A Guide to the Lake and its Shores
Special thanks to Stanton Murray at Murray Yacht Sales, who captained our crew on this Beneteau Sense 55 on the perfect Lake Pontchartrain sunset cruise. Model Kirsten Rinck; Stylist, Lisa Tudor; Hair by Niki Walker; Makeup by Meggan Dupre Ory. Kirsten is wearing Raga crochet top over crochet bikini by She Made Me at Stonefree.
NOLA Flyboarding offers the next best thing to flying, with a board propelled by a flexible hose that propels you into the air.
We speak of the Lake Pontchartrain shore in terms of geography; The St. Tammany Parish Northshore and the Southshore running alongside Jefferson and Orleans parishes. Both sides have pockets of development targeted at leisure. Like looking for treasure, there are discoveries to be made. Here are some of our suggestions:
West End and Bucktown
Perhaps the most well-known Lakefront area, there’s plenty to do here, whether you just want to eat seafood and drink on the lake, run or bike along the lake with the breeze on your back or actually get in the water.
For adventurous bikers, you can start as far away as the French Quarter, head down the bike lane on Esplanade Avenue, go through City Park in Mid-City and take the Wisner Boulevard trail all the way to Lakeshore Drive. But a more doable route – and one you don’t need to own a bike to do – would be to start at City Park’s Big Lake, where you can rent bikes at a boathouse through Wheel Fun Rentals (WheelFunRentals.com/Locations/New-Orleans-2). Rentals start at $10 hourly, $25 half-day and $40 full-day for a cruiser, and surrey, tandem and kids bikes also are available.
For a workout in the water, stand-up paddling – in which you stand up on what looks like a surfboard and paddle on the water – is good for developing core strength, and your close proximity to the water provides a cool breeze. NOLA Paddleboards’ Lakefront location (7840 Lakeshore Drive, 717-8847, NolaPaddleboards.com) offers an “open-water adventure” (as opposed to its relatively confined Bayou St. John excursions). Offered by reservation only, the company’s instructors lead paddle sessions that begin with a group lesson – but if you’re not confident in your abilities, the company provides private and small-group (four max) sessions. The one-hour excursions start at $25 per paddler for groups of six-nine paddlers and $75 for private or small group sessions (it’s $50 for additional paddlers, up to 4). Check the website for excursion times.
Those paddleboard trips offer prime views of the New Canal Lighthouse, which was damaged after hurricanes Katrina and Rita restored and re-opened in 2013. The lighthouse museum, education center and gift shop is open to the public Mondays-Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., with docent-lead tours available. Admission is $7.50 for adults; $5 for seniors, students and military; and $3 for children.
For an even better core workout: Ever wanted to know what it would feel like to fly with a jetpack or hoverboard? NOLA Flyboarding (7400 Lakeshore Drive, 982-8346, NolaFlyboarding.com) offers the next thing to it with a board propelled by a flexible hose that propels you into the air. It isn’t difficult to master the basic step of getting up in the air, but flips and other trips take some practice. The company also offers party barge, Jet Ski and kayak rentals.
Alternatively, start the day by grabbing wine, cheese and other provisions from the nearby Robert Fresh Market (135 Robert E. Lee Blvd., 282-3428, RobertFreshMarket.com) and picnic at Breakwater Park on Breakwater Drive.
On Wednesday nights, West End is the place to be. On those nights, from March to November, the New Orleans Yacht Club (403 N. Roadway St., 283-2581, NOYC.org) hosts Wednesday Night Racing, where at least 30 boats participate in a laid-back competition. Afterward, crews congregate at the bar of the yacht club. For anyone who has a sailboat and wants to learn to race, the NOYC can set the boat owners up with an experienced crew or skipper to teach them. If you don’t have a boat, NOYC can help pair you with those who do – the NOYC seems to care more about enthusiasm than previous sailing experience. Boat call is 5:30-6:15 p.m., and the race usually ends at 8:30 p.m. depending on wind conditions.
Down the street is Southern Yacht Club (105 N. Roadway St., 288-4200, SouthernYachtClub.org), which offers sailing and crew classes, social events and twilight races. And if you’re looking to purchase your own boat, look to Murray Yacht Sales (6500 Spanish Fort Blvd., 283-2507, MurrayYachtSales.com), which has many to ogle on its website.
If you’d rather enjoy the water without the motion sickness, there are the aforementioned restaurants anchoring West End’s second life. Brisbi’s (7400 Lakeshore Drive, 304-4125, BrisbisRestaurant.com) has a contemporary interior and focuses on local seafood. The Blue Crab (7900 Lakeshore Drive, 284-2898, TheBlueCrabNola.com) has gluten-free options, traditional lakefront seafood joint fare and a few Tiki cocktails from Bali Hai. There is also Landry’s (8000 Lakeshore Drive, 283-1010, LandrysSeafood.com), a chain seafood restaurant that has a great view of the lake.
After the weekly Wednesday night races at the New Orleans Yacht Club (March to November) crews and spectators alike gather at the bar to tell stories and unwind.
Head towards Metairie and you’ll hit Bucktown, the once-bustling fishing community that took a hit after Katrina. But there are still some seafood destinations that are going strong: Deanie’s Seafood (1713 Lake Ave., Metairie, 831-4141, Deanies.com) is still a favorite spot, and R&O’s (216 Metairie-Hammond Highway, Metairie, 831-1248) serves delicious pizza alongside classic New Orleans fare.
