New Orleans is a unique, world-class city, full of fun, food, and music. New Orleans is the best city to party, from the nightclubs along Bourbon Street, the fantastic food in the French Quarter, and of course, Mardi Gras.
But, once the party is over, the restorative solitude only nature can provide is just what you need. New Orleans is not only a world-class, cosmopolitan city, but it’s also located in one of the most diverse and unique environments in North America. The mighty Mississippi River flows through the middle of the state, nourishing a rich diversity of plants and wildlife.
From the deep, dark swamps swarming with alligators, to the sunny Gulf Coast, New Orleans is an island of civilization within large swathes untamed wilderness. Let’s explore the 10 best state parks within 200 miles of New Orleans.
Bayou Segnette State Park
Located near Westwego, on the west bank of the Mississippi River, Bayou Segnette State Park spans 676 beautiful acres. This extraordinary habitat is home to alligators, armadillos, nutria, raccoon, American mink, opossum, and all types of birds, including bald eagles.
Both fresh and saltwater fishermen will love it here, so get ready to catch bass, catfish, bream, perch, and trout. Exploring hard to reach areas of the park by boat is one of the hidden joys here. Sailing the waterways is the best way to see all of the amazing wildlife that thrives here.
The park has an outdoor activity for everyone. There are playgrounds for the children, and large picnic areas for a big family get-together. Best of all, there are 98 RV campsites with water and electrical hookups at Bayou Segnette. The campsites average $30 per night.
Fairview Riverside State Park
This fabulous park is north of New Orleans on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain. Sprinkled around the 98 acres you’ll find picnic tables, a playground, and a pavilion under a huge canopy of venerable old oaks.
You can also explore history with a tour of the beautiful Otis House. Built in 1885, the plantation-style mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places. You can visit the Otis House Museum Wednesday through Sunday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., except on holidays.
However, simply relaxing along the shores of the Tchefuncte River may be your style. The crystal-clear Tchefuncte River is swimming with bass, bluegill, bream and white perch. Fishing on the delta of Lake Pontchartrain will get you channel catfish, speckled trout, and redfish. Crabbing in the lake and along the river is also rewarding. Be prepared to a barbecue!
Best of all, you can camp at one of the 81 RV sites with electric and water or one of the 20 dry camping sites. Fees range from $20 to $28 per night.
Grand Isle State Park
Drive 100-miles south of New Orleans to the eastern end of Grand Isle, and you’ll find yourself immersed in the beautiful 140-acre Grand Isle State Park. Come here to comb the beaches, birdwatch, boat, fish, crab, and swim in the warm gulf waters. But be forewarned, those Grand Isle is reputed to be the most haunted beach in the country. The island once was the haunt of French pirates, including the notorious pirates Pierre and Jean Lafitte; it’s believed that the rebellious spirits of the pirates continue to haunt the shores of this arresting island.
If you want to experience this hauntingly beautiful island, there are 49 pull-through campsites with electric hookups, water, and a dump station. Camping fees average $30 per night.
Lake Fausse Pointe State Park
This 6,000-acre park near St. Martinville encompasses a stunning watery wilderness. Boating, kayaking, and fishing opportunities abound here. The park’s boat launch is your entrance to a maze of waterways snaking throughout the park. The boat launch also has boat rentals, and the nearby nature center is filled with great information about the surrounding natural environment.
In addition to your outdoor adventure, take a look at the historic town of St. Martinville as well as the 157-acre Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site. It’s a peek into Louisiana’s diverse and compelling history, including the plantation house Maison Olivier, built in 1815 by Pierre Olivier Duclozel de Vezin, a wealthy Creole.
There are 55 campsites at Lake Fausse Pointe State Park, including 5 primitive campsites and 50 RV campsites with water and electrical hookups. Camping fees average $30 per night.
Cypremort Point State Park
Drive two hours west of New Orleans to the 185-acre Cypremort Point State Park; it’s the only place along the Gulf of Mexico that you can drive to. The park features a half-mile long beach, the perfect place to relax and admire the sparkling water. Crab along the beach, fish, go sailing, or windsurfing. A 100-foot fishing pier is a fabulous place to not only fish, but also to sit and contemplate the sunset.
