Time seems to stop as we drive along the scenic Bayou Black, outside of Houma, Louisiana. A fisherman in overalls sits on a wooden dock, leisurely waiting for his catch, an egret spreads its majestic wings into the air and the lush green landscape stretches across the seemingly endless horizon. This is Louisiana’s South, the Bayou Country, where the Mississippi Delta borders the Gulf of Mexico and a world of untouched natural beauty can be yours to explore.
Discover Nature at the Mandalay Wildlife Refuge
The Bayou Black Drive takes us to the 18-square-km Mandalay National Wildlife Refuge, which is composed of pristine freshwater marsh and cypress swamp mostly accessible by boat. Thanks to the well-designed Mandalay Refuge Nature Trail, I could explore its beauty in a 45-minute round-trip walk that featured an overlook at its end. This is a truly magical place to observe waterfowl, brightly plumed songbirds and other wildlife in their natural habitat. If possible, try to schedule your visit for early morning or evening when feeding is under way.
Learning All About Alligators at Greenwood Gator Farm
As calming as Mandalay is, your pulse will perk up again at the popular Greenwood Gator Farm, where between 5,000 and 10,000 alligators hatch each year! The guided tour given by real-life hunter Tim was an adventure in itself, especially when he placed a baby alligator in my arms. How is that for a photo op? Greenwood Gator Farm also has a nice picnic area with a playground for you to linger after the tour, as well as a great gift shop featuring unique alligator souvenirs.
Experience the Swamp at Wildlife Gardens Bed & Breakfast
Superbly run by the passionate Betty Provost, you will know right away that you’ve arrived at a special place when you get to Wildlife Gardens Bed & Breakfast in Gibson. A white peacock proudly meandered the grounds when I arrived. The hospitable main house is filled with colourful swamp memorabilia and regional maps to be enjoyed by bed-and-breakfast guests with their morning coffee. Betty’s walking tour through the grounds’ natural flora and fauna is a real treat and only topped by a night spent in one of her four authentic trapper’s cabins in the wild.
History and Art at Ardoyne Plantation
From trapper’s cabin to the largest, most elaborate remaining example of rural Victorian Gothic architecture in Louisiana, Ardoyne Plantation is the jewel of the Bayou Country. Still in family hands for six generations, you can tour this historical treasure, which is filled with original furniture, unique antiques and art such as original bird drawings by the famous naturalist James Audubon!
Feasting on Cajun Cuisine and Home Cooking
No visit to any Louisiana destination is complete without sampling the local Cajun cuisine, and what great Cajun food you get in Houma! Known to offer some of the best and most authentic Cajun cooking in Louisiana, the restaurants around Houma offer mouthwatering Cajun specialties like gumbo, étouffée, jambalaya, charbroiled oysters and much more.
I enjoyed my last night there with a steaming plate of fresh crawfish and a glass of locally brewed beer, thinking about all that Houma has to offer, from mysterious swamps to pristine nature and wildlife refuges. That complemented with some of the warmest hospitable people you’ll ever meet, let alone the excellent food and the proximity to New Orleans, made me a fan of Bayou Country.