There are tons of fun things to do in New Orleans, but there are also plenty of great options for day trips outside of the city. While you’re there, be sure to check out a swamp tour in New Orleans.
Since the city is located in the Mississippi Delta, it doesn’t take too long to get to a swamp from NOLA. In fact, many people add a swamp tour to their itinerary even if they have just 3 days in New Orleans.
In just 30 minutes, you can find yourself out in the Bayou surrounded by gators. Who knows — maybe you’ll even spot the elusive Honey Island Swamp Monster!
There are several different options to choose from for visiting a New Orleans swamp. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at these swamp tours. I absolutely loved my trip to New Orleans and I’m sure you will too!
What to Expect on a New Orleans Swamp Tour
First of all, let’s talk about where a swamp tour in New Orleans typically goes, what you can expect to see, and answer some commonly asked questions.
How Far are the Swamps from New Orleans?
The New Orleans swamps are reached in just 30 – 45 minutes from the French Quarter.
Some tours head north of the city to the Honey Island Swamp, some go south to the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, and others head west to Maurepas Swamp Wildlife Management Area.
What Types of Swamp Tours are There?
The most popular swamp tours in New Orleans are by boat.
There are large pontoon swamp boats, which are probably the most popular choice. If you prefer a bit more excitement, you can go on an airboat instead.
Or perhaps you’d rather enjoy the swamp at a leisurely pace and paddle yourself around in a canoe or kayak (keep your hands inside the boat!).
Whichever type of tour you choose, you’ll get to explore the swamp and learn all about the environment from your knowledgeable guide. (I’ve listed more information about the different types of Bayou swamp tours below.)
What Animals Will You See on a Swamp Tour?
A major highlight of a swamp tour in New Orleans is getting up close and personal with the creatures of the swamp, such as wild boars, egrets, herons, turtles, and alligators.
During the fall and winter months, many cold-blooded animals hibernate. If you’re really hoping to see alligators on your swamp tour in New Orleans, you should try to visit the city in spring or summer.
Some tour operators say they can still find alligators in winter, but there’s no guarantee.
How Long is a Swamp Tour in New Orleans?
Swamp tours typically take place during the day and last around 2 hours. There are additional tours at night on weekends in the summer months as well.
When booking a swamp tour in New Orleans, you usually have the option of getting yourself there or adding a pick-up service from your accommodation for an additional fee.
What is The Best Time to Do a Swamp Tour?
You can visit the swamp year-round. However, the best time to do a swamp tour is in the fall when the weather is cooler, the foliage is beautiful, there are fewer mosquitos, and lots of animals are around!
During the summer months, the weather is hot, humid, and sticky — plus, there are many mosquitos. BUT, all of the wildlife will be out and you’ll easily spot gators, birds, turtles, and snakes.
In springtime, the weather will be pleasant with lots of flowers in bloom. Most of the wildlife will be out and there will be fewer mosquitos than in summer.
You can actually join a swamp tour in New Orleans in the winter months as well. During this time, there will be a lot less foliage and since alligators like the warmer weather, they will be harder to spot.
However, you’ll be able to see deer, nutria, otters, minks, and birds. Make sure to dress warmly this time of year if joining an airboat swamp tour.
What to Wear and Bring On a Swamp Tour
If you’re wondering what to wear on a swamp tour in New Orleans, it all depends on the weather forecast and which type of tour you’re going on.
You should always bring a poncho or raincoat, as there’s a good chance you’ll get a little wet out there.
On a hot and sunny day, you’ll definitely want to wear comfortable clothes like a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. Make sure to drink plenty of water.
Don’t forget to pack some sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat as well. It’s not a bad idea to pack a light jacket, either, especially if you’re going on an airboat tour.
In the winter months, you should wear pants and bring a thicker jacket. In general, it’s a good idea to wear light clothing and just put on a few layers if it’s a bit colder.
Whichever type of tour you go on, bring along some bug spray. There are definitely bugs in the New Orleans swamp and you don’t want them ruining your tour!
You’ll probably want to document this awesome experience, but make sure your device is protected. That means taking some kind of waterproof bag for your phone or just bringing a waterproof camera with you.
One thing you should definitely leave behind is any expensive jewelry. If you drop it in the swamp there’s a good chance that you’re not going to find it.
How to See the Swamp (Types of Tours)
Now that you know a bit about what to expect, let’s take a look at the different kinds of swamp tours in New Orleans that you can choose from:
1. By Swamp Boat
Taking a swamp boat tour is a classic Louisiana experience. This is an easy and affordable option for a swamp tour in New Orleans. It’s possible to arrange a boat tour that includes hotel pick-up for around $40 (click here for details).
Most swamp boats hold between 20-30 people. A lot of the companies also have smaller boats that they use for private swamp tours, but these are obviously a bit more expensive.
They move through the swamp at a leisurely pace, which is great for wildlife spotting. Along the way, you’ll learn all about the environment and its inhabitants from your guide.
2. By Airboat
If you’re in search of a more exhilarating adventure, you can opt for an airboat swamp tour in New Orleans. These boats are propelled by a huge fan on the back and they can get cruising over 35 mph (53km)!
In addition to higher speeds, the airboats can also access areas of the swamp where the traditional boats can’t. Thanks to their smaller size, they can venture deeper into the swamp.
Airboats usually seat between 10-15 people. Taking an airboat tour with hotel pick-up typically runs about $75. You also have the option of paying a bit more to go on a smaller boat. Click here for more details.
While these tours are definitely a lot of fun, they’re not recommended for everyone. Pregnant women and very young children shouldn’t go on airboat tours. It’s also not a good idea if you have any back or neck issues.
3. By Canoe/Kayak
A great option for taking a swamp tour in New Orleans while getting some exercise is by paddling a canoe or kayak. This allows you to get deeper into the swamps and bayous than any of the boat tours.
Canoe and kayak tours typically have between 2-10 people. These fun tours of the New Orleans swamp usually run 2-3 hours and are both fun and educational. You’ll need to be relatively fit and be ready to get up close with the animals!
Going on a canoe or kayak tour costs a bit more than going by swamp boat, but less than the airboat. The experience is very peaceful and is a great way to have a more personal experience. Typical prices are around $75 per person. Find out more here.
4. Going Hiking
If you have your own wheels, you can always explore the swampland around New Orleans on foot. Just head to the Barataria Preserve that’s located in the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.
There’s a Visitor Center at the preserve where you can check out an exhibit about the swamp and pick up a map to go on a self-guided tour. You can read all about the different trail options on their website.
They also have free walking tours given by a ranger at 10 AM from Wednesday to Sunday. This is the perfect option for those looking to fit in a swamp tour in New Orleans on a budget.
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A more unique and exhilarating way to explore the swamp is to join a ziplining tour. You’ll be suspended above the swamp while admiring the animals and the panoramic views.
You’ll get to zip along 5 different lines and cross 2 suspension bridges. Plus, you’ll be learning about the swamp from your guide, with a chance to spot turtles, alligators, boar, snakes, deer, raccoons, opossums, armadillos, and birds such as egrets and herons.
This is an adventurous way to see the New Orleans swamp! Click here for more details.