After strolling through cemeteries, partying on Frenchmen Street and perusing museums, you may want to take a break from New Orleans’ lively atmosphere – and a swamp tour may be just the thing you need. You’ll exchange city attractions for beautiful scenery, calm waters and the chance to spot some native wildlife. To help you select which tour best suits your needs, U.S. News compiled the 11 best swamp tours using both traveler opinion and expert recommendations. If you’re adding a swamp tour to your itinerary, know that many of these excursions are at least a 30-minute drive outside of the city. And if alligators are your top reason for trekking to the swamp, plan for a spring or summer tour, as alligators enter into a state of brumation (a modified period of hibernation) during the cold weather months.
New Orleans Kayak Swamp Tours – Manchac Swamp Kayak Tour
According to the tour company, novice kayakers will appreciate this two-hour paddle in Manchac Swamp as it is especially suitable for beginners. During the tour, you’ll wind your way through the swamp’s calm waters and take a gander at the local wildlife. For an even more memorable experience, the company suggests taking the early morning or evening tour to see the swamp bathed in warm light. Reviewers say you’ll gain lots of insight not only about the area’s ecology but also about local history. Tours depart daily at 9 and 11:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 or 4:30 p.m. (Note that some specific tour times are seasonal.) Tickets cost approximately $60 per person. The company also runs tours of the Honey Island swamp and a half-day kayak tour through the Shell Bank bayou.
Cajun Pride Swamp Tours – Swamp Tour by Boat
This experience takes you deep into the Manchac Swamp for a look at local flora and fauna and the Cajun town of Frenier. As you travel by boat through the company’s private wildlife refuge, you may spot alligators, turtles, raccoons and bald eagles, but the highlight for many reviewers was being able to hold baby gators, and possibly other critters, on board. Visitors also rave about the fun and informative guides. Tours run 90 minutes and depart multiple times daily. Tickets start at $27 for adults and $16 for kids ages 4 to 12. If you book online in advance, you’ll save some money on each ticket. Hotel pickups are available but cost extra. The company also offers a semiprivate swamp tour on its 16-person boat as well as plantation tours.
Canoe & Trail Adventures – Kayak Swamp Tours
If you’re feeling brave – and don’t mind being extra close to alligators – sign up for a kayak swamp excursion with Canoe & Trail Adventures. These experiences, which last around three hours, give you ample opportunities to spot animals and are led by knowledgeable guides that teach participants all about Louisiana’s ecosystem. The company also provides waterproof bags for phones, purses and small cameras. Travelers report that the kayaking is easy and describe the tour guides as informative. Standard day tours will set you back around $50 for kids and $65 for adults and include kayak rentals and bottled water (you’re also welcome to bring your own snacks). Tours depart Monday and Wednesday through Friday at 10 a.m. Canoe & Trail Adventures also offers seasonal kayak, canoe and stand-up paddleboard rentals.
Cajun Encounters – Sunset Night Tour
For a unique twist on the standard swamp experience, opt for this evening tour from Cajun Encounters. Lasting approximately two hours, each boat ride includes commentary from a friendly guide as you watch the sun set over the bayou and explore the Honey Island Swamp. With the aid of a spotlight, you may see alligators, wild boar, owls and more. Tourists say the guides are informative and fun and highly recommend the tour, but caution there are many bugs. Tickets start at $30.50 for adults and $20.50 for children ages 4 to 11; hotel transfers cost extra. Sunset tours run Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the spring and summer only. Cajun Encounters also runs daytime and private swamp tours as well as bus tours of New Orleans.
With this tour operator, you can expect interesting guides and multiple glimpses of alligators as you weave through 20,000-plus acres of cypress swamps. After your roughly two-hour airboat ride, take some time to explore the company’s indoor facility, which houses Sugar, an albino gator. Reviewers enjoy the tour and its guides and suggest opting for a small boat tour, as the small airboats can access more remote corners of the swamp. Others warn that the boats can be noisy. Both small and large airboat tours run multiple times daily. Tickets for the small airboat (which accommodates up to eight passengers) start at $79 per person; tickets for the large airboat (which holds up to 30 people) start at $55. Pregnant women, children younger than 5 and people with back and neck injuries are not permitted to ride on the airboats. Pets, including service animals, are prohibited due to the loud noise from the boat (humans will be given ear protection). Hotel pickup is available for an additional fee.
