Moving into the early summer, everyone is craving a refreshing surge of energy by spending time in the great outdoors and soaking in a healthy amount of sunshine. The Lake Charles area is lush with outdoor offerings and natural habitats found along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, a driving trail spanning 180 miles, including Gulf beaches, wildlife refuges, and plenty of wide-open spaces to enjoy a quick getaway to recharge in nature—maybe even catch a fish or two.
Driving along the western leg of the national scenic byway, travelers will first come to the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge with the Wetland Walkway as a winding path over Louisiana’s abundant marshlands that are teeming with wildlife, including the American Alligator, birds, gossamer-winged dragonflies, colorful flora, and an overlook area, perfect for photos. Continuing along the western gateway, Gulf breezes start to sweep in with the faint hint of saltwater in the air.
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Many of the Gulf beaches in Southwest Louisiana are rich with seashells, and the sand is reminiscent of brown sugar and rich in nutrients since these Gulf beaches are near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Largely unoccupied, it’s possible to set up a beach chair, umbrella, and enjoy a picnic lunch without seeing a soul while hearing the surf crash against the shore. Walking along the miles of unspoiled beaches, beachcombers can watch shorebirds splash along the surf or delight at the flowers or blackberry bushes that line the dunes.
Traveling back up the eastern side of the trail, the Pintail Wildlife Drive and Boardwalk found in the Cameron Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, both offer a vantage point like no other for the chance to see the American Alligator, sunning itself in nearby waterways. The boardwalk at Pintail Wildlife Drive wraps in a loop where photographers can capture Mother Nature at her finest including breathtaking sunrises and sunsets, bathed in buttery hues of gold and orange.
Spending time in Lake Charles proper, the Charpentier Historic District offers a unique perspective on Lake Charles’s past, when the lumber barons and carpenters settled the area in the late 1800s. Lake Charles is regarded as the capital of the Western Louisiana pine lands, which fueled a lumber boom in the 1800s, impacting much of the city’s architecture when experienced lumbermen from the North, known locally as “Michigan Men,” arrived in Lake Charles. They brought with them the tall and angular style of construction that mirrored the Victorian tastes popular in most of America at the time. A variety of tours can be experienced through the free Lake Charles Historic District app, including an eerie ghost tour.
Lake Charles is also described as a blend of contrasts from outdoor opportunities to sight-see and spend a day fishing or crabbing, but it is also home to luxurious surroundings of area casino resorts. Summer months offer up lazy rivers with swim-up bars, lakeside beaches, and delicious world-class dining. People can experience the convenience of two world-class casino resorts side-by-side—the Golden Nugget Lake Charles and L’Auberge Casino Resort. Nearby, the Isle of Capri Casino Hotel and Delta Downs Racetrack Casino Hotel both offer exquisite dining and entertainment options along with a side of Southern hospitality!
While in the area, explore a taste of downtown Lake Charles where unbeatable dining from award-winning chefs add to one-of-a-kind experiences since the vast majority of the establishments are locally owned. Other culinary adventures may lead travelers to Crying Eagle Brewing Company on the south side of town to taste seasonal brews that are on tap along with new, delicious menu choices at The Bistro. Other stops along the Southwest Louisiana Brewery Trail include Yellowfin Vodka in Sulphur as well as Acadian Coffee Roasters and Bayou Rum Distillery near Iowa. Bayou Rum features a gift shop, walking tours, an event space, as well as a coffee shop on site that sells Acadian Coffee Roasters brews. Many of the local products are also served in restaurants and hot spots throughout Southwest Louisiana.
Last, while visiting the area, you have to try—boudin! This must-taste culinary treat is made of varying amounts of pork meat, liver, rice, onions, parsley, and dry seasonings like salt, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic powder. Make no mistake—it’s a crowd favorite! The Southwest Louisiana Boudin Trail includes stops throughout the parish, so no matter where you are, you are bound to be near a delicious piece of boudin.
For more information on adventures to be had in Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana, #VisitLakeCharles, and #LouisianasPlayground, log onto www.visitlakecharles.org.