Summer fun on Louisiana's Coast

Summer in coastal Louisiana is all about making memories – for friends and families and anyone interested in getting the most out of a day spent in nature.  Tubing, fishing, kayaking and canoeing, all offer hours of fun in and around the water.  Long, sun-kissed days can even segue into cool, come-out-and-play evenings when you just don’t want the fun to stop. Here are just a few suggestions for a memorable summer day in our part of Louisiana:

Vermilion Parish 

Take a sunrise hike on the two-mile birding and nature trail at White Lake Wetlands Conservation area. Just minutes south of Gueydan at the end of Highway 91, the trail includes an observation tower, informational kiosks on the trail, flora and fauna, and a covered pavilion. You might also want to check out Louisiana’s newest state park, Palmetto Island State Park, on the Vermilion River. The park offers six vacation cabins, campsites, boat launch and lagoons great for kayaking and exploring native plant and animal life. More at www.MostCajun.com.

St. Tammany Parish aka Louisiana’s Northshore

Tubing on the Bogue Chitto River is a popular summer pastime as throngs line up to spend the day floating down the scenic waterway. Inner tube rentals and excursions are available via several operators on the Northshore. If paddling is more your thing, summer is the best time to get a gander at Louisiana’s diverse wildlife and explore bayous and rivers. Kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals are available at several Northshore locations and guided tours take you through the heart of areas like Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. A couple of outfitters even offer dusk and moonlight paddles for a cooler, and totally different, experience on the bayou. Night fishing’s also really popular in the summer, with two public piers attracting evening anglers of all ages: Slidell’s St. Tammany Pier, where the brackish water at the east end of Lake Pontchartrain makes for exciting fishing, and at Mandeville’s Sunset Point pier, free and open 24 hours. More at www.LouisianaNorthshore.com.

Thibodaux, in Louisiana's Cajun Bayou

If indoor pleasures – and air conditioning – are more your thing, summer’s a great time to explore quaint downtown Thibodaux. Keep cool checking out the district’s historical attractions, local shops and eateries. Browse boutiques for handbags, jewelry and art. Architecture lovers will enjoy a reflective moment at St. Joseph Co-Cathedral which features spectacular stained-glass windows and Egyptian marble accents. When the sun goes down, dining options are many and nightlife blooms with music and drinks at lively local bars like the Piazza throughout the downtown area. More at www.LaCajunBayou.com.

Terrebonne Parish 

Summer’s an adventure in Cajun country, known for great fishing, birdwatching, festivals and food. Take the kids for a stroll through a cypress swamp at Wildlife Gardens in Gibson; there are nature trails, gators to spy and abundant birdlife. When you’ve worked up an appetite, head for Houma and Cajun flavors -- gumbo and crawfish etouffee! -- at local favorites like Boudreau and Thibodeau’s. More at www.HoumaTravel.com.

Calcasieu/Cameron parishes

There’s plenty of outdoor action along the area’s Creole Nature Trail, a 180-mile network of highways, trails, natural Gulf Coast beaches, and great scenery. One stop along the way: the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, offering self-drive tours, trails and a visitor center. After a day outdoors, you’ll find great restaurants and a different type of wild life in the casinos of Lake Charles. More at www.VisitLakeCharles.com and www.CameronParishTouristCommission.org.

Iberia Parish

Summer’s extra hot at Avery Island, home of the world’s most famous hot sauce, Tabasco. Tour the newly renovated visitor center, watch a video and learn the history of Tabasco, the peppers and the salt dome beneath it all. After a visit to the guest shop, explore the lovely nearby Jungle Gardens. More at www.IberiaTravel.com.

Jefferson and Plaquemines parishes 

Both known for exceptional fishing, these parishes host fishing rodeos and boast liberal limits and skilled charter captains. Grand Isle, in Jefferson Parish, is home to the famous Tarpon Rodeo and known for tarpon and redfish. Plaquemines, with its 78 lakes and hundreds of miles of coastline, offer offshore, fresh water and salt water wetland adventures. More at www.PlaqueminesTourism.com and www.VisitJeffersonParish.com.

St. Mary Parish aka Cajun Coast 

Immerse yourself in the beauty of Louisiana’s coastal marshlands along the Bayou Teche Scenic Byway, a 125-mile ribbon of birding and nature trails. You might also want to check out Franklin, an historic little town with more than 400 properties recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. More at www.CajunCoast.com.

St. Bernard Parish 

History’s got a home here, too, in this centuries-old parish neighboring New Orleans. Learn about the Canary Islanders who settled the area at the Los Islenos Museum and Village then take a stroll around the Chalmette Battlefield, site of the Battle of New Orleans. You can shop for handmade glass art at Studio Inferno before heading over to iconic Rocky and Carlo’s, a locals favorite for decades. More at www.VisitSt.Bernard.com.