Health + Fitness

Nautical NOLA: Where to Sail, Drift or Cast Off in the Big Easy

Paddleboats in City Park’s Big Lake (Photo: Joshua Brasted)

Embraced by the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans seems to be built more on water than land, thanks to its winding bayous and canals. The Big Easy offers plenty enough to do on solid ground, but don’t miss your chance to enjoy getting your feet wet in NOLA life with these water-based adventures.

Make a Splash in City Park

Pedaling isn’t just for bikes anymore! Get off the grass and take a spin on one of City Park Big Lake’s iconic pedal boats (or paddleboats, as they’re often called). Great for sharing an afternoon with the family or your sweetie, these self-propelled boat rides have been enjoyed by New Orleans locals for generations.

Don’t feel like doing the work? NOLA Gondola will lend a gondolier to pole you through the park’s streams and lagoons instead.

Kayak Down the Bayous

If you just can’t get enough of exploring New Orleans, shove off shore and launch a kayak trek through Bayou St. John, one of the major waterways that shape the city. Local companies such as Bayou Paddlesports and Kayakit offer rentals and tours of varying length and difficulty. Seize this opportunity for some leisurely exploration — or for a great chance to work in some exercise — without missing out on the sights.

Paddle into the heart of the city through historic neighborhoods, or discover the natural beauty quietly waiting to be discovered near the shores of the lake.

Drop a Line Into Lake Pontchartrain

Don’t just settle for dining on fresh fish at New Orleans’ famous restaurants — go out there and catch some yourself! Find out why Louisiana is called Sportsman’s Paradise when you try your luck on the restless waters of the enormous Lake Pontchartrain, just north of the city.

Cast your hook off one of the several fishing piers open on both the north and south shores of the lake, or charter a boat and let local experts help you sniff out the best chances to hook some of the legendary speckled trout.

Cruise the River, Old-World Style

The antique charm of the paddlewheel boats that once glided down the mighty Mississippi River can still be found along the banks of New Orleans for you to enjoy. The Steamboat Natchez offers daily opportunities to view the twinkling lights and lively pulse of the city along the shoreline with a dinner cruise, or you can shake off the dregs of your Saturday night with a Sunday brunch ride down the river instead.

For history buffs, the Creole Queen offers a detailed tour including tales of the old French Quarter and a visit to the Chalmette Battlefield, site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. All aboard!