A truly unique stay, Oak Alley is a 200-year-old historic site situated in Vacherie, Louisiana, less than an hour from New Orleans. Originally a sugar plantation, it opened to the public in 1976 and today is a national landmark, whereby visitors locally, domestically and internationally come to discover the plantation’s history and beauty. The Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant and Inn can be found within the grounds, featuring nine stunning cottages. I was fortunate enough to check in to one of them. Here’s what it’s like to spend the night.
The focal point of the plantation is the main mansion, the Big House (you may recognise it from Brad Pitt’s Interview with the Vampire or Beyoncé’s Déjà vu music video). Around it there are 28 acres of lush landscape, telling the story of a plantation in its evolution, as well as fascinating exhibits – the Slavery Exhibit, the Sugarcane Exhibit and Theatre and the Blacksmith Shop. Finally, nestled behind the mansion, you’ll find the restaurant and cottages. Cottage guests get access to the grounds before and after the main visiting hours – so it really is like having this magical place to yourself (great for uninterrupted photography.)
Each of the nine cottages has its own personality and quirk. Three are century old and four are newly constructed deluxe cottages. I checked into cottage nine, one of the new deluxe cottages. Immediately I was struck by its warm charm. It was a bit like stepping back in time; paintings of the plantation adorned the walls, an adorable porch was out at the front, and windows had white shutters instead of curtains.
When they talk of dream houses in old romantic movies, this is what they talk about. The bedroom carried a seriously inviting Tempur-Pedic mattress, and in the living room comfy sofas faced a fireplace. It was a hot and humid September for me, so I didn’t use it, but I imagine a Christmas getaway here would be somewhat spectacular.
Not everything is vintage; contemporary touches ensured for ease of modern stay, including a massive flat screen TV, coffee maker and perfectly controlled central air conditioning and heat. We parked the car right up by the cottage, so there was no need to drag luggage across the plantation (however, those travelling without a car can be driven right up to their room by the staff).
In the evening, we made use of the kitchen, which was equipped with refrigerator, microwave, cutlery and utensils. Very handy when you’re out in the woods and want to rustle up something late at night. I also managed to enjoy a glass of Avaline rosé out on the porch, which was netted with mesh to stop ‘too much’ nature getting inside. Instead, I enjoyed the warm evening breeze with the company of dragon flies and hummingbirds from a friendly distance, sans mosquitoes and in my luxury waffle monogram robe.
This cottage is the fabulous holiday home I wish I owned. Cottage nine was the last one on the block and from one side all I could see was nature. On the other, the restaurant, mansion and on-site boutique were just a short walk away. It had the ideal balance of being a secluded getaway, without making you feel all alone in the sticks.
The Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant and Inn has a charming restaurant that’s open daily from 8:30am-3pm. It’s a breakfast and lunch destination, serving delicious Cajun and Creole cuisine, alongside a few purely American dishes. All cottage guests have breakfast included and many of the morning dishes come with grits, which are a southern speciality made from boiled cornmeal. The ones here are really tasty as a side with bacon or if served with crawfish omelette, you’re in heaven.
For lunch the must-try is of course the Louisiana gumbo. Here, there are a couple of delicious options; chicken, smoked sausage, and andouille gumbo and shrimp, crab meat, and okra gumbo. Both served with steamed rice, bread and butter. The dessert selection is phenomenal. They include bread pudding with rum sauce, buttermilk pie, chocolate praline pecan pie, pecan pie and Creole cream cheese cheesecake. It’s hard to resist ordering all of them at once.
In the area its worth signing up for a famous Louisianan swamp tour. Gray Line New Orleans run them on custom built swamp boats, where you’ll float along the beautiful wetlands, home of alligator nesting grounds and the historic Lafitte area. I wasn’t expecting to see many alligators, but ended up spotting about a dozen or so on mine. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime type of experience.
In the city’s romantic French Quarter, you’ll find incredible exhibitions such as JAMNOLA, which celebrates joy, art, music and more through the eyes of local artists and for liquor fans you can book a tour at Sazerac House. Sazerac is the official cocktail of New Orleans and here you can tour the place where it all happens as well as enjoy tastings, which makes for a great date. New Orleans’ official website has more details on the area.
Getting there: New Orleans International Airport is around a 50 minute drive to Oak Alley Plantation.
Address: 3645 Highway 18, Vacherie, Louisiana 70090
Phone: +1 225 265 2151
Images courtesy of Oak Alley Plantation and Gray Line New Orleans