Northshore: walk on the wild side
The small town of Madisonville is rich in history, and you can start your explorations with a tour of the Otis House inside Fairview Riverside State Park. Now a museum, the beautiful 1880s house once belonged to a sawmill owner. Aside from the historic home, the Tchefuncte River flows through the park and is a great place to go fishing or crabbing if you brought your pole or nets.
Learn about the area’s maritime history at the Lake Pontchartrain Basin’s Maritime Museum, where you can view a film, model boats and detailed exhibits such as Louisiana’s Lighthouses and Canals of New Orleans. The Maritime Museum is also working to restore the 1837 Tchefuncte River Lighthouse, which is closed during restoration but can be seen from the southern end of Highway 1077.
Next stop is another small town—Abita Springs, known for its “healing” spring waters and the popular Abita brewery. The Abita Brew Pub, a restaurant housed in the original brewery, offers a varied menu of lunch options. Don’t miss the original 15-barrel brew-house in the main dining room.
The Brew Pub is located in the heart of Abita Springs, and after leaving, you should visit the town’s museum as well as the gazebo built for the 1884 World’s Fair in New Orleans. It was reconstructed here over the town’s natural spring. A statue of an Indian princess now rests over the spring, but not far away, a lion’s head spouts the clean waters for anyone to grab a cupful. While downtown, also be sure to drop in the Abita Mystery House and view what 50,000 found and recycled objects can create with just a little imagination.
From here, you have a choice to make. If your party is adults only, discover the finer details in beer-making at the Abita Brewery (open Wednesday through Saturday) and taste why locals rave about this beer made from the pristine spring waters of Abita. Meanwhile, younger visitors will enjoy seeing a working alligator farm at Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery, home to more than 2,000 alligators. You can “touch ’em, hold ’em, feed ’em and, in August, even hatch ’em.” Otherwise, head 30 minutes outside of town to the Global Wildlife Center in Folsom. Grab your bucket of feed and get ready for an African safari in Louisiana, where camels, bison, giraffes, zebras and more venture up close on this tour across 900 acres of countryside.
Where to stay:
Splendor Farms Bed & Breakfast: Experience life on a farm while staying at this 75-acre bed and breakfast. You’re welcome to gather eggs, pick vegetables, pet the animals and play badminton and croquet on the lawn.
Suggestion for a Souvenir: Pick up a t-shirt at the Abita Brew Pub or Brewery and remember the delicious local beer you enjoyed while visiting the Northshore.