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J Smilanic | 06.03.2019

Lake Charles is found near the heart of what’s affectionately known as "Louisiana’s Outback”—one of America’s last great wetland wildernesses. An ideal home base for exploring the array of wildlife, waterways and one of America's national scenic byways referred to as the Creole Nature Trail in southwest Louisiana, there are countless adventures awaiting exploration within a stone's throw of Lake Charles. Notable landscape features of the area consists mostly of lakes, rivers, and bayous. Whether paddling in what feels like untouched nature in the middle of the city or wildlife viewing near the outskirts of town, it’s easy to fill a weekend packed with unexpected adventure in Lake Charles. 


Lake Area Adventures leads paddles on the bayou, a great way to orient yourself to the Louisiana Outback. J Smilanic.

Day 1

Early Morning

Start your day with a guided kayaking trip with Lake Area Adventures. The amazing guides at Lake Area Adventures offer their clients several kayaking options in the Lake Charles area but we recommend doing the West Fork of the Calcasieu River trip. Your best bet at seeing some wildlife and having the river to yourself involves getting up early and getting out there as close to sunrise as possible! Plus, Lake Area Adventures offers the opportunity to rent paddle boats—which we highly recommend once you've oriented yourself to the waters around Lake Charles.


If you visit this area between the months of March and October, it’s very likely you’ve worked up a sweat paddling a kayak around southwestern Louisiana. Cool yourself off by visiting North Beach in downtown Lake Charles. Dip your feet in the water and play with the sand between your toes. North Beach is the only white sand beach between Texas and Florida. It also happens to be a great spot for eating lunch under one of the many covered picnic areas. After lunch we suggest taking a stroll east along the pathway that follows the shoreline to the Lake Charles visitor center, just a short walk from the beach. Here you can get a wealth of information on the area. Just next door to the visitor center is a small enclosure that’s home to a handful of alligators, turtles, and fish. This is a fun little spot to bring the children!


During the afternoon hours head north of town to Holbrook Park. Explore the park's lake and river edge setting. If equipped with your own kayak or SUP there are opportunities for paddling on the West Fork of the Calcadieu River. Head back to Lake Charles for the evening or if camping for the night, Holbrook Park is only 30 minutes  offers both RV camping and tent camping. You can expect the same sort of amenities here that you’d find at state parks, including bathrooms with showers, a playground, and several covered picnic areas. 


A playful splash park on the Lakefront Promenade on the western shores of Lake Charles. J Smilanic.

Day 2


Head south along the Creole Nature Trail, one of America's National Scenic Byways, and enjoy a morning walk taking in nature and wildlife found in Sabine National Wildlife Refuge. The Wetland Walkway is a short walk with numerous opportunities to spot wildlife, like migratory birds, turtles, and alligators. Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is located within one of Louisiana's most scenic wilderness areas. Once you've had your wildlife fill, head down the road to Holly and Rutherford beaches. Both are fantastic spots to soak in the Gulf shore and sink your toes into the sand.


After a morning exploring Louisiana's outback, head back north toward Lake Charles to Prien Lake Park for more paddling. If you need a rental, take advantage of Lake Area Adventure's rates, which start at $35 for two hours. For an additional fee, Lake Area Adventures will deliver to you, so you can dip a paddle into the water without having to worry about transporting a watercraft. This park is gorgeous and might be the best spot in town to have a picnic. There’s a boat ramp at the southwest corner of the park for kayakers and paddleboarders. You can head south through the narrow canals that wander through residential neighborhoods or head north into the open waters of the lake, depending on how windy it might be.


Soak up your evening in Lake Charles by taking a bike ride through Lakefront Promenade, a public waterfront park that wraps around the western shores of Lake Charles. Just about 10 minutes northeast of Prien Lake Park, the promenade is a truly beautiful way to experience the lake. The landscaping is immaculate and the pathway is nice and wide. There is much to experience here, so give yourself some time to explore and take photos. Treat yourself to a nice dinner in downtown Lake Charles at one of the many restaurants just blocks away from the Lakefront Promenade.


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Alligators, Monarch butterflies, 400 species of birds, walking trails and natural, Gulf beaches - you can truly surround yourself in nature in Southwest Louisiana along the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road. After experiencing the great outdoors, you can enjoy the food, culture, music and art that Louisiana is known for the world over – in just a short drive to Lake Charles, LA.

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