Content Produced in Partnership with Visit Lake Charles

Water is a way of life for Lake Charles, Louisiana. Located less than 50 miles from the Gulf Coast and surrounded on all sides by gorgeous marshland and lakefront, this southwestern city is a playground for wildlife enthusiasts and explorers of all ages. Whether you’re dreaming of a morning out on the water watching the marsh come to life or a quiet afternoon biking the lakefront, there’s an adventure for you in Lake Charles.

Photo by Corinne Edmiston

Sunrise Marsh Tour with Grosse Savanne Eco Tours

We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: You can’t visit Louisiana without taking a swamp tour or, in Lake Charles’ case, a marsh tour. More than 400 species of birds migrate through southwest Louisiana, making it one of the top-ranked areas in the United States for birdwatching. Situated along the Creole Nature Trail, Grosse Savanne Eco Tours offers an up close view at the birds and other wildlife that call the more than 50,000 acres of protected land home. Their expert guides will navigate you through the waters both literally and figuratively as they explain the migration routes of the wildlife, identify flora and fauna, and give an overview of the marshland as a whole. For the best photo opportunities, opt for a sunrise or sunset tour when the birds are flying into and out of the swamp and the alligators are, typically, at their most active.

American Alligator Photo by ilouque via Flickr Creative Commons

Pintail Wildlife Drive

Located on the East Side of the Creole Nature Trail just a short drive away from the Lake Charles Visitor Center, the three-mile loop of the Pintail Wildlife Drive is ideal to watch alligators resting, sunning, and possibly feeding throughout the year. While August and September are prime time for spotting baby alligators just after they’ve hatched, you’re likely to see several alligator if you drive slow and keep your eyes peeled just after the first “corner” of the drive where the alligators have the most marshland to explore at their leisure. If you want to get out of your car, stop at the half-mile raised boardwalk over the freshwater marsh. Remember to give all animals their space, to never feed a wild animal and to always treat them with respect.

Photo courtesy Lake Charles Tourism

Carriage Ride through Historic Downtown

Sure, you could walk downtown and explore the historical homes, but the better option is to give your legs a break and learn from the experts at Lake Charles Carriages. Perfect for families, couples, or solo travelers, the locally owned and operated company specializes in downtown history tours, offering up tidbits and stories about the historic homes and their occupants along the way. If you’re interested, book early as the tours sell out quickly.

Photo courtesy Lake Charles Tourism

Bike the Lakefront

There are several places where you can enjoy the waterways of southwest Louisiana, but our favorite way is by biking the Lakefront Promenade with rentals from Lake City Board and Bike. Close to downtown and the Civic Center, Lakefront Promenade also features a full-service marina, local memorials, and a children’s playground. If you feel like you want to stretch your legs a bit further, head over to Sam Houston State Park to enjoy the boardwalk and the Cypress trees.

Photo by Lindsey Janies via Lake Charles Tourism

Fishing and Crabbing with the Locals

In an area that lives and breathes by the ebb and flow of the coastal waterways, it should come as no surprise that nearly every local is experienced in fishing or crabbing. Redfish, a fish native specifically to Louisiana, and blue crab inhabit most of the waterways, which explains why nearly every restaurant, features them on their menus in some way, shape or form. You can pick up supplies from a basic bait and tackle shop — where residents will be more than eager to offer their help — before heading out to try your luck. If you plan to fish, you can stick around Lake Charles’ lakefront properties. If you’d prefer to go crabbing, you’ll want to stick to areas along the Creole Nature Trail. Who knows? If you play your cards right, you could come home with a seafood dinner fit for a king.