Stretching from New Orleans to Lafayette, US Route 90 stretches through bayous, ancient cypress swamps, and the into the heart of Cajun country and the Louisiana bayou. The road trip starts in the French quarter of New Orleans, where visitors can explore a place and culture centuries old. From Creole to Acadian (Cajun), explore the bayous and byways of Southern Louisiana. French accents, plentiful wildlife, Cajun music, and tasty cuisine make the region a must see in the Fall and Spring months.

How Long? 300.5 miles from New Orleans to the end (around 7 hours). Once you’ve finished in Lafayette, it’s an additional 134 miles (2 hours) back to New Orleans.

When to go? Spring and Fall. Summers can be extremely hot and humid. Winter months are okay, but you’re less likely to see wildlife, especially alligators.

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Start in The French Quarter

The French Quarter of New Orleans.
The French Quarter of New Orleans.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
/ French Quarter Visitor Center

419 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70130

Nouvelle Orleans, New Orleans’s French Quarter, was developed in 1718 by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. As people moved to the quarter from all over the world, a unique culture rich in food, music, and tradition quickly developed. The Jean Lafitte’s French Quarter Visitors Center presents the history and traditions of the city and the lower Mississippi River delta region through a variety of exhibits and a film. The visitor’s center is also a great place to begin your tour of the old French quarter with sightseeing tours, brochures, and visitor’s information.

Quick TipLove touring old buildings? Check out 15 of the oldest buildings in the French Quarter.


Side trip! New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

916 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Stop by the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park to learn more about the origins and evolution of jazz music. The 4-acre park is technically in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, but it’s near the French Quarter. The visitor centers can be found at the New Orleans Jazz Museum at 400 Esplanade Avenue.

Barataria Preserve. Source: Ken Lund, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Barataria Preserve. Source: Ken Lund, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve at Barataria

6588 Barataria Boulevard, Marrero, LA 70072

Once you cross the Greater New Orleans Bridge, follow the West Bank Expressway (Route 90) west to Route 45, which leads south to the Barataria section of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Located just outside of Marrero, the preserve contains 23,000 acres of coastal wetlands. Walk along boardwalks and dirt trails to view the variety of animals (such as alligators) and over 20 species of birds that live in the swamps, freshwater marshes and hardwood forests. Download the trail map, explore with a cell phone tour, or enjoy a self-guided walking tour of Pecan Grove. The town of Jean Lafitte, named after the pirate-turned-patriot, is also just down the road from the preserve.

Example of a Cajun Cabin. Source: James DeMers
Example of a Cajun Cabin. Source: James DeMers

Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center

314 St Mary St, Thibodaux, LA 70301

You’ll take a slight detour on to Route 1 into the small town of Thibodaux. The Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center is a National Park Service center with exhibits on Cajun culture along with boat tours, walking tours of Historic Thibodaux, and Cajun music nights. Learn about the lives of the Acadians (Cajuns) and others who lived in Louisiana’s bayous. On Tuesday nights, the Cercle Francophone gives you a great opportunity to watch linguistic history in action and learn French, Cajun or otherwise. In the Spring and the Fall, boat tours tour Bayou Lafourche, locally known as the “longest street in the world.” Watch for birds and alligators and learn about the bayou ecosystem.

Swamp near Houma, Louisiana
Swamp near Houma, Louisiana

Houma, Louisiana Swamp Tours

Houma Area Visitor’s Center, 114 Tourist Drive, Gray, LA 70359

Getting back on Route 90, you’ll pass through Houma, nicknamed the Venice of America due to its 55 bridges that cross its waterways and over 2,500 square miles of wetlands. More than 65% of Terrebonne Parish consists of wetlands and open water.  Houma’s streets hug the bayou, which served as towpaths in days gone by. Stop by the Houma Area Visitor’s Center to learn about the area and to get restaurant guides, local maps, and suggested itineraries. Houma’s marshland, diverse environment and wildlife, excellent food, and authentic Cajun culture make it an excellent stop on the Bayou Byway.

Quick TipLooking for some authentic Cajun cooking? Stop at the Jolly Inn in Houma (1507 Barrow St, Houma, LA 70360)  for spicy food and live music.

Another local favorite is A-Bear’s Restaurant (809 Bayou Black Dr, Houma, LA 70360), a small restaurant that serves authentic Cajun fare.

