Discover your wild side during a swamp tour of Louisiana bayou country! Areas unreachable by foot can be easily experienced by boat tour. A boat ride through the canopied waterways and shallow waters of the bayou offers unparalleled views of its beauty.
An experienced boat captain adds to the adventure by providing in-depth information about the bayou wildlife and the unique habitat that houses hundreds of animal species.
Louisiana is one of two states famous for its bayous, which are intricately linked to Creole culture.
Most of us non-Cajuns would refer to a bayou as a “swamp”. Regardless of what you call it, bayous (or swamps) develop in low-lying areas, where water moves slowly and tons of wildlife thrives.
Best New Orleans Airboat Tours
Quick Answer: The 3 Best Swamp Tours From New Orleans
- Small-Group Bayou Airboat Ride with Transport from New Orleans
- New Orleans Swamp and Bayou Boat Tour With Transport
- Small-Group Airboat Swamp Adventure & Plantation Tour
New Orleans sits within a reasonable distance from the Louisiana Bayou, which makes a swamp tour completely doable for someone visiting the area.
New Orleans Swamp Tour Reviews
We’ve reviewed the 3 top rated New Orleans swamp tours and hope you find one that works for you!
- Departure point: Downtown New Orleans & French Quarter hotels
- Departure time: Pickup 30 – 60 minutes prior to commencement of tour (offers morning and afternoon departures)
- Duration: 4 hours (approx.)
- Includes: Small-group tour, transport by van, hotel pickup and drop-off, 2-hour airboat ride
We recommend this New Orleans swamp tour for those adventurers who want an intimate, small-group tour experience. Also, for those who want to avoid doing any driving on their own, this tour offers hotel pickup and drop-off (make sure to see if your hotel is within their pickup radius).
This swamp tour takes place on an airboat, which is a unique experience if you’ve never tried it before (See more detail about airboat vs. traditional boats below the tour reviews).
Your excursion begins with an hour-long ride to Louisiana bayou country in an air conditioned van. Along the journey, your experienced tour guide/driver provides commentary and shares stories about the area. The driver is well-versed in local culture and history, so prepare to be entertained and informed en route to the swamp.
Once you arrive for the swamp portion of your tour, you board an airboat that will get you up close to wildlife and local flora. The boat’s captain shares his experiences and a wealth of information about the bayou’s unique ecosystem.
Just a few of the animals you may encounter while on the water include alligators, otters, deer, and a plethora of water fowl. If seeing alligators and snakes in the wild feels a little too close to comfort, you’ll be glad to know the captain has explored every nook and cranny of the area, and your safety is his first concern.
- Departure point: New Orleans, from a number of local hotels
- Departure time: Hotel pickup, pickups start about 2 hours before tour
- Duration: 4 hours (approx.)
- Includes: Hotel pickup and drop-off, professional guide, live commentary on board, 2-hour boat ride, transport from New Orleans to boat ride departure point
We recommend this New Orleans bayou tour for those who prefer to see the Louisiana swamp country in a flat bottom boat (versus airboat) and who enjoy the luxury of leaving the driving to someone else.
After being picked up from your area hotel, you’ll be transported to Slidell, Louisiana which lies about one hour north of New Orleans. This portion of the trip is narrated by an entertaining guide, which makes the hour-long trip fly by. The boat ride portion of your bayou tour lasts approximately 2 hours.
Your boat ride to the swamp starts with a trip across Lake Pontchartrain, toward Honey Island Swamp. While many of the New Orleans area swamp tours are done by airboat, this tour uses a flat bottom boat and can accommodate up to 22 people.
The absence of the enormous fan that propels an airboat makes it easier to hear your captain on this tour, and the narrow boat easily navigates small inlets.
These boat captains are native to the area, and thus, are very familiar with the ins and outs of the unique landscape that makes up the Louisiana bayou. During the boat ride, you’re introduced to Honey Island Swamp, one of only a few protected wetlands in Louisiana. The tour also passes by a Cajun village.
As the boat drifts along grassy, slow-moving waterways, you are practically guaranteed to see alligators sunning themselves on the shore or on fallen logs (See information below about the best time of year to visit the swamp). Racoons scamper along the reedy river shores. Other frequently sighted wildlife include mink, otter, wild boar, deer, and a variety of birds.
There is a gift shop conveniently located at the boat ride’s departure point, which is handy if you’ve forgotten a necessity like sunscreen or bug repellant. They even carry ponchos in the event the weather takes a turn for the worse.
- Departure point: New Orleans, from a number of local hotels (check with tour operator to see if your hotel is within their pickup radius)
- Departure time: 9am or 11:00am
- Duration: 5 hours 30 minutes (approx.)
- Includes: Hotel pickup and drop-off, transport by air-conditioned van, 2-hour airboat ride, tour of Destrehan Plantation
We recommend this swamp boat tour for those who prefer to travel with a smaller group and who are looking to combine adventure with a taste of Louisiana history.
