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5 Best Plantations in Louisiana: the River Road and Beyond

5 Best Plantations in Louisiana: the River Road and Beyond | CosmosMariners.com

Beignets, alligators, the French Quarter, and historic houses: these are typically what you'll find at the top of most visitors' Louisiana itineraries. Even if you only have a few days to explore New Orleans and beyond, the chances that you'll end up at a plantation are pretty high.

But with all of the options--and the history, both good and bad--which of the state's many sprawling properties should you visit?

I've done the hard work for you and have explored all over the Pelican State to find the 5 best plantations in Louisiana. Make the most of your time along the River Road and beyond as you learn about Southern history at these properties.


Why are these the best plantations in Louisiana?

Before we delve into the specifics of the list, it's worth asking why we should focus on antebellum Southern history in the first place.

After all, it's been over 150 years since the heyday of the Southern plantations--and they're still some of the most popular sites to visit below the Mason-Dixon line. Why?

Maybe it's because they're the closest thing we've got to the castles of Europe.

Maybe it's because we want to remember the history of slavery so we never repeat it again.

Maybe it's because we're still amazed that people could have that much money to own such massive parcels of land.

No matter the reason, plantations are big business in the South. I, for one, am amazed by the history that can be found on these plots--from the oral traditions and basketry skills of the slaves to the political machinations of the plantation owners, I want to better understand the people who lived here and made this slice of Southern life possible for over one hundred years.

So, for each of these plantations, I looked at how many different stories were told at the properties:
- Was the narrative just of the typical wealthy white male owner, or were there stories of the enslaved people and the white women who lived there as well?

- Was there a balance in narrative between the antebellum period, the Reconstruction, and modern restoration?

- Was there a focus on history as well as architecture?

- And, was there something specific about this property that made it stand out from the others?

Ultimately, I am quite happy with the list that I've compiled. Not only are these properties well kept and beautiful, but they do an excellent job of telling more than 300 years of history alongside the modern day interpretation of what a historic property such as these should be and do.

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1) Houmas House


5 Best Plantations in Louisiana: the River Road and Beyond | CosmosMariners.com
A view from Houmas House down to the restaurant (left) and the garçonnière (fancy bachelor pad on the right)
At its peak in the late 1800s, Houmas House produced over 20 million pounds of sugar a year (!!!). Only a few decades later, the Great Depression hit and caused the family who owned it to board the place up. A new owner took over in 1940, and over renovations inside and out, he opened the house and grounds to the public in the early 1960s.

The most recent owner, Kevin Kelly, bought to property in 2003 and has expanded the plantation's offerings to include a massive garden, restaurant, and inn.

2) Laura Plantation


5 Best Plantations in Louisiana: the River Road and Beyond | CosmosMariners.com

Built in 1805, this Creole plantation is only one of fifteen in existence with this particular building style. This plantation was particularly interesting to me since it is 1) named after a woman, Laura Locoul Gore, and 2) was run by that same woman during its heyday. Most of what is known about the plantation comes from Laura's journals.

It is rare to come across a plantation that focuses so completely on a female owner and operator, and thus, Laura Plantation is an excellent foil to the narratives that you'll see at many other Southern plantations.

The Brer Rabbit folk tales were collected by Norman Marmillion, a preservationist who saw the value in recording the oral tales brought to America from Senegal by the slaves. During his time finding and recording these stories, Marmillion spent a significant time at Laura Plantation, and, because of this, the plantation is considered to be one of the birthplaces of the Brer Rabbit tales.

Additionally, the tour at Laura Plantation includes a walk through of one of the slave homes, and it is heartbreaking to see how little they were given in order to eke out a life.

3) Rosedown Plantation


5 Best Plantations in Louisiana: the River Road and Beyond | CosmosMariners.com
My sister and I at Rosedown Plantation during our visit a few years back.

From a purely architectural view, this plantation house is stunning, and it's clear why it makes the list of best plantations in Louisiana. It's all white clapboard and hand carved spindles and huge porches.

Agriculturally, this property is also unusual. Unlike the other plantations on this list, Rosedown's crop of choice was cotton. The original owners' descendants decided to sell the entire property in the mid-1900s, and an avid gardener named Catherine Fondren Underwood bought it. Underwood revitalized the gardens to their former beauty using heirloom seeds and cuttings.

Today, the property is preserved in a state park. Strangely, one of the things that I remember from the tour that we took on our visit was that Rosedown has built in closets, something that was nearly unheard of during the early 1900s. Most people kept their clothes in wardrobes or trunks.



4) Oak Alley Plantation


5 Best Plantations in Louisiana: the River Road and Beyond | CosmosMariners.com

One of the most iconic of the historic mansions along the River Road, Oak Alley continually tops lists of the best plantations in Louisiana--and for good reason.

Also a sugar plantation on River Road, Oak Alley fell into disrepair after the Civil War and passed through many hands before Andrew and Josephine Stewart bought it in 1926. Because of their restoration efforts (the first of the major restoration projects in this area), the plantation remains in the excellent condition that it is today. After Josephine died, the entire plantation went into a trust so that the property would remain open to visitors.

As a pop culture aside, there have been SO many things filmed at Oak Alley, the most well-known of which is a portion of Interview with a Vampire. More recently, Beyonce chose this plantation to shoot both her "Deja Vue" video and photo inserts for the "B'day" album.

5) Myrtles Plantation


5 Best Plantations in Louisiana: the River Road and Beyond | CosmosMariners.com
One of the Myrtles' main advertising tactics is to focus on the supposed hauntings. While I'm certainly not here to refute or support that claim, I can tell you that this place just feels creepy. Dating from the late 1700s, Myrtles was built by "Whisky Dave"--and you know the place is exciting just because of that guy's name. In the mid-1800s, the house exchanged hands; these new owners put in specially etched glass with crosses in it in order to ward off the evil that was in the house.

Most recently, the ghost of Chloe, a former house servant, has taken center stage with her appearance in a 1992 photograph. For those brave enough, the Myrtles Plantation also serves as bed and breakfast.

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Have you visited any plantations, either in Louisiana or elsewhere across the South? What do you think are the best plantations in Louisiana?

Check out these other great posts about Louisiana!

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5 Best Plantations in Louisiana: the River Road and Beyond | CosmosMariners.com

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