Oaklawn Manor

3296 E Oaklawn Dr, Franklin, LA 70538

Outside of Calumet on Route 90, you’ll detour onto Route 182. This new route allows you to follow the bends of Bayou Teche, a 125-mile-long waterway. During the steamboat era, sugar barons built large homes right along the stream leading the area to be called “Sugarcane Country.” Oaklawn Manor is one such plantation house, built in 1837 by Alexander Porter. The restored Greek Revival structure is surrounded by one of the largest groves of live oaks in America.

Shadows-on-the-Teche. Source: Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress.
Shadows-on-the-Teche. Source: Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress.


317 E Main St, New Iberia, LA 70560

Several additional antebellum homes can be found on the route into New Iberia. (Stay on Route 182, despite your navigation system’s best effort to take you back to I-90. It’s the scenic route). The Shadows-on-the-Teche is one such house built by sugarcane planter David Weeks in 1834. This coral-brick, white-columned home is 3,750 square feet and nestled on the banks of Bayou Teche.  The Classic Revival-style home with a traditional Louisiana garden has tours and seasonal events, such as Terror-on-the-Teche. The house was also the first site in the Gulf South listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


Jungle Gardens and Bird Sanctuary (Avery Island)

Hwy 329, Avery Island, LA 70513

The home of TABASCO® Pepper Sauce, Avery Island is also home to Jungle Gardens, a 170-acre botanical garden and bird sanctuary. Jungle Garden features over 20,000 egrets and its egret rookery built on bamboo piers. The semitropical garden stretches along Bayou Petite Anse.  The island itself is a large salt done, best known as the source of TABASCO® Sauce, a staple of Cajun cuisine. Go to the TABASCO® Visitors Center (32 Wisteria Rd, Avery Island, LA 70513) and take a tour, a cooking class, or book a TABASCO®  Culinary Tour.

Flowers from Rip Van Winkle GardensRip Van Winkle Gardens

5505 Rip Van Winkle Rd, New Iberia, LA 70560

After leaving the antebellum manor, head down Route 14 towards Jefferson Island to explore another semi-tropical garden and mansion. The small island was named after Joseph Jefferson, an actor who played the part of Rip Van Winkle on stage over 4500 times. The Joseph Jefferson Mansion was built in 1870 in a Victorian style with a fourth-story cupola. It sits atop the salt dome approximately 75 feet above sea level. The Gardens consist of 15 acres nestled among 350-year-old oak trees.

Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, LA. Sorce: Maren, Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Evangeline Oak in St. Martinville, LA. Source: Maren, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site

1200 N Main St, St Martinville, LA 70582

After leaving Jefferson Island, you’ll head east on Route 675 and then north on Routes 76 and Route 31 to St. Martinville, a town established as a military post in 1714. After being expelled from Nova Scotia by British authorities in 1755, the Acadians (Cajuns) settled in the town. During the French Revolution, so many Refugees came to St. Martinville that the town was called Le Petit Paris. The small town is best known as the setting for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem, Evangeline.

Evangeline Oak Park (122 Evangeline St, St Martinville, LA 70582) has a large oak tree called the Evangeline Oak. The oak tree is where Emmeline Labiche and Louis Arceneaux, supposedly the inspirations behind Longfellow’s poem, reunited after years of separation. (It’s the third Evangeline Oak.) The tree itself can be found at the end of Port Street and is often used by musicians who sometimes gather to play Cajun tunes.

The Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site showcases the regions French-speaking people along the famed Bayou Teche. The 175-acre park also includes a reproduction of an Acadian Farmstead that shows what a typical single-family farm would have looked like in 1800. Also on the site is the Maison Oliver, a plantation built around 1815, in a distinct architectural style that is a mixture of Creole, Caribbean, and French influence.

Lake Fausse Pointe at Sunset. Source: Edd Prince on Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Lake Fausse Pointe at Sunset. Source: Edd Prince on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Lake Fausse Pointe State Park

5400 Levee Rd, St Martinville, LA 70582

About 18 miles east of St. Martinsville in the middle of the Atchafalaya Basin sits Lake Fausse Pointe State Park. The site of one of the oldest bald cypress groves in the region, the 6,000-acre recreation area was formerly the home site of the Chitimacha Indians. It was later occupied by French and Acadian farmers. The influx of Spanish and Canary Islanders also influenced the local culture. The park sits at the edge of a beautiful water wilderness.  Hike the elevated walkways and view Lake Fausse or the nearby Dauterive Lake. You can also rent canoes or kayaks at the park’s visitor center and see the waterlogged forests and canopies of cypress trees up close.

