north)
The charming community of Abita Springs can be found right across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans. Stroll or bike along the Tammany Trace, let the kids play at the unique Abita playground, and visit the Abita brewery for which the town is so well known.
A visit to the Abita Mystery House is a must do on this day trip from New Orleans! Unusual oddities fill a vintage gas station and surrounding buildings. Your family will love exploring the miniature towns and seeing exhibits such as the “dogigator”-a half dog, half alligator.
4. New Orleans Plantation Country (30-60 min drive)
An escape to New Orleans Plantation country combines unique historical sites, cultures, and ecosystems. It comprises the 60-mile long area along the Mississippi River, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
You’ll want to visit multiple plantations because each has it own story to tell. Laura, a Creole Plantation, teaches of strong women who ran the plantation for generations. The Whitney Plantation focuses on the lives of the enslaved people. Younger visitors appreciate the Destrehan Plantation for its daily folklife demonstrations but will also love the beautiful grounds at Oak Alley.
But this area of Cajun country is more than just plantation touring. Dive deep into Cajun culture by learning to cook gumbo, Andouille, and more with Spuddy’s Cajun Cooking Experience. Then, find out how current sugarcane plantations operate at Creole Sugarland. Finally, take an airboat tour with Swamp Adventures to see local wildlife with an experienced guide.
For a full 2-day itinerary of a New Orleans day trip to Plantation country, check out my guide.
One and Two Hour Day Trips from New Orleans
5. Honey Island Swamp (1 hr drive)
One of the most popular places to experience a swamp tour is Honey Island Swamp. An abundance of wildlife populates the area, including raccoons, feral pigs, and alligators. A tour through the moss draped cypress trees feels like you’ve entered a realm of mystery.
Tours typically last about 2 hours and are available for several companies. The guides at Cajun Encounters enraptured us with tales of their lives along the bayou. They also had personal experience with the animals we encountered and fun stories to share about them.
6. Baton Rouge (1 ½ hrs drive)
The Louisiana state capitol is a 1 ½-hour drive away, making it an easy day trip from New Orleans. Take in the view from the nation’s tallest Capitol building before sampling the many amazing southern restaurants and activities.
For museums, start by exploring the hands-on galleries at the Louisiana Art and Science Museum. Then visit the Baton Rouge African American Museum and discover the colorful history of African Americans in Louisiana. Finally, you also won’t want to miss touring the USS KIDD, a WWII naval destroyer.
Keep the LA adventures coming with Top 10 Things To Do in Louisiana.
7. Grand Isle (2 hrs away)
Grand Isle is a paradise for fishermen. As long as you have a license, you can try to catch any of the 280 different fish species that live nearby from almost any spot on the island. Plenty of local shops offer boat rentals, charters, and bait.
Grand Isle State Park is the perfect place for fishing off the pier and beachcombing. If you want to make it more than a day trip from New Orleans, you can pitch a tent right on the sand and fall asleep to the sound of gently lapping waves.
In the spring, the island hosts thousands of migrating birds. Take a hike through the oak-hackberry forest to spot some of them.
8. Breaux Bridge (2 hrs away)
This historic town is known as the “Crawfish Capital of the World”. Spend some time browsing the art galleries and boutiques along downtown Bridge Street. Then sample some of the Cajun culture the area is so well known for.
Experience authentic Cajun dishes with lunch at Poche’s Market. They have been serving specialties such as crawfish etouffee and smothered pork chops for over 50 years. Dinner at Pont Breaux’s not only provides classic Cajun and Creole dishes, but also live traditional Cajun music.
When you’re ready for nature, head just outside the city limits to the breathtaking Lake Martin. Here you can venture out with kayaks or canoes, take a boat tour, or just walk along the water’s edge watching for the local wildlife. Or to experience one of the largest swamps, check out the nearby Atchafalaya Basin.
9. Avery Island ( Our longest day trip – 2 ½ hrs)
This day trip from New Orleans is definitely worth the drive! Discover how and where TABASCO hot sauce is made on Avery Island. A tour of the factory and museum will answer all your hot sauce related questions. You can even participate in a cooking demo or just enjoy a meal at the TABASCO Restaurant.
In addition to peppers, a lush tropical garden grows on the island. Jungle Gardens boasts colorful flowers, wildlife such as deer and alligators, and ancient oak trees. Admission to the garden can be purchased separately or in conjunction with a visit to the TABASCO Visitors Center.
Disclosure: The author was hosted by New Orleans Plantation Country Visitors Bureau in order to research this article. The hospitality was appreciated but all opinions are her own.