Design your own uniquely Louisiana road trip with routed scenic byways, a River Road plantations map, itinerary planning hacks, and a wealth of resources.
- 1 Design Your Own Louisiana Road Trip
- 1.1 Louisiana’s River Road Plantations
- 1.2 Ascension Parish Plantations
- 1.3 Map It!
- 1.4 Ascension Parish
- 1.5 Lafayette
- 1.6 Louisiana Trails & Byways
- 1.7 Road Trip Planning Resources
- 1.8 We Would Love to Hear From You
- 1.9 Pin this Post!
- 1.10 Helpful Links
Design Your Own Louisiana Road Trip
When I explore backroads, my MO is pretty basic. I enjoy the scenic views, keep an eye out for historic sites, and hope for intriguing roadside discoveries.
Perhaps that is why driving Louisiana ranks so high on my list. There is so much to see along the roadways. Don’t even ask me how many times during my Louisiana travels I have pulled over to read a historical marker, admire a plantation home, or shoot an abandoned shack.
I have lost count.
Typically, when I write state or regional round-up posts like this one, I connect the destinations I visited with an itinerary route, such as those in my Southern Mississippi Road Trip and North Texas Road Trip posts.
Because my Louisiana travels plotted on a map resemble a shotgun blast more than a linear flow, I decided to switch it up a bit. Rather than share a specific route or itinerary, I thought it better to provide a collection of destination and route resources to help readers design a Louisiana road trip of their own.
Louisiana’s River Road Plantations
One of the earliest, yet still popular stories published on Backroad Planet was an account of a day trip Jerry and I did along Louisiana’s River Road Plantations.
We were staying in New Orleans while on a spring break road trip from Central Florida and took a day to get out of town to discover Louisiana’s legendary plantation homes for ourselves.
This post details a one-day itinerary for a loop day trip to seven plantations located along both banks of the Mississippi River: Oak Alley, Laura, Nottoway, Houmas, Tezcuco, San Francisco, and Destrehan. Descriptions of each property and a route map are included.
Note: Although we were able to walk the grounds at Nottoway and Oak Alley, this day trip itinerary does not allow time for plantation home tours. To include tours, I recommend an overnight stay at The Inn at Houmas House and making it a 2-day trip instead. A photo-intensive description of the property is included in our Explore Ascension Parish, Louisiana, post.
Ascension Parish Plantations
On my most recent trip to Louisiana, I had the opportunity to scout a few more plantations in Ascension Parish along both the east and west banks of the Mississippi River. I have included a map and suggested route below the plantation descriptions.
River Road plantations typically fall into three broad categories: 1) museums and/or event spaces open to the public, 2) private homes, and 3) homes that have been abandoned or lie in ruins. Understanding this will help daytrippers plan their itineraries, allocate time, and align expectations.
Note: Scouting historical homes is great fun, but it is important to remember that trespassing on private property is against the law. It is tempting to flirt with property lines while trying to capture a photo, but these are times when a zoom lens may be your best friend. On the other hand, there are sites such as the ghost town of Rodney, Mississippi, that are free to explore. If there is a fence or barrier around a site, like at Windsor Ruins near Port Gibson, Mississippi, it is there for a reason and should be respected.
Mulberry Grove Plantation
Mulberry Grove is a Greek Revival dwelling with Creole and Anglo influences built in 1836 by Dr. Edward Duffel. The roadside home is privately owned, situated on a working farm, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Wikipedia states that a later owner of Mulberry Grove renamed the plantation “Germania,” but although the entry includes a citation, I have good reason to question its veracity. The day I explored this stretch of the River Road, I was actually searching for the ruins of a fabled plantation called Germania. Someone had given me an address, but my GPS showed it to be behind a barbed wire fence with no gate or access point. Through research I have learned that the ruins do exist and that there have been some restoration efforts. There is even a Germania Facebook page, but it has not been updated since 2016.
My curiosity is still piqued . . . .
Palo Alto Plantation
The 6,000-acre Palo Alto Plantation located south of Donaldsonville has been owned by the Lemann family since the mid-1860s. The plantation house was built in 1850 in the Anglo-Creole style with Greek Revival touches. A 10-page survey of the home is located on the Library of Congress website.
