Creole_trailLiving in the Sacramento area we were so excited to explore the beauty of the bayous on our recent family vacation to Louisiana and Florida. Upon arriving in Sulphur, Louisiana we toured the Lake Charles area known as the Festival Capital of Louisiana where the kids and I enjoyed the locals’ favorite eatery Steamboat Bills for crawfish pistolette, stuffed shrimp and crab, catfish and slaw. Talk about a fun, boisterous, and packed local joint. A great place for traveling families to stay is the Lake Charles Isle of Capri Casino.

Family Vacation On the Creole Nature Trail

The next day we discovered the thrill of crabbing with the locals on the beautiful bayous of the Blue Crab Recreation Area. The kids caught a generous lot of crab using chicken necks on a string—easy tackle set up!! We sampled the famous local boudin and the flavors were amazing. Locals pick the stuff up at small eateries and even convenience stores along the trail. The stuff was nothing less than addicting, with each region having their own unique style and flavor of boudin.

After crabbing we visited the Wetlands Walkway in the Sabine Refuge and went shelling at Holly Beach on the Gulf of Mexico, finally taking a ferry to Cameron. There we enjoyed the Cameron Prairie Refuge and Pintail Wildlife Drive where we spied dozens of alligators in the wild, sitting in the bayous. We saw numerous turtles and beautiful birds in the wetlands as well.

We continued to drive a huge portion of the Creole Nature Trail, encompassing about 180 miles of spectacular world famous wildlife habitats and estuaries. This “Last Great Wilderness” and National Scenic Byway has been named an All American Road and offers an amazing chance to journey through a uniquely wild Louisiana terrain. After seeing lots of wild alligators, we were ready for a mess of crawfish at Hollier’s Cajun Kitchen—the happening local spot. This is spicy at its finest.

Starting out early, we left Sulphur, crossed the Mississippi and continued into Baton Rouge and finally into New Orleans. For the ultimate fun brunch we indulged in a sumptuous dining experience at world famous Brennan’s Restaurant in the French Quarter, for a four-course meal. The kids loved the turtle soup. It was excellent as were the entrees and we savored the desserts like crepes and bananas foster which were prepared by tuxedo-donning waiters, table side.

Leaving New Orleans, we crossed through Mississippi, and Alabama, finally arriving in St. Augustine, the country’s oldest and perhaps most charming city founded in 1564.

St. Augustine is Another Perfect Family Vacation Spot

After resting up at the gorgeous Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront, we headed off to the oldest street in the USA, to a 300+ year old Spanish hospital, and to climb the St. Augustine Lighthouse—all 219+ steps up and down! What a view from the top!

Creole_Nature_Trail_2St. Augustine has transportation down to a science with Old Town Trolley Tours, beach buses, and various other modes included.

We loved the 100+ year old Alligator Farm with dozens of gator species and nesting exotic birds. We watched the crews feed the gators huge frozen rats, a sight not easily forgotten. Later we went to the Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the oldest schoolhouse in the USA, and finally we ate alligator (go figure), pasta, and award-winning conch chowder on the beach at a fabulous restaurant called South Beach Grill. The coastal views from this eatery were spectacular as we watched the sunset from our patio table in the sand.

A drive to Anastasia Island on A1A South to Marineland’s Dolphin Conservation Center, proved fabulous and we had an amazing dolphin experience where the trainers let us feed and play with Nellie, a 56 year-old dolphin and the oldest ever in captivity. She was simply wonderful. We went swimming at the nearby, pristine beaches afterwards.

St. Augustine was absolutely spectacular and we thoroughly enjoyed our grande finale dinner at the amazing Columbia Restaurant, a long time favorite for exquisite Spanish food with tantalizing flavors and presentations. Afterwards we went to an amazing dessert bistro owned by 5th generation French Chef Jean Stephane Poinard and his talented wife Valerie. Bistro De Leon serves truly phenomenal desserts beyond explanation.

On our last day in St. Augustine we visited some nature reserves and swam at gorgeous Anastasia State Park. Walking the beach, we hunted for fossilized shark teeth at local beaches and then took a scenic boat cruise around the bay looking back from the water, at both our hotel and the lighthouse we had climbed just days before. Our only regret about St. Augustine was lack of time. With countless museums, historical points of interest, tours, golf, shopping, coastal water sports and activities, it really has so much to offer that less than a week does not do justice.

(carriage photo courtesy of St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and The Beaches )