Driving From New Orleans – A Road Trip Through Louisiana

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by Hertz - 01 September 2017

When a state lives by the words Laissez le bon temps rouler, meaning let the good times roll, you know it’s the right place for a road trip.

On four wheels, with two suitcases, a husband and a baby, I set out to see whether international adventure really did have to come to an end the moment family life set in.  

I’d been enticed by the heady jazz-fuelled culture of New Orleans, the glistening water of the bayous and the crawfish platters and gumbo for which the State of Louisiana was known.

But had I bitten off more than I could chew?

The truth of it was, it was easy.

Once outside the Crescent City, tarmac roads with clear, easy to follow signs led to baby-friendly hotels with clear – and spacious – parking.

Strangers gushed over our new mini-explorer, complete with an endearing y’all drawl.

And even the sticky southern heat left us unfazed, given the ubiquitous (and fierce) air conditioning and architectural shade.

No, as ever, the most difficult part involved condensing a lifelong wish list into an itinerary of only 10 days.

We picked inspiration from the Hertz Route Planner, which portions Louisiana into three different themes: Sounds of the South, Eat the East Coast and the final stage of the Great River Road.

First up, of course, was New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, of Louis Armstrong and quite possibly the most characterful city within the United States.

The French Quarter needs no car, its tight grid of wrought–iron balconies, voodoo and sugary beignets at the Café du Monde better suited to pedestrian life, or the occasional horse and cart.

Across from the French Quarter, Louis Armstrong Park offers a chance to stand silent on Congo Square. The 5am jet lag added poignancy to the memories of the enslaved people who once sang, danced and traded here, an important step in the path towards jazz, and a key landmark in African-American history.

But wheels made it easier to explore the New Orleans that tourists often miss, like the blue-turreted Commander’s Palace out in the leafy Garden District, or even the Old Mint when little legs grew tired.

And of course, they opened up the rest of Louisiana.

Our road trip began by whizzing northwest on Interstate 10, the roadside foliage disguising the swamps, gators and bayous below.

Lafayette marked the first stop, the capital of Cajun country and largest French-speaking region within the United States.

The Vermilionville Living History and Folk Life Park may have a mouthful of a name but it did a far better job of reflecting the culture and living history of the Acadians (Cajuns) who were exiled here from Canada in the 18th century.

Small town Breaux Bridge showed contemporary Acadian-French charm with its cute cafes, antique shops and self-proclaimed status as the crawfish capital of the world.

It must be true: a sign on the 200-year-old bridge across Bayou Teche said so.

A more devilish flavour emerged on Avery Island, the home of Tabasco and one man’s quest to bring the hot pepper sauce and its distinctive curved glass shape to every table in the world.

From Lafayette, we ventured west towards Texas and the wooden walkways of the Creole Nature Trail, where roseate spoonbills swam over the thick, flat marshes of the Blue Goose Trail.

In a small town called Sulphur, we joined workmen in plaid shirts to chomp down on Cajun boudin and I found a delicacy I’d been curious about for years: fried green tomatoes (at the Whistlestop Café.)

And the sound of live music followed us everywhere.

Cajun, Creole, Zydeco. After six or so days on the road, even I could begin to tell the difference. By Baton Rouge, our penultimate stop, I could almost join in.

For a state capital Baton Rouge carries a relaxed, big-easy vibe. Our days involved pop-up music at the Tin Roof Brewery, white aubergines at the Main Street Market and gourmet oysters, designer doughnuts and extended strolls along the banks of the Mississippi.

But the highlight had to be the drive along the Great River Road: alligators by morning, plantations by night.

It’s also where being a freewheeling roadster really came into its own.

While the day-trippers crowded through the antebellum mansions and back onto the tour bus, we could do the Louisiana thang and truly take our time.

At Oak Alley Plantation, recognisable worldwide for its majestic avenue of live oaks and white columns, we could even stay the night.

Thunderstorms blazed across the purple sky, punctuated by the chirrup of crickets, while we ate Andouille gumbo and crawfish étouffée.

And as the sun rose, we could walk through the sugar cane alone.

Mum, Dad, Baby.

Laissez le bon temps rouler. Letting the good times roll.


Abigail King is a writer and photographer who swapped a career as a doctor for a life on the road. She writes the award-winning travel blog Inside the Travel Lab on thoughtful luxury and unusual journeys. She’s also on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook, where she does her best to be interesting, inspiring and informative.  Ever so occasionally she manages to pull it off.

You can read more about her road trip through Louisiana over here.