Technically, Lake Pontchartrain is not a lake at all; it’s an estuary that flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Whatever its official designation, it makes a fun day trip from the city of New Orleans, whether for a fishing excursion, pleasure cruise, airboat swamp tour, or a shoreline picnic.
There are also a number of lakeside beaches open to the public, including Fontainebleau State Park on the North Shore. The North Shore is accessible by a 24-mile (39-kilometer) causeway (one of the longest bridges in the world), which connects the shoreline communities with downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter.
Things to Know Before You Go
For a great photo opportunity, drive across the causeway at sunset when the lake reflects the colors in the sky to impressive effect.
There’s a pleasant running/walking path that follows the route of Lakeshore Drive past the University of New Orleans.
If you drive across the causeway, stop off for a bite to eat at one of the pretty lakeside restaurants in the town of Madisonville along the North Shore.
Lake Pontchartrain is somewhat accessible for wheelchair users, with a few ADA-compliant hiking trails nearby.
How to Get There
Lake Pontchartrain sits to the north of New Orleans city. Most people access the lake via I-610, using the West End exit. From there a scenic road—Lakeshore Drive—hugs the shore through the Metairie district and is ideal for a sightseeing drive. To reach the North Shore, take the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway.
When to Get There
Lake Pontchartrain is publicly accessible at all times. The shoreline beaches are busier on weekends when local families come to enjoy picnics.
Exploring the Bayou
Many New Orleans visitors first glimpse the lake on the way to explore the region’s swamps and bayous. From airboat swamp tours to kayaking and more, bayous are an essential part of Louisiana life, and each one is home to an incredibly diverse ecosystem. On a bayou visit, you might see alligators, many types of birds, nutria (large rodents a similar to groundhogs), and the famous stands of cypress trees covered with low-hanging Spanish moss.
- New Canal Lighthouse
- New Orleans City Park
- Louisiana Children's Museum (LCM)
- New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA)
- Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden
- Longue Vue House and Gardens
- Degas House
- Backstreet Cultural Museum
- St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
- Louis Armstrong Park
- Frenchmen Street
- Faubourg Marigny
- LaLaurie Mansion
- Beauregard-Keyes House
- New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum