Whether you’re headed south to visit The Big Easy city of New Orleans or crossing the state as part of a road trip through Louisiana, why not plan to drive some of the scenic routes instead of the main highways?
From beautiful bayous to sprawling historic plantations, Louisiana has a great combination of culture and natural wonder. Make a pit stop along one of the best scenic byways in Louisiana to try local Cajun or Creole cuisine, or visit one of the numerous parks to go hiking or bird watching.
To learn more about Louisiana scenic drives, read on for this guide to some of the best routes for southern charm and spectacular scenery!
1. Louisiana Scenic Drives: Creole Nature Trail All-American Road
- Distance: 180 miles
- Time Needed: 4 or more hours, depending on stops
Sometimes referred to as “Louisiana’s Outback,” this stunning drive in Louisiana takes you through the heart of the wildest areas of the state.
Through the marshes and wetlands, you’ll likely get the chance to see an abundance of wildlife, from pelicans to alligators. The area is particularly popular among birders since more than 400 native species make their home here, including raptors, waterfowl, and songbirds, not to mention countless other migratory species passing through.
There are also endless possibilities for fishing, both in freshwater and saltwater areas, and it’s also possible to get fishing gear and rent boats if you don’t have your own.
Twenty-six of the 180 miles of the Creole Nature Trail are along Gulf beaches, many of which have remained completely undeveloped and preserve their natural beauty.
Some of the popular beaches to visit include Holly Beach and Mae’s Beach. Make sure you bring your camera to get some photos of the waves of the Gulf of Mexico and the beautiful stretches of sand dunes!
When to go: Any time of year is good for this drive in Louisiana unless you’re interested in certain hunting, fishing, or birding seasons.
2. Louisiana Scenic Drives: Great River Road
- Distance: 70 miles
- Time Needed: 1 day or more
The Great River Road is a National Scenic Byway that traverses the entire length of the Mississippi River. From the border of Mississippi state to the delta, this scenic drive in Louisiana takes you to the very end of the Great River Road, where the river reaches the Gulf of Mexico.
If you’re on a Louisiana road trip to visit New Orleans, then the Great River Road is the perfect route to take. After you’ve spent some time in New Orleans, tried the excellent Creole food, and visited some of the historic sites, you can continue a bit farther southeast to the Delta National Wildlife Refuge. This is known for its abundance of wildlife, from marsh flowers to migratory neotropical birds.
Not only is the landscape beautiful, but the area is also rich in history and interesting places to visit. From antebellum southern mansions to historic plantations, this area of Louisiana is full of recollections of times before the Civil War.
The Oak Alley Plantation is a particularly famous site that is worth visiting. This stunning mansion has been featured in several famous movies, and today, visitors can tour the inside and the grounds to view the preserved furniture and ornate architecture.
To learn more about the tragic history of slavery in the South and witness a powerful monument to the many lives lost during this time, you can stop at the Whitney Plantation Museum. This historic plantation was converted into Louisiana’s first museum about slavery in 2014 and has become an incredible learning opportunity for visitors.
When to go: Any time of year is great, but spring or fall is best for people wanting to catch the bird migration.
3. Louisiana Scenic Drives: Toledo Bend Reservoir Scenic Byway
- Distance: 130 miles
- Time Needed: 3 hours or more
Following the shore of the Toledo Bend Reservoir in western Louisiana on the border with Texas, this is one of the best Louisiana roads for travelers interested in water sports and outdoor activities.
The lake provides a perfect spot for swimming, boating, and fishing, and there are plenty of places to pick from, with designated swimming areas, picnic spots, and places where you can rent equipment like canoes or kayaks.
Around the lake, there are also several parks, including Cypress Bend Park and North Toledo Bend State Park. The parks have great hiking trails, and if you want to spend a bit more time out in nature, you can camp at one of the designated tenting or RV sites.
Cyclists can enjoy cruising along the 26 miles of designated bike trails found along the way. Spring is a particularly good season for biking since you can avoid the high temperatures of summer and appreciate the hundreds of wildflowers that bloom in the area.
There are also several golf courses, like the popular Cypress Bend Golf Resort. Even if you’re not a golf enthusiast, the course is known for its gorgeous views of the reservoir.
In addition to the outdoor activities, there are a number of charming historic towns like Logansport and Zwolle where you can stop to get lunch or visit some of the local shops for a souvenir.
When to go: During summer, you can escape the heat by jumping in the water, or spring and fall are good for hiking since the temperatures aren’t so high.
4. Louisiana Scenic Drives: Grand Isle Loop
- Distance: About 18 miles round-trip
- Time Needed: 1 hour or more
Grand Isle is located on the far southern tip of Louisiana on the Gulf Coast. It’s the only inhabited island in Louisiana, and it’s known for its amazing beaches, charming small-town vibe, and amazing wildlife.
If you’re looking for scenic drives in Louisiana to spend time on the beach and see the Gulf of Mexico, then this is the drive for you. Fishing is one of the most popular activities on the island thanks to the four fishing seasons and easy conditions for casting a line.
If you’re not interested in fishing yourself, but love seafood, then you’re still in luck since many local restaurants serve catch-of-the-day menu items featuring seafood caught from the nearest pier.
Grand Isle is long and narrow, about 8 miles long, and only 1 mile across. The entire “loop” of the drive will take you to the tip of the island, where you’ll find Grand Isle State Park, known as having the last “wild” beach of Louisiana.
There are 3 miles of hiking trails in the park, which offer the perfect opportunity to spot local birds, and there’s also a camping area if you’re interested in spending a night on the beach listening to the waves of the Gulf.
Even if you don’t spend the night, it’s worth watching the sunset. Grand Isle probably has the best sunset view in all of Louisiana, so grab your camera to catch the show!
When to go: Any time of year is good for this drive. Check if you’re interested in specific fishing seasons or bird migrations.
5. Louisiana Scenic Drives: Cane River National Heritage Trail Scenic Byway
- Distance: About 70 miles
- Time Needed: 1.5 hours driving, but one or more days is recommended
The Cane River National Heritage Trail follows the Cane River and is home to some of Louisiana’s most important historic sites, not to mention the beautiful landscape. Along the red-soil banks of the river, sprawling restored plantations and distinctive landmarks characterize this area of Louisiana scenery.
To best appreciate the experience, it’s recommended to make stops at some of the sites. Although you can view the plantations and historic areas from your vehicle, it’s only by getting out to view them in person that you get an appreciation of their history and impressive size.
Natchitoches is a famous historic settlement dating back to when the region was part of the Louisiana Purchase area. Today, there are 33 blocks downtown filled with historic shops and restored buildings holding cafes and galleries.
The Cane River Creole National Historical Park is located in Natchitoches as well which hosts a variety of year-round activities like festivals, concerts, and cultural events.
At the Oakland Plantation, you can view one of Louisiana’s best-preserved Creole plantations and learn about what the area was like during the time of slavery.
If you want to explore the natural area, head to Cane River Lake, where you can rent canoes or kayaks. The lake is also a good place for fishing, with a great pier that makes it easy for kids to try catching something without needing to take a boat trip.
When to go: Any time of year is good. Check ahead for opening times at the plantations and seasonal events that take place along the historic trail.
More Road-Tripping Adventures in the South
Continuing your road-tripping journey through the southern United States, you may also be interested in:
© Family Road Trip