Guide to River Road Plantations | Plus Day Trip Itinerary
Before I get into this post I have to give you a little back story, last February I went on a trip to visit my best friend Delia and her family in Baton Rouge, and we spent a full day on River Road. Since that trip, this blog post has been on my list. Since last February I have added it to the schedule, but like that school project, I have hardcore procrastinated for no reason. BUT, in 2019, I got my act together because it is coming to you now!
Between Baton Rouge and New Orleans there hundreds of historical sites, okay maybe not hundreds but man there are a lot! You can get to New Orleans from Baton Rouge by the interstate, but I highly recommend taking the iconic River Road and follow the Mississippi River. Along River Road, there are about a dozen historical plantation sites still standing and many of them you can tour. And you can learn the historical significance of these homes and the people that lived and worked there. With the territory changing hands from the Spanish, French, and English colonist you can image each house is unique to the culture of the time and the individuals who were residing there. You have properties like Nottoway with bold white columns and grand ballrooms for entertaining. And less than an hour down the road you have the Laura plantation with colors fit for a Margi Gras float.
You could spend several days visiting each place, and connecting historical events to the guests like, my favorite, Marquis de Lafayette. Or you can follow the route we took for a beautiful day trip. I am not only going to share with you the itinerary we followed but give you some information I have gathered at each and additional stops so you can create your own River Road Tour.
Magnolia Mound - We did not tour Magnolia Mound on the same day as the day trip. This tour sparked us to visit more the next day, Delia and her mom knows my love for historical homes and as they can quote me saying "I love a good column."
Magnolia Mound is located not far from LSU and located in Baton Rouge. The house has gone through many hands starting with its first owners in 1791. The tour guides are highly educated on the history of the home and of the time. You can go a self-guided tour the grounds for $3, but I highly recommend spending the $10 to go on a guided tour of the home itself.
The Day Trip Guide
We started from Baton Rouge, but I am sure you could make this trip in reverse or an edited version if you are starting down the river.
First, stop Nottoway Plantation.
Arrive at Nottoway mid-morning and take a tour of the house. You learn about the house, the family and new owners of this private home turned resort all with a tour guide in historical garb. I say mid-morning because they have the best burger. We could smell them while out on the balcony and on the grounds and oh man they tasted better than they smelled. Also as I mentioned above it is a resort, so you if wanted to start your tour here, you could stay the night but book ahead it is a very popular wedding location.
Second stop Oak Alley Plantation
Oak Alley Plantation is one of the most iconic plantations with the live oaks lining the drive and the Greek Revival architecture. But due to its popularity, there is usually a long line and many tour buses. I highly suggest if this is on the top of your list, getting there early in the morning or make a day out of it alone. Because we wanted to make the most out of the day, we decided to drive by instead of waiting. It is on the top of my list whenever I make my way back to Louisiana though!
Third stop St Joseph Plantation
St Joseph Plantation was another drive up stop for us, but you can tour this working sugar cane plantation! This plantation is right next to Oak Alley Plantation, so close you might miss it. This unique home is still run by the descendants who purchased the estate after the Civil War — making tours there one of a kind with living history. Again it is on my list to tour on a future trip.
Fourth stop Laura Plantation
Laura Plantation was a significant change from the Greek Revival homes we had seen up the river. With bright colors and details, you can spot the Creole influence on this home. We did get out of the car and took a closer look but to walk the grounds and tour the house you do need to buy a ticket. This plantation was almost as busy as Oak Alley, but you can purchase tickets in advance at Laura! The Creole history of the individuals and the estate makes it very interesting and stand apart from many of the other places you could visit along River Road.
Fifth stop Whitney Plantation
Whitney Plantation was another drive-by stop for us, but due to time and wanting to catch a tour at Houmas House that evening. Whitney Plantation is devoted to educating the next generation on slavery. With tours of the slave quarters and information on the individuals that once lived and worked there. It is a supposed to be a very moving experience with professional tour guides. And is only 45 minutes from New Orleans so add it to your next trip!
Sixth stop Evergreen Plantation
Again, Evergreen was a drive-by stop. But we couldn't have stopped if we wanted because the last tour of the day is at 2 pm. You can book your tours online for this beautiful estate but mind you there are only three tours a day, so you will need to plan accordingly. But this is due to the home, and land still being a privately owned working sugar cane plantation.
Seventh stop San Francisco Plantation
San Francisco Plantation was the further south we went on River Road before heading back north toward Baton Rouge. The house was already closed once we got there, but it is a sight to be seen. With bright blue and detailed moldings it is one of the more exotic plantations I have seen. And there are tales of it being haunted so if you are into that sort of thing make sure to check out the San Francisco Plantation.
Eight and Final stop Houmas House Plantation
The finally but not least stop of the day trip was Houmas House. Y'all. The best was saved for last. The tour guide was brilliant, and the grounds at sunset were breathtaking. The house is lived in by the owner of the home and the surrounding inn and restaurants, making the house tour feel warm and inviting compared to the museum feel of other places I have been. And the coolest part was the Garconierre (an old studio apartment for the bachelor's of the house to stay) that was turned into the Turtle Bar. Best olde fashion I had in a long time. Like Nottoway, you can stay on the property if you wanted to start at Houmas House before touring along River road.
I hope my information piqued your interest or helped you decide on an itinerary during your next trip to Baton Rouge or New Orleans. I have linked the website to each house throughout the post so click on any pink name to find out more information! If you have traveled to any of the places I have mentioned, please leave a comment below of your experience!
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Blessings from Hartsville!