Over on the east side of St. Tammany Parish, in the Slidell and Pearl River area, there are several operators that conduct tours in flat bottomed boats of the Honey Island Swamp, with entertaining captains who double as naturalists and give insight into the ecosystem and the flora and fauna that live there. The Honey Island Swamp tours are a great way to see alligators in the wild, as well as boar, raccoons, and numerous bird species. Insta-gator Ranch and Hatchery in Covington is a working alligator ranch where you can touch, hold, even hatch (during hatching season) alligators and learn about the alligator industry and the iconic Louisiana reptile. Global Wildlife Center in Folsom is home to thousands of free-roaming animals from all over the world, and families love to take the safari tours where they can feed the animals and learn about their habits and habitat. Wiggling a camel’s hump and getting eye to eye with giraffes are amazing experiences. The wild and wacky Abita Mystery House in Abita Springs is an eccentric collection of outsider art, dioramas, animals like Buford the Bassigator and Darrel the Dogigator, and kids love to marvel at its wackiness.
With miles and miles of bayous, rivers, and swamps, not to mention the glittering jewel of Lake Pontchartrain, there are countless opportunities to paddle, whether it’s kayaking down Cane Bayou in Mandeville with Bayou Adventure or Canoe and Trail Adventures or stand up paddle boarding down the Bogue Falaya River thanks to a rental from Brooks Bike Shop. Launch sites abound if you have your own gear. The 31-mile Tammany Trace is a scenic way to pedal through the Northshore. The state’s first rails-to trails conversion, it ribbons through green spaces, pine forests and over bridges, and connects five communities. Charter captains in Slidell can help you catch your limit and a good time of speckled trout, redfish, and flounder.
Shoppers love browsing through antiques and boutiques in the historic districts of Slidell and Covington, or down Girod Street in Old Mandeville. The Northshore is an artist’s haven, and there are plenty of galleries showcasing local art. Many art markets are held throughout the year in Northshore towns and communities.
The sweet sounds of music abound on the Northshore. The community trailheads in Mandeville and Covington are host to many concert series in the fall and spring, as is Pontchartrain Vineyards, Columbia Street Landing, and Heritage Park in Slidell. The Dew Drop Jazz Hall, built in 1895, is the oldest unaltered jazz hall in the world, and guarded by ancient moss-draped oak trees not far from Mandeville’s lakefront. The Abita Opry plays Louisiana roots music at the town hall; its wooden floors and pecky cypress-lined walls create an acoustically satisfying setting.