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New Orleans is a city for dancing, imbibing, and eating delicious food, but RV camping rarely tops the list of things to do in the Big Easy. But while the French Quarter might be crowded with revelers, you need only drive a little ways outside the city to experience the tranquility of southern Louisiana’s swamplands.
Case in point is Fontainebleau State Park Campground, a 40-minute drive from New Orleans across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway that feels like it’s in a completely different state. Gone are the bright lights and loud music, replaced with sandy beaches, wily gators, and tasty Cajun dishes. This pet-friendly campground near Lake Pontchartrain has some excellent amenities, too, while keeping things rustic enough for the motorhome camping traveler who wants to appreciate the natural surroundings.
Some of the sites come equipped with full hookups including 50 amp electrical capacity; others have just water and electrical hookups, but there are two dump stations near the edge of the RV campground for emptying your tanks. There are also showers and laundry facilities so you can keep yourself and all your clothes clean while camping with an RV.
Fontainebleau State Park has an excellent network of trails running the wetlands adjacent to Lake Pontchartrain, too, providing outdoor fun without even needing to leave the campground. The beautiful cypress trees lining the water are a popular spot for wedding photography; so don’t be surprised if you see a few people dressed to the nines while you’re there.
The swamps surrounding Lake Pontchartrain are fascinating places for outdoor adventure too. Only the Everglades are comparable in size to these massive wetlands, and the biodiversity is unrivaled. If you’re interested in learning more about the swamp on this side of Lake Pontchartrain, check out the Northlake Nature Center just down from the campground. A series of wooden boardwalks meander through the swamp to visit some of the area’s more prominent species of trees, flowers, and wildlife. Dogs are permitted on the trail, so feel free to bring your four-legged pal on this adventure.
To really get into the swamp though, you’ll need transportation. The easy method is to take an airboat tour from one of the shops near the Mississippi border. Whipping around the swamp is great fun, and you’ll see a lot in just a couple of hours, but to see any wildlife up close, it’s better to rent a kayak or sign up for a paddling tour. Almost silently moving through the water, you can get within a few feet of a massive gator or a flock of waterfowl.
Cruising around the swamplands isn’t for everyone, though, and if you’re hoping for a dry land expedition while renting an RV, you don’t need to go very far. The 31-mile-long Tammany Trace rail trail leaves from Mandeville going east towards Slidell. It’s an excellent spot for running, cycling (rentals are available in Mandeville), or just a stroll with the dogs.
Mandeville is just a ten-minute drive away when you’re RV camping at Fontainebleau State Park. It’s a pretty lively little town, given its distance from the Big Easy, with dozens of great restaurants (try the Po-Boy sandwiches or seafood gumbo), a couple of microbreweries, and even a small community theater company. If you bring the kids along when you book an RV in St. Tammany Parish, you’ll want to check out the Children’s Museum of St. Tammany. It’s loaded with interactive exhibits ranging from climbing walls to kitchens to musical instruments; it’s all about play and learning through having fun.
Thanks to nearby Interstate 12, Interstate 10 in New Orleans, and the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, getting around the lake region is a breeze. So it’s definitely worth it to take a few road trips when you have a campsite at Fontainebleau Campground. Unlike a lot of cities popular with tourists, New Orleans doesn’t have too much of a parking problem, that is, unless you’re trying to visit the French Quarter during Mardi Gras. Speaking of which, check out Mardi Gras World, which provides a look behind the curtain to see how all the impressive floats are constructed and the history of some of New Orleans’ most famous Mardi Gras krewes.
You could also hop on one of the plantation tours leaving from New Orleans to explore the opulent homes and infamous history of some of Louisiana’s antebellum farmers. While many tourists choose to visit the Oak Alley Plantation, which has been featured in a number of movies, TV shows, and music videos, you might also consider seeing the Whitney Plantation, which tells a more comprehensive story regarding the slaves who worked in the fields and in its home.