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St. Tammany Parish, aka Louisiana’s Northshore, is draped across the northern shore of Lake Pontchartrain, just 40 minutes north of New Orleans’ French Quarter. New Orleanians have considered the Northshore a getaway since the 1880s, when steamboats brought them across the lake to stay in large resorts shaded by tall trees, where the air was cooler and cleaner and the deep-spring water was reputed to cure ills and calm nerves.
Today, visitors come for soft adventure and 80,000 acres of green spaces and waterways, as well as for the area’s great culinary and cultural scenes, picturesque towns and feel-good vibe. Many come for boat tours of the Honey Island Swamp, beer tastings at Abita Brewery, fishing charters in Slidell and kayak adventures on the bayou. Once they come, we know they'll come back, and stay a little longer. The Northshore is a very special place, "a hidden gem."
But the word's getting out. Our quaint B&Bs, boutique hotels, and familiar hotel properties with free parking and value-conscious rates are beckoning you to stay longer than a day. The Northshore is only forty minutes - but a world away - from New Orleans. Come see for yourself where New Orleans has come to play and get away for more than a century.
No trip to Louisiana is complete without a tour into the depths of the Honey Island Swamp, on the northeast edge of St. Tammany parish. You’ll find pristine beauty, lush nature in harmony, and likely see alligators sunning themselves on logs or watching warily from the banks. If they swim up to the boat, it will be to score a marshmallow or to leap up out of the swamp for a hot dog treat from the tour guide. Look for snowy white egrets and great blue herons patiently stalking a bullfrog dinner or wild boar delicately climbing around cypress knees to root for a morsel. Cajun Encounters Swamp Tours and Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours offer hotel/New Orleans pick-up, but if you have a car, bring it. You’ll want to spend more time exploring the Northshore on your own.
Kayaking down a lazy Louisiana bayou can be a welcome respite from the raucous activities of the French Quarter. Bayou literally means "slow-moving water" and there's something to be said for a change of pace and a paddle. Several outfitters rent kayaks, SUP paddleboards, and canoes for either guided or self-guided tours of Bayous Cane, Castine, or Lacombe and the Bogue Falaya River. Cane Bayou is among the most popular waterways, as it meanders between the boundaries of Fontainebleau State Park and Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Visitors may see herons, osprey, turtles, even an alligator or two. Canoe and Trail Adventures offers regular paddling tours combined with transportation from New Orleans.
With easy access to Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Borgne, the Rigolets Pass and the Biloxi Marsh, Northshore charters are a great way to spend the day on the water. Area captains know where to go for trophy trout, record redfish, largemouth bass, sheepshead, tripletail, flounder, and drum. Charters often start just before daylight and end early afternoon. Most charters can carry 5-6 people, and welcome anglers of all skill levels and ages, too. You’ll need to make a reservation. You won’t have to clean your fish; your captain does that for you.
Popular tours tell the tale of how tiny little Abita became one of America’s favorite craft breweries, and Louisiana's oldest and largest. At its beautiful new taproom, visitor center, and bar, anyone can belly up and taste what master brewers, deep-well Artesian water, and three decades of experience can produce. Visitors come by car and by tour bus (and sometimes by bike, arriving via the nearby Tammany Trace path) to taste favorites like Purple Haze and Amber at the source. Favorites are joined by harvest and seasonal brews, some made with locally sourced produce like satsumas, strawberries, and pecans. Guided tours with tastings are only $5. Nola Brew Bus and New Orleans Brews Cruise can assist with transportation from New Orleans.
Go on safari with thousands of free-roaming animals from all over the world at Global Wildlife Center in Folsom. Get eye to eye with giraffes, wiggle a camel’s hump, or feel the wooly fur of a bison as you feed and pet animals from all over the world on the scenic 900-acre wildlife preserve. Visitors have two options to explore this “Africa in Louisiana.” Many opt for safari tours in large motorized wagons that travel the grounds, providing on-high views and the opportunity to toss feed to many animals as they approach the wagon. The private Pinzgauer tours are a great choice for families that want a more intimate and personalized tour. Reservations required for the Pinzgauer tours, check website for wagon tour times.
Home to more than 2,000 alligators, Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery in Covington offers a fun and educational program and the chance to see scores of the mammoth reptiles in crystal-clear water. Learn about the alligator industry “from hatchling to handbag,” including how the species was brought back from endangerment by Insta-Gator’s cooperative efforts with Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries. Holding a baby alligator from the touch pool makes the perfect photo-op for the folks back home. Every August, reservations can be made to help hatch a baby alligator from its egg. Tour times vary.
St. Tammany Parish is home to two waterfront state parks, Fontainebleau State Park in Mandeville and Fairview-Riverside in Madisonville. Located on 2,800 acres fronting Lake Pontchartrain, Fontainebleau is Louisiana’s most visited. Twelve cabins on stilts overlooking the lake offer a true Louisiana experience and unbelievable sunset views, and the park’s sandy beach and swimming area is popular with families. At Fairview-Riverside State Park, the cool waters of the Tchefuncte River yield bass, bluegill, white perch, and bream near the park area, and channel catfish, speckled trout and redfish where the river meets the lake. Visit the historic Otis House (c.1885) on weekends to learn more about the St. Tammany lifestyle in 1885-1930. Both offer premium, improved, and unimproved campsites.
Outdoor feasting, Louisiana roots music, antiques, original art, and Gulf seafood are just a few of the reasons to revel in a Northshore festival. The St. Tammany events calendar is jam-packed with celebrations; this is Louisiana, after all. Autumn brings the St. Tammany Crab Festival in Slidell, the Wooden Boat Festival in Madisonville, the Olde Towne Slidell Spring and Fall Antique Street Fair, and the Three Rivers Art Festival in Covington. Spring celebrations include A Taste of Covington, the Great Louisiana Birdfest in Mandeville, the Crawfish Cook-off in Slidell, and the Busker Festival in Abita Springs. Check our events calendar for more ways to pass a good time.
Life’s a feast on the Northshore, where the culinary perspective has been shaped by the area’s diverse cultures as well as the bounty of the bayou. Feed your soul at mom-and-pop po-boy shops, seafood stands and dining rooms conceived by talented chefs. Sample your way through breweries, vineyards and great farmers markets. St. Tammany’s culinary scene is deep and wide and delicious and there’s a place at the table waiting for you. If you're looking for recommendations, be sure and check out our 10 Ways to Taste page and #tammanytaste for inspiration.
By now you’ve realized St. Tammany shares New Orleans’ embrace of Louisiana culture, great music, great food and a zest for living life every minute. There’s a vibrancy in each Northshore town, full of positive and welcoming energy. So stay a while. There are value-conscious options at hotels where you can earn reward points (skip the city’s exorbitant parking fees, parking is always free on the Northshore). Rock on the porch at a Fontainebleau State Park cabin and watch the sun disappear into Lake Pontchartrain, or spot the city across the lake – it’s that close. Lounge in luxurious comfort at the new boutique Abita Springs Hotel. Join generations of New Orleanians who have sought respite at the elegant, newly restored boutique Southern Hotel in Covington. Its annex, The Garden House, opened five fun suites decorated a la Dorothy Draper in 2018. There are beautiful B&Bs located near boutique shopping and in walkable historic districts. Come play, and we're sure you'll want to stay.
Looking for the top ten things to do on the Northshore? It's hard to choose, but this will get you started.
Digest these fun sample itineraries as you plan your next ultimate road trip to St. Tammany Parish.
Our culinary scene is deep and delicious, influenced by the bounty of the bayou and sure to satisfy everyone.