We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
After you’ve spent some time eating and partying your way through New Orleans, you may want to discover some nearby treats. If you’ve got a little extra time, here are the best day trips from New Orleans – from 30 minutes to 2 1/2 hours away.
New Orleans Day Trips
Day Trips From New Orleans – Under 1 Hour
There’s a whole heap of cool things to do in New Orleans but a day trip into nature for adventure, gators and a boat trip on the Manchac Swamp makes a good contrast to the city. Cajun Pride Swamp Tours ticks all the boxes.
A lazy boat trip on the slow-moving Manchac swamp will teach you about a life gone by on the Bayou. The quiet waterways were once home to the Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Houma. More recently, trappers once made it their home and you’ll pass dilapidated shacks and an abandoned cemetery and learn about the 1915 hurricane. Your captain may well regale you with some ghostly tales too.
There’s plenty of wildlife to spot as you drift through the waterways. As you pass under low hanging cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss inquisitive raccoons race along the bank hopeful following the boat. You’ll also notice the alligators in the atmospheric Louisiana backwaters watching you watching them.
You’ll learn about the alligators, how they breed and what they feed on. The gators are huge, you’ll get to witness their strong jaws and sharp teeth as the captain tempts them to jump up from the water to feed on morsels of raw meat thrown into the air. Well away from the boat of course!
The tour lasts 1.5 hours and the alligators are present on the banks of the Manchac and in the water around the boat so you’ll see lots of them.
There’s a spacious car park at Cajun Pride, a small café, gift shop, and toilet facilities. Arrive 15 minutes before the tour starts and allow 2 hours for your visit. See the Cajun Pride Swamp Tours website for timings as these vary and change with the seasons.
Cajun Pride Swamp Tours, 110 Frenier Road, LaPlace, Louisiana 70068
Recommended by Suzanne of The Travelbunny
San Francisco Plantation
Although lesser-known, San Francisco Plantation is a must-see road trip from New Orleans. Located at 2646 Great River Road in Garyville, the plantation is approximately an hour drive from New Orleans. Interestingly, this plantation was originally owned by Elisee Rillieux, a free man of color, who started buying land and slaves in 1827 to create a sugar plantation. He sold the plantation 3 years later at a profit of $50,000. Part of the plantation tour is dedicated to the history of enslaved workers as well as the history of free people of color in Louisiana.
The plantation house was built later in 1853. One of the unique things about this plantation is that the owner hired artists to paint the inside of the home. Subsequently, the estate has 5 hand-painted ceilings, numerous hand-painted doors, faux marbling, and faux wood grain throughout. Floral and nature motifs adorn the interior. Anyone with an appreciation of art must tour this plantation.
Tours are given every 20 minutes daily beginning at 9:40 am, with the last tour starting at 4 pm. A guide dressed in period clothing will take you through all 14 rooms of the estate while educating you on the history of the furniture and artwork. Tours last approximately 45 minutes and cost $20 for an adult.
Recommended by Donna of Explore the Road with Donna Marie
Visiting Laura Plantation is one of the best day trips from New Orleans, as it takes you on an interesting and insightful journey back in time to the sad history of this area.
The house and plantation are located midway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, about 60 minutes drive from the French Quarter and they tell the story of four generations of the Duparc family who owned it for about 100 years. The story is told from the perspective of Laura, the last family member who grew up here and owned the place.
The tour of the plantation starts in the house and goes through the history of the Duparc family. However, the most powerful part of the tour is when you leave the house into the back yard, where the slaves had lived and worked. There is a massive contrast between the greenery and peaceful landscape, and the unpeaceful history of the place. In the slaves’ quarters, you see 2 cabins still standing, out of the 69 that stood here before, and they show you how in a small, crowded room – parents and children, were sleeping, cooking, playing – trying to live their life.
The tour in Laura Plantation takes about 75 minutes and is a must-do when visiting New Orleans. There’s no public transportation to the place and it’s out of the range of shared rides. You can either book a tour with a pickup from the city or rent a car and drive independently.
Recommended by Moshe of The Top Ten Traveler
Oak Alley Plantation
One of the most popular places to visit near New Orleans, Oak Alley Plantation offers a glimpse into the history of the deep south. It’s located on the west bank of the Mississippi River in Vacherie, Louisiana about an hour’s drive from New Orleans. This plantation is best known for the picturesque alleyway of southern live oak trees leading from the river to the house.