The Palo Alto plantation house is a private dwelling, but the former kitchen outbuilding has been converted into an apartment that may be rented out. A hunting lodge on the property, said to have been built with materials from a hideout belonging to pirate Jean Lafitte, is also available for events.
Louisiana Hwy. 944, the road depicted in the title image from this post, runs through Palo Alto Plantation. This canopy road is lined not only with ancient oaks, but an assortment of ramshackle frame buildings. The barn directly behind the plantation house is a rustic beauty, and although I do not know the stories of the the structures, I imagine them to be former slave quarters and sharecropper shacks. If you love abandoned buildings like I do, you will be in heaven along this stretch of road.
St. Emma Plantation
St. Emma Plantation, like Palo Alto, is situated along Bayou Lafourche, which at the time of construction connected to the Mississippi River. Built in 1847, the home was later purchased by German-born sugar planter Charles Kock who owned more than 120 slaves.
This location was the site of a Civil War skirmish called “The Battle of Kock’s Plantation” in July of 1863 which resulted in 430 Union and 33 Confederate casualties.
The home is a privately-owned museum and is available for group tours by calling (225) 657-6550.
Chapel of Saint Amico
Obviously, the Chapel of Saint Amico is not a plantation home, but it was too cool to leave off the itinerary.
There are many versions to the story of how the chapel came into existence, but I believe it is safe to say that Tony Musco completed the work in 1912 to commemorate the saint responsible for saving the life of his son Lucien.
The location of the chapel does not figure on Google maps GPS, but I have marked the site on the map below. Turning off the River Road, follow St. Amico Lane until it dead-ends at the chapel. You will see the former Musco family home on the property.
The chapel is unlocked, and visitors may enter freely. It is unclear who maintains the chapel and grounds, but I suspect there may be Musco family members and friends who care for the property.
Point Houmas Plantation
Finding Point Houmas Plantation played into all of my scouting expedition daydreams. Even though the abandoned house is situated not far off the River Road, I did have to tramp through tall weeds and pull back branches to get a clear view.
There is not much information readily available about the history of the home, although one record mentions its sale in 1812. Apparently, it was once owned by Wade Hampton who owned Houmas House directly across the river. There is a tall chain link fence around the house, and we all know what that means, but a local blogger named Justin Newhart toured the home in 2014 and posted his photo-intensive story here.
The Sunshine Bridge
The 1963 cantilever Sunshine Bridge is the most convenient crossing between the east and west banks of the Mississippi River in Ascension Parish. My crossing this time was just as scary as the first time Jerry and I crossed it and he declared his “butt was eating the stuffing out of the driver’s seat.”
The current 1837 Bocage Plantation home was built near the site of an earlier 1801 structure that burned. The original home was a gift from planter Marius Pons Bringier to his 14-year old daughter on the occasion of her marriage to a 34-year old Parisian.
Bocage Plantation was a filming location for the motion picture “12 Years a Slave.” It was formerly operated as a B & B and event space, but it has permanently closed.
Built in 1812, Hermitage Plantation is the oldest known Greek Revival mansion in Louisiana, and it was named after Andrew Jackson’s home in Nashville. It was a wedding gift from planter Emmanuel Marius Pons Bringier to his son Michel upon his marriage to 14-year old Louise Aglaé duBourg.
It is believed Hermitage Plantation is where the successful former slave Pierre Caliste Landry, mentioned in our Ascension Parish post, grew up
Hermitage Plantation is privately owned and its availability to the public is currently unknown, which is why I only have a photo of an oak-lined gravel road with microscopic Greek pillars at the vanishing point.
Ashland Plantation, also known as Belle Helene Plantation, was built by wealthy planter Duncan Kenner and completed in 1841. Kenner was also a horseman, and his slave Abe Hawkins became a renowned jockey.
Ashland is owned and preserved by Shell Oil Company and is occasionally used for events. Several motion pictures have been shot on location such as Mandingo, Fletch Lives, and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.
While driving the River Road, keep an eye out for historical markers identifying plantations that no longer exist, such as Belle Grove Plantation and the Gaudin Home Place.
Along the River Road
During my recent River Road drive I passed many unidentified mansions built in the Creole-influenced Greek Revival style, but I had no way of knowing whether they were historic plantations or modern homes built in that vernacular. The uncertainty, however, only served to enhance the romantic mystique even more.