After pickup from your area hotel, you’ll be transported by van to where your airboat departs (approximately 30 minutes from the city). During your transit from New Orleans to Paradis, a friendly driver/guide will share his in-depth understanding of the area.
Once fitted with ear muffs, you’re zipped away on for an exciting airboat adventure. Your captain keeps the group intrigued by making sure you see lots of different animals and the lesser-known areas of the swamp. He makes sure his passengers are safe, while ensuring they have fun through his amusing stories. The boat rides lasts approximately 2 hours.
After touring the swamp, your van takes your group to the historic antebellum mansion, Destrehan Plantation. With its construction taking place between 1787 and 1790, Destrehan is one of the oldest homes in Louisiana.
At Destrehan, tour-goers will experience the plantation’s main house, an on-site museum that displays original artifacts and photos of the Destrehan family, a weaving room, the outdoor kitchen, and cabins which offer a glimpse into the daily lives of enslaved men, women, and children. Tours are led by guides who are attired in dress typical of that era.
Traveler’s Guide to New Orleans
- Getting There
- Planning Tips
- Restaurants & Eating Out
- Nightlife & Entertainment
- Getting Around
- FAQ For Swamp Tours
Flights arrive at the Louis Armstrong International Airport from all over the U.S. and international destinations. Rental cars from the airport are one of a few options. Traveling from the airport to the French Quarter will take 25 minutes by car.
The area’s regional transit system offers an airport bus from the airport to two locations: mid-city and downtown. Catching a taxi or other car-for-hire service such as Uber or Lyft are other options.
Consider what you’d like to do before packing your suitcase. Do you plan to explore the area’s swampy bayou, perhaps by taking an airboat tour? Will your trip focus on other outdoor activities like attending a Jazz Festival? Maybe you see yourself enjoying fine dining on the area’s unique Creole cuisines. In that case, make sure to pack your most elegant attire.
Having a general idea of your preferences and plans will help you plan what to bring and what to leave behind. Consider whether you’ll be outdoors a good amount of time. New Orleans can be muggy and hot during the summer months, so dress accordingly.
Restaurants & Eating Out
Heavily influenced by Cajun and Creole cuisine and soul food, New Orleans-style fare is a must try while you’re there. For authentic local food we recommend the following establishments.
The Atchafalaya Restaurant is a cute, quirky place with a lot of excellent food options at reasonable prices.
The Commander’s Palace is an upscale (no shorts allowed!) eatery that’s well-known for its local cuisine and specifically for its bread pudding soufflé.
For a bite on a budget, give Faubourg Bistro a try. They have your standard burgers and pizza and some southern options, like fried catfish sandwich; or consider Cajun Mike’s Pub & Grub where you can get po’boys, crawfish kickers, and seafood gumbo.
Nightlife & Entertainment
No trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the French Quarter, but the city is so much more than the 13 block area, originally known as Vieux Carré. Try out these other hot spots to get a better perspective of the city.
Performances at the The Jazz Playhouse, located on Bourbon Street, wow their audiences with the quality of musicians and nice ambience. The drinks can be a little pricey, but we feel the expense is worth the experience.
If you’re looking for a bar that’s gay-friendly, the Good Friends Bar & Queens Head Pub is worth checking out. Bartenders and friendly and fun. There’s an upstairs bar that is smaller, with a good sized balcony. Their creamy drinks are fabulous.
Why not bowl while you enjoy a few drinks? At Rock n Bowl – Mid City Lanes you can do just that. And the fun isn’t limited to bowling. There’s a music venue and a dance floor as well.
If you plan to make room for some culture during your visit to New Orleans, the Saenger Theatre features a nice variety of concerts and shows. The theater itself is worth seeing for its beautiful architecture alone.
New Orleans is a walkable city, but if you find your feet are no longer serving you, there are other options for getting around.
New Orleans has a little-known (to outsiders) street car service. It can get you around to most areas of the city for a reasonable price. On top of this public transit option, there is a city bus system that’s well-organized and reliable.
If you do plan to go with a rental car, it’s worth keeping in mind that parking in the French Quarter can be frustrating.
Using a car-for-hire service like Lyft or Uber, is a good compromise if you don’t want the hassle of renting a car or dealing with the public transportation schedule. These service are readily available in the city.
There’s no reason a tight budget needs to dictate where you travel. New Orleans offers a wide array of accommodations and is reasonable when compared to other cities. You will find everything from hostels and low-end hotels to super ritzy digs; and don’t forget private home rentals through sites like VRBO or AirBnB.
Starting at the lower end, check out The The Quisby. Located on St. Charles Avenue, this hipster hostel has a 24 hour bar conveniently located in the lobby.
Auberge Nola, which describes itself as “New Orleans’ first Boutique Social Accommodation”, is another centrally-located option for reasonably priced lodging. It has all the basics- location, comfy beds, and clean facilities.
