Getting outside and enjoying the great outdoors is something everyone loves. There’s only so much TV I can watch until I begin to crave clean, fresh air and the serene sounds of nature. This Saturday, June 13th, join me by taking a much-needed break from technology and embrace the scenery of #LouisianasPlayground!
I also encourage you to explore and rediscover a part of Southwest Louisiana’s outdoors that perhaps you’ve never experienced. Make sure to tag us in your photos and videos with #ReDiscoverSWLA! Now, let's get to the inspiration…
Creole Nature Trail All-American Road
Alligators, over 400 bird species, marshlands teeming with life, 26 miles of natural Gulf of Mexico beaches, fishing, crabbing, Cajun culture and more can be experienced as you travel the more than 180-mile Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. One of only 43 so designated scenic byways in the USA, and affectionately known as Louisiana’s Outback, the Creole Nature Trail is a journey into one of America’s “Last Great Wildernesses.” For families especially, I suggest kicking off your Creole Nature Trail journey at Creole Nature Trail Adventure Point—a free, fun attraction that immerses you in nature and Louisiana’s unique culture.
Along the Creole Nature Trail, some of my favorite things to do are taking a walk on the Pintail Wildlife Drive to spot alligators, photographing the birds and butterflies in Peveto Woods Sanctuary, and shelling along Rutherford Beach. My family and I also enjoy catching fresh Louisiana blue crab along the many small bridges crossing the roadside canals in Cameron Parish. As a hobby photographer myself, the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road is a photographer’s dream. Whether you favor panoramas or close-ups, you’ll discover an immense range of opportunities and vantage points from the wildlife to the vegetation.
BONUS: There is a free personal tour app of the Creole Nature Trail available on iTunes for iPhone and Google Play for Andriod. I definitely recommend using the app, especially if you have little ones. It's a great way to learn more about each stop and what you'll experience.
Sam Houston Jones State Park
Sam Houston Jones State Park has over 1,000 acres of lakes, trees, and rivers. It is a camper's paradise. Tree-filled lagoons and mixed pine and hardwood forest combine to create a unique natural environment. The area has an abundance of wildlife including squirrels, bobcats, rabbits, alligators, otters, nutria rats, raccoons, foxes, and diverse birdlife. The park also has a herd of deer kept in a special area of the park. Sam Houston Jones State Park is an excellent spot for bird watching with nearly 200 species brought in by the migratory patterns in the spring and fall. Ducks and geese are usually found swimming in the ponds.
The numerous waterways in this area make water sports a natural highlight at the park. Two boat launches are conveniently located on the West Fork of the Calcasieu River, providing access to the Gulf of Mexico, only a few miles away. But it's not necessary to fish to enjoy the water. Lots of locals bring their kayaks, too!
The three hiking trails winding through this beautiful park make strolling or biking, pleasurable. If you're heading over for a day trip, make sure you're prepared with lots of water! Especially in this Louisiana heat!
Stroll by the Historic Districts and Homes of Lake Charles
I am a sucker for beautiful historic homes. My absolute favorite outdoor activity is strolling along Shell Beach Drive, Charpentier Historic District and Margaret Place Historic District! The Charpentier Historic District is on the National Register of Historic Places and covers more than 40 blocks of turn-of-the-century buildings of mixed styles with turrets, towers, gables, shingling, leaded glass and gingerbread accents on the porches and railings. The Charpentier (French for “carpenter”) District stands in homage to the carpenter architects who freely designed as they built, creating a unique Lake Charles style.
Margaret Place Historic District encompasses only a few streets in Downtown Lake Charles but is rich in history. The oldest surviving home in Margaret Place was built in 1912, named "Maison Rouge", and is my favorite home in the subdivision. Residents of Margaret Place are a close-knit community and have even dedicated an entire website to preserve the history of their slice of heaven.
Last but certainly not least is Shell Beach Drive. There lies one street full of the most coveted homes in Southwest Louisiana, and also home to the Della Belle Bed & Breakfast. A 1.75 mile stretch of road, Shell Beach Drive skirts the southern shore of Lake Charles. It was once the continuation of the Old Spanish Trail, and for decades before the opening of the 1950 Calcasieu River (I-10) Bridge on the north edge of the lake, transcontinental drivers were treated to some of the most sumptuous architecture and gardens on this very drive. You'll want to have your camera or smartphone handy for these picturesque homes and water views!
BONUS: Once again, we've made touring Lake Charles easy for you! Download the Lake Charles Historic Tour App on iTunes or Google Play for turn-by-turn directions and a whole lot of history!
Right off Shell Beach Drive is the Lakefront Promenade, which is my favorite place to catch the sunset! The winding Lakefront Promenade caresses the lake as it provides a pleasant atmosphere for walkers, bikers and joggers from the Marina past the Civic Center to the Veterans War Memorial. It's a must-stop for an evening stroll!
Prien Lake Park is the perfect spot to enjoy a haven of trees, grass, flowers, fountains, and streams, with a sweeping view of Prien Lake the I-210 bridge, and magnificent sunsets over the water. The 29-acre park on Prien Lake featuring walking paths, canoe and boat launches, numerous picnic areas, Amphitheater, two pavilions and free Wi-Fi. It's really the perfect park for a picnic with the family with a gorgeous view of the lake and lots of green area for kids to run free!
Click here to view ALL of the parks that Southwest Louisiana has to offer!
For even more outdoor activity ideas, check out our Outdoor Adventures itinerary. Tag your Get Outdoor Day fun with #VisitLakeCharles, #LouisianasPlayground and #GODay.