The main plantation house was first built in 1839 but underwent a major restoration and modernization effort in 1925. These days Oak Alley is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Guided tours of the main house are provided throughout the day from 9:30 am-5 pm and there is no option (or need) to reserve a time in advance. Make sure you allow yourself at least 2 hours to visit the entire estate. It’s best to arrive at 9 am when Oak Alley first opens. This will also allow you to take photos of the namesake alleyway of oak trees before it is filled with tourists.
Of course, Oak Alley was a sugar plantation and that means it also has a dark past filled with slavery and abuse. There are several exhibitions that shine a light on this part of plantation history. Make sure you take some time to explore the slave quarters after you have finished touring the main house.
While most people simply visit Oak Alley Plantation for a couple of hours before returning to New Orleans, there are actually cottages on the property that you can rent for the night. this allows you to enjoy the beautiful grounds in the evening after the crowds have left for the day.
Recommended by Nick & Val of Wandering Wheatleys
Day Trips from New Orleans – Between 1 and 2 Hours
Only one hour from downtown New Orleans is the start of one of the best US coastal scenic drives. Coastal Mississippi calls itself the Secret Coast and its Beach Boulevard / US 90 route is a memorable detour from the I-10 highway.
Start your Coastal Mississippi adventure in the hidden gem small-town Bay St Louis—where New Orleans’ residents escape for weekend getaways. Things to do in Bay St Louis include exploring local artisan shops, 100 Man DBA Hall, Ruth’s Roots, and restaurants Mockingbird Cafe, The Sycamore House, and Serious Bread Bakery.
Leaving Bay St Louis, continue east on Beach Boulevard, across the St Louis Bay Bridge. The 24-mile section of highway 90 from Henderson Point Beach to Biloxi Lighthouse provides nearly continuous uninterrupted views of the USA’s largest man-made beach and Gulf of Mexico waters. Convenient free parking along this portion dares drivers to stop. So do stop, often, to sink your feet into the brilliant, soft, white, sugar sand and savor phenomenal US Gulf Coast sunsets, sunrises, and views.
Return to Nola via I-110 in Biloxi but if you have time continue east, across Biloxi Bay Bridge, to the wonderfully cute town of Ocean Springs. Stroll the oak-covered streets of downtown Ocean Springs, visit more amazing artisan shops, splurge on a culinary masterpiece at Vestige or daily biscuits at The Greenhouse, and be awed by the artistry of local genius Walter Anderson at WAMA. Return to New Orleans on Beach Boulevard or I-10.
Recommended by Charles of McCool Travel
Baton Rouge is a fascinating destination for many reasons. The city stays fresh thanks to its two universities ~ Louisiana State University (better known as LSU) and Southern University. As the state capital, it’s filled with historical attractions, complete with plenty of stories. Then there is the outdoors aspect, offering an abundance of land and water opportunities to get moving. And, of course, you can’t overlook Baton Rouge’s music and culinary scenes.
Take a brisk walk or jog on the four-mile path along the Mississippi Levee or follow the hearts and discover the city on the heART Trail. The 3.1-mile trail is designed roughly in the shape of a heart.
Stay downtown to tour the Old State Capitol, explore the USS Kidd and view the exhibits at LSU Museum of Art. Visit the Capitol Park Museum and learn about the state’s colorful history. And speaking of the capitols, no trip to Baton Rouge is complete without a visit to the current state capitol’s observation deck on the 27th floor to take in the city from a height of 350 feet.
Drive out to walk around the 32 historic outbuildings and gardens that make up the LSU Rural Life Museum. Head over the Southern University to see the Red Stick Sculpture and explore the campus.
Ready to eat? Savor Criollo or Dutch Baby at Cocha for lunch and end the day with turtle soup and more at Stroubes. Round out the Baton Rouge experience by enjoying local bands at one of the many live music venues.
Recommended by Apryl @SouthernTravelingGal
The Nottoway Plantation is located in White Castle, LA which is about a 77-mile drive from New Orleans, making it the perfect day trip out of the city. There are plenty of other plantations closer though if you’d prefer to take a bus tour instead.
