Boat tours in New Orleans: Everything you need to know
You could probably come up with some popular songs and works of American literature in which the Mississippi river was the setting (and sometimes the character). While in New Orleans, don’t miss your chance to cruise down the second largest river in the United States. See the city from a typical paddlewheeler and discover what inspired Mark Twain or Johnny Cash on a New Orleans river cruise.
Sightseeing boat tours in New Orleans
Whether you’re a first-timer or a returning visitor, embark on the ultimate sightseeing experience in New Orleans. Board a genuine steamboat and cruise down the Mississippi River. See the French Quarter from the river on this two-hour cruise to the sounds of Jazz. This activity includes live narration, so you’ll learn all there is to know about the Big Easy.
For a well-rounded NOLA experience, add the Creole lunch option to your river cruise. Feast on local delicacies like the chicken and sausage gumbo, green beans almondine, and white chocolate bread pudding.
New Orleans dinner and cocktail cruises
If you don’t feel like checking out the party scene on Bourbon Street, take the New Orleans’ night in on a dinner cruise. Aboard the Creole Queen, a typical Mississippi paddlewheeler boat, enjoy Creole cuisine while listening to the resident Jazz band.
Head to the promenade deck for a cocktail and raise a glass to historic Jackson Square. Or, if you feel like it, there’s still time to dance after dinner on this two-hour cruise.
Choose a dinner cruise aboard the Steamboat Natchez if you prefer the option to eat outdoors. You’ll also listen to the sounds of Dixieland-style Jazz as the city's skyline unfolds before your eyes.
New Orleans bayou boat tours
Home of alligators and other swamp species, the bayous in the Mississippi River Delta are must-sees if you’re interested in visiting beyond New Orleans. You can choose from many swamp boats tours. All of them allow travelers to get close (but not too close!) to local bayou residents.
If you’re visiting on a tight schedule, choose a guided tour that takes you to the bayou at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Reserve. This is the closest swamp to downtown, so you’ll get there in about 25 minutes. For convenience, the tour includes pick up and drop off at your hotel.
After spotting the bayou wildlife with an experienced local guide, travelers can enjoy a Cajun lunch at a local restaurant.
If you’re staying for a few days and want to combine two-day trips into one, choose a swamp tour that includes visits to former plantations. You can choose, for example, The Oak Alley and swamp tour boat combo, a one-day tour with pick up and drop off included. You get to visit the plantation in the morning and take the swamp tour in the afternoon.
New Orleans airboat tours
Want to travel to places in the bayou that other boats can’t reach, and you don’t mind a little speed? Consider an airboat tour. These fast boats with a giant fan in the back can reach smaller canals that bigger riverboats can't. Some boats take small groups of up to six people, while others can accommodate close to 30 passengers. Choose tours on smaller airboats if you'd like a more personal experience. Follow the tips of your local guide to spot Flour and Sugar, the bayou's albino alligators. In addition to the bayou’s most famous residents, peel your eyes for turtles, frogs, raccoons, cranes, and wild pigs.
Good tips and things to know for New Orleans boat tours
- Check if the boat company allows passengers to bring food and drinks from outside. Do so especially if you’re not planning to eat aboard one of the cruises with optional lunch or dinner.
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, appropriate for traveling on a boat. Prepare for splashes on open boats. If you’re opting for an airboat tour, choose one that provides hearing protection.
- If you’re traveling with small children, look for a boat with onboard bathroom facilities for convenience.
- For travelers choosing a swamp tour, follow the local guide’s recommendations when it comes to feeding or approaching the resident wildlife.