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The thrill of flyboarding on the Tchefuncte River in New Orleans Northshore

Louisiana

New Orleans’ Northshore: 3 Ways to Escape to Nature in Louisiana

By: Christi Womack

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  • States:
    Louisiana

Just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans, explore the Northshore, where city residents have come for centuries to play and get away.

There are a variety of natural wonders to see and ways to experience nature, whether you’re looking for adventurous or peaceful recreation. Hike or bike a trail, paddle through a bayou, or let a skilled guide steer a sightseeing boat through a swamp.

Venture into the Swamp

Enlist the experts at Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours in Slidell to create an unforgettable memory of the Northshore. With a native guide leading the way, take a small-boat journey deep into Honey Island Swamp, a protected, primeval cypress swamp and pristine wildlife area. See the massive cypress trees stretching up from the still water and the cypress knees jutting out all around them. Learn ecology and history lessons and hear legendary tales about pirate escapades and even the Honey Island Swamp Monster. Explore stretches awash with alligators swimming and sunbathing, snakes crawling on tree branches and numerous species of birds searching for a meal. Turtles and frogs plop in the Pearl River from log perches as you pass by. You might even spot a beaver lodge, red wolf, deer, wild hogs, raccoons and nutria.

Cypress trees on a peaceful morning in Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge

Cypress trees on a peaceful morning in Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge
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Watch Wildlife in the Bayou

Kayak or canoe through the calm, peaceful waters of Cane Bayou, which feeds into Lake Pontchartrain. Listen as a knowledgeable master naturalist with Canoe and Trail Adventures in Mandeville leads the trip. Guides speak with passion about the ecosystems and preservation of the swamp, marsh, bayou and estuary system. Land outings are also available for birding and hiking.

Rent kayaks for the day from Bayou Adventure in Lacombe to take in the scenic beauty and see animals in their natural habitat at your own pace. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators submerged in the water with only their eyes and nostrils visible. Look to the banks and in the air to spot flocks of ibises, egrets and herons. See ospreys atop cypress trees in May and June; parents will be training their young how to survive beyond the nest.

Both vendors also offer guided twilight paddles for a sunset view of Lake Pontchartrain and an unforgettable end to the day.

Cane Bayou is a popular spot for a serene kayaking trip

Cane Bayou is a popular spot for a serene kayaking trip
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Bike Along the Tammany Trace

Spend a day cycling or walking the Tammany Trace Bike Trail, the State of Louisiana’s first rails-to-trails conversion and an inductee into the Rails-to-Trails Hall of Fame. The Trace spans nearly 50 kilometers from downtown Covington through Abita Springs, Mandeville and Lacombe, ending in Slidell. Rent bikes at Brooks' Bike Shop in Covington after strolling through downtown boutiques and getting a bite to eat. After a short, scenic ride to Abita Springs, families will enjoy a children’s playground and the Abita Mystery House, a roadside attraction filled with unusual collections and oddities. Be sure to stop at the Abita Brewery for craft beer and soda tastings.

If you opt to explore just a portion of the trail, rent bikes from Bayou Adventure in Lacombe and ride over the Bayou Lacombe Bridge to admire the waterway below. The drawbridge is passable from sunrise to sunset. In the area, see historic cemeteries amid a landscape of live oak and pine trees. Continue on a beautiful ride along the 11.5-kilometer route to the Slidell-Carollo Trailhead, where you'll find plenty of restaurants and shopping nearby.

Water views along the Tammany Trace in New Orleans' Northshore

Water views along the Tammany Trace in New Orleans' Northshore
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Getting There

Fly in to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY), where you can rent a car and drive 40 minutes over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway to the Northshore.