Further into Metairie along the lake, Bonnabel Boat Launch and Park (1599 Bonnabel Blvd., BonnabelBoatLaunch.com) is a public boat launch that also has a small recreation area with a playground, fishing pier and free dog park. It is a perfect place to set up a picnic and watch the sunset on the lake.
There are plenty of places to fish, including along Lakeshore Drive on the Northshore (pictured here), at Bonnabel Boat Launch and Park, at Fontainebleau State Park and at the Frank Davis Fishing Pier.
Eastern New Orleans
Damaged by Hurricane Katrina’s winds and flooding, the art deco Lakefront Airport (which mainly functions for charter, private and occasional military operations) was restored to glory and in 2013 opened as a grand events venue. The venue’s in-house caterers, Messina’s at the Terminal, operate the Runway Cafe, which serves comforting New Orleans brunch and lunch fare, 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Tuesdays-Sundays.
Pack a picnic from Walker’s BBQ (10828 Hayne Blvd., 241-8227, CochonDeLaitPoboys.com) – it’s the home of the Jazz Fest cochon de lait poor boy, available here all year round – and head to the The Frank Davis Fishing Pier near the Lakefront Airport on Lakeshore Drive beneath the west side of the Sen. Ted Hickey (formerly Seabrook) Bridge. You can fish here 24/7.
If you have a boat, head to South Shore Harbor (6701 Stars & Stripes Blvd., 245-3152, MarinasInNewOrleans.com), a beautiful marina where slips are available to rent.
Also in the area is a tiny enclave that feels like you’re in a miniature beach town: the Lighthouse Bar & Grill (6001 France Road, 301-2218, LighthouseBarNola.com) sits along the Pontchartrain Landing industrial marina (PontchartrainLanding.com). The bar serves up beachy cocktails and delicious barbecue, and you can access it all by boat. Tropical-hued vacation rentals in the villa – including “floating” ones – are available. There is also a boat launch ramp and a pool, and daily shuttles to the French Quarter.
While crabbing is good all around Lake Pontchartrain, “The Trestles,” the bridges spanning the lake between Irish Bayou and Slidell, which can be accessed via the Chef Harbor Marina (21135 Chef Menteur Highway, 662-5511) on Chef Pass, is a fishing and crabbing hot spot.
Brisbi's has a contemporary interior and focuses on local seafood, like these fresh oysters.
For a workout in the water, stand-up paddling with NOLA Paddleboards – in which you stand up on what looks like a surfboard and paddle on the water – is good for developing core strength, and your close proximity to the water provides a cool breeze.
Pack a picnic and ride your bike to the park surrounding Treasure Chest Casino in Kenner, along the Jefferson Parish Linear Path that stretches to Bucktown. If you’re driving, pick up food from the burgeoning row of restaurants on Williams Boulevard for a picnic. Although primarily Hispanic eateries, the street also has some Asian and Middle Eastern cafes and grocery stores.
On Sundays, the Treasure Chest Casino hosts the weekly dance party from the classic rock station WTIX, where a group of mostly elderly, very dedicated regulars cut a rug to oldies.
Coconut Beach, the sand volleyball complex that was at West End before the storm, now holds court in Kenner (100 Coconut Beach Court, Kenner, 305-4090, CoconutBeachLa.com). It hosts the national AVP beach volley ball tour, but amateur volleyball, beach soccer and dodgeball leagues are the primary players. There also is a bar and grill to replace your electrolytes and more besides.
A good spot for crabbing is the Jefferson/St. Charles Parish line. You can get there by launching at Williams Boulevard near the casino.
A row of cabins that, after being shuttered since Hurricane Isaac in 2012, reopened for reservations in August and are for rent at Fontainebleau State Park
Aquafly New Orleans (957-5859, AquaflyNewOrleans.com), another flyboarding company, operates at the Northshore at The Dock (118 Harbor View Court) and Marina Del Ray/Hooked Up Bar & Grill (110 Marina Del Rey Blvd.). The company offers sunset couple flights that include a GoPro camera hooked up to your helmet to capture it all.
Bayou Paddle Co. (email@example.com) offers stand-up paddling on Lake Pontchartrain, as well as races, guided trips and other events.
At The Dock (118 Harbor View Court, Slidell, (985) 645-3625, TheDockSlidell.com), another bar and grill accessible by boat, is the Slidell outpost of Coconut Beach, with open courts Saturday and Sunday. The bar also hosts fishing tournaments, karaoke nights and other events.
Also in the Slidell area is the St. Tammany Fishing Pier (54001 E. Howze Beach Roard, Slidell, (985) 649-1922), created after the Interstate 10 Twinspans were destroyed following Katrina.
Fontainebleau State Park (FontainebleauStatePark.com) near Mandeville is a beautiful park on the Northshore with a shallow beach. The area features a fishing pier, and the Mandeville boat launch is nearby. There is another beach by a row of cabins that, after being shuttered since Hurricane Isaac in 2012, reopened for reservations in August; visit ReserveAmerica.com/Outdoors/Louisiana-Camping.htm to make a reservation.
There are a lot of quaint restaurants along Lakeshore Drive in Mandeville, and The Barley Oak (2101 Lakeshore Drive, Mandeville, (985) 727-7420) is a draught house with an eclectic pub grub menu.
From March to November, the New Orleans Yacht Club hosts Wednesday Night Racing, where at least 30 boats participate in a laid-back competition.