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8 Lovely Small Towns to Visit in Louisiana This Summer

Louisiana is a beautiful state in the southern US known for its rich cultural heritage showcased throughout dynamic, bustling cities like New Orleans and Baton Rouge. However, the colorful tapestry of Louisiana’s storied past (and present) comes alive in its lovely small towns. Set amid some of the Pelican State’s most breathtaking landscapes, these picturesque communities have no shortage of natural beauty and Southern charm: from Cajun Country towns like Breaux Bridge and Henderson to historic havens like Natchitoches and Covington, these Louisiana towns are the perfect summer getaways.

Breaux Bridge

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, USA, shopping at Monroe’s
Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, USA, shopping at Monroe’s in the summer. Image credit Malachi Jacobs via Shutterstock

Known as “The Crawfish Capital of the World,” Breaux Bridge is a small Louisiana town in St. Martin Parish. A historic community of less than 7,500 residents, Breaux Bridge’s welcoming vibes and scenic natural beauty make it the perfect place to visit in summer. Start the season with a visit to the famous Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival in May, an annual event celebrating the area’s rich Cajun and Creole culture. For more ways to learn about the town’s storied past, be sure to visit the Atchafalaya Welcome Center and its exhibits showcasing the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, take a historic walking tour from the Bayou Teche Visitors Center, or stroll through Breaux Bridge’s bustling historic district.

Located in the Atchafalaya Basin—North America’s largest river basin—Breaux Bridge is home to many diverse landscapes that give the area a distinctive Louisiana bayou feel. Swamps and waterways like Lake Martin offer many outdoor activities, including swamp tours, kayaking, canoeing, and wildlife watching, while the Cypress Island Preserve in nearby Martinville is a forested wetland habitat complete with the levee trail, visitor center, and excellent bird and wildlife watching opportunities. Martinville is also home to historical attractions such as the Acadia Memorial Monument and the Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Site, both providing a unique glimpse into St. Martin’s cultural heritage.

Natchitoches

Natchitoches City in Louisiana
Natchitoches City in Louisiana.

Located in Cane River Country in Central Louisiana, Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement in Louisiana Purchase Territory. But that’s not all—the historic town has been hosting visitors since 1714 and still celebrates its European heritage today through its National Historic District with historic places like Fort St. Jean Baptiste and Prudhomme-Rouquier House. It is also the start of the Cane River National Heritage Trail Scenic Byway which includes sites such as the Melrose, Magnolia, and Oakland Plantations. Additionally, visitors can experience more area history by visiting nearby attractions like Los Adaes State Historic Site, Fort Jesup State Historic Site, and the Rebel State Historic Site (including the Louisiana Country Music Museum), all less than one hour away.

The Cane River National Heritage Area also includes the Cane River Lake, where outdoor enthusiasts can kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or take a cruise on the Cane River Queen River Boat. Additionally, a day trip to the Kisatchie National Forest offers hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, camping, and more, less than two hours from Natchitoches. The historic downtown area also has a museum complex where visitors can explore the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame and Northwest Louisiana History Museum, all in one afternoon.

Grand Isle

Drone aerial photo of houses in Grand Isle, Louisiana.
Drone aerial photo of houses in Grand Isle, Louisiana.

Grand Isle is a picture-perfect small town situated along Louisiana’s shoreline. Known for its spectacular scenic vistas, the Gulf of Mexico town is also famed for its epic outdoor recreation opportunities, notably its world-class, four-season fishing and birdwatching. However, it is Grand Isle’s seven miles of breathtaking beaches that make it one of the Pelican State’s top summer destinations—and Grand Isle State Park is undoubtedly the best, with its nature trails and fishing pier in addition to activities like swimming, sunbathing, and soaking up the spectacular Gulf views.

Additionally, Elmer’s Island Wildlife Refuge—located across the Caminada Pass—is a breathtaking beachfront area with boating, hiking, birdwatching, and fishing. Another nearby attraction (and only accessible by boat), is Fort Livingston. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 19th-century fort is one of the largest coastal forts in the entire state. More Grand Isle activities include the Grand Isle Birding/Nature Trail, a popular spot for nature enthusiasts and birdwatching aficionados, and the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, an annual summertime saltwater fishing competition that attracts fishermen from across the country,

Covington

Columbia Street, Covington, Louisiana.
Columbia Street, Covington, Louisiana. Image credit Malachi Jacobs via Shutterstock

Located in St. Tammany Parish, Covington is a historic small town with plenty of Southern charm. Located on the banks of the lovely Bogue Falaya River, there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation, like boating, kayaking, and standup paddleboarding. The Bogue Falaya Wayside Park is also a pretty spot for picnicking and hosts many community events throughout the summer, including “A Taste of Covington,” celebrating local food, art, and music, and an early celebration of Independence Day, “Sparks in the Park.” The Covington Trailhead is also home to many local events. A cultural center complete with an amphitheater and a museum, the popular destination is also a way station on the Tammany Trace recreation trail. Connecting downtown Covington with neighboring Northshore communities, the Tammany Trace is Louisiana’s top-rated rail-to-trail, has hiking and biking trails, and a separate equestrian trail.

In addition to its many outdoor activities and popular summer events, Covington also has a very walkable and historic downtown area. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the town’s St. John District is a hub of activity that highlights Covington’s small-town charm. Restaurants, shops, galleries, and even a museum/general store (H.J. Smith & Sons General Store and Museum), are all within walking distance, making it easy for visitors to enjoy all the cozy Louisiana town has to offer.

