The Great River Road, AKA Plantation Alley, in Louisiana lies between New Orleans and Baton Rouge and is known for all the grand plantations which sit along the Mississippi River. Plantation Alley is about 70 miles long and consists of large land tracts with mansions which had slave quarters and fields of sugar cane and/or cotton. It hosts some of the Mississippi River’s greatest antebellum homes with significant history. Many of the plantations are open for touring. We opted to tour the Oak Alley Plantation which is one of the most visited plantations in the area.
We departed before sunrise and headed south over the toll bridge across Lake Pontchartrain known as The Causeway. It is about 24 miles long and is the longest bridge over water (continuous) in the world. It didn’t take us long and before we knew it we were in New Orleans passing the Marriott Metairie at Lakeway and heading east towards River Road and Plantation Alley.
We arrived at the beautiful Oak Alley Plantation along the south side of the Mississippi River just as it opened. We were the only ones there are on cold, sunny winter morning.
Our first order of business was a nice Sunday morning breakfast with some hot coffee. The plantation has a restaurant and inn on the property along with a large gift shop and a cafe. There is also a “Spirits” Bar with outside seating to allow you to sip a Mint Julep (or you favorite drink) outside while enjoying the spectacular scenery.
The plantation has a varied 200 year old history with being a sugar cane plantation, a cattle ranch, an investment property, an abandoned property, to being a historic site as it is today. The plantation has been open to the public since 1976 and you can tour the house and the gardens or just the gardens. We spent over 2 hours not including eating to just tour the grounds. It was beautiful!
The “Big House”, AKA is the mansion on the plantation and is Greek Revival architecture and was completed in 1839. The house has 28 Doric columns which correspond to the famous 28 oak trees which form the “alley” outside the house.
Photographs cannot possibly capture the beauty and the magnificence of the oak trees on the property nor of the “Oak Alley” that the plantation is noted for. We had read that Hurricane Ida (August 2021) had damaged many of the oak trees so we were pleasantly surprised to see many of them still standing (although with a few less branches). It is a site to behold.
The slave quarters, which are reconstructed cabins near their original site, gives insight into the lives of the slaves and the hardships and cruelty they endured. It is an excellent exhibit and well laid out with several stories of slaves and their lives.
The Sugarcane Theater on the grounds shows a very informative movie about the plantation and the production of sugar cane.
The grounds and gardens are beautiful even in winter. It is probably breathtaking in the spring!
Across the street from the plantation is the Mississippi River and a nice bike trail up on a berm. We walked across the street and up onto the berm to get a better view of the River and a great view back to the Big House and Oak Alley.
We had a wonderful day and a nice drive back to Madisonville.