Jim Noetzel

Find Cajun eats at affordable prices.

April 15, 2014

Lake Charles may be best known for its haute hotels and game-filled casinos, but there are plenty of activities that require less of a commitment from your bank account. The Bayou destination has nature reserves—saltwater marshlands are brimming with gators and hundreds of bird species—as well as road trip-worthy seafood restaurants.

Creole Nature Trail

More than half of the 180 miles from Johnson Bayou to Grand Chenier are perched above the area's brackish water—teeming with alligators—on levees and stilted bridges. Explore this “Louisiana Outback” trail and surrounding saltwater marsh acreage with Grosse Savanne Eco-Tours. Guided two-hour to full-day tours take you to remote watery corners where over 300 species of birds flourish; the area is also home to the largest American Alligator population in the U.S. Looking for a cheaper way to see the sights? You can download the Creole Nature Trail App—with tips for what to spy on from the road—on iTunes.

Seafood Palace

This modest restaurant—interiors have wood paneled walls, checkered floors and cushion-topped stools—is locally loved for its fried shrimp and hot crab gumbo. Don’t miss the crawfish when they’re in season (March to May).

LeBleu's Landing

This restaurant, named for one of the region’s first European settlers, is known for traditional Cajun cuisine such as crispy alligator bites, oyster Po-boys, and fried frog legs. There’s also a full-service meat market, so you can leave with boudin sausages and balls—latter version is rolled up and deep-fried—for later.

Aunt Ruby's Bed & Breakfast

Bed down in one of five cheerful guest rooms—all with private baths, period furnishings and complimentary WiFi—at this historic home (it was the city’s first boarding house) in downtown Lake Charles.

The Louisiana Market

Pick up a Creole-country souvenir—seasonings and sauces are full of heat; alligator busts make a statement—at this shop dedicated to all things local to the Bayou State.

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