Louisiana’s Northshore region — north of Lake Pontchartrain, that is — offers visitors a wealth of fine dining, world-class breweries, calm-water adventures, picturesque rolling hills and fun festivals at seemingly every turn. The diversity of the region, as well as its close proximity to New Orleans and Baton Rouge, make it a prime destination for those wanting a quick day trip or an overnight getaway. But St. Tammany Parish offers more than that — far more than we could squeeze into a Top 10 list — which is why the region sees so many repeat visitors.
Top Ten Things to Do in the Northshore
1. Tammany Trace
Get an up-close look at the Northshore’s natural grandeur with a walk or bike down the Tammany Trace. This paved trail is a converted rail line corridor that runs from Slidell to downtown Covington, with equestrian trails paralleling portions of it. Along this 27-mile stretch you’ll see quiet bayous teeming with wildlife (look out for alligators and amazing amounts of birds), remodeled railroad trestles, pedestrian bridges and the charming towns of Mandeville and Abita Springs.
2. Northshore Restaurants
Going out for dinner in St. Tammany Parish isn’t just a pastime — it’s part of the culture — and it's a delicious delight! This likely has to do with the sheer number and diversity of restaurants in Mandeville, Covington and Slidell, many of which rival those in much larger cities. Mandeville highlights include the Rusty Pelican, Rips on the Lake, The Beach House Bar & Grill and Liz’s Where Y’at Diner. Covington standouts include The Chimes Covington, LOLA Restaurant, Ox lot 9 (inside the elegant Southern Hotel) and Del Porto Ristorante. In Slidell, Southside Café and Palmettos on the Bayou are excellent choices. Discover even more delicious Northshore restaurants, and discover restaurants along the Tammany Taste Culinary Trail.
3. Honey Island Swamp Tours
Climb aboard a flat bottom boat and traverse through flooded forests and around giant cypress trees as you go deep into the Honey Island Swamp ecosystem in Slidell. On your two-hour tour, your knowledgeable captain will tell you all about the flora and fauna of Louisiana, throw in a little culture and history, and introduce you to resident alligators of the Honey Island Swamp. Keep your eyes peeled for the legendary Honey Island Swamp monster! Learn more about Honey Island Swamp Tours.
4. Cane Bayou Kayaking and Paddleboarding
Cane Bayou slithers through St. Tammany Parish between the towns of Mandeville and Lacombe, and offers one of the wildest rides you’ll find in southeast Louisiana. This is pristine Louisiana wilderness, where massive cypress trees emerge from the swamp, and roseate spoonbills and eagles make their nests. There are multiple launch sites and numerous outfitters, such as Bayou Adventure, so getting on the water is easy. Get more details about Cane Bayou and paddling tours. And you can make the outdoor fun even more exciting by taking a paddle adventure through a winding bayou that will lead you at a restaurant's dock - that's what happy hour in Louisiana is like! Paddle to the Plate!
5. Insta-Gator Ranch and Hatchery
Insta-Gator Ranch in Covington has alligators everywhere, big blue pools of adults in crystal clear water, and you can even a touch and take pictures with the baby alligators. Learn about the alligator industry “from hatchling to handbag” and how Insta-gator’s partnership with Louisiana Wildlife & Fisheries has helped bring this species back from the brink. By reservation, visitors can assist in the hatching of a baby alligator from an egg in August and September.
6. Abita Mystery House
Despite being featured on numerous television shows and magazine articles, the Abita Mystery House defies easy description. Part cabinet of curiosities and part museum of the absurd, this Abita Springs attraction is an altar to the eccentric. Highlights include the House of Shards (whose exterior is a mosaic of mirrors and glass), the taxidermied “dogigator” (half-dog, half-alligator), the crashed UFO and the phenomenally quirky gift shop.
7. Explore Downtown Covington
Historic downtown Covington is a charming walkable district of restaurants, lodging, art galleries and shops of every description. Browse for antiques, shop for fine gift items, home décor, stylish clothing for women and kids on Columbia Street and Lee Lane. The St. Tammany Art Association exhibits some of the region’s best artists. Don’t miss the eclectic hardware store H.J. Smith and Sons (family owned and operated since 1876), which houses a free museum that freezes the general store in time.
8. State Parks in St. Tammany Parish
Get outside, soak up the fresh air and take it easy at one of Louisiana’s State Parks in St. Tammany Parish. These include Fairview-Riverside State Park, and its historic Otis House Museum in Madisonville, and Fontainebleau State Park, which has gorgeous beaches and cabins for rent, along with a nature refuge with the ruins of a former plantation’s sugar mill on site.
9. Breweries Galore!
No question — Abita® is Louisiana’s best-known local beer label. You can find Abita Amber, Purple Haze® and Turbodog® in grocery stores throughout the nation, but there’s only one place where you can see these and other Abita® brews being made. Head to Abita®’s Covington brewhouse to take a 30-minute guided or self-guided tour; guided tours include four 4-ounce beer tastings and can be reserved online. You can also try Abita® beers without taking a tour, at its Covington tap room and gift store.
Old Rail Brewing Company: Handcrafted beers and awesome meals are on tap at Old Rail Brewing in Mandeville. This downtown restaurant and brew pub features a variety of beers, which you can see up close on a behind-the-scenes tour of the brewery. Menu items are heavily influenced by Cajun and Creole traditions, and include such dishes as chicken-and-alligator sausage sauce piquant and blackened Gulf drum with shrimp Creole. After dinner, treat yourself to a walk down the trail along downtown Mandeville’s Lake Pontchartrain waterfront.
Covington Brewhouse: The Northshore’s largest city, Covington, is home to many of the region’s (if not Louisiana’s) finest breweries. Case in point: Covington Brewhouse. This beer-making operation, housed in a former cotton warehouse, invites visitors to its tasting room to sample some quality brews. Highlights include the Strawberry Ale, which, as any south Louisianan knows, pairs well with boiled crawfish; Pontchartrain Pilsner, a light-bodied, European style beer; and Bayou Bock, a lager that pairs great with spicy Cajun cuisine.
Chafunkta Brewing started as a home brewer’s hobby, which turned into a passion, which turned into a renowned Louisiana beer producer. Named for the Tchefuncte River that runs through the region, the brewery makes quality IPAs, porters and other varieties that can be enjoyed in Chafunkta’s Mandeville tap room.
10. Charter Fishing
With easy access to the Rigolets, Lake Borgne, Lake Catherine, Lake Pontchartrain, Biloxi marsh, as well as rigs, reefs, and bridges, there are more than a dozen experienced charter captains launching out of Slidell. Each captain offers something different, each has his secret spots, favorite baits and tricks. Most charters accommodate 4-6 people, leave at dawn and stay out for 6 hours. Charters generally provide all equipment and some clean your trophy trout and record redfish, as well.
BONUS: St. Tammany Parish Festivals
The Northshore loves a good party, and St. Tammany Parish has many to choose from. For the entire month of August, don't miss the Tammany Taste of Summer featuring dining deals, prix fixe menus, culinary events and activities, and discounted overnight accommodations. And mark the calendar for the popular Wooden Boat Festival in Madisonville (October 13-14) and the Covington Three Rivers Art Festival (November 10-11) See the entire St. Tammany calendar of events.
But seriously, there are so, so, so many activities to try out on the Northshore and in St. Tammany Parish. We hope this top 10 list just got you started on the adventures to be had. Discover even more things to do on the Northshore by visting LouisianaNorthshore.com.