Beaux Bridge

1908 Atchafalaya River Hwy, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517-8518

Known as the crawfish capital of the world, Breaux Bridge holds a festival every year in May. During this event, you’ll find Cajun music, carnival rides, and crawfish eating contests. In the Fall, the St. Francis of Assisi Fall Celebration has a variety of barbeque and catfish dinners as well.  Antique stores, seafood restaurants, and other little shops fill the historic downtown area. You’ll often hear traditional Cajun music played by local musicians. The Atchafalaya Welcome Center offers additional background on the Atchafalaya area with educational exhibits and an introductory movie on Cajun food.

Atchafalaya Basin Landing & Swamp Tours

Atchafalaya Basin Landing & Swamp Tours

1377 Henderson Levee Rd, Henderson, LA 70517

Looking to take a swamp tour of the Atchafalaya Basin? The Atchafalaya Basin lLanding& Marina tour takes you deep into the Henderson Swamp. The swamp consists of mossy cypress forests, Louisiana Alligators, and a deep history as the original home of the Cajun people. Using an airboat, you’ll get to ride under I-10 on the swamp tour as you view alligators up to 10-feet long and a variety of bird life, such as the osprey. Depending on what you want to see, the Atchafalaya area has a host of tour providers that cover different regions of the swamp.

The tour will end in Lafayette, located in the heart of Cajun country.

A cabin in the Acadian Village.
An example of an Acadian cabin.

Acadian Village

200 Greenleaf Dr, Lafayette, LA 70506

For a final stop on your tour, visit LARC’s Acadian Village, an open-air museum that features one of the oldest authentic versions of Acadian life.  The village recreates a small, 19th-century Cajun bayou community with 11 relocated Cajun homes and a Native American museum. Besides that, a bayou also runs through the community.

Quick TipLooking for some (more) authentic Cajun cooking? Stop at the Blue Moon in Lafayette (215 E Convent St, Lafayette, LA 70501)  for tasty food and live music.

The Azalea Trail is a driving tour through historical Lafayette.
The Azalea Trail is a driving tour through historical Lafayette.

Azalea Trail

1400 NW Evangeline Throughway, Lafayette, LA 70501

The Azalea Trail stretches for 20 miles across historical sites, city streets, and private homes in Lafayette. Landmarks along the trail include the Lafayette Museum, Boulevard of Floral Splendor and Mouton Plantation. The well-marked tour can be downloaded or picked up from the visitors center.

From here, take I-10 back to New Orleans.

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

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Beyond Bourbon Street and the neon lights and music central lies the historic French Quarter with Spanish and French-era pieces. Some buildings retain their historic properties and operate as museums or private residences. Others have commercial stores such as gift shops yet maintain their iron balustrades and Creole architecture.

Chartres Street is best known for its myriad of Colonial-era buildings that have survived two large fires and multiple floods. Royal Avenue and St. Louis Street have their own Colonial-era sites. Interested in taking a tour? Here are 15 of the oldest buildings in what has been called the Crown Jewel of New Orleans.

Note: Unlike previous maps, this is a walking map of the French Quarter. 

Park by the Old Mint/New Orleans Jazz Museum or down by Jackson Square. The one-way lanes and lack of street parking can be a nightmare in a car.

Let’s get started.

The Old U.S. Mint. Source: Louisiana Travel on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
The Old U.S. Mint. Source: Louisiana Travel on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Old U.S. Mint (1838)

400 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116

Coins were continuously minted between 1838 and 1909 at this old mint on Esplanade Avenue. Build on the site of the old Fort St. Charles, the Greek Revival building produced both American and Confederate coinage. The old New Orleans Mint opened as a state museum in 1981. The building was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but reopened in 2007.

The Louisiana Historical Center, the New Orleans Jazz Club Collections of the Louisiana State Museum, and the New Orleans Mint Performing Art Center are all currently located here.

Old ursuline Convent, New Orleans French Quarter. Source: Louisiana Travel on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0
Old Ursuline Convent, New Orleans French Quarter. Source: Louisiana Travel on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0

Old Ursuline Convent (1745)

1100 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA 70116

The Ursuline Convent is the oldest structure in the Mississippi River Valley. It is also the oldest surviving example of the French colonial period in the United States. Erected in 1745, the Convent was occupied by Ursuline nuns until 1824. It also served as a meeting place for the Louisiana Legislature. Today, it operates as the Catholic Cultural Heritage Center for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In addition to the Old Ursuline Convent Museum, the structure houses the Archdiocesan archives and a formal garden.