In addition to the opportunities for water recreation, the park’s marshland is rich in wildlife. You can find alligators, nutria, muskrat, red fox, deer, black bears, opossum, and all kinds of native birds.
There is primitive camping within the park, mostly suitable for tent camping.
Tickfaw State Park
Sixty-miles north of New Orleans is Tickfaw State Park with four distinct eco-systems; the park includes hardwood forest, a mixed hardwood, pine forest, a tupelo/cypress swamp, and the Tickfaw River. The park has miles of trails on which to explore this captivating wilderness. You’re free to hike, bike and paddle around the park; you can even rent a canoe here if you don’t have one.
Tickfaw State Park is bursting with all types of native wildlife, and listening to the night sounds of the swamp is a primal experience you’ll cherish. Tickfaw is a quintessential glimpse into the raw, Louisiana wilderness.
You can immerse yourself in this unique state park at one of the 50 campsites. Thirty of the campsites have electricity and water and 20 only have water. Camping fees average $30 per night.
Big Lagoon State Park
Vear Pensacola, Big Lagoon offers visitors 704-acres in which to swim, fish, crab, boat, paddle, hike, and camp within the pine flatwoods and along the saltwater tidal marshes. Big Lagoon is a bird watcher’s paradise, with close to two dozen species of wood-warblers, and many different species of sandpipers, ducks, and plovers.
The parks’ shallow bays and sunny beaches are a great place to go beachcombing and crabbing. The open woodlands provide plenty of opportunities to encounter all sorts of wildlife, including deer, black bears, raccoon, opossum, and many more.
Big Lagoon State Park has 67 RV campsites, and five have 30-amp electric. Otherwise, it’s dry camping with restrooms with hot showers and water spigots dotted throughout the campground. There is also a dump station.
Gulf Islands National Seashore
The Gulf Islands National Seashore, near the far western tip of the Florida panhandle, offers many opportunities for nature lovers. From historic forts to pure, white, sandy beaches, this string of barrier islands is a wonder to explore. Swimming, fishing, crabbing, beachcombing, and relaxing in the sun are just a few of the things you can do in this watery paradise.
Best of all, there’s camping at the Gulf Islands National Seashore. The Fort Pickens Campground has close to 200 RV campsites with electrical hookups. There are restrooms with hot showers throughout, as well as potable water. The campground fees average $30 per night.
The Davis Bayou Campground has more than 50 campsites with electricity near the pine and oak forests of the Davis Bayou. There are also water spigots and a dump station at the campground. The camping fees average $30 per night.
Chicot State Park
This vast, 6,400-acre state park is 150 miles northwest of New Orleans. This is the place to catch record-breaking largemouth bass, red ear sunfish, crappie, and bluegill in the cool, clear waters of Lake Chicot.
Hiking trails weave their way through Chicot’s gorgeous landscape of hardwood uplands, cypress-tupelo lakes and venerable, old magnolia forest. You’ll encounter quite a few animals, including deer, opossum, raccoon, and hundreds of unique bird species. The 300-acre Louisiana State Arboretum has more than 150 different plants native to Louisiana.
Camping at the South Landing includes 108 campsites with water and electricity. The North Landing Campground has 90 campsites with water and electricity. The North Landing campground also has hot showers and a laundry.
Sam Houston Jones State Park
Two-hundred miles west of New Orleans is a 1,087-acre expanse of swampy scenery that Louisiana is famous for. Sam Houston Jones State Park abounds with mysterious lagoons filled with cypress as well as hardwood and pine forests. There are hundreds of different animals here too, including 200 different types of birds.
There are boat launches on the West Fork of the Calcasieu River, where you can make your way deep into the swamp, or even go out to the Gulf of Mexico. If you don’t have a boat, you can rent a canoe to paddle around the park’s serene ponds.
Three hiking trails criss-cross the park, and of special interest is the old Stagecoach Road; here you can explore the many tributaries to the lovely Calcasieu River.
This is a great place to spend some time, and you can; the park has 62 RV campsites. Some of the campsites have electricity only, and some have both water and electricity. The camping fees average $30 per night.
New Orleans might be the world-class city visitors from all over the world flock to for music, food, and Mardi Gras, but rural Louisiana has a lot to offer too; it’s your escape into an untamed landscape of swamps, forests, and seashores.