If you’re economically-minded, but crashing hostel-style isn’t your thing, we’ve selected a couple of mid-range options where you’ll enjoy the usual comforts without denting your wallet.
The Pontchartrain is a perfect escape from the usual roadside hotel chains. This charming hotel dates from the 1920’s and is located in the Garden District.
We have two other mid-ranged favorites that are situated in the heart of the French Quarter. The brightly-painted Olivier House Hotel offers comfort, combined with old world charm; and the cozy Place d’ Armes Hotel has lovely outdoor seating areas, with lush tropical foliage and a refreshing pool.
For a more exclusive stay, consider the Soniat House. This small luxury hotel was constructed by renovating several adjoining 19th century French Quarter homes.
New Orleans has a humid, subtropical climate. For that reason, the height of the summer can get uncomfortably warm and muggy, with an average temperature of 90 degrees between the months of June and September.
Late fall, winter, and spring are more temperate and probably a good time to visit if you plan on spending time outdoors.
Someone visiting New Orleans for the first time will be surprised at how much there is to do in the area. No matter your area of interest- the arts, nature, outdoor adventure, or whatnot- you’ll find plenty to do in New Orleans and the surrounding areas.
For the traveler who also loves learning, there are several noteworthy museums to consider. The Lower 9th Ward Living Museum isn’t one of the best known, but is definitely worth checking out. The museum displays a sometimes somber, and always moving, history of this community, including how it was affected by Katrina.
The Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium intrigues visitors with its Japanese garden, displays of bugs in their natural environments, and the opportunity to try insect-ladden delicacies. This is a great option for families, as some exhibits are geared toward the younger visitor.
The The National WWII Museum is probably New Orlean’s mosts popular museum, and with good reason. History buffs will love this tribute to the greatest generation. A visit to this museum is enriching and gives a more holistic view of the events leading up to and surrounding World War II.
Art lovers will appreciate the Ogden Museum of Southern Art where rotating exhibits of southern artists are displayed. At Treme’s Petit Jazz Museum you’ll get individualized attention through a guided tour by the museums owner where you will learn about the complex history of how the genre evolved.
In terms of landmarks, in Jackson Square you will see the grand St. Louis Cathedral and enjoy free entertainment by a motley crew of street performers. St. Roch Market is a utopia for foodies, with tons of cuisine options – from local to international.
If you want to enjoy the fresh air, New Orleans City Park has a sculpture garden and waterways which wind through this green space. For some live outdoor jazz, visit New Orleans Musical Legends Park where statues of jazz musical legends are displayed. And Crescent Park runs along the Mississippi with a trail that leads to the French Market.
Sadly we can’t mention all of the unique attractions and places to stay in New Orleans, but we can assure you- there is plenty to keep you busy during your trip and the perfect accommodations are waiting there for you!
FAQ For New Orleans Swamp Tours
Q: What is the difference between an airboat tour and flat bottom boat tour?
A: Airboats are propelled by enormous fans. The fans are so powerful and loud that passengers must wear ear muffs (provided by tour operators). Not only is this a fun way to tour the marshy areas surrounding New Orleans, airboat travel actually assists in navigating areas where a traditional propeller may get wrapped up in swampy reeds and grasses.
While passengers are given ear muffs to protect against the loud hum of an airboat’s giant fan, it should be noted that children or adults who are bothered by loud noises may find the sound unpleasant.
Flat bottom boats are able to accommodate larger groups and their narrow constructions allows them to make their way through tighter spots.
Q: What should I bring for a swamp tour?
A: There are several essentials when visiting the swamp. Due to the humidity, insects, like pesky mosquitoes, may find their way to you, so a can of insect repellent is a good idea to have on hand.
Because you’ll be exposed to the sun for several hours, make sure to bring sunscreen and sunglasses. Packing a hat isn’t a bad idea, either. Don’t forget to hydrate. Take along plenty of water.
If you’re touring anytime other than during the summer months, be sure to bring a windbreaker – especially during the winter when it can get quite windy.
Q: What is the best time of year to go on the swamp tour?
A: The time of year you choose to go on a swamp tour may mean compromising one thing for another. For example, if you hate the hot, muggy weather you’ll want to avoid the summer time, as that part of Louisiana can be oppressive in terms of weather.
Alligators are out in droves during the summer months and tend to sneak into nests during the winter, so visiting during the cooler months may mean you see fewer of these reptiles. While gators may be more elusive during the winter months, you’re more likely to see bears or nutria during this season.
Spring offers a good mix of comfortable weather with animal sightings, as animals are out doing their thing and wildflowers are in full bloom.
Regardless of you and your family’s personal interests and needs, there is sure to be a airboat adventure from New Orleans that will please everyone in your group. We hope our reviews help you to discover an adventure that will make lots of fun memories!