Abita Springs

Abita Springs in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana.
Abita Springs in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Image credit Malachi Jacobs via Shutterstock.com

Like Covington, Abita Springs is a Northshore community with plenty of history and quaint Louisiana charm. While visitors were once drawn to the tiny town for its famed springs, today, Abita Springs has more of an artsy, eclectic feel that can be seen everywhere, from concerts and dances at the Abita Springs Opry Hall to the Abita Mystery House at the UCM Museum, a quirky roadside attraction filled with folksy Southern memorabilia. Abita Springs also hosts many community celebrations throughout the spring and summer, including the Art & Farmer’s Market, the Louisiana Bicycle Festival, the En Plein Air Art Exhibition, and the Whole Town Garage Sale. Abita Springs is also home to the cozy Abita Springs Trailhead Museum, a one-room museum dedicated to preserving the small town’s heritage.

Like nearby Covington, Abita Springs is also a convenient access point to the Tammany Trace recreation trail, the perfect place to explore the region’s natural beauty. The Abita Creek Flatwoods Preserve also features an interpretive trail and boardwalk through pine flatwood wetlands. Abita Springs also has several buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Longbranch Guest House and the Abita Springs Park Pavilion, where residents gather to celebrate the Abita Fall Fest.

Henderson

An airboat in Henderson Swamp in Henderson, Louisiana.
An airboat in Henderson Swamp in Henderson, Louisiana.

A small town of around 1,600 residents, Henderson is in the heart of Cajun country and is known for its culture, cuisine, and Atchafalaya Basin attractions. Like its close neighbor Breaux Bridge, Henderson has many outdoor recreation opportunities, especially in the summer. One of the best ways to explore the area’s natural beauty is via an Atchafalaya Basin airboat tour; Lakes Bigeaux, Pelba, and Henderson all offer signature tours of the surrounding swampland. Lake Bigeax also has a hiking trail, while Lake Henderson and Lake Pelba are great spots for boating and freshwater fishing. Visitors can also learn more about the area’s wilderness at the Atchafalaya Welcome Center.

The small St. Martin Parish town also has many other attractions; famous for its Cajun cooking—especially crawfish—places like Pat’s Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant have been serving their Bayou best for over 70 years. The famed Turtle Bar on the Atchafalaya Basin is also a great place to catch a meal and a spectacular swampland sunset. Additionally, the Louisiana Marketshops at the 115 is an eclectic local shopping experience, while the town’s Prehistoric Park is the only Louisiana attraction dedicated to dinosaurs and has over ten acres to explore. Nearby towns like Lafayette also have many exciting events throughout the summer, including the Lafayette Farmers & Artisans Market and the weekly Bal du Dimanche (Sunday dance).

St. Francisville

Rosedown Plantation in St Francisville, Louisiana.
Rosedown Plantation in St Francisville, Louisiana.

Located in the heart of Louisiana Hill Country, St. Francisville is all Southern charm and breathtaking scenic beauty. Though only 30 miles north of Baton Rouge, the idyllic West Feliciana Parish community’s tranquil atmosphere seems far from the city’s hustle and bustle. St. Francisville is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, with places like the Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area and the Clark Creek Natural Area (aka “Little Grand Canyon”), offering everything from hiking and biking trails to spectacular waterfalls. Cat Island National Wildlife Refuge is another must-visit attraction. Home to one of the largest bald cypress trees in North America—measuring approximately 96 feet tall—the scenic spot also has hiking, fishing, wildlife watching, and more.

Incorporated in 1807, St. Francisville has a rich heritage that can be seen throughout its Historic District, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places. Take a self-guided walking tour and visit the West Feliciana Historical Society to learn more about the Mississippi River town’s storied history. Additionally, St. Francisville has many other historic sites to explore, including the Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site, with its sprawling plantation and beautiful gardens; Myrtles Plantation, famed as one of America’s most haunted houses; and Port Hudson State Historic Site, a National Historic Landmark and Civil War battlefield.

Thibodaux

Bayou Lafourche in Thibodaux, Louisiana.
Bayou Lafourche in Thibodaux, Louisiana.

Thibodaux is a quaint community located in Louisiana’s Lafourche Parish. Defined by a vibrant cultural heritage, the Thibodaux has many sites that celebrate its proud Cajun identity. Visitors can explore Bayou Lafourche’s history with a trip to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. The site has many activities throughout the summer, including boat tours, a historic Thibodaux Walking Tour, and Music on the Bayou concerts. Additional historical attractions include the E.D. White Historic Site, the former home of Louisiana’s only US Supreme Court Justice, and Laurel Valley Plantation, offering a unique glimpse into Bayou plantation life.

And there is more to Thibodaux than its fascinating past: the bustling Lafourche Parish town also has its share of outdoor recreation and beautiful bayou scenery. While the area is known for its world-class fishing, there are also scenic swamp tours through Bayou Lafourche. Visitors can also kayak or paddleboard at Nicholls Bayou Side Park. For even more outdoor adventure, head to the nearby Lockport Elevated Wetlands Boardwalk, less than 40 minutes away. Home to an elevated 440-foot boardwalk set in a picturesque swampland setting, the Lockport Bayouside Park is also great for bird and wildlife watching.

Louisiana’s idyllic small towns are as diverse as the Pelican State itself. Scenic, historic, and represented by a distinctive cultural heritage, the Southern state’s best cozy communities also have some of its best summertime attractions. From world-class fishing in the Atchafalaya Basin to sightseeing swamp tours in Bayou Lafourche to the rolling hills of St. Francisville and the natural beauty of Abita Springs, these off-the-beaten-track destinations have something for every traveler looking for an unforgettable summer getaway in Cajun Country.