Between the cattle grazing on the levee and the tumbledown structures along the roadway, I had even more excuses to pull over and capture bucolic landscapes.
I thoroughly enjoyed scouting plantations along the River Road, and I believe our readers will, too.
Because they are located in the same region as the homes described in the previous section, I have included Nottoway, Tezcuco, and Houmas House plantations in this map. I wrote about those plantations in previous posts, and readers can learn about them by clicking on the appropriate red text links.
My exploration of the Ascension Parish plantations was over the course of two days and did not follow a sequential itinerary. I share them here, however, in a semi-linear course.
A suggested route would be to begin at Nottoway Plantation in White Castle, head southbound on the west bank of the River Road, detour to Palo Alto and St. Emma plantations in Donaldsonville, continue southbound on the River Road to the Sunshine Bridge, then cross the river and head northbound along the east bank River Road ending at Ashland. The reverse route would work, as well.
Our Explore Ascension Parish, Louisiana, post provides comprehensive coverage of twenty-three locations in historical Donaldsonville, the Jambalaya Festival in Gonzales, and the stunning Houmas House Plantation and Gardens.
The following bullet list links to specific locations within the post:
- Alvin Batiste
- Ascension Parish Courthouse
- Ascension Parish Jail
- Ascension of Our Lord Catholic Church
- Donaldsonville Riverwalk
- Historic Fort Butler
- Crescent Park
- B. Lemann and Brothers Store
- Dr. John H. Lowery Medical Office
- Bittersweet Plantation
- St. Peter’s Methodist Episcopal Church
- Mistretta Grocery Store
- River Road African American Museum
- Slave Cabin
- True Friends Hall
- Restoration and Preservation Projects
- Historic Cemeteries
- The Raylin House
- Donaldsonville Dining
- Cajun Village
- Houmas House
- Gonzales Dining and Lodging
Our post 3 Perfect Days in Lafayette, Louisiana, is a great resource for travelers interested in exploring the Acadiana region of Louisiana. My visit included activities around town such as the Vermilionville Living History Park and Cajun Food Tours, plus day trips to the Tabasco® Factory, Jungle Gardens, and an airboat tour of the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area.
The following bulleted links will take you to sections in the post that may interest you:
- Around Town
- Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center
- Tabasco® Factory
- Jungle Gardens
- Basin Landing Airboat Tour
- Cajun Food Tours
- Dining & Lodging
Louisiana Trails & Byways
When it comes to planning your own Louisiana road trip, what could be a better resource than the Louisiana Trails & Byways website? I have traveled through Louisiana several times, but studying the state map on the LT&B home page made me realize how much of the state I have not yet explored. And as a chronic completionist, I also learned that I have not driven any of the 18 routes in their entirety. I have, however, driven sections of the Great River Road, Bayou Teche, Southern Swamps, and Wetlands Cultural byways.
Tip: When designing your Louisiana road trip, I suggest that you first study the map on the LT&B home page to determine the region(s) of the state you plan to explore. Then, click on the appropriate links listed below to access the dedicated pages for each of the byways. Scroll to the bottom of the page, download the 2-page PDF guides for each trail or byway, and print if needed.
Select routes, such as the Creole Nature Trail, have free guided tour apps available.
Road Trip Planning Resources
If this is your first time planning a road trip, or if you are interested in learning my personal road trip planning workflow, you may be interested in our 3-part series. Each post includes handy downloadable PDF forms to facilitate the planning process.
The Ultimate Road Trip Planner: Part 1 Pre-planning helps road trip designers answer six key questions that will guide them through the task.
The Ultimate Road Trip Planner: Part 2 Research suggests six general resources for finding destinations and routes.
The Ultimate Road Trip Planner: Part 3 Itinerary details my method for designing an itinerary with activities, dining, and lodging, and also includes a hack for organizing travel documents.
One of our newest and coolest posts tells How to Find Unique Sites for Your USA Road Trip Itinerary, such as hidden scenic views, secret swimming holes, abandoned historical sites, and the best off-the-beaten-path locations.
We Would Love to Hear From You
We enjoy dialogue with our readers, especially when they share off-the-beaten-path destinations and useful travel tips. Have you ever taken a Louisiana road trip? If so, we would love to hear about your experience. We invite you to leave your comments and questions below, and we always respond!
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