Next to the Old Convent is Saint Mary’s Catholic Church (1116 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70116). Older than St. Louis Cathedral, parts of it date back to 1727. St. Mary’s Church was rebuilt in 1850 and rededicated in 1860.

Beauregard-Keys House. By Infrogmation - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1644758
Outside the Beauregard-Keyes House. Source: Infrogmation – Own Work, CC by 2.5

Beauregard-Keyes House (1826)

1113 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70116

The Beauregard -Keyes House museum includes past residents such as Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard and American author Frances Parkinson Keyes. The house has elements of a Creole cottage with Greek Revival features, including a Palladian façade. It also has twin curved staircases leading to a Tuscan portico. A formal French garden, typical of the early 1800s architecture, includes a cast iron fountain and boxwood hedges.

Gallier House with green balcony. By Infrogmation of New Orleans - Photo by Infrogmation, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4155016
Gallier House with green balcony. By Infrogmation of New Orleans – Photo by Infrogmation, CC BY-SA 4.0

Gallier House (1857)

1118-32 Royal St., New Orleans, LA 70116

Built as a private residence of noted architect James Gallier, the Gallier House is a restored 19th-century house museum. The house is an example of Victorian style architecture and has been furnished according to a household inventory created after Mr. Gallier’s passing. Four wrought-iron arches extend from the balcony to the roof and four windows face each of the arches with shutters typical of the period. Visitors can book a tour of the Gallier house and the Herman-Grima House at the same time. (Just be warned, they are not next to each other so you will have to drive to the Herman-Grima House.)

Madame John's Legacy. Source: Teemu on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Madame John’s Legacy. Source: Teemu on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Madame John’s Legacy (1789)

632 Dumaine St., New Orleans, LA 70116

One of the oldest houses in the French Quarter, Madame John’s Legacy is an example of eighteenth-century Louisiana Creole architecture. The house was raised high enough to withstand frequent flooding of the area and has ventilating features to alleviate the subtropical heat. It also managed to survive the great fire of 1794. The museum itself is currently closed for restoration but you can still view the outside.

Next stop, Jackson Square area.

Note: If you are driving to Jackson Square, park and walk to the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral and The Presbytere. The public lots by the river behind Jax Brewery or Cafe du Monde or the paid lot at Decatur St & Toulouse St. (near 601 Decatur St, look for big red Public Parking sign) may be your best bets.

Jackson Square, French Quarter, New Orleans
Jackson Square, French Quarter, New Orleans

Jackson Square (1718 and beyond)

700 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Initially laid out with the rest of the old French Quarter, Jackson Square sits in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. Also called the Place d’Armes, it is the oldest space in the city. Trees and walkways were added to it in the 1830s and the equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson was added in 1856. Today, the area around the park is a mixture of commercial and residential property. Local artists also display their work on the outside of the iron fence and visitors can walk among the open-air artist colony to see the artists at work.

New Orleans French Quarter, the Cabildo, St. Louis Cathedral, and Presbetere
The Cabildo, Saint Louis Cathedral, and the Presbytère sit side by side in front of Jackson Square in the New Orleans French Quarter

The Cabildo (1799)

701 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA 70130

Located on Jackson Square, The Cabildo was the headquarters of the Spanish colonial government and the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer in 1803. The New Orleans city council continued to use the building until the mid-1850s. The original Cabildo was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 and was rebuilt between 1795 and 1799.

St. Louis Cathedral (orig. 1727, 1850)

615 Pere Antoine Alley, New Orleans, LA 70116

Originally built in 1727, the Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis is flanked by the historic Cabildo on one side and the Presbytère on the other. After the great fire of 1794, the original structure was rebuilt. The current structure was finished in 1850 and overlooks Jackson Square. The Cathedral is the oldest continuously active Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States.

The Presbytère  (1791)

751 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA 70116

Originally called Casas Curial or “Ecclesiastical House,” The Presbytère was started in 1791 and is a great example of formal colonial Spanish architecture. It was first designed to match the nearby Cabildo (Town Hall) and was built on the former site of the residence of the Capuchin monks and presbytery. It became a courthouse in 1834 and part of the Louisiana State Museum in 1911.

