One of Louisiana’s hidden treasures can be found on the Northshore, just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans.
In St. Tammany Parish, also known as New Orleans Northshore, a beautiful stretch of waterfront communities offers an amazing adventure in nature, flavor and history.
Tammany Trace Trail
Although driving is a great way to explore the parish, an even better way is along the Tammany Trace, a former railroad track converted to a 50-kilometer trail connecting five of the Tammany Parish’s communities from Slidell to Covington. You can jog, bike or rollerblade the trail. Either way, you’ll get a true sense of the area while enjoying fresh air and beautiful scenery.
Quality bikes can be rented at Bayou Adventure in Lacombe, a popular outfitter that also rents out kayaks and fishing supplies for exploring Cane Bayou and Bayou Lacombe nearby.
Learn everything you wanted to know about alligators and much more on an eco-tour with Cajun Encounters, one of the tour providers covering Honey Island Swamp in Slidell. During a three-hour boat ride through the untouched wetlands, the skilled tour team points out elusive wildlife, including alligators, and relays astonishing facts on the flora and fauna of the swamp.
Another fantastic stop for nature and animal lovers is the Global Wildlife Center, a 364-hectare property where about 4,000 deer, giraffes, zebras, camels and other animals co-exist. For a moment, you might wonder if you are in Louisiana or Africa. You can take a ride on the center’s “Safari Wagon” and meet the animals up close.
Up close with a zebra at the Global Wildlife Center
A great start to any day is brunch at Palmettos on the Bayou, a local restaurant right on Bayou Bonfouca. Sample local seafood and Cajun delicacies, such as catfish fingerlings, grits and grillades, and bananas Foster. Not only is the food phenomenal, but you can often hear live music during Sunday brunch.
For dinner, try a visit to La Provence. This Lacombe restaurant is in a charming and cozy French farmhouse. Out back, they grow vegetables and herbs and even raise pigs and chickens. Most of the restaurant’s ingredients are taken directly from the property or from a farm just 20 minutes away. This is true farm-to-plate dining; it’s no wonder patrons rave about the wonderful and fresh flavors.
Tempting oysters paired with a craft cocktail on the Northshore
Treasures of Abita
Should you get thirsty for some local refreshments, there’s no better remedy than a visit to the Abita Brewing Company in Abita Springs. The brewery uses the pure water of the deep local springs to brew its famous beverages. Take a guided, 30-minute tour of the brew house and, afterward, enjoy sampling classic and seasonal brews in the tasting room.
Don’t miss the nearby Abita Mystery House. With an original mix of folk art and eclectic displays of found objects, it is a fun place for children and their parents to explore.
Jazz History in Mandeville
Toward Lake Pontchartrain is the city of Mandeville, which historically was one of the few places where jazz was heard outside New Orleans. Jazz musicians would travel by steamboat across the lake to play at pavilions and dance halls. The oldest unaltered jazz hall in the world, the Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall, is still in existence. More than 100 years ago, jazz pioneers such as Louis Armstrong and Buddy Petit performed this “new music” in front of enthusiastic local crowds to raise money for an African-American benevolent society. Today, musicians from around the world make pilgrimages to play at the Dew Drop, which still has no electricity and has been kept in its original, rustic state. After visiting this local landmark, go for a stroll along the lake to enjoy incredible views.
Live performance at the Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall in Mandeville
Covington: Shopping, Restaurants and a Market
Nestled among three rivers, the city of Covington has maintained its historic homes and buildings and kept its Southern charm by ensuring an eclectic mix of art galleries, specialty shops and restaurants remains along its downtown streets. The Covington Farmers’ Market opens on Saturday mornings and is a great place to purchase locally grown foods from hard-working farmers; you'll find no crafts or commercial items here.