The main house of this stunning mansion was built in 1859, and also boosts to be the largest plantation in Louisiana. Touring this property is a little different than most of the other plantations in the area. You won’t get a lot of info on how it was actually run years ago by the slaves, but mostly a look inside one of the most impressive homes that were built during that time period. The tour guides come dressed in period costumes and are very knowledgeable about the original family that lived there. The grounds are meticulous, and you’re allowed to wander around on your own after the tour.
Nowadays, the mansion is a very popular spot for weddings since it’s also run as a BnB. There are newer cottages out back built to resemble slave cabins that can be booked. Or even a few rooms inside the 64 room house that are set aside for special parties. There is also an elegant restaurant to eat in. Plus a gorgeous white ballroom for dancing.
Give yourself a couple of hours to see everything. Or, if you have time, why not stay the night and be spoiled by the tasty food and friendly staff.
Recommended by Kimberley of Two Travelling Toques
Day Trips from New Orleans Over Two Hours
If you’re looking for a very different cultural vibe than New Orleans, head to the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun Country – Lafayette. While the area is known for its authentic Cajun cuisine, there is plenty to see and do in this small town.
The beautiful red and white brick of the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist will take your breath away. If you really enjoy cathedrals, you can take a guided tour set up through their website. You can also take a walk through history at the Acadian Village. This village is a recreation of a 300-year-old Cajun settlement. The buildings are carefully constructed so you can really get a feel for Acadian history. For more history head to Maison Madeleine – a restored traditional Creole Cottage.
For a Cajun twist on breakfast and lunch, head to The French Press. You’ll find classics like Eggs Benedict but with a Cajun twist like andouille gumbo! It got its name because it used to be a working print shop and still has a historical atmosphere. For some delicious dinner, check out the crab cakes and boudin balls at Blue Dog Cafe.
Lafayette is a great day trip from New Orleans for any traveler looking for a bit of history and local culture.
Recommended by Pam of Directionally Challenged Traveler
Mobile Alabama is located at the northwest corner of Mobile Bay where several rivers empty into the bay and form a large, marshy delta. This port city has an interesting history and has been under the control of 5 different nationalities including French, English, Spanish, Confederate, and American. The city was initially founded in 1702. Mobile is known for its beautiful old homes including plantation Antebellum homes and late 1800 homes. Several of these homes are available for tours. Huge oak trees line many of the streets in downtown and midtown. In the spring, azaleas thrive.
Popular activities for a day trip include visiting the USS Alabama Battleship, one of several local museums, or just strolling around downtown and exploring. The USS Alabama complex also has a submarine and airplane compound. There are museums for kids, Mardi Gras History, Maritime History, Art, and Mobile History. The causeway east of Mobile is fun for exploring the marsh and some fabulous local seafood. Mobile has great seafood and excellent food choices as well. Mobile also celebrates Mardi Gras and has fun events for St. Patrick’s Day. The Azalea Trail Run is also a big event.
Mobile is a beautiful city that is rich in southern tradition and style. The city of Mobile makes a nice day trip to add to your New Orleans Vacation.
Recommended by Lori of Fitz5OntheGo
Dauphin Island, AL
In less than 2 ½ hours (or 3 1/2 hours taking the scenic route), you can escape the city for some island time on Alabama’s Dauphin Island. This island getaway has something for everyone in your group.
The island is the perfect place to spend the day on the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico, where you can relax with the sounds of the calm waves and take a dip in the gulf waters while watching the boats trolling for shrimp and dolphins playing in the water.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll love visiting historic Fort Gaines and touring the grounds that once served as the front line of defense of Mobile Bay during the Civil War.
There are plenty of nature and outdoorsy spots on the island. Visit the Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to learn about the habitats found on the island, or you can walk the 3-mile trail through the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. Love fishing? Book a trip with one of the fishing charters who will help you find the perfect spot for a catch.
Before heading back to New Orleans, watch the island’s famous sunset from The Pelican Pub while feasting on crab claws and locally caught shrimp, with a cold beer to mark the end of a perfect island day.
Recommended by Kiersten of Hiking in my Flip Flops
Which one of these day trips from New Orleans appeals to you the most? For more New Orleans content, check out:
- Great Reasons to Visit New Orleans
- Foods to Try in New Orleans (and where to try them!)
- Best Souvenirs from New Orleans
Annick, The Common Traveler
Which of these New Orleans day trips look the most fun to you? Let me know in a comment below!