By Elisa Rolle - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21201262
Nicholas Girod House or “The Napolean House.” Source: Elisa Rolle, CC BY-SA 3.0

Napoleon House/Nicholas Girod House (1794)

500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

The home was originally built by Nicholas Girod, the mayor of New Orleans. Girod later extended an invitation in 1821 to Napoleon to reside in the mansion as a refuge during his exile. Although Napoleon never made it to New Orleans, the name has been attached to the mansion ever since. An example of French-influenced architecture, it is a three-story brick stuccoed building with two iron balconies and a cupola. The Napoleon House restaurant serves traditional Creole dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and what some call the best muffaletta sandwiches in town.

Inside the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Source: Jeremy Thompson, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
Inside the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. Source: Jeremy Thompson, Flickr. CC BY 2.0

New Orleans Pharmacy Museum (1823)

514 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

This old apothecary shop is now a museum with medicines, surgical instruments, journals, and an 1855 soda fountain. The museum also highlights the role of Louis J. Dufilho, Jr., America’s first licensed pharmacist and the owner of the apothecary. A newly renovated courtyard also contains a garden of herbs that were used for medicinal purposes. The courtyard also contains a traditional French Quarter garden for private parties and receptions.

Bartolome Bosque (1795)

617 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

This example of a “Creole Townhouse” dates to 1795. In this style of townhomes, you access the building by ascending stairs in the rear of the building. There were no inside stair halls. The monogram on the balcony is also an excellent example of Spanish Colonial ironworking. A unique feature is that the initials were installed in reverse, whether by error or design so that the initials can be read from the inside of the house but not by people outside.

Historic New Orleans Collection (Museum and Research Center)

533 Royal St,  New Orleans, LA 70130

Commemorating 300 years of New Orleans, the Historic New Orleans Collection houses multiple exhibits including two historic homes (from 1792 and 1890), a bookstore, and an art gallery. The THNOC includes 10 historic buildings that cover two campuses in The Quarter. Four exhibition spaces present permanent and rotating exhibitions showcasing New Orleans history and art.

Hermann-Grima House. Source: Reading Tom on Flickr, CC BY 2.0
Hermann-Grima House. Source: Reading Tom on Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Hermann-Grima House (1831)

820 St. Louis St, New Orleans, LA 70112

The Hermann-Grima House is a restored Federal-style mansion with a courtyard garden. The home is a prime example of the influence of American architecture on New Orleans homes after the Louisiana Purchase. The interior depicts the lifestyle of a wealthy Creole family from 1830 to 1860. You can tour the house, adjacent slave quarters, outbuildings, and courtyard. Over one-third of the objects in the home either belonged to the original Hermann or Grima families.

Brennan's Restaurant, a 1795-era Colonial building. Source: Ken Lund on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
Brennan’s Restaurant, a 1795-era Colonial building. Source: Ken Lund on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Brennan’s Restaurant (1795)

417 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70130

The pink stucco Brennan’s Restaurant is an example of an elaborate former bank and residence from the late Colonial period. Constructed in 1795, the two-story mansion first operated as the Banque de la Louisiane. It was later converted into a residence. A historic marker on the restaurant reads in part “Banque de la Louisiane.” The Creole-style restaurant has resided in the building since 1946.

Looking to explore outside of New Orleans? Check out the list of national and state parks in Louisiana.

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Louisiana is a melting pot of French, African, American, Spanish, and French-Canadian and those cultures are reflected in its parks and historical sites. Down in Cajun Country, you can find a variety of great outdoor spaces to visit after you find yourself sampling the local cuisine. There are eight national parks in Louisiana and nearly two dozen state parks for you to go exploring.

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National Parks & Historic Sites

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

2022 Atchafalaya River Hwy, Breaux Bridge, LA 70517

Cane River National Heritage Area

1115 Washington St, Natchitoches, LA 71457

Cane River Creole National Historical Park

400 Rapids Dr, Natchitoches, LA 71457

El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail

Various; One is Fort Jesup State Historic Site, 32 Geoghagan Rd, Many, LA 71449

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve

Barataria Preserve Visitor Center, 6588 Barataria Blvd, Marrero, LA 70072

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park

916 N Peters St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Poverty Point National Monument

6859 LA-577, Pioneer, LA 71266

Vicksburg National Military Park

3201 Clay St, Vicksburg, MS 39183 (part of it extends into LA)

National and state Parks in Louisiana. Like it? Pin it.

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