Here’s why this is on everyone’s list when they’re visiting New Orleans.
So you’re prepping for your first vacay of 2022: a trip to New Orleans, the most unique city in the U.S. Congratulations, because you’ve chosen one of the most vibrant destinations in the world.
You’ve probably already got a long list of restaurant reservations and walking tours lined up. You’re trying to make enough time throughout your visit to take in the scent of freshly-baked beignets at Cafe Du Monde, hear the joyous notes of a saxophone filter through the open doors along Frenchman street, and take a leisurely walk through the Garden District.
On top of all that, we’re guessing more than one person has told you to take an airboat tour, too. It’s no coincidence that so many people recommend at least one swamp tour during your trip to New Orleans, whether it’s your first time in the city or your 31st.
And you can be forgiven if you’re not familiar with airboats. Airboat tours are only available in select parts of the country, and most residents outside the Gulf South have never had the opportunity to take in the unique sights and sounds of a swamp tour. Even more reason why you should take this opportunity to try out a totally new experience, and see the swamps surrounding New Orleans in all of their natural glory.
Read on for more information about what you’ll see on an airboat tour, and why this is a must-do activity during your New Orleans trip.
What is an airboat?
There are multiple ways to take a swamp tour in New Orleans. The most popular vehicles to see alligators and other swamp life are pontoon boats, and airboats.
The main difference between airboats and pontoon boats is how they’re constructed. Pontoon boats are designed to drift relatively slowly.
In contrast, airboats can go faster than pontoon boats, so you’ll catch more of a breeze during your swamp tour. They have a large, powerful, fan-like propeller, and this style of tour boat is available in a range of sizes: depending on the type of airboat tour you sign up for, you might be enjoying the experience with up to 30 passengers, or as a more private experience with only 6-8. For these reasons, many tourists end up choosing an airboat tour to view the swamp life.
They’re well-suited for navigating the Louisiana bayou, where the water is often shallow, and relatively narrow.
Airboats that are used for public airboat tours are frequently inspected, and considered safe for all ages. If you choose one of the best airboat tour companies, your New Orleans swamp tour will be led by a knowledgeable boat captain who’s experienced with navigating the bayou, and also well-versed in the history of New Orleans and Louisiana wildlife.
How do airboats work?
Airboats are powered by their propeller in the back, which is often large and easily visible. It’s one of the most distinctive features of an airboat.
The passenger capacity can vary, and your airboat may be covered or uncovered. Even if an airboat is covered, it often has transparent sides and a clear roof, so everyone on-board can easily see 360-degree views of their surroundings. Take this into account when deciding what to wear and bring with you on your airboat tour, since you may want to pack an extra bottle of sunscreen or a hat.
Because of both their safety, speed, as well as the ability to see wildlife up-close, airboats are one of the most popular options for bayou boat tours. In the South, they’re particularly popular since they go fast enough to create a cool, refreshing breeze during any time of year. That’ll be a welcome relief from the Louisiana heat if you’re visiting any time in the spring, summer, or fall!
Where can I take an airboat tour?
Airboat tours are relatively common in the Southern United States, such as in Louisiana and Florida.
If you’re planning to incorporate an airboat tour into your New Orleans trip, you’ll probably be headed to one of the popular bayous just outside the city. These bayous or swamps aren’t actually located in New Orleans; they’ll be at least a 20 minute drive from the city.
Airboat Adventures is one of the most popular airboat tour providers in the New Orleans area, boasting 4.7 out of 5 stars on Google from over 5,000 tour-goers. Airboat Adventures is located in Lafitte, Louisiana, but caters to residents and tourists in and around New Orleans and the French Quarter.
Why are airboats popular in New Orleans?
Even though your airboat tour will be located outside the Crescent City, it’s a quick drive from any part of the city. Many tour providers, including Airboat Adventures, offer their own transportation and can even pick you up from a range of hotels in the French Quarter. And the drive itself is almost as scenic as the tour, allowing you to catch a glimpse of other parts of Louisiana beyond the jazz and art scene of downtown. Just factor in the transportation time when you’re planning out your day.
Airboats are also fast enough to generate a welcomed breeze. This is ideal if you’re visiting New Orleans in the spring and summer, when that Louisiana humidity is at its peak.
An airboat tour will offer you a totally different experience than you’ll get from any walking tour or self-guided attractions in downtown New Orleans. You’ll get a break from crowds of tourists, and get a chance to spend some time in nature, with Louisiana native species like alligators, herons, turtles, raccoons, and much more. It’s one of the safest ways to see gators in their natural habitat.
You can enjoy an airboat tour any time of year. In fact, even if you’ve already taken a New Orleans swamp tour, we recommend trying an airboat tour during a different season, and even at a different time of day or evening. You’ll be surprised to see different species of birds and animals every time you go.
So no matter when you’re visiting New Orleans; whether you’re traveling by yourself, on a couple’s getaway, or rolling with a crew of 15; an airboat tour will be one of the most memorable parts of your trip. Be sure to make this part of your itinerary to New Orleans, and if you’re wondering how long it will take or even what to wear, check out our list of everything you need to know for your swamp tour.
Where can I reserve an airboat tour?
Once you’re walking the streets of the French Quarter, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to sign up for an airboat tour (or any other swamp tour, for that matter). There are a number of tourism offices and booths throughout the city where you can walk in and buy your tickets.
Many New Orleans hotels also partner with tour agencies and operators, so you may be able to make a reservation at the front desk.
But we recommend reserving your spots in advance. If you do your research upfront and buy your airboat tour tickets online before the plane even takes off, you can be sure that you’re selecting the right tour company. Of course, you’ll want to book with an airboat tour provider that’s earned thousands of positive reviews, and is known for their commitment to safe and thoughtful swamp tours.
Plus, you’ll be able to relax and enjoy your trip once your itinerary is all set up. That means even more time spent relaxing over Chicory coffees or soaking in the unique, historic architecture that surrounds you.
Book your airboat tour and start looking forward to your New Orleans trip. You can choose from a large boat, or a smaller, more intimate experience. No matter how many people are joining you, you’ll get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to mingle with Louisiana gators and breeze through a southern bayou.
We look forward to seeing you in the Big Easy.