Alligator sightings are a top reason many travelers go on a swamp tour.(Getty Images)
Jean Lafitte Swamp Tours & Airboat Tours – Jean Lafitte Traditional Swamp Tour
During this nearly two-hour tour, tourgoers will travel through the Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve to see cypress trees blanketed with Spanish moss, a variety of plant life and native wildlife like mink, nutria (a large rodent similar to a beaver) and alligators. Because the tour is conducted on a flat-bottomed boat, it’s family-friendly and there’s even a restroom on board. Travelers enjoy the tour guides who create a fun atmosphere. They also appreciate the chance to hold a baby alligator while on the boat. Tours run daily at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. There’s a seasonal 4 p.m. tour as well. Tickets cost approximately $30 for adults and $10 for children ages 4 to 12. Lunch (which is available after the 10 a.m. tour) and transportation to your hotel both cost extra. Jean Lafitte also operates airboat tours.
New Orleans Airboat Tours
Travelers agree that New Orleans Airboat Tours provides a fun and educational experience. Each airboat excursion lasts nearly two hours and gives you an up-close look at wild alligators. You may even get the chance to hold a baby gator at the end of your ride. Tours operate at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. daily; additional rides depart at 4 and 6 p.m. seasonally. Tickets start at $68 per person for a large airboat ride and $88 per person for tours on a small airboat. Transport to and from your hotel costs an extra $20 per person. You can only book tickets by calling the company. New Orleans Airboat Tours also offers private excursions.
Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours
Participants say that while guides of Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours are captivating, what they truly enjoyed was the variety of flora and fauna on display during the boat ride. Guides, who are natives of South Louisiana, narrate the two-hour tours with facts and stories about the area. Along the way, travelers may spot alligators, deer, osprey, hogs, turtles, herons and more along with the traditional cypress trees. Tours depart several times daily. Tickets start at $25 for adults and $15 for children; transportation to and from New Orleans hotels costs extra. You must call the company directly to book.
Gray Line – Swamp and Bayou Tour
This tour is perhaps most convenient for travelers staying in New Orleans as it departs from the French Quarter. After hopping aboard the coach bus, you’ll be driven to the swamps and bayous of Louisiana to board Gray Line’s boat. During the tour, you’ll get the chance to see egrets, raccoons, alligators and snakes. Along the way, guides will share details of the local ecology. Travelers overall enjoy the tour, saying the bus ride (which is included in the ticket price) is convenient. Though they loved the scenery, some found the tour a bit dry and wish they had selected an airboat tour instead. Tours depart daily at 10:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. November through February. From March through October, tours depart at 8:45 and 10:45 a.m. as well as 12:45 and 2:45 p.m. Tickets cost approximately $50 for adults and $30 for children ages 6 to 12. Gray Line also offers plantation tours, city tours and cemetery tours in New Orleans, among other offerings.
Pearl River Eco Tours – 6 Passenger Swamp Tour
For a semiprivate swamp tour, book this small excursion from Pearl River Eco Tours. A maximum of six people are permitted on the custom-built skiffs, which means travelers will be able to see parts of the swamp that are inaccessible to larger boats. In addition, the company says the skiffs aren’t as loud as the traditional airboats. Along the tour, which is narrated by a professional local guide, visitors could see wild boar, alligators and deer, among other animals. Travelers highly recommend the small boat experience, likening it to a customized tour thanks to the small boat and manageable group size. Tours depart daily at 9:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; there’s an additional noon tour available seasonally. Tickets for the tour start at $70 per person; they’re $85 each if you elect hotel transportation. Pearl River Eco Tours also runs larger boat tours that accommodate up to 26 passengers.
Gators & Ghosts – Airboat Swamp Tour
Tourists agree that Gators and Ghosts delivers on its promise for an exhilarating boat ride. Along the two-hour tour, you’ll zip through the swamp to see local Louisiana wildlife. For many, seeing gators up close and getting the chance to hold a baby alligator are memorable highlights. Tour prices vary depending on the boat size you select; Gators and Ghosts operates small, medium and large boats that accommodate six to 30 passengers. Tickets start at $55 per person and transportation from the city costs extra. Tours on small and large airboats depart at 9:45 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Tours aboard medium-sized boats depart at 9:40 a.m. and 12:10 and 2:10 p.m. Gators & Ghosts also operates ghost tours and cemetery tours in New Orleans, among other options.
Interested in more New Orleans tours? Check out the: