Good Life: Plantation Country

The very name “Plantation Country” hearkens back to a time when cotton was king and southeastern Louisiana was the site of some of the most beautiful homes ever built in the United States. Originally the purview of millionaire farmers and traders, many of these houses have been lovingly restored and welcome visitors, either for tours or as bed-and-breakfast inn guests.

But Plantation Country is more than a mecca for tourists. Its many charming small towns are ideal places for people who want to retire to a place where the pace of life is calm, the neighbors are friendly and big-city amenities are just a short drive away.

You might begin your tour of Plantation Country at Destrehan Plantation, the oldest documented plantation home in the lower Mississippi River Valley area, or Oak Alley, with its canopy of giant live oaks. Rosedown, which is now owned by the state of Louisiana, is well-known for its magnificent gardens. Oakley House, an Audubon State Historic Site, is where John James Audubon painted some of his beautiful works of art featuring Louisiana’s many birds. Great pains have been taken to preserve the outbuildings at many of these plantations so visitors can see how the workers who kept these vast estates going lived.

Plantation Country is home to Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital and one of its busiest cities. Louisiana State University and Southern University have their flagship campuses there, and both draw thousands to their lively sporting events. You can entertain visiting grandkids at the Blue Bayou Waterpark and Dixie Landin’ Amusement Park, visit the city’s museums, take in a live theater performance or shop at the Mall of America. The city also has a full selection of adult leisure activities.

When medical care is needed, the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center and Pennington Biomedical Research Center are close at hand.

Equally charming are the area’s many small towns such as St. Francisville, known for its many antiques shops; New Roads, where the False River (really an oxbow lake) provides great fishing; Prairieville; and White Castle, home to Nottoway Plantation.

For those who prefer outdoor activities, it doesn’t come any better than the Tunica Hills Wildlife Management Area, located northwest of St. Francisville. Tunica Hills’ 6,000 acres of hills, bluffs and ravines are ideal for hunting, trapping, bird-watching, hiking, horseback-riding, biking, photography and sightseeing. A nature trail and three hiking trails let you see the wonders of this preserve up close.

Another outdoor spot in the area is Tickfaw State Park, where boardwalks take you through varied terrain. Rent a canoe (or bring your own) for a pleasant ride, or reserve a cabin or campsite to stay awhile. Kids will have fun cooling off in the water playground.

Plantation Country has a variety of home styles available, including modern subdivisions, quaint rural spots and independent and assisted-living communities for those who want the activities and companionship communal living brings. At Carter Plantation, just 30 minutes from Baton Rouge, you can build your own home on lots of various sizes, including waterfront lots, or stay at the guest villas and enjoy the resort’s beautiful golf course and restaurants.

From historic mansions to front-porch communities, Plantation Country is sure to have a spot for you to enjoy your retirement.

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